Lessons learned, reflecting on 2014

Like many faculty across campus, I am in the process of completing my FAR (faculty annual review). This product is something created solely for university purposes and only slightly overlaps with my personal process for reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next. I'm going to skip past the criticisms of the system to get to my point - that this process exists to help us improve. Most of the year, I rush from deadline to deadline, rarely meeting or exceeding my own expectations in this frantic pursuit of accomplishment. Last year in particular, this feeling was prevalent. Looking back, I am proud of what I accomplished but not of the path I chose to get there. This year, I resolve to do better, to achieve a better balance of work, home, and social life. These are some of the things that have inspired me and tools I will be trying out. I hope these are helpful for those of you who, like me, are not entirely satisfied with how your life progressed in 2014.

Reflection & documenting progress

Resolutions & Living Better

These are some of my favorite resources for creating a more positive environment, no matter where you are - home, work, or elsewhere in your community.

Planning & Time/Attention Management tools

  • Adjusting my weekly review tool & process. This is based on David Allen's process described in Getting Things Done, but gets modified each year to my own needs.
  • Reviewing my time debts to create a practical schedule for the spring semester. The idea of time debt is new to me, but it really resonates with the challenges I face in my work. I've already pared my reading list down significantly, and reprioritized several projects to "someday" status so I can focus on the things that I really want to accomplish in 2015.
  • Developing goals for the year. This involves drafting the list, then cutting things from it, reviewing, cutting some more, and so on until it's fairly reasonable. I have learned the hard way over the past two years that emergencies and opportunities arise more often than I ever expect. If I want to make progress and still leave room for exploration and spontaneity, I have to be ruthlessly conservative about what I can accomplish. This approach also relieves some of the pressure that keeps me from enjoying interesting work simply due to looming deadlines. It is amazing how valuable head space, uninterrupted time, and disconnecting are for my productivity and sanity.
  • Moving my task management entirely out of Outlook (read email) and into Workflowy. This is helping me compartmentalize email as a set of reference information, rather than mixing it with actionable items (a la David Allen's GTD). So far, this has proven to be effective in reducing stress when I check email.

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Updated Jan 15, 2015 by hcoates