There is never enough time.
But the point is to make use of the time that you have to do what you want to do rather than becoming time’s slave.
I have been leaving writing my blog until late (like tonight) and this has resulted in me not having enough energy to write what I want to write, and therefore I have missed days. And this is annoying because there are things I want to write about – for example, my philosophy of management, reflections on programme teams, and the responsibility of the composer – but I feel that if I can’t write them properly, I shouldn’t write them at all.

This is obviously all part of my ongoing battle for effective time management, and my suspicion is that this is not a battle that will ever be over but that’s ok. I’m probably never going to be intuitively organised in the way that some people seem to be, but I like the idea of working on the art of being alive, and being actively engaged in the process rather than it being something that happens behind my back.

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Today, I gave the inaugural lecture in my research centre’s new series of open lectures entitled ‘Music in a Globalised World’. Given the modest advertising I put out, I was actually quite pleased with the audience of around 15 who heard me speak and asked questions afterwards.

In the large scheme of things, that’s not a huge number, but I’m not going to fixate on that right now. I’m very aware that everything has to start somewhere and we can’t always expect the first event in a series to be oversubscribed. A reputation builds, and this is what I’m hoping for my little series.

The lecture was videoed, and, once I’ve edited it, I’m planning to upload it to iTunes U so that it is available to everyone with internet access. This is my plan for the entire series, should the speakers be happy, as it enables us to kill two birds with one stone. On the one hand, we are building a genuine research community within the campus that complements the existing research communities, but on the other, we are also dipping a toe in the water of open access online presence.

When I was an undergraduate student, I attended the department’s guest lecture series and got quite a lot out of it. When I was a PhD student at the same institution, I was a regular fixture. When I came to my current institution to teach, I did really miss that. I think it’s important for academics to continue to engage with what their peers are developing, and that research doesn’t just stop with our own interests.

I think it is especially important to provide a platform for academics to hear their colleagues, within the same institution, speak about their research, as it builds awareness and mutual respect, and although I think that we largely share a lot of respect for each others’ teaching, respect for research can only generally function on the basis of productivity and visibility rather than on interest and quality.

So today was a tiny step in developing this idea. I’m hoping that the audience will return in October for the next session and that they will grow.

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I have two lists.
One of them lists everything that I feel I need to get done at work.
The other lists everything that I feel I need to get done at home.
I’m working my way down both very slowly.

When I was writing these lists, they seemed quite easy to accomplish – a couple of days work possibly – but when they are slotted into everything else, it is quite a different matter.

The timetable for performance exams has taken me a couple of days to organise, and that’s just one item on the list. It’s a task I have done for the last five years I think, and one that I sort of enjoy (like a crossword puzzle), but often one that gets done when I get tired of students hassling me for it. So this year, in line with what I was talking about yesterday, I decided to sort it out now for the entire year. So that should put me ahead of the game a little. I still have to assign staff to assess the exams, but I want to discuss the workload implications with our line manager first.

I have a couple of reasonably large tasks left on my work list, as well as some pretty minor ones, but the investment in time will probably be worth it in the long run. Sometimes, I think that these tasks could be done by others, whether that’s HR when it comes to writing to all of our hourly-paid staff, or someone else, but I know that I will have a better chance of getting a result with which I will be happy if I do it myself to create a template. Once I’ve done that, I can step back and allow others to improve it and use it for the next few years.

My list for home is moving very much more slowly. It seems difficult to motivate myself to improve the flat while there is so much work to be done. I know that has to be addressed for my own sake. The more that the flat is organised the happier I will be. I guess this comes down to the question of life-work balance, prioritising my life as much as my work, and taking action instead of treating the ‘life’ section of my life as an excuse to hide from a lived life.

It’s funny how, even when you’re 36 years old, so much of life is about taking a day at a time.

