The Boomtown Rats may not like Mondays (and neither, apparently, did Brenda Ann Spencer, about whom Bob Geldof wrote their hit) but I LOVE ‘EM! Mondays are an important part of my personal creative infrastructure, so I’m opening a window on them today.
My Mondays have one critically important attribute: I work in my home office rather than my campus office. This saves about 90 minutes commuting, assuming I plan on working 8:30-5:00, which not only gives me more time to be productive, it also puts me in a better frame of mind to be creative because I haven’t spent 45 of those 90 minutes going just five miles on the interstate.
A really important part of my job isn’t just teaching students in the classroom, but also mentoring them one-on-one in my office. Mentoring is my favorite kind of pedagogy, because the results are so immediate and visible. My drop-in office hours are on Tuesdays and Thursdays and, at this time of the year as students prepare final projects, extra time on Wednesdays as well. During the middle of the semester, I can be very creative during my office hours, because they are often uninterrupted. At this time of year, however, there’s a steady stream of students who need help with their creative infrastructure, making Mondays even more precious. On Mondays I am alone; on Mondays it is quiet; on Mondays I can focus.
I think it’s important for anybody creative (not only artists, but also designers, systems engineers, scholars of any type, students, etc) to carve out time each week to focus. And not only to think but to do. Because of the uninterrupted time that Mondays afford me, I can accomplish more on Mondays than on any other day of the week –crossing one, two, three projects off of my to-do list. Being productive lifts my spirit as much as being stuck in traffic dampens them, so when I walk on to campus on Tuesday morning, it is with spirits high. (On this particular Monday, I accomplished enough that I could take a break to write this blog post.)
It helps to have an aesthetically pleasing environment. I finished writing an article today (yay!) and this is where I did it:
But it’s not always necessary to have beauty, per se. On this Monday, I also designed a new format for my class sitting in a more traditional location with a view of, well, a wall.
What’s important about these two pictures isn’t that I have a beautiful garden, but that I was able to move around and work in more than one place during my Monday. Variety energizes creative thinking and, as the Hawthorne experiments proved quite some time ago, productivity goes up as well. Sometimes, when working on campus, I will try to recreate this variety of venue by moving from my office to a table outside.
When I mentor students — or sometimes colleague faculty — about time management, one of the first things we do is look at a schedule for the week and block out the creative time. (With students we sometimes also reserve sleeping and eating time.) This is not the time to run errands, nor the time to get your hair cut, nor is it the time to reply to every email in your email box (I prefer to triage email as I go). This is the time to think, do, create.
When is YOUR Monday?