Professor MinKyung Choi protects her most productive time--those optimal hours--for the work that matters most to her.
Capitalizing on your personal optimal hours to accomplish what matters
MinKyung Choi is an Assistant Professor at Bronx Community College ("BCC") at the City University of New York in the Department of Education and Academic Literacy, where her research focuses on literacy development in both adolescents and adults. Min has taught at BCC for the past five years, teaching mostly freshmen students. Before that, she studied creative writing, which is a passion of hers. She has taught creative writing workshops for middle and high school students in New York as well. Min lives in New Jersey with her husband and two energetic children, ages 5 and 3.
Min grew up in South Korea. At around the age of 10, she was thrown into a new schooling environment that used a different language than the one she had grown up in, so she has first-hand experience of what it means to "become literate," not just in the sense of being able to read words phonetically, but really understanding the text.
As she studied creative writing, she had opportunities to teach at middle schools and high schools in Queens & Harlem, and to court-involved youths, which exposed her to a wide variety of populations and students. It was here that she really fell in love with teaching literacy--specifically, teaching students not just how to read, but also about the value of reading in the world today.
In her research, and in working with professors from other disciplines such as mathematics or chemistry (areas that most people do not associate with reading being a strong component), Min learned that literacy isn't just about the text itself, but about how to create a "transaction" between the reader and the text. She believes a lot of it lies on the instructor's approach to teaching literacy - not just to absorb text, but to really have an interaction with the text. So it's important that instruction focus on those aspects as well.
A typical day
Min is a morning person, usually up between 3 and 4 am. In her 20s and before she got married, she would be up by 6 am. But as she was writing her dissertation, while working, while having and raising kids, she realized the hours between 3 and 6 am worked best for her because it's when she is at her maximum productivity level and her brain is sharp and ready to go. So that is when she gets the bulk of her work done for the day.
Between 6 and 7 am, she gets ready for work, prepares breakfast for the family, & packs school lunches. From 7 to 8, she and her husband wake the kids and gets them ready for school, and get everyone out the door. She then goes straight to work and works until she has to pick up the kids at 5 pm.
From 5 to 9 pm, it's all about the family: getting dinner ready, supervising homework, washing up the kids, and putting them to bed.
At 9 pm, Min is in bed. At first, this was difficult for her to come to terms with because she felt that she had to do something after the kids were in bed, but then she would struggle to stay up and realized she didn't have the energy or focus at that time of day to get any meaningful work done. She doesn't fight it anymore.
Basically, she recognizes the time when her brain works best and then orders her life in such a way that takes advantage of her most productive hours. During these hours, she writes, reads articles, writes literature reviews, writes grant proposals, plans curriculums, or anything else that requires some creativity and brainpower. She tries not to catch up on emails at that time.
At the beginning of each semester, Min challenges her students to figure out their own optimal hours of productivity in a 24-hour span and try to organize their days to allow them to do their most im...