Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Busy, Busy, Busy!

Are you busy? I sure as hell am! Sometimes I wonder how I manage to get all the things done that I need to. Time has a way of disappearing. But as busy as I am now, I realize that it’s only going to get worse as I continue to build a career in academia.

As an undergrad, I thought 18 hours of coursework was, like, sooooooooo busy. As I matriculated into graduate coursework, I realized that I had it pretty easy as an undergrad. Yet each passing semester gets progressively more busy. Last semester I took two graduate courses, taught two undergraduate courses, collected data for my thesis, and prepared for my comprehensive exams, in addition to admin duties at Queereka and other everyday life stuff. This semester, I am trying to wrap up my thesis so I can move on to PhD coursework, which will be even more intensive. And it will only continue to get more busy as I go further along (just ask some working professors about their schedules!).

One thing I’ve learned to do well is time management. I keep a schedule in my iCalendar and am constantly juggling stuff around. I have so far managed to avoid feeling burned out on the projects I’m involved with, mostly because of time management. It also helps that I deleted my social media accounts (except Google+) and don’t spend hours a day arguing with assclowns on Facebook anymore.

What sorts of things keep you busy? How do you manage your time? Do you have any tips or tricks for time management? Do you allow yourself downtime? What do you do when things get a little too busy? How do you reward yourself for completing everything you need to complete on time?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET.


Will is the admin of Queereka, part of the Skepchick network. They are a cultural/medical anthropologist who works at the intersections of sex/gender, sexuality, health, and education. Their other interests include politics, science studies, popular culture, and public perceptions and understandings of anthropology. Follow them on Twitter at @anthrowill and Facebook at

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  1. At work I tend to get busy starting in the middle of a project. Initially, as a game play programmer, I’m left to implement the systems intended to achieve whatever the goals of the game as designed are. Starting in the middle, all those systems start getting used and the design starts changing. Supporting existing systems, updating them to new requirements, anticipating the direction the changes are likely to go, working with artists and designers to debug unexpected issues or come up with creative ways to leverage existing systems to achieve our goals so we don’t have to redo ALL THE WORK!

    Well, I can end up getting pulled in lots of directions with my focus needing to be in a lot of places. Earlier in my career I didn’t handle this well, and the quality of my work suffered. The low was fixing something and breaking something else as a result — which I could have caught with a simple test that I should have done — and then fixing that with another domino bug. A total of four check-ins over the course of the day when it should have been only one. Ugh.

    I think I’ve gotten better. I always have a notepad with me (yes, pen and paper. I know!), and I make notes. I keep a daily task list, sometimes divided up by longer term tasks and immediate tasks. As I can focus on the larger/longer ones, I’ll break them up in to manageable steps (get the data format right, get the editor to see it, get export working, get client importing, etc). At the end of each day I make the list for the next day, carry over any unfinished tasks with notes about progress (maybe line and file for reference). I also note down whatever the bug was, and what my solution was for quick reference. I also note my thought process in trying to figure it out. Maybe it’s why I chose the particular data-structure or changed it in some way.

    My goal is to be able to tell people reasonably accurately when I’ll be able to address their issue, be able to see if and when I can fit something in, not forget that I told someone that I’d do something, and then be able to get up to speed after the inevitable distraction occurs (even if that’s just going to sleep!).

    My down time is usually when code is compiling. It can go really fast, or up to 20 minutes. And thats even with distributed compiling.

    My reward is usually showing off whatever it is that I enabled to happen to the people that REALLY WANTED whatever it was. Seriously, making a fun game can be pretty rewarding.

  2. I have (as yet) undiagnosed adult ADD and am probably bi-polar (runs in the family). I’m manic (or hypomanic, really) at the moment. Which means I have TONS! of energy and I’m not sleeping or eating much, but organization has gone right out the window.

    I have never been great at organizing myself or time.

  3. Methamphetamines are a good strategy for me. I just get my daily dose and I’m like “PHUCK YOU DISORGANIZATION, I’M A WHITE COLLAR WORKING MACHINE!!!”

    Good news is, you can haz it too, just ask your doctor for Aderall!

  4. Work, food, work!
    That sums me up.

    Okay, not really. And I’m a terrible organizer. I just take things at random, be it shopping, fueling the car, doing whatever house work needs doing, or trying (and failing) to apply for better work.

    For downtime, there’s always the internet. When I’m bored with that, there are my books.
    And if all else fails, there’s TV. That’s often a last resort, unless there’s something good on.

  5. I get an hour on the video game of my choice…awww, who am I kidding. It’s amazing I get anything done at all!!!

  6. As a graduate student I was warned it wouldn’t get better, and it hasn’t, workload-wise. Hang in there, Will!

    I’m writing this post instead of preparing for tomorrow’s classes. This semester I’m teaching an overload (6 instead of 5 classes); one of which is brand new. My college is making a first year experience course mandatory for all new students, and I volunteered to teach a section. I’m trying to keep one step ahead of the students! Tonight I travel to a women’s prison to teach my intro to cultural anthro class. I’ll be attending a conference March, and my paper’s been accepted, so I’ve got to write that. And committee work. Campus events I have to help organize. Then there’s my volunteer gigs (maybe 30-40 hours a month? I’m afraid to add it all up.)

    I know busy. I really need to work on my attitude right now; I’m convinced this semester is going to kill me. I’m trying to cut back where I can. I have a tendency to take on too much sometimes. I occasionally suffer from Helium Hand. “Oh, you need someone to work on that? *hand floats up* Don’t mind if I do!” I have a necklace that reads “Stop me before I volunteer again!” I need to wear that more often.

    I make lists every day. And I have a timer which I use to time procrastination breaks. I also use my office whiteboard for upcoming events in my classes (exams, quizzes, assignments), and I have my life-in-a-book. I do reward myself for getting things done,. Often it involves food, which can have its own set of problems.

    Downtime is awesome. I’m an introvert, so I especially enjoy my me-time. Usually that’s Friday nights, which are my SO’s gaming nights. I love word and logic kinds of puzzles. I keep a few books around and work in one of those for a while. Sometimes I treat myself to a novel (mostly between semesters, unless it’s an audiobook I listen to while commuting). Or I do some sewing, knitting, or spinning. Or coloring. When I’m really burned out I pull out my lovely colored pencils and coloring books. Colors make me happy.

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