Productivity for Minions

Google this, there’s nothing useful. Someone needs to write a book on this! I’d buy it, would you?

If not, hopefully it’s because you’re not a minion.

by drewdomkus / flikr
by drewdomkus / flikr

Grad students are basically minions. I am the minion of my supervisor (luckily he’s nice), the minion of any prof whose course I take (to a lesser extent) and the minion of the prof I TA for.

My supervisor is the reason I have a place at the university. He gives me a scholarship, too. So if he asks me to do something, I do it. It becomes my priority.

If I’m taking a course, we get assignments and deadlines which obviously we have to complete on time. The course I’m taking at the moment has set us in the region of 100 hours of homework, which finally ended last week. Now we have a project to complete, but the deadline is fairly early in December – reflective of her schedule, not ours. When she decided that it was not OK for me to code in Haskell (despite saying any programming language) I had to rewrite it in Java the following day – this was not what I’d originally planned to do then, my priorities had to change.

This is the least of it. I dropped a course, because the prof said openly that he wanted the “source code” to anything we did (including, say, word documents) so that he could use it if he wanted to. Lately, I’ve heard another prof doing a similar thing. Grad students are minions.

Then, there’s TA-ing. Being a bit tender-hearted (also, and probably correctly described as a “people pleaser” I end up as the minion of my students. I see them on their schedule, help them longer than I get paid for, and respond to their emails as fast as I can. Then there’s the stuff the Prof asks me to do – at the end of the semester, I have four consecutive weeks of marking (an assignment a week), plus students being sent to me for tutoring, plus… these things have to become my priority.

Lastly, there’s WISE. As President, you’d think I wouldn’t be a minion here but I am – I’m the minion of anyone involved who doesn’t do their job, because then I have to do it for them. My priorities have to change.

This wasn’t meant to be a long moan, just example of how, whilst I set my priorities, being a minion means that they get changed because other people’s priorities are more important than mine.

Lurching from crisis to crisis, panic to panic is not productive. It’s not effective. 7 Habits talks about this – your deadlines, your priorities need to reflect your values, not just be jerk reactions to events.

But what if you’re a minion? Because I try to do that, I make my list every week. I try and incorporate the minion activities (like marking) that I know I will have to do. But then I can get a request and have to rejig everything. Recently I came home to an email (at 11:30pm, sent at 6:30pm) asking for something to be done by the next day at 10am. Of course, it didn’t happen. But I did have to abandon everything else the next day to get it done.

Productivity for Minions – someone should write this. How to balance living a productive, effective life, whilst continually having to respond to others knee-jerk reactions.

Advice welcome!

By drewdomkus / flikr
By drewdomkus / flikr

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