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Twelve days have passed without me posting.
Twelve eventful days.
During that time, my country has voted to stay within the UK, to my disappointment, and I have been promoted. The term has started properly and we’ve got through a week of teaching and nothing has gone wrong. Yet.
I may go back and fill in the blanks another time, but I’d much rather just keep on going for the time being.

Half of the problem for a high functioning procrastinator like me is that we have excellent plans for tomorrow. As the days pass us by, our deadlines move steadily into the future, keeping a parallel course. As long as tomorrow is the day we start our new gym regime, research project, rewritten slides, etc., we can feel not too awful about ourselves, enough to carry on with life.

And life doesn’t stop happening, especially in academia. The emails keep on coming in that need to be answered today, the students have crises that need to be addressed today, and suddenly you have to teach the class that you were going to prepare tomorrow a week ago. This is all familiar territory for many of us and we make a virtue of our ability to cope with whatever life and our institutions throw at us, all the time entertaining the illusion that we will do better tomorrow.

So how do we stop the treadmill and actually address this? I don’t actually know, and I’m in the process of trying to work it out. So far, I’m not doing a great job, but I’m doing better than I have in the past, which has to count for something surely. I suppose part of the problem is that every successful solution to this sort of dilemma is not just one solution, but is a concatenation of a series of coping strategies. It is unrealistic to organise your entire life and expect it to run to plan tomorrow, but better to address it in phases. This requires a bit of analysis of what it is you want to address. What will make a difference to tomorrow? No. What will make a difference to today? Implement one phase. Don’t get annoyed that you haven’t changed everything. Be patient. Make realistic plans over a series of weeks instead of just trying to change tomorrow. No. Instead of just planning to change tomorrow.

So tomorrow I’d better do something about that.
Or at least try.

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It’s always an interesting point in the year, on the brink of a new term, just catching your breath after the admin of the last academic year.
I haven’t got a set workload agreed yet, and no priorities officially planned, although I have plenty in my head. A few things could change based on discussions yet to be had, but there seems no reason to hold off thinking about this until this happens because otherwise, there will not be any decisions made.

I plan to go through what I project as my workload for the year, and begin to assign it to my year in quite a specific fashion, to give myself a good idea about what I think is a reasonable division of my time. This is quite exciting for me because, although I will be losing some freedom, it will give me firmer limitations to what I am trying to do, a more realistic idea of how long certain tasks take, and the beginning of a real sense of control over what I do when.

And that can’t be bad.

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I sponsor a child in Cambodia, and every now and then he writes to me.
Today I read his latest letter which said that his studies were going well and that he hoped to go to university because it would make a significant difference to his family’s living conditions.
The power of education to transform lives is one of the motivating factors that keeps me engaged with the whole process. I’ve spoken before about the importance of education for education’s sake, but the way in which it provides options for people who otherwise would not have any is just as important to me.
That is what makes working where I work as fulfilling as it is. If I was only interested in education for education’s sake, I would crave a research-intensive post, but I do enjoy what I do and I do get a lot out of the return that I get from working with these students.

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Today was the first day of the trimester with the new Freshers starting.
So far, so good, and everything seemed to go smoothly.
This is the second year I have planned an extensive programme of events that covers the whole week and a range of topics. The first year I was programme leader, it was mostly crammed into one day and I could see them fading and not taking in information even as I gabbled it at them.

I think that what has been most liberating this year, especially, has been the acceptance that I do not have to do everything myself. I have divided up my plan between all the available staff, and entrusted some sessions that I delivered last year to some of my colleagues – a bit step for a control freak like me – and I know that it will be ok.

Being a member of a team where, even when we have some disagreements about how to do certain think, you can rely on the others to turn up and do the job is not something that you necessarily expect to find in HE nowadays and I am so very grateful that I have that.

Tomorrow, I have an interview elsewhere, and am not going in to my campus except to stop by for lunch afterwards. My colleagues are handling it all. How many other programme leaders can say that with any confidence?

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