Do Your Chores by Beverly Delidow, Ph.D.

By admin
Nov 21st, 2013

We all have them – those little gaps of time between classes and meetings. The little space between the end of a research activity and before your colleague wanted to talk to you about something. Or you just got back from lunch and you only have 20 minutes before a student comes in and you don’t want to get involved in something complex. What do you do with snippets of time? Here are ten ways to productively use a 15-minute (or shorter) block of time to make your professional life easier.

  1. Collect and file class materials that have accumulated outside the file cabinet because you were using them. The operative word being, of course, WERE. Now they are just insulating the stuff underneath them. Put them away and feel the space expand around you.
  2. Shelve or give away journals that have come in and are now sitting on your desk like someone else’s parrot – they are constantly in the way, they flap every time you move something, and they’re not even that cute. Move them to where they actually should live.
  3. Sync all of your calendars – make sure that your paper planner matches what you have in your smartphone/computer and vice versa. Otherwise you will suffer from asynchronitis calendarium. This is an allergic condition causing constant mental itch from knowing you supposed to do “something else, too”, even though you are currently at least one of the places you know you were supposed to be… you think. It will drive you to distraction – and constant distraction is what we’re trying to avoid.
  4. Check the “snack drawer” and the fridge for anything that may have grown a nice fuzzy coat and legs. Chase it down and throw it out. Bonus: if you wish to maintain the good graces of the good people who take care of general housekeeping in your building, enclose these items in a leak-proof plastic bag of their own before putting them in the trash, so that no one else is exposed to the evidence.
  5. Take a good look at your keyboard, monitor and phone. Once you stop cringing, unplug them and wipe them down with a cleaner meant for those things.
  6. Take every writing implement out of your pencil cup/pen holder and get a blank sheet of paper. Draw quick line or squiggle with every single one in turn. The ones that don’t work, either toss or refill. Now you don’t have to wonder when you grab a pen if it’s “one of the ones that work”.
  7. Draft memos or letters of reference you know you will need to write soon. Your students will be so grateful when these go out on time.
  8. Run a search in your favorite engine for the bibliography of your next manuscript or grant. Set a timer if you tend to get lost down rabbit holes when you do this. Remember to save the search results and file this in a special folder for that project.
  9. Scan several eTOC (electronic Table of Contents) emails for anything of interest, choose the papers you want to read, download them, and then DELETE the emails. If you have an extra two minutes – create a folder and an email rule that will deposit these emails in their own space out of your inbox and you can go through them at your leisure.
  10. Do a “brain-drain” – using a list of the important areas of your work, write down EVERYTHING you can think of that needs attention. Choose a few to attend to later, and move on to your next appointment assured you aren’t forgetting anything.

THERE. Now don’t you feel better?

© Beverly Delidow, Ph.D.

Beverly Delidow is a professor, writer, and photographer in West Virginia. She has published articles, fiction, poetry, and photographs in a number of forms. You can reach Beverly at

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