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William is an Assistant Professor at Mount Saint Vincent University in the Department of Business Administration and Tourism and Hospitality Management. He is fascinated by research around how individuals construct and create their social realities, intrigued with the powers of creativity and innovation, and an avid proponent of outstanding service experiences. When not teaching, writing, or researching, he tries to spend time with his family and occasionally paint. He is currently completing his PhD in Management at Saint Mary’s University.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Just keep half of your canaries flying.

Over the last week, my schedule has filled up pretty quickly. Classes are finding their rhythm and my writing is moving along. Yet as things fill up the little rectangles in my day timer, I find that I start to lose track of some of my pet projects.

Whenever you find that you need help, always seek advice from someone smarter than you. In my case, that is most often my wife. Just the other day, I mentioned this time crunch issue, seeking her help in coming up with some blog topics; my problem was that I was too busy to think about what to write about.

She immediately said, write about that!

I am no expert on the application of time management. But I do try and keep some general guidelines in place. Different systems work for different people; for me, I find I work best managing priorities over time. Time blocks can often be shifted around fairly fluidly. Priorities on the other hand have importance, immediacy and impact. So, how do we manage all of our priorities.

First, keep focus on what is most important. Hopefully, that means family and friends. As a professional student, I could spend hours working away on projects and topics that few people close to me care about. As a professional academic, I have a never ending pile of marking, reading, preparation work and other classroom projects.

I often feel guilty when I work long hours away from my family. Yet, I never, ever feel the least bit guilty when I invest time with my family. Just a few days ago, my boys and I played in our snowy backyard. I built them a snow slide down the back hill and we all shovelled up snow banks, out of which two snow forts were created (and the subsequent ‘epic’ snowball fights). They don't yet have great throwing arms, but they make up for it with enthusiasm. As the time flowed that morning, I didn’t once wish I was on my laptop or reading emails.

Second, be sure to know which demands on your time have immediacy. An upcoming class tomorrow would have immediacy; my dissertation has importance. An internal piece of paperwork might claim to be urgent, but a student in need at my doorstep has immediacy. Some of our tasks need to get done in order to keep the machine moving; others are time stealers. I could grade papers for hours a day over the next 25 years. I will not experience my son’s happy explanation of his day at preschool beyond this day. For example, this morning I'm off to do a morning radio interview that was requested and booked midday yesterday. To be a relevant and timely piece, it has to be executed quickly. Although I'm busy, it gets into my schedule and I'm up early to do it.

Finally, remember that it is a game. You can work 20 hours a day. But what do you get out of it? What is your endgame - what you hope to accomplish during your journey. Where will your actions and attention have the greatest impact today. Watching television is often called a time-waster (especially by those strange people that dislike TV, of which I am not one). However, when my boys ask me to sit and watch a cartoon with them, I am actually having a huge impact for 20-30 minutes on our relationship.

Choose where to spend your time. You'll be amazed how many things we do everyday that do not fit into the categories of important, immediate, or impactful.

When dealing with more than your share of canaries, the goal is always to keep half of them flying. Now I need to run and get mine in the air.


1 comment:

  1. One of the benefits of being a chronic procrastinator is discovering that a goodly proportion of the supposedly important tasks turn out to just go away with no ill effects when ignored for a sufficiently long time.


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