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My Fall 2016 schedule: building flexibility into my calendar

One of the criticisms I received when I first published my weekly template was that I had never built buffers into my calendar. It is, in many ways, a fair criticism. You can’t be ready to do what you’re scheduled to do All The Time. Here’s the backstory to why I wrote such a strict calendar: when I first read Tanya Golash-Boza’s post on how she built a weekly template, I figured “yay, FINALLY someone validated my Type A personality and I can basically schedule EVERY SINGLE MINUTE OF MY DAMN LIFE”.

We all know how well that went.

Last academic year, I started experimenting with building buffers and relaxing my requirements. I still aim for 10 hours a week of writing, and I have scheduled pretty strict and rigid blocks of time for my teaching and lecture preparation, making myself available for office hours and to meet with my students for supervision. But everything else? I can do basically anything with that time.

Since this is my heavy teaching semester (2 courses, both undergraduate, both in English) I decided I wouldn’t be doing any traveling nor fieldwork. The research time I use will be for either quantitative analysis using datasets I’ve already either created or assembled, or qualitative data analysis of fieldwork I’ve already done (remember I went to Madrid for two weeks? Those field notes are still quite valuable for writing up).

You can now see my new Fall 2016 schedule, with plenty of time built into the calendar. Many people will wonder if I work 40 hours or more or less – I can’t really say, since I didn’t calculate the number of hours I need to do X or Y activity per week, with the exception of 8 hours of teaching, 10 hours of writing, and 6 hours of lecture preparation, plus office hours and graduate student supervision (a quick calculation I made puts me to about 33 hours per week of scheduled time).

Calendar for the fall 2016

You may wonder why I didn’t budget 16 hours of class lecture preparation (I usually budget 2-3 hours per hour of lecture to prepare lecture slides, read, train for my lecture delivery). The two courses I’ll be teaching (Public Policy Analysis and Regional Development) are both courses I’ve already taught at least once, and I already have lecture slides, in-class exercises, etc.

Also, much of what I’ll be doing this month of June will be preparing lectures for the fall (that is, front-loading lecture preparation). Thus, I believe 6 hours of lecture preparation will be enough. I already learned my lesson about redesigning two entire courses while attempting to do fieldwork and go to conferences and still write (I got terribly sick twice in two years).

You may also notice I didn’t schedule “self-care” into my calendar. That’s because the assumption that anything after my activities (e.g. on Monday and Wednesday, anything after 2:30pm, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays after 4:30pm) is my own time. I work really hard in the mornings and early afternoon, and then it’s time to do my own stuff. If I preach that we should seek balance between academic and personal life, I should be practicing it as well.

I feel quite comfortable with this new calendar. It doesn’t put much pressure on me other than to do my teaching, write every day, and meet with my students. Maybe it was high time for me to follow Mark Carrigan’s advice and NOT schedule my life to the every minute.

There ARE actual, real disadvantages to being a Type A!

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