If I had to choose one piece of productivity advice, it would probably be weekly planning! I talked about weekly planning and daily adjustments almost a year ago, but I’ve had some questions recently from friends about how I actually do my weekly planning process, so I thought I’d share it here.
So, back to school . . . This has always been one of my favorite times of year, so probably not that surprising that I ended up as an academic :-). Since the public schools in Albuquerque start August 12, and my university classes start August 19, I basically consider the beginning of August the end of summer and the beginning of back to school prep.
For several years now, I have tracked how much time I spend on particular work tasks, as part of an attempt to make sure I’m properly balancing the various components of my job (research, teaching, service/admin). I track this in a google spreadsheet by month (pictured below for May), and update it each week (from my planner daily pages) when I do my weekly planning. I tend to look at the numbers on a weekly and monthly basis, but I have not looked at the larger picture of the semester as a whole. So, I thought I’d do that in this post! In this post, I’m focusing on work, but you can see that I also track dance, home admin, and sleep hours*.
As I’ve mentioned before, my larger scale unit of planning is the semester, and I’ve discussed how I make my semester plan for Fall and Spring. At the end of each semester, before making the plan, I also conduct an end of semester review, looking at what went well and what didn’t, and what I want to focus on or change in the following semester. I’ll share my Summer plan at the end of this post (yes, I plan summers too!), but before that I thought I’d discuss how I do my end of semester review.
I’ve written previously about how I use Trello to organize my teaching and large programs/events, so in this post I thought I’d take a look at my Trello “Workbox”, which is the overall system that links these together at work (I use similar boards/boxes for home and dancing). I call it a workbox as I’ve borrowed concepts from the Organize365 workbox system. I’ve also borrowed from the Getting Things Done (GTD) system.
Last Fall, I wrote about how I use Trello to organize my teaching. Another area I find Trello very useful for is organizing large events or programs, in my case dance competitions and our summer Arabic STARTALK program. Although a dance competition and a summer program for middle and high school students seem like very different events (and they are!) the structure for organizing them is similar. So, while I’ll focus on planning the STARTALK program in this post, I think a similar structure can be used for any event.
As a tenure-track professor with small children who also teaches Highland dancing, I sometimes find it challenging to fit everything in, especially as there are so many parts to all of these that it’s easy to lose track of. As a professor, I have research, teaching, and service time to fit in, and each of these also has multiple components or projects within it. For example, with teaching I also have to account for prep, grading, meeting with students, curriculum development, and so on. For research and service, I have multiple ongoing projects, that can also require coordination with other people. As a dance teacher, I teach classes and also have to do administrative items like tracking payments, emailing students, planning lessons, and so on on a weekly basis. I also have larger projects, such as volunteering to run several dance competitions a year. Finally, with children, in addition to fun family things, there is a significant amount of chores/paperwork etc to divide up with my husband and do my share of.
While I use my semester plan for the big picture, the key to my current strategy for managing the details is weekly planning and daily adjusting, so I thought I would describe this system in this post. After all, I like to read about other people’s planning systems for ideas, so maybe you’ll want to read about mine?
Trello is my favorite digital organization tool, and I use it to organize basically everything in my life. It essentially consists of “cards” that you put into “lists” on a “board”. I make a board for each class I teach where the lists are the weeks of the semester (including the week before and after) and the cards are things I need to do for my class each week. There’s also a “Done” list that cards get moved to as they are completed.