Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Time and task management for Me

Over the last few days I have been thinking about why I am (usually) the epitome of productivity at work and (usually) not so hot at home and why sometimes I feel like my life is drifting away from me. It struck me that, at work, I generally have few projects or goals that are mine – despite my experience and qualifications, the dictator my boss doesn’t really let me (or anyone else for that matter) get on with things. He doesn’t take advice (however talented or experienced the author of it) and it’s his way or not at all. Consequently, most of the time, I am just chunking my way through a task-list without a huge deal of creativity or control.

I hasten to say, it wasn’t always like this. Previous bosses have recognised and cherished the wealth of experience of their workforce and allowed them to run projects themselves, and have taken onboard suggestions and embraced new ideas. In those halcyon days my home productivity was also a lot better.
What I have realised, is that the stifling of any independent thought or creativity at work has had huge, damaging effects on my productivity and creativity at home. I am looking for a task-list to chunk my way through and of course, unless I create one, there is just a yawning void there.

I went part-time a couple of years ago because the way work was going was suffocating me but I didn’t (and still don’t) know what else to do. The idea was to have space and time to be ‘me’ but then, two years on, I realised that I didn’t know what that person looked like any more.

So, I sat down and thought about what I wanted to achieve in my life.

It has been such a long time since I did this, that I ended up staring at the paper for aeons, trying to work out what to write. All I was wanting to do was to put down some 6-month goals to try and kick-start my productivity and give myself a bit of direction. Only then did I realise that work has been sucking the life out of me to such an extent that I didn’t know how to even start on such a goal-list. What did I want to do with my time? With my life? With my talents? What dreams did I have?

I almost resorted to the sand-timers (another post on these to come!) but eventually, things started flowing and I came up with a mind-map plan of some key areas that I could then start to break down into monthly goals, weekly goals and daily tasks. I know I’m good at working through a daily task-list; I used to be good at long-term goals and planning.

Hell, I need a new job. I had not realised how much it was draining out all the bits that make me me. I seem to be left with an organised automaton who sure as heck isn’t paid to think!

Eventually, yesterday became a very positive day and I spent a happy afternoon creating my goal-list and then setting up my cheery pink baroque filofax with my lists. Because I am quite a visual person, I have also colour-coded it all, so that I can see at a glance how much time I am spending on each key area in a day/week.
I don’t (as yet) have a ‘Someday/Maybe’ list – all my key areas are real and need managing. I found it hard enough to get those down on paper; I think freeing my mind enough to think blue-skies kind of thoughts will take a bit of time.

It’s been eye-opening in some ways. I knew I wasn’t happy at work… I hadn’t realised quite how undermining and detrimental the repressive atmosphere at work had become.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Too bad to stay, too good to leave

A few weeks ago we had an 'away-day' at work where plans for the next five years in the department were discussed. Not that those discussions will actually lead to anything. The department is not a democracy, as the boss made absolutely clear that day. He was just sounding out opinion, ready to ignore it.

Which makes it worse.

Having a boss whose style is dictatorial (to say the least!) is one thing. Having a boss who makes you think that you have a say, but then makes it perfectly evident that you don't, just defeats me.
There was a room with some extremely intelligent, highly experienced people in it, with years of knowledge and sense but whose opinion and advice will be ignored unless it happens to chime with his. I can hardly bear it.

As I have said in my original post, I have stumbled through life to get here. There was no ‘grand plan’ leading me into a life of academia, just a blundering stagger from school to degree to PhD to job to here. Right now, I feel like my job is too bad to stay in, but too good to leave. There are some real delights in my work – the interaction with the students being a prime example – but there are quite a lot of negatives too. The pay is good, but I am not a very money-driven woman and live quite frugally in all honesty so that’s not keeping me here.

What’s keeping me here, I realise, are fear and laziness. The fear of branching out into something new (and not doing well at it) which allows my laziness about doing something about my life to survive unhindered.
At the moment I am also in a complete slump and my get-up-and-go has got up and gone. I know some of that’s because of the recent family death and the not so relaxing holiday, but I know I need to shake myself awake and make something happen. Life does not appear on silver platters, it would seem.

Any advice?

Friday, 15 July 2011

Productivity crash... How do I get back on track?

It's been a hellish month, frankly.
At the very end of May, my mother-in-law died suddenly, but very peacefully. It was 'expected' in some ways - she was only a few days off 89 - but not quite then if you know what I mean. Families being families, the funeral was horrendously stressful and my DH coped admirably with a tough time.
Timing sucking all round, I went to Malawi the morning after the funeral, for 10 days, with limited communication between me and DH possible.
Then we went on holiday and what we really needed was a quiet, peaceful, get-away-from-stress fortnight, with lots of walking and fresh air.
What we got was the car breaking down on the first Monday, a bill for £750 when we got it back on the Friday, the car going back to the garage on the following Monday as they had damaged other bits during the initial repair, another week in a hire car and the return of our car on the second (final) Friday with another bill for £350.
You know your holiday is going badly when you're desperate to go home!

Anyway, back to the topic in hand...

When I say 'productivity crash' that's a bit misleading. I was as productive as anything helping to organise the funeral, going to Malawi, working in Malawi etc. We've even been fairly productive since we came back - sorting out the garden from jungle to 'a bit untidy' and buying a new car and so on...
But my peresonal productivity - my progress on my goals and plans - has shrivelled to absolute zilch.
I know that some of this is post-'holiday' slow-down and a lot of it is because my desk at home currently looks like a bomb-site after it became a dumping-ground before we went away.
But also my motivation has dried up.
I have a load of editing to do. I have a ton of work for Chimwemwe to do. I have what feels like a zillion minor things to do (organise a haircut; buy stamps; tidy up etc) that normally I would blast through, but instead I am in a bit of a slump.

Any advice on how to pull myself out?