Faculty Preparing for Finals

Tip #1: Clearly Communicate To Others That It Is Crunch Time

Let those who live with you and/or are impacted by your behavior know that the next week (or two) will be difficult, assure them that it’s a finite period of time, and let them know you appreciate their support and understanding. I find that people are willing to assist me when I communicate my needs ahead of time.

Tip #2: Lower Your Standards In Non-Essential Areas Of Life

I’m what’s known as a neat freak. During crunch time, I give myself permission to be a slob. It’s OK because it’s only one week. I love to eat out, but during crunch time, I’m OK with peanut butter and pickle sandwiches because I don’t have time for anything else. And that’s OK because it’s only one week. Typically, I sleep nine hours per night. During crunch time, I sleep nine hours per night. And that’s because sleep is not negotiable for me! The point is to ask yourself: what can I let slide a bit for the next week (or two) without negative consequences?

Tip #3: Ruthlessly Assess What Grading ACTUALLY Needs To Get Done

Many students do not read comments that are given on final papers and projects. Upon the suggestion of one of my mentors, I developed the habit of asking my students ahead of time to indicate if they want me to write comments on their final papers. Fewer than 10 percent requested the comments, and I saved hours of grading that would never have been read while concentrating my comment-writing on the students who genuinely wanted feedback.

Tip #4: Say NO To EVERY SERVICE REQUEST From Now Until The End Of The Semester

If you are struggling to find time to complete all of the things on your to-do list, it makes no sense to add more items. In other words, when your time is scarce, one of the worst things you can do is to take on any additional responsibilities. Say “no” often, clearly, and without guilt.

Tip #5: Every Day Needs A Plan

Take 30 minutes on Sunday night to get your to-do list out of your head and onto a piece of paper. Then force yourself to place each of your tasks onto a specific time in your calendar. If you don’t have enough time for the tasks, then delegate them, re-negotiate the deadline, or let them go. This Sunday Meeting will clarify your week and force you to make the tough decisions in advance. Then each morning, you only need to spend two minutes reviewing the items you must complete for that day. This will keep you focused and confident that the truly important things will get done.

Tip #6: Write For At Least 30 Minutes Each Day

When new faculty feel crunched for time, one of the first things they are ready to sacrifice is their daily writing! This term, put yourself, your future, and your daily writing time into the non-negotiable category (along with classes and meetings). There are MANY other ways to be efficient besides eliminating the one activity that is central to your promotion, tenure, and long-term professional success.

Tip #7: Only Check E-Mail One Time Per Day (Max)

E-mail begets more e-mail. When you have little time, the least effective way to spend it is writing e-mails. I’m only able to restrict my e-mail to once a day during crunch times, but for one week, it’s unlikely to cause a crisis and typically works out just fine.

Tip #8: Eliminate Unnecessary Electronic Distractions

If you subscribe to any listservs, sign off until the term is over. Many people sign off during the summer, so why not just do so now? Listservs create lots of e-mail in your inbox, very little of which is critical information that you can’t do without between now and graduation. While you’re at it, why not take a respite from all electronic time-wasters: Facebook, Twitter, television, etc.

Tip #9: Take Care Of Your Body

Exercise reduces stress. When I don’t have time to go to the gym, I opt for using the stairs instead of elevators in buildings, take quick walks at lunch time, or just put on some music for five minutes and dance like a toddler who just found a cup of coffee. Be creative! Whatever you need to do to get your heart rate up and your body moving will benefit you during crunch time.

Tip #10: End Every Day With Gratitude And A Treat!

As each day comes to a close, take a moment to thank the universe for all the things that went well and affirm that everything in your life is working for your highest good. I insist on a treat every day during crunch time because I deserve it. So do you!

 

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