How to create order out of chaos — University Affairs

The Organized Academic shares how you can transform your academic life.

Elizabeth Wells has a tidy office, is on time for every appointment and never sleeps through the night. She has enjoyed a successful academic career, winning teaching awards and serving as dean of an arts faculty. And somehow she sleeps nine hours every night during all of this. Is she the perfect academic? No, she said. But she is organized.

After taking a hiatus from administration almost two years ago, Dr. Wells to channel her passion for organization into a new book that she hopes will help other academics relieve some of the stress that comes from the often chaotic lifestyle that can accompany an academic career. your labor of love, The Organized Academic: How to Transform Your Academic Life, is a treasure trove of everyday techniques that can improve the personal and professional lives of university staff. Below are three tips she shares that could help academics take back control of their lives.

1. Write a mission statement

“Why am I here? Why am I doing this difficult job in the first place?” are questions academics can ask themselves, especially when a bad day is getting worse. Answering these questions through a mission statement, Dr. Wells said, can help Laying the foundation for a more organized, effective, and fulfilling career She recommends taking the time to reflect on your core values ​​and what you want to achieve, and then condensing that into a few simply written sentences.

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“That’s something we don’t think about much as academics – we get a job, we know what the job is, but what exactly is your scientific mission? What do you want people to say about you at your retirement party?” said Dr. wells You can use the statement to assess how you prioritize your activities and how much energy you put into them. “You have to focus on what’s really important to you and what you’re passionate about,” she said.

Another important benefit of a mission statement is that it can act as a motivator when you’re feeling overwhelmed. dr Wells shared that she has a mission statement for each of the three pillars of her academic life – research, teaching and service – but said it works well to have an overarching mission statement as well.

2. Cover a long curriculum

When asked what the only advice she would give to academics trying to free up time, Dr. Wells: “A 20-page syllabus.” Yes, you read that right. dr Wells argues that a 20-page syllabus detailing every element of a course saves hours of time and frustration during the semester.

“If you don’t even explain to the students in minute detail what’s going on — even though it took you many hours to do that — do you really have time for that every day after that?” she said. In some of her courses, not a single student has written to her asking for clarification on course content or assignments, she said, proving the technique can work.

3. Work in 25 minute intervals

Among the tips and tricks from Dr. Wells is one that looks familiar to you: the Pomodoro Technique. Theorized by then-Italian university student Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, the time management method uses a kitchen clock to break up work into 25-minute intervals separated by short five-minute breaks. Each interval is known as a “Pomodoro”. When you’ve completed three pomodoros, do a final fourth before taking a long break of about 20 or 30 minutes. Then you start all over again. (If you complete fewer than three Pomodoros before your quest is interrupted, you will have to start over.)

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dr Wells said academics around the world have embraced the method. “I know a lot of academics use this technique because what we’re doing is very intense and we have to be very focused,” she said. She has found that by working in 25-minute intervals with a short break, she can return to the top of the clock with the same energy she started her task with.

The Organized Academic: How to Transform Your Academic Life will be published by Rowman & Littlefield this November.

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