the grid

the grid

Friday 17 April 2015

What to do about BLQ and BRQ

We’re in the homestretch! Our final check in is next weekend.

TLQ is by nature a “slow and steady wins the race” strategy, and I know many of us have had TRQ “win the race with a final sprint” recently. This semester we’ve all endeavored to make progress in TLQ in the face of TRQ. But let’s take a minute to talk about the bottom quadrants. Are there things you spend time on that are not urgent and not important? Are there things that press on you, feeling urgent, but you know at heart they’re not important? (Remember that things like reading, playing, watching movies, etc. can be TLQ--important for balance and health.) How do you deal with those BQs? Do you have strategies for shutting up the urgency of the BRQ? Are there bottom quadrant items (right or left) that you need to cut loose from your schedule or your mental checklist?

Volunteer to host! As we’re approaching the end of our session, we can look forward to the next one. Make a note at the top of your comment below if you’d like to host or co-host the group for the next session. (New hosts can decide the dates, but it could be May-August give or take.) If you have questions about hosting or co-hosting, feel free to email me directly as academicamstr[at]gmail[dot]com.

Host volunteering (optional)
Last week’s goals
Next week’s goals

Goals for last week:
Allan Wilson:
complete new draft ms WHK that incorporates co-author additions, and send back out to co-authors.

1) exercise 3x
2) write 2x

Contingent Cassandra:

1) Poster for conference
2) Paper B done
3) Program review
4) Newsletter

Earnest English:

Elizabeth Ann Mitchell:
1) Deal with the paper landslide in my office for a half-hour three times.
2) Clean up my dossier folder on email.
3) Fix the next 20 footnotes in the dissertation.

Good Enough Woman:
1. Call Monday to reschedule the doc appointment.
2. Call to make one or two other doc appointments.
3. Go to the fancy club at least twice to swim or do yoga.
4. Start drafting the commencement speech (I have to give the faculty speech at commencement this year, which totally freaks me out, and which is only about six weeks away).
5. Read 20 pages related to thesis.

1 Finish old article and submit (really TRQ now, I am ashamed to say)
2 Again, catch up on grading
3 Again, take care of self exquisitely (not an indulgence, as JaneB wisely noted last week, but an obligation)

an hour of work minimum on each of five days on research writing, an hour somewhere on planning, and 30 minutes on each of five days on decluttering

Kjhaxton: (for 2 weeks)
2) plan the two articles that I will write
3) plan publication/presentation around small aspect of current teaching so that I can put an evaluation plan in place to get a good paper
4) make figures for the paper

1) Write the draft of the article, the deadline coming soon.
2) Reset myself. I want to start afresh - in some way.

1. Make progress on grant application
2. Catalog a few of my offprints
3. Walk two mornings


  1. I have to demur on hosting for the next session, as I am already shepherding two fiction writing groups for the summer. I should be free in the fall, however.

    Topic: I have a hard time with both bottom quadrants, although as I look at it, I realize that I tend to have more BLQ time at home, when I am watching too much TV, playing too many video games, and the like. I am slowly cutting down on the wasted time, but it becomes more difficult when I have a stressful week, or one full of insomnia, like this last one. I had all sorts of plans to get things done on Saturday, but ended up just catching my breath,

    At work, it is BRQ that rules my life. Administrative tasks are often TRQ, but I find myself putting out fires a lot, not all of which rise to the TRQ. Also, it is hard to work with people who think everything that is TRQ for them should be TRQ for me. It’s also frustrating that it is a one-way street, in that no one else’s important matters are important to them. I find it helpful to acknowledge that I understand the importance of these matters for them, but that I have to take the entire department into consideration. It doesn’t always work, but at least my position is clear.

    Last week’s goals:
    1) Deal with the paper landslide in my office for a half-hour three times. Yes, I did a lot of recycling and shredding. I now have a pile of filing to do!

    2) Clean up my dossier folder on email. Yes, I got rid of the emails that were just reminders to add things to my CV, and saved notes from the rest to a cloud drive.

    3) Next 20 footnotes in the dissertation. I only got to a handful, but it was a tough week, so I feel good about getting any of them done.

