Tag Archives: multi-tasking

What does your work day look like?

One of the things I am constantly reminding doctoral students of is that if they plan to go on to an academic career they will have to learn how to multi-task in  a serious way. No longer will they have whole days in which to read one book; no longer can they obsess about course prep–for one course. And they will have to learn a) how to say ‘NO’ to the many requests we receive to read, assess, review, etc. and b) how to make their work visible to those who assess it.

My Dad was an academic. I know how hard he worked. I remember that he’d be at the office all day, five days a week. In the early morning he’d put on a jacket and tie and go off to “the office.” In the evenings he’d read, even while the TV was on, often cutting articles out of newspapers and journals that were related to his field of research and teaching. On weekends he’d be in the office in the basement at home…working on who knows what. I do remember large pieces of paper on which he planned projects, papers, presentations by diagramming them. Sometimes he’d go to the university on weekends too. I liked it when he did, as I’d sometimes go with him and hang out in the library or the coffee shop — nerdy girl-in-training, to be sure. But now I wonder what was so urgent that he had to go to the university on a Sunday?

My work life, as with many of my colleagues’ works lives, is less bound than the previous generation’s was by the 9-5 routines of going to the office. Many of us are on campus only to teach or to attend meetings. Much of our communication is done via email, and most of us are online most of the day. You might be surprised by how much work gets done on email, though I often prefer the greater efficiency (not to mention human contact) of face-to-face meetings.

On the days that I work from home I wonder how visible that work is. While I might also be cooking up a pot of soup and doing the laundry I am also accomplishing many work tasks. Today, for example, I have done this (as well as the aforementioned cooking and laundry–oh and I met with a guy about doing some work on my house as well):

  • wrote an application to hire a co-op undergraduate student
  • revised a portion of a PhD area exam
  • read and assessed proposals for a panel I am organizing for ACCUTE 2012
  • read and commented on a PhD dissertation proposal
  • read and commented on one of my PhD student’s SSHRC proposal
  • wrote an appraisal letter for said PhD student’s scholarship application
  • made up a test for my first year students
  • re-read a short story that I will teach next week and reviewed lecture notes
  • finalized plans to bring a Metis poet into my grad class (via Skype) next term
  • skimmed through an article I have just been asked to vet for a scholarly journal
  • read and wrote countless emails
  • wrote this blog post
  • checked in at Twitter and Facebook (twice)
  • played Arlequino on Scrabble
  • read several sample articles in the journal to which I plan to submit my recently completed article
It’s now 3:30. I ate breakfast and lunch, as I always do, while reading something. Within an hour I’ll stop working because my brain shuts off at 4 pm. I have never been a late-night worker and although I do work on Sunday afternoons, Saturdays are completely free. Well, when else am I going to get my errands done, especially shopping? Plus Arlequino and I socialize either alone or with others on weekends. That’s sacrosanct.
Did I mention that I love my job? I love its flexible rhythms. And I love getting a whole pile of items crossed off my “to do” list (now a “reminder” list on the iPad) in one day.
Glass of wine? Don’t mind if I do.

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