TITLE: Post-Semester This and That AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: December 18, 2007 2:12 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Now that things have wound down for the semester, I hope to do some mental clean-up and some CS. As much as I enjoyed the SECANT workshop last month (blogged in detail ending here), travel that late in a semester compresses the rest of the term into an uncomfortably small box. That said, going to conferences and workshops is essential:
Wherever you work, most of the smart people are somewhere else.
I saw that quote attributed to Bill Joy in an article by Tim Bray. Joy was speaking of decentralization and the web, but it applies to the pre-web network that makes up any scholarly discipline. Even with the web, it's good to get out of the tower every so often and participate in an old-fashioned conversation. One part of the semester clean-up will be assessing the state of my department head backlog. Most days, I add more things to my to-do list than I am unable to cross off. Some of them are must-dos, details, and others are ideas, dreams. By the end of the semester, I have to be honest that many of the latter won't be done, soon if ever. I don't do a hard delete of most of these items; I just push them onto a "possibilities" list that can grow as large as it likes without affecting my mental hygiene. I recently told my dean that, after two and a half years as head, I had almost come to peace with what I have taken to calling "time management by burying". He just smiled and said that the favorite part of his semester is doing just that, looking at his backlog and saying to himself, "Well, guess I'm not going to do that" as he deleted it from the list for good. Maybe I should be more ruthless myself. Or maybe that works better if you are a dean... I've been following the story of the University of Michigan hiring West Virginia University's head football coach. Whatever one thinks of the situation -- and I think it brings shame to both Michigan and its new coach -- there was a very pragmatic piece of advice to be learned about managing people from one Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sports article about it. Says Bob Reynolds, former chief operating officer of Fidelity Investments:
I've been the COO of a 45,000-person company. When somebody's producing, you ask, 'What can I do for you to make your life better?' Not 'What can I do to make your life more miserable?'
That's a good thought for an academic department head to start each day with. And maybe a CS instructor, too. -----