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Key to Success: Mark Creative Hours and Make Them Count

From Inside UVA
January 27, 1995

To Benjamin Franklin's maxim "Time is money," Randy Pausch, U.Va. associate professor of engineering and computer science, would add "Time must be managed, just like money."

Mr. Pausch shared his time management techniques with graduate teaching assistants and faculty members at one of the 12 teaching workshops sponsored by the Teaching Resource Center Jan. 16 at Newcomb Hall.

Although his advice was tailored to the special circumstances of young tenure-seeking faculty, many having families they don't want to neglect during the pressure-laden process, several of his tips would benefit any faculty member or administrator wishing to accomplish more in less time.

Everyone should identify their most creative, productive hours of the day and "defend them ruthlessly" for exacting mental work, he said. Schedule meetings, handle correspondence and make phone calls when physical and mental energy are at a low ebb, he said.

"We should be goal driven" and approach everything from a cost/benefit analysis, Mr. Pausch said. "When Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz was out of a job, he sat and wrote down the 100 things he wanted to do before he died. This is a wonderful thing to do. If activity 'X' doesn't lead to accomplishing something on the list, we should ask, 'Why am I doing this?'

"Time management is really about what you are not going to do." Referring to what he calls the "80.20 rule," he said most things are trivial rather than critical. "It's for you to determine what's important and what's not. If you treat everything equally, you won't reach your goals."

"To do" lists are helpful, provided that tasks are not listed in chronological order. Priorities should be determined by the importance of given tasks as well as by deadlines. On any given day, more thought and energy should be devoted to important tasks due next week, rather than one of less significance due tomorrow, he said.

"Failing to plan is planning to fail," he said. "You don't find time for important things, you make it. You have to plan each day, each week, and determine the three most important things you wish to accomplish this semester," said Mr. Pausch, who is now planning what he will be doing in June and July of this year.

"Germans work 15 hours less a week on average than American workers and are just as productive," said Mr. Pausch. "When working, they are extremely focused," he explained.

People wait about two hours a day, Mr. Pausch estimated. They lost time looking for things scattered randomly on top of their desks, arriving at meetings unprepared, allowing unrestricted visits to their offices, and indulging longwinded telephone callers. His strategy for and office etiquette:

"Use technology to save time," said Mr. Pausch, who corresponds by electronic mail whenever possible and encourages other to use e-mail rather than phoning him. A "successful" researcher, he said he hasn't been inside the library in three years. "I do electronic searching. If there is an article or book I want, I submit the request electronically and the library [LEO - Library Express On-Grounds] delivers it to me."

To keep up with the deluge of reading matter in one's field, Mr. Pausch suggested scanning the titles of journal articles to track trends and ideas, rather than reading them. "Go to conferences where people [in your field] will tell you what is important," he said.

When someone writes him requesting information, he writes back on the letter itself, puts it in his out box, and the secretary sends it out. A good filing system and handling each piece of mail once are the major percepts for keeping up with paper work, he said.

In addition to achieving personal goals in a less stressful manner, "those who take time management seriously are loved by their subordinates because they don't wind up saying 'I need this tomorrow.' They consider the needs of others and how it impacts them. Nothing makes a secretary happier than a note that says, 'No rush, need in seven days.'"

"Equally important, the objective is not to become a 'worker drone,'" Mr. Pausch said, "but to free up time to spend with family and friends."


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