Tag Archives: back to school

Ok, I set up a schedule. Can I actually stick to it?

23 Aug


Inspired by one of my favorite blogs, Get A Life PhD, I decided to actually make a schedule for the semester. It’s not that I’ve never had a schedule before– I’ve always blocked out my teaching, meetings, and office hours for the semester. I do this in Apple’s ical, and then it’s accessible on my computer, iphone, and ipad. So what’s different about this schedule? Well, I actually scheduled in chunks of time for writing, reading/research hours. And running, because, hey, a girl needs to do that. And I’m going to make an effort to stick to these hours, barring any meetings that I can’t avoid (like the department meeting above).

This isn’t a complete schedule. My morning routine is to drink coffee and catch up on email and social media. My brain just isn’t good for anything more than that before 9am. I also didn’t factor in my commute, which is 25 minutes each way. I didn’t include lunch, because unless I venture out of the building to have lunch with a colleague, I usually eat a sandwich at my computer while working. I did leave an hour open before my Tuesday evening class so I have time to not only eat, but venture out to get coffee and clear my head if I need to. Grading is obviously not included and that inevitably eats into evenings and weekends.

In addition to 8 hours of  writing time per week, I included a day for research (data collection, interviews etc.) and for reading articles etc. related to research. I’ll work from home on Friday as doing that stuff from home is ideal. Writing I do better at the office. There is no way I can get any writing or research done on my heavy teaching days (Monday and Wednesday), and that’s just going to have to be OK.

I included time for running 3 days a week (chances are that I’ll go on a long run on the weekend too). Running is key to keeping all these activity going in as non-stressful a way and the afternoon is the perfect time for me to run, come home and have reward beer. I haven’t been able to run much this summer due to an injury (and the heat), so getting back into that routine will be fantastic. Ideally, I’d come home around 4pm each day, go for a run (MWF), then cook a nice dinner and eat with my partner. Cooking and relaxing are just so much a part of daily life for me, I need a schedule that let’s me do that. And in the evenings I’m sure I’ll have to do some emailing and grading, but ideally, I’ll be able to actually relax and watch a good old movie.

So what could go wrong? Well, lots of things. First of all, meetings are going to inevitably cut into chunks of time. I’m on more committees this year and have more commitments. I can’t do anything about that, although I can say “no” more, which I did just do for the first time. Tuesday and Thursday are also potential issues. I am good about getting into school for teaching (the professor has to make it to class– no matter how close she cuts it), but in the past I have not been good about getting into school to just work. I’m likely to spend too much time in the morning in my PJs, unaware of the time, and then lazily run errands on my way to school, stop for lunch etc. Notice what I wrote there? “Just work.” Well, writing, we know, is work and isn’t “just” anything. I think if I actually put this time in the same mental category as any other appointment, that will help. And my partner knows about it, so she can prod me to follow my schedule.

Another potential problem is that during those writing times, I’ll get side tracked by emails, the fascinating internets etc. The only way that works for me in terms of focusing, is to use the Pomodoro technique and a timer. I have a timer app on my computer, but I’m not adverse to buying a plain old kitchen timer for my office. Knowing I can work for 15 minutes (with ticking in the background– helps to distract me from my tinnitus) and then quickly check FB really works for me.

If this schedule works, then I’ll be productive, and I’ll have time to relax and have a life.

I need some incentive, though. If I can get through September, following this schedule (minus meetings), then I need to do something as a reward. I can’t think of what that is, though. Maybe a nice meal out and a movie?


Back to School: Dreaming of Cardigan Weather

19 Aug

I’m probably not the only academic that loves back to school. I look forward to seeing the school supplies in stores. And I love late summer when the nights start to get slightly cooler. I start to dream of cardigan weather.

When I was a kid, I chose my school supplies with a tremendous amount of thought and care, and then I organized them thoroughly in my new book bag, ready for the first day. I developed my own system of organizing early on– color coding notebooks, folders, and binders for each subject. I labeled everything. I was probably the only kid to arrive at college with a three hole punch (that I still have), hole protectors, a full sized stapler, and colored hanging file folders.

Now, I don’t buy anything for back to school. There isn’t a need to do so. I don’t use notebooks, or binders, or paper. Everything is electronic– on my macbook or ipad. I use the same shoulder bag. I get pens from the department. Instead I organize digitally for the new school year. And it sort of feels the same, I guess. Minus the smell of new notebooks and freshly sharpened pencils.

Here’s what I’ve been busy doing to get ready for the new school year (in addition to creating the syllabi):

  • I created a Dropbox folder for the semester (Fall 2012), and a subfolder for each course.
  • I create shortcuts for those folders and stash them in my mac’s sidebar, and on the desktop of both computers.
  • Within each folder, I create subfolders: (1) Lectures (each lecture document and keynote presentation is dated– like 1104.doc and 1104.key), (2) Images (even though this is less needed now that I organize all my images into Pinterest), (3) Readings, (4) Assignments, (5) Resources, and (6) Handouts.
  • I go through my Evernote library for related material for each course, and either assign them as readings, or add them to my Resources or Handouts folders (documentaries, class activities etc.).
  • I search for videos related to my courses on Youtube, and save them to the Youtube playlists I have set up for each course.
  • I search for images related to my courses, and save them to the appropriate Pinboards on Pinterest.
  • I set up Lore.com for each course– complete with assignments, calendar, and resources.
  • Once I have a set roster (which doesn’t happen until the second week), I set up each class in Gradebook Pro on my ipad. If I have student photos, I’ll add those. It’s the easiest way for me to learn names and take attendance each day.
  • I do create a physical folder for each class. Just a plain old manilla folder. In it goes the roster, and a copy of the syllabi. And reading material for each class. That’s all I carry with me each day.

Once I’ve done all that, I feel ready to dive into the daily grind of the semester! While there may not be a place for color coding any more, at least I have everything organized digitally before I even begin the semester.

You might notice that a lot of my prep is public. I readily share images for my classes on Pinterest, and I create public lists of videos I use in Youtube. Why? Because my teaching benefits from collective know online, and I feel good about contributing to that collective knowledge myself.

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