De-cluttering Time

June is summer break at University. Faculty members usually make the most of this time to develop their skills through workshops and conferences, while others take some time out to finally write their research work or take care of other things they’ve been putting off for the past months.  Other teachers take some much-needed R&R after handling a lot of paperwork for the semester.

My routine has lightened up compared to the past month. May went by so quickly, that even my planner / organizer had only one or two entries in it for each week;  my schedules were haphazardly listed into my cellphone. To review the month, I had to combine my photos, text messages, and google events to piece things together– I really could not remember what happened on some days.

I realize that every June is usually a month of recuperation and re-learning for me. After two months of cramming and chasing after deadlines, the weeks after inputting grades can either the be most restful or the most disorienting. In my case, it felt like withdrawal symptoms from the hectic semester– I was looking for something to do and to be stressed about it.

In addition, I DID have something to be busy about because I agreed to teach a summer class. However, I think it’s the last time that I’d be willing to teach for the summer term simply because my momentum is off… and so are the students’.

Since last year, I’ve been having mid-year classes. Last year was more of a last-minute request, but this year was scheduled long before the break began. It’s a little disorienting, especially in the weeks after the second semester ended in May. Students were on break and very few faculty members would come in. The school grounds were very quiet, and I often found myself cleaning my desk or walking around school rather than writing or staying at my desk to read.

The week after grades were due, we had our “spring cleaning” day. Our institution makes sure that we recycle papers, and that papers which are dated from five years ago or older than that should be discarded. I began to discard memos and letters from 2013. Since I work with the Humanities, it’s obvious that I need to be a bit more careful with how I apply that rule, or I end up throwing out everything. Needless to say, the past weeks have been dedicated to cleaning up my work and freeing some head space.

Since I’ve been trying to adopt the minimalist lifestyle, especially with the KonMari techniques, I decided to try to apply the same approach to my work space and my digital files. In the process of just sifting through my emails, I also found how much information I think I can fit into my head… subscribing to at least three different mailing groups about literature and teaching, only to find that I have no time to actually read them all every week though I thought that this was one way to improve myself.

In the process of cleaning up, I realized that my largest clutter is my digital clutter. I dedicated a whole morning just to organize and clean out my Google Drive and Dropbox account. I found redundant files, broken links, and a number of word files filled with potential research ideas or plot bunnies that remain unfinished. I completely forgot about them until I opened them again. When I was halfway through that, I decided to go through my email and unsubscribe to mailing lists which don’t benefit me anymore.

While my physical desk is so much cleaner now without all the papers, my online folders have a long way to go with organizing. I have yet to figure out a system for all these files, especially for books and digital readings that which have their occasional usefulness for classes. While I want to live a minimalist lifestyle, I realize that being in the academe seems like a paradox to that ideal way of life.

How do you organize your online files and clutter? I’m all ears.

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A Balanced Day

The second semester is done, and I’m relieved that the five months are finally over. A lot of this semester’s challenges were more on classroom management and my own time management. There was a lot to learn about time management this time around.

In the past year, I promised myself that I would make time for the things that matter and not to make work the most important aspect of my life. However, in the midst of all the deadlines, demanding students, and following-up bosses, this easily becomes a forgotten goal. Before I knew it, my weekends were also filled with things to do for work. I also began to do something which I promised I would stop making a habit of, which is  checking and responding to email while out with friends or family.

I listened to a podcast which also gave me a clarity about the work-life balance that I want, and why other co-workers seem to be able to live both at the same time. While some people can live both work and personal life as one, unified entity in their life, there are others who need to compartmentalize these aspects and create a clear separation between the two. I realized that I was the latter… which is why I get so stressed out when students message me at odd hours in the evening, or on non-working holidays.

One of the productivity ideas I thought I’d put into practice at the start of the semester was to use Sunday as preparation day for the coming week. While that worked and usually gave me a better sense of control for Monday, I also realized that the momentum of work in my workplace was very different– they usually began assigning and following-up on tasks for Monday and this would often change my plans. More often than not also, there would be a lot of disruptions through chats and emails on Monday. At some point, I would begin finding another work area so that I could focus on my writing and reading tasks.

So far, the method that’s worked for me is to dedicate the morning to writing and reading about the week. I make sure to do this away from my work desk– the library, a coffee shop or another room where I can work uninterrupted.

By lunch time, I actually drop by at my desk and begin to receive updates, which gets me out of my “too much thinking” mode from the morning. After consistently applying this, I realize that there is NOTHING related to writing and reading that I get done during those times I am actually at my work desk. Not only because of the disruptions, but because my cubicle is situated in such a way that I easily get distracted by people passing by.

It’s a welcome thought that people enjoy talking to me and keeping me updated about things I’d otherwise not be aware about. However, for the remaining months of the semester I think it’s about time that I create some boundaries and make these working conditions work to my advantage.

This is still better than working from home. I’m not sure how people get anything done when they work from home. All I want to do is watch TV and sleep when I tried working from home.