When she was 1 or 2, my daughter would get a slip of paper from preschool called “My Day”. The teacher would document what kind of day she had, if she ate well, went to the potty etc. I wanted to share my own My Day (don’t worry about the potty or anything) because as a graduate student, you never realize how great you have it, how much time you actually have to spend working towards your own shit, however insurmountable it may seem. Now, in an academic job, there are lots, er most, of days that time just doesn’t exist. I don’t teach as much as my peers in non-med school positions, and I’ve been insulated from committee work so far too, but geez. It gets sucked away by a variety of issues, some are potentially relevant to productivity and fun, many are totally distracting from what could have been productivity, others are just inane.
Resources for faculty are many regarding time management skills and I read a few good blogs on life in academia, which is useful; most of this advice has two themes: unplug your email and close your door, and then put aside specific time to write or work on the fun stuff. I tend to fail at those things; i don’t like a closed door when I’m in, unless I’m on private phone call (but my voice carries through doors regardless), I virtually always have email on, and I’ve tried to make certain times of the day for fun/real work, but that always gets chiseled away. Some have to-do lists–I make these sometimes. Some people actually keep journals (good god). To my best recollection, this is how today went; It was a “typical” day:
My Day: 745: dress and drive the kid to school; kid slept in a bit; later than I wanted to be; didn’t get enough coffee
820: arrive at work, cursing b/c I had to drive to the top floor of the garage since my 1st floor faculty red tag is still being withheld after 1.5yrs because apparently my salary precludes me from having a “faculty” tag.–this issue is currently being fixed, and not by means of a raise. (Yay for state government freezes and budget problems)
830: plug in, respond to and brainstorm a talk title and blurb for an on campus talk in Feb. “Inside Alligators”. Start organizing logistics as we’ll be having a group of students from St. Louis coming to help dissect after the talk. yay! Briefly scan a histology/muscle methods paper.
850: Surprise of the day #1: ghost from book chapter past (like 2001) emerges from the email ether (wtf, I forgot/had given up about this lost manuscript). Now, this chapter for a certain 2nd volume of Complete “taxon” was on Myology. One can guess how much has changed in the world of head and non-head muscle anatomy since 2001…let’s say, uh, lots. They want edits “as soon as humanly possible” (of course). Still not sure what to do about this. No time to deal with properly in apparently ridiculous time frame. maybe I’ll withdrawal, but then complain about whatever does end up getting published.
9: think about above some more. Maybe its my responsibility to write a good chapter on myology (muscle anatomy). Book chapters are not looked favorably upon for tenure compared to articles. ug
910-940: work on edits for article (for the Paleo Project Challenge), almost done, find best photos of last taxon to be included in paper, hopefully. Out to coauthor tomorrow I swear. Sorry Nick G, not -that- paper.
940: prepare for anatomy lab
10-1215: anatomy lab: feet! so boring. but the block is almost over, students are lost given their upcoming test is on not only lower limb, but also Thorax, Abdomen and Pelvis. They’re freaking. But its ok.
1215: change clothes, read online garbage, get stabbed by CapriSun straw (to be given to daughter upon school pickup) which goes under my finger nail reaching for lunch, eat,. OW. talk w/ colleagues about lab/class
1245: meet with faculty about logistics for 4th year med anatomy class: too many students, not enough cadaver space, all over the holidays, which bumps into the January 4th yr block. Face-palm w/ shrug.
115: have a great, short discussion with student about traction epiphyses and RW Haines papers. (Yay!!! good times; shh, don’t tell the student). I ❤ epiphyses and sesamoids.
130: Surprise #2 deal with receipts from SVP, they need more paperwork asap regarding my emergency flight home with a broken knee. can’t get reimbursed until done. Ug
145: sigh, forage for coffee.
2: check in with undergrad, doing ok on finishing up 3D model.
210: start working on last of figures for above paper Yay! progress.
220: Surprise of the day 3: email: Block 1 anatomy remediation exam, they need questions from me asap (next 2 days). grrr. on my nerves, i need smaller nerves
3: questions submitted, go across the hall and gripe to colleague: (fun, heartwarming, relaxing) Also likely disrupts and distracts them (now we’re even heheheh)
310: email from collaborator: cool questions, good news on diff project; respond; ponder a fossa on a dino face some have said houses a particular soft tissue; plot the rebuttal that will never happen (yay)
320: lost all focus. Check facebook, friend has awesome video of Fail (linked), perfect it was worth the 7min. Pic below. minute 4:06!
