The Time Poor Academic: a seasonal tale Part 2

My promise in an earlier note on this theme … to note how I organise myself to best deal with the time I have … is haunting me. If I suggested that I had a definitive answer, then I lied. Right now I am the queen of the procrastinators. Why? I am dealing with a particularly dull task, as are many other Australian university colleagues. We are labouring collectively under a federal government imposed exercise known as the RQF (Research Quality Framework) Evidence Based Portfolio. If you have ever been audited by the taxation office, then you’ll get some idea of how miserably horrible and time-draining this exercise is.

Essentially each discipline group is tasked with gathering the evidence that everyone in the group has done a good job, and has been a fruitful researcher; this to ensure our universities get their dues from the government. The irony of course, is that all of this scrabbling around with facts and figures … and believe me, it is a daunting task, one that stretches back over 10 years of work… is preventing our getting on with the subject matter of our attention … the work, the research. OK, whine over.

How am I managing? Not particularly well. As I noted, I have found endless ways to procrastinate on this miserable job. Like writing this blog post for example. When faced with a tedious task, perhaps the only way to get through is to admit it’s a trial, and set about developing little subterfuges to make it seem less painful. What works for me is the guerilla attack approach … get all the paper and electronic materials together on the desk, and go for it hard and fast in timed bursts. Then take a break and give yourself a treat.

I work for 50 mins, and take a downtime of 10. I use the free download stopwatch/egg-timer Minuteur app to keep time. I’m finding the Spaces app in Leopard is working nicely for me. I have my key document, the one that’s having material added to it, in one space, with the source documents of various kinds spread around the other spaces. I can switch backwards and forwards quickly with a keystroke, and without the clutter of pawing through lots of documents on one desktop. At the end of 50 minutes I step away from the desk, take a walk down the corridor, grab a large drink of water, breathe in the spring sunshine tantalisingly beyond the door, clear my head, and get back to it. In this way, the wood will be built tree by tree, hour by hour. But, oh the tedium!

The biggest trap to this disciplined approach is being distracted by email, social networking apps (which shall remain nameless), and faces at the door. If you haven’t already, I recommend turning off the ‘ping’ notification that you have mail, shutting the door, and quitting any distracting fun stuff. And at the end of the day, don’t forget the treat.

Author: Kate Wilson

Actor, director, teacher, dabbler with paint, serial traveller.

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