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Prioritizing what’s left of winter break

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my plans for Winter break. Winter break is now almost over. And, as you might expect, I didn’t get nearly as much done as I’d like. It’s not that I didn’t work regularly; it’s that new tasks kept appearing [1] and many tasks took much longer than I expected [2]. So now it’s Saturday night before the last week of break and I once again have more tasks than I can complete. I have about four full days of available work time in the next week [4]. That’s about four large tasks. That may even be an optimistic count, since I have a number of smaller tasks which will have to get done. So, which of my large tasks are most important, or at least how should I prioritize them?

  • I’m responsible for the SIGCAS [7] Web site. That hasn’t been updated in way too long and we need to transition to a new software platform. The information I have is scattered and incomplete. Dealing with that site is my first priority for Monday. I hope that I can get it done in a day.
  • I’d really like to have the reference pages in place for the start of semester CSC 151. I started that work but did not get far enough. I hope to get those done on Wednesday or Thursday. (The reference pages require me to write some software to generate the pages and then lots of time writing the actual reference text.)
  • It will take about a day to get my work office and my lab set for the semester [8]. I’ll plan that for Thursday, or perhaps intermixed with the reference pages when I need a break.
  • I need to spend a day or so getting all of my outstanding tasks documented and arranged and, more importantly, set up a system for managing them [9]. I guess that can happen on Sunday [11].
  • Oh, I also need to get the first day’s materials set for each of my classes. In addition to planning what I’m going to talk about, there’s a lot of photocopying, getting supplies in order, arranging the classrooms, and so on and so forth. I guess that prep will also need to happen on Sunday, along with all of the other start-of-semester stuff. I may just be dealing with tasks on Sunday rather than documenting and organizing them. We’ll see.

There are, of course, a large number of smaller tasks that I’ll try to fit in around the large tasks.

  • My first priority is supporting Youngest Son in some of his current activities, particularly his short film. Supporting him has even higher priority than the things above.
  • I should keep musing.
  • There are a number of department meetings to attend and tasks to complete.
  • I have daily email. I don’t think that there’s been a day in recent memory in which I’ve spent less than two hours on email, and there have been days in which I’ve spent significantly more.
  • Although I’ve made significant progress on the CSC 321 and CSC 322 syllabi, they are not yet finished. I need to finish them.
  • I have more tasks for the SIGCSE [12] volunteers site. I may work on some of them. Putting together the list of session times is the most painful, so I may put it off, even though I shouldn’t.
  • While I won’t do a thorough straightening of my home office, the rest of our house, my email, my computer, and my cloud storage, I should make some progress on all of them [14].
  • I have a bunch of recommendation letters to write. None are due this week, but all are due by the end of the month.
  • I’d like to do more of the homework assignments for CSC 321. I’m not sure when I’ll have time for them. But it’s clear that when I do (or, in this case, re-do) the assignments, I write better assignments. It may be that I’ll just try to do all of the assignments a week in advance, but I also need time to grade.

Hmmm … that doesn’t seem nearly as bad as I thought. That probably means that (a) I’ve forgotten some of the larger tasks; (b) I haven’t really thought how many of the smaller tasks I have; (c) I’ve continued to significantly under-estimate how long each task will take; and (d) I’ve come to terms with my inability to complete all of my work.

I started this musing incredibly anxious about the workload. I’m much less anxious now. As you might expect, that worries me. I can’t win.

Right before I posted this musing, I remembered the other really important thing I wanted to do during break: relax. I’ve had some opportunities. And I’ll find a way to sneak some relaxation in amidst the other tasks. Certainly, attending the many Middle Son and Youngest Son events will be one form of relaxation.

Ah! Now I remember what the other big task was. I was going to restructure the musings site. That task will probably have to wait to summer or some day when I just really want something stupid to do. Speaking of Web sites, I was also going to write a Rails site. I’m counting the homework for CSC 321 as an appropriate alternative [15].

[1] For example, I think I spent two days on tasks related to the SIGCSE volunteers program.

[2] For example, I thought I could polish off the syllabi for CSC 321 and CSC 322 in a day. I think I’m on the third day of working on the CSC 321 syllabus, but that’s partially because I decided to do all of the homework while rewriting the syllabus [3].

[3] In some classes, I do homework in about 1/4 the time a student takes (or less). But CSC 321, it takes me at least half the time a student takes, and usually more than that because I’m rewriting the assignment as I go.

[4] Yes, I know that there are five weekdays next week. But I have a bunch of appointments on Tuesday which effectively eliminate that day as a work day; the Swim and Dive team has a home meet on Friday and Saturday; Youngest Son has a swim meet in Boone on Thursday night [5]; and Youngest Son also has two separate events on Saturday [6].

[5] Boone is about ninety minutes away in good weather. The meet is at 6:00 p.m. So Thursday won’t quite be a full day of work unless I get up sufficiently early.

[6] Large group speech and swimming, if I recall correctly. I have no idea how he’ll make it to both events. But he’ll try.

[7] ACM Special Interest Group on Computers And Society.

[8] Okay, it will take much more than that.

[9] Yes, I know that I keep saying that I’m going to set up a system for keeping track of my outstanding tasks. Eventually, I’ll succeed. Maybe I can get Jerod to teach me how he uses OmniFocus [10].

[10] Or maybe he doesn’t use OmniFocus. I have a vague memory of him using some software to keep himself organized.

[11] Sunday is the day before classes. I probably need to work then.

[12] ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education. I’m one of the three folks coordinating the 100+ student volunteers at the conference. It’s my first year. I knew that I’d be booked at the conference, but It’s turning out to be much more work in advance of the conference than I’d expected.

[14] Sorry Micki; I really thought I’d have time to work on the house more.

[15] I’m still trying to figure out why I’m putting so much effort into CSC 321 and CSC 322 when I know we’ll be restructuring them significantly and it will be a different class when I teach it next. It’s a number of things. Since I’m recovering from my too-busy semester, I’d like to make sure that my classes are as good as they can be. In addition, I expect that even with new versions of CSC 321 and CSC 322, the preparation I do now will carry over somewhat. At least I hope it will. At least the extra detailed assignments I’m now writing will be useful for whoever teaches it next.

Version 1.0 of 2018-01-13.