It’s been two months since I posted any updates but it’s been a really crazy semester. I applied for a promotion that came up last year and placed 2nd out of the candidates who applied.  The interview itself went quite well, and I’ve been told that other leadership opportunities will be coming up, but I think for now I would remain in the classroom if anything else was offered. This particular job would have been a good fit for my skills, the only other administrator position that I would consider would involve IT work, and we already have someone in that role who is capable and has no plans to depart the university that I know of.

Other positions involve administering courses and dealing with curriculum and assessment, which are two areas I prefer to stay out of because I just find the final products of the work are inevitably unappreciated by the teachers who end up having to teach the material and topics/themes selected.  I’ve been on the teacher side of that equation and the management side of it.  From the teacher end, I find myself frustrated by the inevitable shortcomings in assessment and curriculum that are born out of the compromises that occur during the development process as stakeholders and institutions all pull in the direction of their own interests. From the management end of things, it is just as frustrating having to live with a product that is never as good as you want it to be.  Another reason to stay in the classroom, for the time being, is that the workload this semester is the highest it’s been since I came to Qatar.

We have record enrolment at the university for our program, 7500+ students this year, and everyone is doing extra to keep up.  I meant to write a quick post back in October but I never really got around to it. These days my biggest challenge is maintaining a work/life balance.  Right now it feels like life is work.  I’ve been on campus working every day in October except for the 27th/28th when I worked from home.  Overall I’ve put in at least 5 hours of work per day on my weekends for the last 6 weeks.  I really enjoy being in the classroom, but it feels like this year especially my time has been crammed with extra duties intended to fill my every moment with some sort of ‘I should be doing x right now’ kind of dread.

While there is a lot of work, I believe one big issue for me is how I (mis)manage my time.  So, to work on that, I’ve been listening to productivity audiobooks during my commutes.  I’ve been doing this on and off since I came back to Doha.  It’s a useful way to get some extra value out of the time spent in my car which would otherwise be wasted on the local radio station.  So far I’ve listened to:

  • The Happiness Equation: This book starts out feeling goofy due to the narration style but grows on you as you get into it and has a number of good insights. I’ve listened to this one twice so far.
  • Essentialism: I really liked this book, and I highly recommend it.  I found it very applicable to my current situation and very relevant to issues facing institutions here in Doha. I’ve actually listened to it twice as well.
  • The Checklist Manifesto: Another book I enjoyed and plan to revisit.
  •   Steve Job’s Biography: This was an entertaining book, Steve Jobs is an iconic figure, but in the end, he’s just as human and as flawed as the rest of us.  He could be utterly ruthless in the pursuit of his goals, and he also keeps his grudges in high-interest savings accounts.
  •  The Hard Thing about Hard Things: This one was a dud for me – it’s kind of a business leader’s business biography, and I found the author prone to self-promotion.
  • Getting Things Done: I’m currently working on this one.  It’s a famous book, but I find it dry.  However, I think that’s ok.  The book is dense with information, and to get the most out of it, you really need to pause, apply things to your own life, and continue.  So far I only have time to listen.
  • An Astronaut’s Guide to Life On Earth: One of my favourites.  The moral of the story is very simple – success is a matter of preparation and attitude.  I’ve listened to this one twice as well.

To get the most of these books, I’d like to adopt a little time for note-taking on what I’ve listened to after each car trip.  One of the things I noticed is that I’ll recall sections of the books I enjoyed or thought were especially pertinent to my life.  This information lives in my memory, but it’s at the level where I only recognise it as it passes me by.  I would like to reach the level where I can call these ideas whenever I need them.