Time Management – by academics

Posted by on Dec 5, 2013 in Academic | One Comment

I’ve run a small flurry of time management courses in the last week and used them to gather the collective wisdom of busy academics.


Here are my top ten tips for time management, illsutrated with their specific advice and reflections.

1.Do the most important stuff first

  1. Schedule it in and stick to the schedule
  2. Be clear about expectations in your role
  3. Identify things that will help you to achieve your long term vision as well as urgent tasks
  4. Ask yourself “Is this task contributing to something that takes me to where I want to be?”
  5. Work on email in the evenings (if you are happy to) to create clear space first thing

2.Turn off email

  1. .…and the internet and any other distractions
  2. Use technology to help you (this plug in blocks specific or all websites for set periods) https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/stayfocusd/laankejkbhbdhmipfmgcngdelahlfoji?hl=en
  3. Use an old phone to reduce connectivity
  4. Don’t open or answer emails first thing in the morning

3.Work to meaningful deadlines

  1. Create real deadlines by including other people – have someone ready to review a draft or proposal
  2. Relate activities to meetings to make deadlines immovable

4.Work in the right environment or change that environment

  1. Shut your door
  2. Schedule student meetings rather than “open door”.
  3. Learn to push people out of the door (politely)
  4. Work from home occasionally (if you don’t get distracted there)
  5. Work in the library or other places if you are disturbed in your office

5.Get to know the energy rhythm of your day

  1. Schedule unimportant things in for low energy points
  2. Go to bed earlier
  3. Exercise more to clear your head, focus your mind
  4. Secure the best times in your diary for important (to you) things
  5. Answer emails in the low energy times

6.Stop solving other peoples’ problems

  1. Do an audit of your time and identify your priorities
  2. Manage meetings effectively, Close and finish them earlier
  3. Learn to say no. Advice here and here

7.Identify things you can do in the margins of each day

  1. Have a list of ten minute/15 minute tasks
  2. Use “train time” effectively
  3. Be realistic about how long things take (chunk them down to smaller tasks)

8.Notice what breaks your good resolutions

  1. Do an audit of your time and identify the barriers to good habits
  2. Try to keep your focus on important tasks rather than urgent, less important ones

9.Wean other people off their expectations of instant gratification

  1. Manage demands for administrative information and tell them that they have to wait if you have other priorities (particularly if made at short notice)
  2. Delay replying to email – use Boomerang to schedule when emails are sent http://www.boomeranggmail.com (so even if it suits you to reply immediately, you don’t need to send it!)

10.Do things well (enough)

  1. Especially teaching (most new lecturers over-prepare)
  2. Be careful not to get too tied up in details

If you want to work on your own time management, there’s a time management guide in the academic section of the site which I hope will help.


Here’s more advice, this time from academics at Kent University, on “Balancing the Conflicting Demands of Academia” . There’s a lot to admire on the Research Fundermentals website, but if you’re here to improve your own time management, I probably shouldn’t distract you with shiny things. Even worse, would be to point out that the author, Phil Ward, is on Twitter.

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