Greeting the new academic year

I have enjoyed a summer that has included time for family, travel, and writing. All this has ended as I have started classes this week. Here are reminders to myself as I head into the new academic year… What are yours?

1. Entertain questions from newcomers who do not have any background to the topics I teach.

I may have taught a class many times, but I remind myself that my students are taking it for the first time.

2. Do the most important tasks first

My calendar has already begun to fill in with meetings and deadlines. This does not stop me from doing tasks that take little time, but are not very urgent! I recently learned about the Eisenhower Box in an article in the New York Times article on Why your brain tricks you into doing less important tasks

To learn more see:

This is a matrix to organize one’s tasks so that one does the most important and urgent tasks first. I’ve pinned a copy near my desk so I can remind myself to do what is important and urgent FIRST.

  1. Be prepared to be flexible

In spite of well-thought out plans, it’s always possible that I’ll have to set these aside to deal with whatever comes next. You may have read Rumi’s well-known poem The Guesthouse, which begins with the lines: “This being human is a guest house/Every morning a new arrival.” I’ll try to be prepared for each day, knowing that I might also greet the unexpected.

  1. Take time to do some writing each day

Scholars’ writing habits vary widely, and there is no one-size-fits all approach to writing. I’ve found that I’m more productive if I’m able to do a little writing each day, first thing. When I have a day filled with meetings, this might mean that it’s only for 5 or 10 minutes. By prioritizing my writing, I’ve been able to develop a more consistent writing habit (see #2 above).

  1. Be reasonable in expectations

I don’t know why I am surprised when things take longer than I think they will, or I don’t accomplish as much on my to do list as I had hoped. I hope to be more reasonable in assessing timelines for accomplishing tasks. I recently viewed a webinar in which the presenter encouraged listeners to set their to do lists up in a spreadsheet with start and end dates, along with all the tasks required. This simple way to show visually how tasks interact with one another reminded me why it will never be possible to accomplish all of the tasks I have on my to-do list, as well as why everything takes longer than I think it will. (see #2 and #3 above).

For those of you in the northern hemisphere who are beginning a new academic year… all the best. And may we all greet the day smiling…

Kathy Roulston

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