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My new sabbatical task schedule

In my last post, I explained why I feel I'm not getting enough out of my sabbatical, productivity-wise. As it happens, I had the time today to sort out a new schedule, which I summarize here.

The general requirements I set out for my new schedule are:

  • Lay out general themes for each weekday to give me flexibility to respond to unforeseen events, problems, and opportunities.
  • Block off my day to help ensure I get to each theme.
  • Spend at least two hours a day on that day's theme.
  • Leverage existing typical weekly tasks to decide what theme goes on which day.
I started with 11 themes originally, and that was too much - especially as I couldn't easily predict what I'd be doing next because of the offset in rotating through 11 themes over only 7 days a week.

As far as blocking off time each day, I wanted something minimal and flexible. Great hay has been made of Benjamin Franklin's schedule, and I can see why: it gives a sense of direction without micro-managing oneself or one's time.

So here's what I've got so far as my daily themes:

SUNDAY: R&R, Catching up, Miscellaneity.
We tend to do bugger all on Sundays anyways, just out of habit.  So I made Sunday my built-in slack day to make sure I have some time to catch up on stuff that really needed to be done the previous week but failed to.  Also, The Walking Dead is on Sundays. Can't miss The Walking Dead.

MONDAY: Teaching stuff.
I don't teach while on sabbatical, but there's a lot of preparation, course(ware) development, and teaching-related research that I normally can't do when I actually am teaching.  My sabbatical is a chance to seriously refresh a bunch of stuff I use in my teaching.

TUESDAY: Research.
My sabbatical is ostensibly at the University of Toronto, and Tuesdays are typically when I go there. This is the ideal time to do research. I have a quiet, secluded office with a good Internet connection; there's no phone in that office (which is perfect); and virtually no one can find me.  Given that my research is theoretical rather than experimental, this is virtually an ideal opportunity.

WEDNESDAY: Admin and miscellaneous work-related tasks, Students.
Even though I am on sabbatical, I tend to go in to my "real" office at Ryerson once a week to sort through old paperwork, check my mail, deal with administrivia, gloat about how little I have to do with colleagues, catch up on office gossip, and see my one remaining graduate student.  Oh, and have a burrito at z-teca.  BEST. BURRITOS. EVAR!!!  I do this mid-week because that's the time I'm most likely to find anyone else I need to talk to on campus.

THURSDAY: House stuff and cleaning.
Fridays the grocery stores are depleted. Weekends are a nightmare. Thursdays, in our neighborhood at least, seems like a good day to shop: still a good selection, but no big crowds. And since shopping gets done on Thursdays, then may as well do all the cleaning too. Also, Thursdays are for home projects, like organizing photos, hanging pictures, gardening, etc.

FRIDAY: Reading and writing.
I've got a list of papers and textbooks to be read that has thousands of entries. I'll never get to them if I don't put aside some time expressly and only for that.  And it ain't light reading either; these are really dense (and often poorly written) research papers and monographs.  I take notes on them too and often embed choice ideas either in my courseware or in my Evernote notebooks on research. Given that reading often spurs my best research ideas, I also set aside time on Fridays to actually do some writing.  I'd be satisfied with a couple of publishable research articles per year, so (I think and hope) one day a week for writing should be enough.

SATURDAY: Blogging and online stuff.
Blogging is, for me, different than my "professional writing." It comes from a different place, a different part of my mind. So I want to set those two types of writing apart from each other. My blog posts often arise in response to other stuff I've found online, so bundling blogging with generally organizing the kazillion links and web resources I have squirrelled away in Pocket makes sense.

So that's my week, in a nutshell.  I've added a weekly repeating task to my Toodledo account for each theme, just so that I get a daily poke about what theme I should be working on.

As for my daily schedule, it comes in two flavours: weekdays and weekends.

Weekdays work generally like this:

7:00-9:00: Get up, get organized, get caffeinated, get fed, get through overnight email and Google+ notifications, get kids to school.
9:00-12:00: Handle the theme of the day.
12:00-13:00: Lunch and general pondering of the universe.
13:00-14:30: General tidying up, odd jobs, possibly more themed work; at least 30 minutes exercise.
14:30-15:30: Get kids from school, post school problem-solving, etc.
15:30-17:30: Enter a persistent vegetative state while watching bad TV; possibly nap.
17:30-19:00: Pre-dinner, dinner, post-dinner stuff.
19:00-21:00: Help kids with homework, possibly more themed work if my brain isn't already fried.
21:00-...: re-enter persistent vegetative state, tablet in hand, reading online stuff while watching not-so-bad TV.

Weekends are different:

... - 10:00: Drink lattes in bed while reading news on my tablet and showing silly internet memes to my wife.
10:00-12:00: Odd jobs, slowly try to find the energy to accomplish anything at all.  More lattes.
12:00-13:00: Lunch.
13:00-16:00: Themed work + random other stuff as required.
16:00-17:30: Exercise + R&R.
17:30-19:00: Pre-dinner, dinner, post-dinner stuff.
19:00-20:00: Get ready for the coming week.
20:00-...: TV (The Walking Dead!!!!!), maybe some themed work, stuff I forgot to do otherwise.

I've got a little chart on my desk that lays out my daily schedule for weekdays and weekends, just to remind me.  I don't care if I'm a little short on one time block or a little over on another.  I don't care if some Unexpected New Thing sucks up a couple of hours here and there. The daily schedule is a template - a suggestion more than a directive.

I like it.  Fingers crossed, it'll help me get more done and let me get more enjoyment out of it all.

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