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Time Management

Have you ever let food burn because you were in the zone – had the right work mojo?

My worst ever: Student dorm during undergraduate studies, I was preparing for an exam, and had started to boil 3 liters of water, making a huge portion of spaghetti for roomy and me. In the middle of studying someone knocked on my door. A flatmate asked if the, for heat orange glowing, pot on the stove in the kitchen belonged to us. Being someone who loved to go for the big effect, she had not switched the old electrical cooker off. I ran to the kitchen to find the pot just about to amalgamate with the heat plate. I learned that I never cook while working, ever again. Present side effects of work mojo, are less pyromaniac, double booking of appointments and equivalent move me at least out of the danger zone.

I still find the Write Up time of my dissertation the most focused period of the PhD process. During the last three years I did not mind having all these part-time jobs, involvements in networks, seminars or conferences, for the last couple of months however, I meander between library, campus office and home office for best time effectiveness. Working strictly from 9 to 5 does not work for me. I am up much earlier. By 9 I usually have worked for 2 hours, if not longer. So far all recommendations I read about time management were a waste of time. My arch nemesis hereby are Gantt charts *shudder*. Even thinking of having one makes my stomach churn and decreases my attention span from its average 5 minutes down to 30 seconds. Fearful glancing at the chart, mesmerized by looming deadlines, is paralyzing any motivation and work progress.

So now that we have this new gradschool, and the freshly baked vice-dean seeks to gauge where all the little postgrad students are with their work, I got an email inquiring for a time line. And now get this: ‘at least’ weekly structured! What is this even supposed to mean – at least? Am I to send toilet breaks? How shall I know what I will work on today? At the moment a lot depends on if and how quickly I can find references. Why is it not enough to tell someone: ‘you will have this chapter until this date’, and have them be happy with it? It is not that I flunk deadlines, ever – but this need of total control is the worst for work motivation and quadruples stress levels. On top of this it brought my work mojo to a complete halt making me spend two full days trying to draft an understandable time line until, 7 drafts later, I was able to send it out.

Sometimes I wish people would cease to insist on the notion of managing time and focus on managing work instead.

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Nathalie Sheridan

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