    Next week’s goals:
    1) Read the 46 applications for a scholarship committee decision.

    2) File into paper files for a half hour three times.

    3) Revise the last article according to the suggestions of a colleague who has written a lot in the same field.

    1. Congrats on getting so much cleaned out! I always feel lighter when I get rid of some clutter. And good for you for getting some fns done, even in a stressful week.

      It's interesting how the BLQ and BRQ intrude differently based on location/other people. Your approach to BRQ with others sounds very sane.

  2. Hosting: I could probably host this summer, as long as I had a co-host. I'll be spending more of the summer than I'd like teaching (online), so I'll mostly be around and available (and on the computer), but when I have a chance to unplug, I'm going to want to be able to do so. I'll definitely be available all of June and the first three weeks in July; late July/early August (through about the 3rd week) is when I might want to disconnect (not for the whole time, but perhaps for a solid 10 days or even a bit more). I wish I could say that I'm planning to take some time off in late May, too, but that probably isn't realistic.

    Topic: this is a good question, and I may need to mull over it for a while, since it doesn't feel like I have much in the BRQ/BLQ categories in my life at all. Or maybe I have some BLQ, and am simply ignoring it (that's the stuff that stays in the "future" category on each seasonal iteration of my master to-do list/outline). I can't think of much BRQ stuff, which either means that I don't really have any, or that I'm oblivious/in denial. There are certainly things I can get sucked into, especially when I'm tired, that I theoretically do for recreation, but aren't really all that relaxing, but that's not quite the same thing. I will cogitate.

    Goals from two weeks ago (since I didn't get around to checking in last week):

    (1) self-care,
    (2)some garden work,
    (3) taxes!!!!

    Accomplished: taxes (hurrah!), some garden work, and intermittent self-care (with other intervals of very poor self-care, especially in terms of the real basics: sleeping and eating).

    I'm in the middle of a very heavy student-conferencing/grading period, so I'm not really expecting that much of myself besides keeping up with the TRQ stuff, but I'd like to do a better job of not running myself ragged this week (and also need to do a better job of catching up on grading).

    So, goals for the coming week:

    1) better self-care: sleeping, exercising (weights if I don't have time for a walk), eating good food (and getting to the grocery store to buy it).

    2) (TRQ-ish, but especially relevant to the DH class, which, as I've noted before, has TLQ elements): catch up on grading, especially for DH class.

    1. Congrats on getting taxes done! I'm with you on BRQ, but I have a pretty good feeling I'm in denial about something.

      I hope this week has some unexpectedly rejuvenating moments in it.

    2. CC: Thanks for being willing to co-host! It looks like it's you and JaneB. Email me at academicamstr[at]gmail[dot]com and I'll connect you with JaneB to coordinate and for her to add you as a blog author.

  3. I would probably do better hosting in the fall (perhaps in partnership with Elizabeth?). But if no one else can host in summer, I could help through early July, but then I'll be on the road for a month.

    Topic: I don't think I have good strategies for the BRQ, which probably consists mostly of e-mail messages that create a sense of urgency and then create more urgent problems because of confusion that occurs from the emails themselves. I know that some people restrict email reading to certain time blocks, but that is not something that I have tried. I haven't thought much about the BQs, but now I will try to think about them a bit more.

    Last week:
    1. Call Monday to reschedule the doc appointment.--YES. I'm scheduled for this Wednesday.
    2. Call to make one or two other doc appointments.--NO.
    3. Go to the fancy club at least twice to swim or do yoga.--YES. I DID!
    4. Start drafting the commencement speech (I have to give the faculty speech at commencement this year, which totally freaks me out, and which is only about six weeks away).--YES! I have almost a full draft!
    5. Read 20 pages related to thesis.--YES.

    It has been great to get a bit more exercise, and I made the most of a late work night on Tuesday.

    This next week has a lot of TRQ--grading, curriculum review, short story contest judging--but I'm hoping to still maintain TLQ progress.

    This week:
    1. Make one more doctor's appointment for me and a dentist appointment for the kids, and go to the appt on Wed.
    2. Two times to fancy club.
    3. Spend 30 minutes on speech.
    4. Read 30 pages related to thesis.
    5. Lights out by 11:30.

