November 5, 2019
I have been looking forward to this month for…many months. I’m going radical in December and want to tell you why.
At some point during the summer, I said, out loud, when trying to balance my calendar, “I would get SO much more work done if it weren’t for all of these meetings!!” I meant it. The amount of ‘protected time’ you have looks very different once you factor in the multitude of meetings that find their way on to your schedule. The utility of these meetings range from “absolutely critical, my career has been changed,” to “I think I lost brain cells and am a worse person for having spent my time this way.” C’mon, let be real.
After I made this complaint for the umpteenth time, I was tired of hearing myself say it. So, my first step was to remember that, I don’t HAVE to do anything. Seriously. We walk around with all of these things we say we ‘have’ to do. But it’s not true. There are only 2 things in life that I have to do. Ya’ll can guess.* All else are things that I am choosing.
With that mindset, during the summertime, I set to cutting. I started saying No to meetings that I simply did not want to participate in. Did I weigh pros and cons? Yes. Did I consider what participation was giving me and taking away from me? Yes. Were there meetings I don’t necessarily *enjoy* but were important to keep on my schedule? Yes.
After this process, I got back about quarter to half a day a week of work time. For me, that is HUGE. I do not work long hours, I work efficiently. Half a day a week is the difference between submitting a grant now or next year. The difference between getting a paper published this year or next. Huge. I was thrilled.
So, as I am naturally inclined, I took it a step further. What would it be like to have NO meetings?! Obviously, this could not be a permanent arrangement, but could it be temporary? What if I had a month of NO meetings?
This felt impossible, and thus directly up my alley.
I went straight to my coaching tools – the mindset and problem-solving tools I teach my clients to make progress when the only things you see are barriers. I got to work. I created solutions to the challenges a month with no meetings would create. I made a plan to ensure that things that are important to me – being a good citizen in my department, respectful relationships with my collaborators, staying abreast of institutional news – were taken care of. I made 3 concessions – and those folks stayed on my calendar. Then, I followed my plan.
And that is why my theme for December is turning inward. I am (mostly) not doing meetings. I am crazy excited, because myself and my team are taking the entire month to focus on high-quality writing, data analysis, and grant planning. The kind of work that takes our very best minds and focus. The kind of work that is first to get derailed and delayed by the meeting monster.
Your calendar IS yours. If you don’t claim it, you effectively cede it to the circumstances and priorities of others. The goal is not one extreme or the other – the goal is balance.
To balance out 2019 (and the entire decade!), I decided my December academic calendar is mine.
(* Shout out to all of you who got it immediately. ✊🏾😂)
Much, much love and Happy Holidays!