I have a lot of autonomy in my job, along with a lot of responsibility. How can I get better at organizing my working patterns so that I get everything done, without always worrying that I should be working on some other task instead? Looking for recommendations for tactics, mindsets, books, apps, or whatever's worked for you.
posted by Catseye to Work & Money (6 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
I work in academia, as a postdoc in the arts. For the most part, my job's wonderful and I love it - but there are a great, great many things to do. I'm in charge of a lot of the day-to-day running of a major project, with a team of assistants to oversee; I have some teaching duties alongside a professional development course in teaching to complete; and I'm also responsible for producing research, in the form of a set number of journal articles and so on, out of the big project. There are also a number of smaller but still important things to do (publicity, supervising a smaller project I got a grant for, and others). So, things are busy.
There are another two years left of this project, after which I'll need to get another job - hopefully, something more permanent. With the academic job market as fiercely competitive as it is, it's really important that this project goes well and that my CV has things to show for it, especially in terms of publications etc.
I don't mind working long hours, and I cope fairly well under pressure as a rule. In this job, though, I'm feeling increasingly like I'm behind on everything, even when I'm not. Irrational though it sounds, if I work on task A, I feel like I'm neglecting B and C and D and so on, no matter what task A is. I don't like the constant distraction of new emails arriving, but I feel guilty if I turn off my mail client in case there are important messages I need to reply to. It doesn't help that I don't like delegating stuff; I feel very responsible for the success of this project, and want to oversee everything to make sure it's done right. (The project is quite new ground for us and a steep learning curve for all involved, and I'm the one with the most experience at doing something similar in the past.)
This is a particular problem when it comes to producing my own research, writing articles and so on. This is really important, for the project as well as for my future career, but it's definitely something that gets pushed down the priority ladder. I think partly this is because at some level, I feel that it's a luxury to devote time to that, especially because it's an investment for my future career as much as it's a part of my current job. If I'm writing I can't be constantly on-call to supervise assistants and make project decisions and keep up with email discussions, and even though that writing will be important for the project in the long term, it always seems like there's something more immediately important to deal with instead. And it's a lot easier to do the project-running stuff than writing, so if I try to write and I'm not getting anything done, it's so so easy to think "well, not getting anywhere with this, may as well do some project-running stuff so I don't waste the afternoon as well." Recently I've set aside one day a week to devote to research, usually working at home. Out of the last four weeks, though, I've only managed to spend one of those days at home writing the whole day - it seems that there's always an unmissable meeting, or an urgent project thing to sort out (like, 'get the pay claims to the secretaries or the assistants won't get paid this month' level of important), and then I don't make time for research the next day, and the problem goes on.
I know I need to get a lot more ruthless about making time for research if I'm ever going to get much research done, and I know that I need to get a lot better at organizing my time in a way where I won't feel like I'm always neglecting eighteen other things for every task I'm working on. How can I get there? If you've been in a similar position, what's worked for you?