    1. Wow--what a productive week you had! The swanky club sounds like a great treat. I'm sure you'll do a fine job with the speech. How wonderful to have a full draft so far ahead!

    2. First off, I'd be glad to co-host in the fall, GEW.

      Congrats on the doctor's appointment! I know what a win that is. :)

      I'm impressed you have the first draft of the speech done, too.

    3. Elizabeth and GEW--we'll pencil you in for Fall! Thanks! (And if something changes for you, you're volunteering now isn't a commitment chiseled in stone.

  4. I'll report in properly later on, but just to say I'm happy to host this summer - might need to be late or to schedule posts a couple of weekends, but I'm not going to be totally off the internet/grid at any point (it might be healthier to do so, but I'd miss my friends! And my webcomic updates even more so, because I get very involved with a good story, however it is told)

    1. JaneB--would you be willing to have Contingent Cassandra as a co-host? or are you a solo flier? It sounds like you two might be able to coordinate a schedule that works for both of you.

    2. I don't mind - both ways have worked for me in the past. If CC's happy to coordinate, it might make sense to have two of us involved over the summer

  5. topic: BRQ is the thing that tends to eat my time at work. And it's not always MY urgent, which is stressful - reacting to little things, students with queries etc., is the essence of BRQ, isn't it? Or does that become TRQ because supporting students is part of my job, even if their queries are small... Actually, to be clearer, I think the worst thing is stuff that hangs around the line between BRQ and TRQ - things that are urgent but their importance is conditional. Different for each person involved, different in the short term versus the long term, different with hindsight than in the moment.

    BLQ - I guess that's where displacement activities live? I'd also stick meetings in there, but if I have to go to them, are they BLQ?

    In my personal life, I find it harder to actually put stuff into this grid, partly because there aren't the handy markers - I mean, things that keep me and the cat alive are clearly TRQ, so paying the mortgage and remembering to feed us both. But where does, say, crochet fit? It's good for my mental health and my fingers, it's enjoyable, but so are other hobbies. And I don't NEED an afghan. Or leisure reading. or messing around on the internet - is my three times a week trip to the Chirault web page to see the latest page of the story and comment/chat to other readers BLQ or TRQ?

    I think the essence of my response to the topic is that the key to feeling in control is to feel like I have a clear idea of where MY important lies, compared to other peoples', and that that informs the decisions I make. Also, that thinking long-term can change the status of some tasks...

    goals: an hour of work minimum on each of five days on research writing, an hour somewhere on planning, and 30 minutes on each of five days on decluttering

    achieved: these are all 'ish', but I've made some measurable research writing progress, thought about the planning rather than actually written anything coherent, and made a bit of visible decluttering progress though probably not quite the total amount of time. I'll settle for that! Feeling more like a 5 or 6 out of 10 right now with my TLQ stuff.

    goals for next week: 1) 5 hours of research writing 2) write DOWN some plans 3) draft a proposal for a workshop at a conference 4) 30 minutes on each of 5 days on decluttering

    1. I think you're right about the Important being YOUR Important and balancing that with what other people find important (the same goes for urgency, I guess).

      Congrats on progress!

  6. I fear that if I slotted things into the BQs I would run screaming from my life. OK, maybe it’s not that terrible. I just have never given thought to the bottom quadrants, although I think I should. I’d like to find a new way to manage email from students and colleagues, which nags at me. My bad strategy is to try to ignore it but then it becomes urgent because I haven’t scheduled a time or space to deal with it. A question for the other introverts: do you find that it’s sometimes taxing to write emails because you have to “be on” even though it’s only email?

    Last week
    1 Finish old article and submit (really TRQ now, I am ashamed to say): done.
    2 Again, catch up on grading: done, but not until today.
    3 Again, take care of self exquisitely (not an indulgence, as JaneB wisely noted last week, but an obligation): not so much.

    This week has some significant service obligations for meetings and conferences in which I must participate.
    1 Manage obligations graciously and hold things together.
    2 Continue progress on grading, as the end of the semester nears.
    3 Organize research projects for the coming several weeks.

