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On multiple academic projects’ management, time management and the realities of what we think we can accomplish in a certain period of time versus the realities of what we actually are able to.

This blog post has a terribly long blog post, but I think it’s worth including it in its entirety. I recently taught two workshops where I was asked about calendar management.

I now have 5 core things in my calendar:
– my own writing time block (4:30am-6:30am)
– the writing time I spend with Amanda Bittner and the feminist mafia posse
– the writing time I spend with Jeff Guhin, Mirya Holman and the #FinishingOurBooks crowd
– my teaching commitments (I teach on Thursdays)
– meetings (with students, colleagues, etc.)

But, like everything, my life changed, so did my priorities, and so did my workload. While I still had a relatively freeing approach to working, where I Worked on One Paper Every Day (a different one, particularly with coauthors), WOPED ALSO stopped working at some point.

I noticed that switching up tasks, projects and research streams was making it incredibly hard to concentrate.

Yes, I work on a very broad range of areas: I study bottled water, transnational environmental activism, homelessness, policy transfer, research methods, etc. Switching bodies of literature, empirical research methods and fields makes it really hard to regain momentum. For example, right now I’m working on revisions to my book on bottled water. BUT I also want to read up on the politics of public health policy. AND on homelessness.


What’s working for me now (as of 2021, pandemic and all), is to block time to work on a specific project (my bottled water book, or R&Rs, etc.), and when I do, I JUST think about it and put other wonderful ideas I have or readings I want to do on the shelf for a while.

I have full control of my calendar, though, and I am grateful for this. I can say “I prefer having meetings in the afternoon because I write in the mornings”, and the work-from-home approach has made it easier for me to schedule naps (which I require to function) and flex time.

My meeting times have shortened (though I have noticed, interacting with Mexican colleagues across other institutions, that for many, their own bad meeting habits have remained throughout the pandemic – making meetings longer than they should be).

Zoom tires me, though.

3) In your calendar, block both the academic/scholarly/work stuff AND the personal stuff. The latter ALSO requires A LOT of time.

4) Allow yourself flexibility, insert buffers in your calendar, don’t over-schedule every single thing, note down the major commitments you have.

5) Extend yourself AND others grace. We are all struggling through the pandemic.

6) To the extent possible, try to work on projects of the same Research Stream/topic.

7) Remember: YOU DO YOU. Everyone is different, and we need to shun the neoliberal idea of “productivity”.

I really do hope this blog post will be helpful to people. Also search my blog for a series I did on Project Management for Academics.

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Posted in academia.

One Response

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  1. André Mascarenhas says

    Thank you Raul, always nice to read your pieces of advice. This reminds me of the argument made by Cal Newport in his book Deep Work (focus on single tasks/projects, allowing sufficient time to really dive into it). Very much needed nowadays… But as you say, not always so easy also because of the context one is in (we cannot control everything around us)

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