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Time Management Survey respondents cite prioritization, procrastination issues as biggest challenges

As part of writing coach Mary Beth Averill’s TAA webinar on time management this month, we surveyed members anonymously on their time management challenges.

When asked what they saw as their biggest time management challenges, respondents highlighted scheduling, exhaustion, estimating how long their projects will take, and prioritizing. One person wrote, “waiting to the last minute and finding the project is bigger than I anticipated.” Another pointed out time of day: “First thing in morning: rituals of Internet headlines and email checking.” And, as academics, they have to answer to competing priorities: “The amount of service work required in academic work. Calculating how much time it takes to do things. Prioritizing my own work.”

Dr. Averill addressed these challenges in her webinar when she talked about scheduling and life management rather than just time management. She also offered an urgent vs. important matrix to use for prioritizing projects. Watch her entire webinar in TAA’s library of presentations on demand.

In answer to the question about what they are most likely to procrastinate about, most said some form of getting started. One responder said; “As I am filling this out, I realize I am putting writing at the bottom of my list. It is not something that needs immediate attention, so I put it off. Since I am in the beginning of my project, I am only accountable to myself. I let myself off the hook all the time.” Another cited uncertainly about how to start or continue a project: “When I’m not sure what steps to take next with a big writing project.” And sometimes it’s just excuses for not starting: “Decluttering paper, magazines and books. I often use this as an excuse to put off projects until I get a space decluttered.”

Several respondents said their time management issues have changed since COVID19, with many citing increased distractions, an increased workload, and the tendency to procrastinate, especially now that they are working from home. One person wrote: “I create a To Do List daily but since working from home my end time is murky, so I have become slack on what I want to accomplish within a day.” Another said: “Increased workload due to needing to adapt work to new environment, so less time to get things done. At home more so many distractions.”

It wasn’t all bad news, however. In answer to the question about in what areas of their life they feel they do a good or excellent job of managing their time, respondents cited writing every day, when collaborating with others, and making use of the extra time they have now that they are not commuting to and from work. One person said they were best at “knowing to time block for a weekly schedule. That is a strategy that works for me (when I can stick with it).”

More good news – several respondents said they feel “in the flow” with their writing a few times a week, and almost always once they get going. One respondent shared that what sometimes helps them is taking on more rote tasks first. They also shared this tip, which they said they read in a TAA article: “especially–walk outside and meditate and affirm, ‘What do I want to feel like after this session?’ Typical answers: Feel satisfied, feel used my creative powers, feel made progress in the work, feel I received the right answers, direction, for what is needed next.”

Another respondent said that what helps them get most in the flow is “when I have a detailed to-do list with microtasks identified. I find it easier to get into the flow when I’ve shut off notifications and closed other browser windows, and I know exactly what I want to accomplish.”

“Mornings” was the most frequent answer to the question about when respondents do their most productive writing, followed by evenings or late at night. One respondent said: “Under a deadline!” Another said: “When it’s scheduled and I can make it happen (nothing else is imploding).”

The most frequent responses to the question about where they do their most productive writing was “coffee shop” and “home study.”

Sound familiar? Hopefully you’ve found some responses you identify with, and others that may help you improve your time management skills, especially the questions about in what areas of their life respondents do a good or excellent job at time management, and how often they feel “in the flow” of writing. Because sometimes when you focus on what you ARE doing right, you can do more of that in other areas.

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