Scheduling at 80% of Capacity

Lately, things have been somewhat chaotic. I don’t like it. It makes me stressed, overwhelmed, and unproductive.

Credit: flikr / kevindooley
Credit: flikr / kevindooley

On Saturday, Treena and I headed out of town for breakfast and a chat. We caught up, and I was talking about how I had just hit this point where I was so overwhelmed I was having a hard time being productive. I’m trying to get a grip; I’ve managed to delegate something that was causing me a giant headache and I’ve been trying to do more things that make me happy rather than I feel I should do (this means I’ve finally caught up on this season of Ugly Betty – love that show).

Credit flikr / flashcurd
Credit flikr / flashcurd

However, it’s not enough. At the end of the semester… I think the picture below captures it. It’s like when the snow melts and everything you’ve done all semester needs to be done and final. There’s a cascade of stress, as anything that takes longer than anticipated slides into everything else…

Credit: flikr / mint imperial
Credit: flikr / mint imperial

Treena tells me (I’m paraphrasing here):

In production, you always schedule at 80% of capacity just in case.

I try to say that I do, it’s just more has gone wrong than the 20% allocated for. Maybe I’m right – I mean, over 4 hours a week spent on physio at the start of term… there’s 20% right there. Having to remark a whole assignment? That’s 20% and it’s happened twice.

Then later, I think about it some more, and realize – I don’t know what my capacity is anymore. Some weeks I’ll work 80 hours and be OK with that. Last week I didn’t achieve anywhere near that (I tried to, but I was having terrible problems focusing). I’ve hit the point where my cup is overflowing – and not in a good way.

Credit: flikr / 96dpi
Credit: flikr / 96dpi

So Treena is right – I’ve not been scheduling at 80% of capacity. The fact that I don’t even know what my capacity is anymore, tells me I’ve really screwed things up – I’ve sprinted and crashed. I need to be doing 50 hours every week, not 80 hours one week and 20 the next. I shouldn’t be at the point where what needs to happen this week makes me want to curl into a ball and cry.

Credit: flikr / hufse
Credit: flikr / hufse

It’s probably too late for this semester. If I can get through this week, it’s over. For next semester, what can I do to learn what my 80% is and schedule for that?

  • Working Saturdays – don’t do it. Saturday lunchtime labs screw up my whole weekend, they’ve often overran as well as assignments have been due on Sundays and I feel compelled to stay longer to help.
  • TA-ing period. No TA-ing in French (it’s much more stressful for me), and if I TA at all it will be a “proper” CS course as the obligatory courses for non-CS students are much harder.
  • Delegate before it’s panicking me. I arranged for someone to take charge of something last week that I probably should have arranged a month ago.
  • Better sleep schedule. I was up early for the first chunk of the semester, but then I work late into the evening and it spills over to the following day when I sleep late… need to avoid this and keep on a more regular schedule – especially since the morning is often my most productive time.
  • Do things that make me happy. Read more novels. Go do things I enjoy. Spend time with my boyfriend. I’m 24 – it’s too young to do nothing but work.
  • Email. Takes too much time. Unsubscribe from everything I can. This will include Twitter notifications. I should make a custom Twitter landing page indicating that I don’t check the notifications and that I mostly follow back people who talk to me, so send me an @ message saying hello. Once the end of the semester is over (no more panicked emails from students) I should be able to check it just once a day. Try and move to inbox zero.
  • Courses. Take a course that I enjoy and am interested in. This semester’s course was one I had to take, which definitely made me less motivated. That kind of workload in something I’m more passionate about would not be as big a problem. Spend more time at the beginning of the semester going to a few courses and picking the one that I will enjoy most – this will pay off later.
  • Some tasks get bigger the longer you put them off. Last week, I spent several hours trying to clear my email. On my desk, there’s a pile of paper 6 inches high. At this point, they become so large I need to set aside a lot of time to deal with them. This makes them much more intimidating, and I put them off even longer… it’s a vicious cycle. Try not to get into it in the first place.

This is everything I can think of for now, but as I try to find my 80% no doubt more will come up. How about you? How do you find your 80%?

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