340: back to figures. omg its like 34o already. dropping backgrounds, tracing, etc. some tunes
410: phone: reminded to pick up kid. loose focus, get water, look at a blog, write a comment but then delete it. watching the clock to make sure I leave before shite traffic starts (it takes a long time to drive down from the top floor at 5pm).
420: back to figures, cool, progress
445: hustle out to leave.
530-911: family stuff. write this
after 9: let’s finalize this MS to send out to coauthor; maybe we’ll make it a late-nighter, already had coffee. stop fussing with this post!
Tomorrow: work on grant proposal (s), finally. hopefully, without too many distractions. oh right, i need to do these things too: dissect, fix lizard muscles. Send other muscles out for histo. photograph spindles in muscles (but at least I found some on Monday). Be a good coauthor and work on that other paper. Write lab practical questions for anatomy, due soon. crack the whip on some student projects. Write letters for more specimens. Animal Care Protocol… and on and on.
But likely only a fraction of that will get done, let alone what surprises await. Oh right! All-Med school Annual Faculty meeting!!! yay
I still have an awesome job, have great neighbors, work on kickass shit,and usually have a good time doing it. But sometimes… man. Anyone who has tips to share on juggling days like these, share away.
Tips on juggling days like these: A beer, while doing work at home.
I could provide something fairly similar for my average day complete with the surprises and losing focus occasionally is inevitable. I’m glad I’m not alone. I’ve thought about shutting thee-mail off except for certain times but I’m an addict. The mailing list subscriptions don’t help.
Scotch, while doing work at home.
Thanks, by the way, for the timing on this post, just in time to make me feel like not-a-useless-sack-of-shit. Just how many goddamn kids are in this Age of Dinos class? I’ve already led seven (7!) lab tours this week and it’s only Tuesday! Why did I plan a ten day trip to the UCMP starting at 6:15 Thursday morning? I guess I won’t sleep at all tomorrow night while I work on my talk. Why am I procrastinating on THIS post while I’m SUPPOSED to be procrastinating on the blog post I was writing instead of real work I wanted to get done?
Oh, and unplug your email, and close your door. I actually put my laptop in the prep lab for the afternoon, plugged in my ipod and cranked out with a pen and pad of paper (I know!) in my office to eliminate distractions. Worked great for about 15 minutes.
I so feel your pain! Only instead of anatomy lab related stuff, its answering volumes of emails related to new museum exhibits.
Today is better. I cleared that MS off my desk to my coauthor last night. (forgot something on a figure, but that’s an easy fix). Spent morning actually working on other text.
You broke your knee at SVP? Yikes, sounds awful!
The rest of it sounds like heaven.
At the risk of discouraging grad students from ever becoming professors, my day is: Deal with 3 committees worth of paperwork; prepare for lecture; give lecture; answer student questions while trying to eat lunch and change into scrubs; four hours of Gross Anatomy lab; at 5:00 pm. read and maybe answer e-mail from collaborators who want edits RIGHT NOW and my department chair who wants something RIGHT NOW and the graduate student who needs emergency comments on something RIGHT NOW; go home, eat, fall asleep while trying to download mss I’m supposed to be editing for JVP which are late —> wake up in middle of night because everything is late AND I forgot to feed the bunny! Feed grumpy bunny, go back to sleep in actual bed made for that purpose instead of slumped over kitchen table.
On the plus side, don’t have to pay for parking, and it’s all good parking. 🙂
Another plus: semester is over on Monday!
Another plus: not teaching over intersession, hooray!
Seriously, tips: Take a deep breath, smile, and remind yourself that no matter how frustrated you are by things, you are lucky (except for the broken knee?) and you _can_ do all this. The to-do list can be scary, especially when it gets longer no matter how hard you work. I break it into two lists, things that are Super Important and/or have Hard Deadlines and then short tasks that can fit into interstices of the day. Then I figure out what can be delegated and to who.
The other thing is to remove not just distractions, but as many tiny stressors as possible. For instance, I deal with support staff who are in love with the red exclamation point in Outlook for every little thing, and when it started to drive me nuts I realized that I had to ask them to stop using it for non-work-critical stuff. Whew, instant relief!
It’s scary when three of the authors of a manuscript I am trying to get completed commented on this post.
bring the other 2 of us on, it can be a fail-ms 🙂
Your point is well made. Any graduate students of yours reading this should really whip themselves together and start getting things done more efficiently.