One of the things you like about being an academic is the considerable freedom to organize your work the way you want. You cringe at the thought of having to be in at a set time every day, take your lunch break at a set time, work your 8 hours, etc.
Scheduling seems antithetical to freedom.
I used to think that, too. Self-employment is also attractive because of that freedom. Homeschooling is attractive because of that freedom. Why would I schedule my days?
Grounding forces can make us more free
We are held to the earth by gravity. Gravity is a force that both limits and enables our movement.
I was reminded of this dual nature of gravity while listening to reports of the space-craft that landed on a comet. It needed design features to hold it to the comet, because the comet did not have gravity.
Gravity prevents you from flying. However, walking is possible because gravity keeps you from flying off every time you take a step.
A schedule is like gravity
Instead of seeing what you can’t do because of the schedule, focus on what you can do. Like gravity sticking you to the earth so you can walk, a schedule reduces the energy you need to expend making decisions about what to do so you can expend that energy actually doing the things you want to do.
- You are free to set your priorities.
- You are free to organize your time to work with your preferences and strengths.
Your freedom may be limited, but it’s not the schedule that’s limiting it. A schedule helps you balance external demands with internal desires.
A schedule puts boundaries around priority activities
Like gravity, boundaries have a dual nature. They create containers to put things in. Those same containers keep those things from spilling out everywhere.
A mug contains your coffee, which enables you to drink it. Coffee that’s spilled all over the table is no good to you. Similarly writing time that spills all over your day often ends up just colouring everything else with the desire to write (like coffee stains) without actually producing any writing.
Having a container for writing, a container for teaching preparation, a container for meeting with students, a container for meeting with colleagues, etc. enables you to do all of those things.
Pressure vs Ease extends what I say here, to think about what kinds of structures might be most helpful.
Why academics need to focus on structuring their time by Brad Æon at University Affairs. (With references to research evidence.)
This post was edited 3 May 2017 and again 27 May 2021.