    1. BQ's can be scary! Email is a tricky beast. The best advice I've heard is batching it--and that does mean setting aside time to handle it.

      I'm somewhere in between introvert and extravert, but the more I work outside of any structured institution the more introverted I feel. I've always had to be in the right frame of mind to make phone calls, and often the same goes for email. If I take my husband's tack of being clear and succinct, forgetting a lot of the careful politeness formalities I think I need (and that often make things less clear), I tend to be less exhausted by email. It becomes more "tasky" and less interpersonal.

      Congrats on finishing the old article! That's something to celebrate!

  7. BRQ and BLQ: I think I have a lot of these things. Most recently, I've found my Feedly blog reader to be somewhere in the bottom of the chart. At one point recently I had 99 unread articles. At that point, I really need to just delete all and move on. My life will not be worse for having missed reading someone's blog post. I think a fair amount of my time could be freed up if I actually looked at how I spend it. I think helping my kids develop habits so I feel less urgent and micro-manage-y would help as well.

    Last week's goals:
    1) exercise 3x--yes, barely
    2) write 2x--yes, barely

    I feel like I've been in survival mode since January, and I'm finally getting time to breathe. I'm glad to say that I've maintained and improved my exercise habit (and I'm super sore today), and that with less pressure my eating habits are improving. My writing has fallen by the wayside. I've had enough external deadlines to keep up the basic practice, but I'd really like to establish something more habitual and intrinsic.

    Next week's goals:
    1) exercise 4x
    2) journal 5x
    3) write 3x30 min.

    1. I have a rule with the Sunday New York Times, that if I haven't read it by Saturday, it goes out. The same should hold for blog posts, email, etc., though I'm not as disciplined on those!

      Congratulations on the exercise and writing.

  8. I can host as part of a team: all of May, after the 10th until June 5th, all of July, and August after the 20th. The rest of the time I will be in fabulous rock-filled places, known to most people as barren wasteland, can't wait!

    Bottom quadrants are similar for me to what JaneB describes above. Things that are important, but not to me (finance forms, recruitment, website meeting, teaching retreats on the glaringly obvious when they tell us lecturing is bad by lecturing at us, awards dinners, grade arguments, facilities requests and necessary nagging to get things actually done, cleaning under my fridge etc.). They are not unimportant completely, but there are people who are much more invested in the outcomes than I am. So my solution is that those things should be done by the person who cares most about it, and that it should be their official job. But that is not going to happen. I may just be extra cynical because it is end of term and I'm fed-up.

    Last week I got some things done in the craziness of final grades and marking and final exams and the resulting moaning and whining. Yeah, I'm fed-up this week...
    1) Poster for conference - in progress
    2) Paper B done - Not done, but progress
    3) Program review - done
    4) Newsletter - done

    This week's goals:
    Finish poster and paper
    Run outside because it is only mildly crappy outside instead of thoroughly miserable.

    1. The things you describe as BLQ, like cleaning under the fridge, I tend not to do. So I don't even see them on my radar. If you *ever* clean under your fridge, you get a prize from me!

      Given the end of semester craziness, I think you got a lot done!

  9. Oh, my, it's Wednesday and I haven't posted! So. I'm not sure about the bottom quadrants. I think there is stuff that is certainly in the BRQ (I like JaneB's description of other people's important stuff), but I don't know about BLQ: that tends to fall by the wayside. I'll have to think about that, though, whether there is anything there.

    Last week's goals:
    1. Make progress on grant application YES
    2. Catalog a few of my offprints NO
    3. Walk two mornings YES

    I had modest goals because I was at a workshop this past weekend. It was great, I felt intellectually alive, and I met some great people. The best part was that it was all (or almost all) people I didn't know. Since there is difficult work stuff happening, that was really important to me.

    Anyway, goals for this week:
    1. Finish the grant
    2. Walk four days
    3. Get back to the book, and read the whole draft for continuity etc.

    I'm keeping this simple because of work stuff that has become TRQ, including a dissertation to read. . .

    1. I'm so glad the workshop was fruitful. It sounds like it was engaging and rejuvenating!