Time Slip

I turn 45 this year. I'll admit that it's a bit old to be starting a new life in a foreign country, giving up tenure for a new job, raising a two-year old, and erasing many of the financial assets that took us so long to accumulate. There's also the challenge of forming new friendships while all the rest of this is going on. Sometimes I feel like I'm just starting out in my 20s again (although this time I have a toddler and a wife!). The major difference is that I probably have only 20-25 good work years ahead of me, rather than the 40-45 that I had in 1988. Thus, time has become much more precious to me. For instance, there is so much more that I want to accomplish in my career, but I know that I can't really work long days and nights with a family at home. Thus, I want to become more effective in managing my time so that I can end up spending more of it doing more meaningful things: more time playing with Will and talking to V., and less time watching "The Top 25 richest people in Entertainment;" more time developing my research and less time sitting in meetings that don't benefit me; more time getting exercise and less time sitting in the car.

Getting a handle on time management is probably easier for some, but for many of us our old habits are hard to change. I was recently inspired, however, by some lectures given by Randy Pausch at Carnegie Mellon University. Pausch is about three years old than me and has had a successful career in computer science (much of it having to do with virtual reality), and he has three young children and a wife at home. He's also dying of pancreatic cancer that has metastasized to his liver and spleen. In October 2007 he gave an inspiring "Last Lecture" at CMU, in which he talked about how to achieve one's childhood dreams. He has also posted a lecture on time management that he gave a few weeks later at the University of Virginia. The latter is interesting, given that Pausch learned to manage time highly effectively many years ago. I recommend that you watch both of these videos--you won't be wasting your time! A few tips that I have tried to incorporate from his time management lecture:
  • keep you email inbox empty, reading each email only once
  • schedule every minute of every day
  • keep your own meetings as short as possible
  • delegate when possible
  • keep your workspace tidy
  • develop an effective filing system, and use it
  • remind yourself what is most important to you and plan to spend your time accordingly
I may not have cancer, but I do feel like there's some urgency in my life, as much of it is starting over. Now, if I could just figure out what to do with all this silver hair on my head...