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Eric Adrian Jackson Discusses Productivity and Finding A Work-Life Balance

Eric Adrian Jackson

With a two-decade career in science training and advocacy, Eric Adrian Jackson both creates inclusive, diverse, and kind learning environments as well as inspires others to do the same.  He has worked for the Massachusetts public school system, the Massachusetts community college system, the National Science Foundation (via a grant through Boston University), and the Museum of Science, Boston.  Eric holds a Master’s degree in biology from Saint Joseph’s University in Hartford, MA, and holds his Bachelor’s in neuroscience from Drew University in Madison, NJ.

Married since before the turn of the century to his best friend, Eric Adrian Jackson and his wife enjoy attending fan conventions in cosplay, Frank Turner concerts, and watching Disney movies as well as reading, writing, and telling stories.  Many of these stories are in the form of table-top roleplaying games, which Eric participates in both for fun and professionally as a member of Dark Phoenix Events.  Additionally, he is a published author in the field of role-playing games and fantasy genre fiction.

Active in his local community, Eric previously held the position of Library Trustee for 9 years through which he has supported equal access and freedom of speech issues. More importantly, he has hosted the Young Adult Tabletop Roleplaying group at that same library for 15 years where he has helped inspire the next generation of gamers.

We caught up with Eric Adrian Jackson where he shared his secrets to productivity and how he finds a work-life balance.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I like to arrive early in the morning to start the day. I communicate with my colleagues in order to be able to prioritize the tasks at hand. I look for feedback after acting on the tasks, particularly after completing them. Then I’ll research new approaches and ideas that pertain to the tasks of the day.

Communication is the key to making the day productive because it allows for listening and the innovation of ideas.

How do you manage your workflow effectively?

I’m both a planner and a “pantser” (fly by the seat of your pants) person.

I prefer to start with a schedule to allow the appropriate amount of time needed for the project and to spell out the various steps needed to accomplish the goal. General Eisenhower once said that “Planning is everything”.

He also said, “Plans are nothing.” This is where the “pantser” part happens. As the day progresses chaos inevitably ensues, and the plan must change.  “No plan ever survives contact with the enemy” – Prussian General Helmuth Von Moltke. When we are mindful of the developing situation, we must adjust our actions to create the greatest good without causing harm.

Without the plan, there is only chaos.  Without the ability to improvise, rigidity will cause the plan to fail. It is only with the framework of a plan and the ability to improvise that success is possible.

What is your approach to starting a new project?

The first step is to define the scope of the project.  In education, we often refer to this as “Backwards Design”.  We figure out the results we’re looking for and then design the project to get us that result.

What are some of the keys to effective decision-making?

Recognizing that a decision needs to be made is where it starts. You must know enough about the subject to determine the possible alternatives to the decision. Then you have to weigh those alternatives and determine the consequences of that decision.  And finally, review the decision and evaluate the results.

Issues can occur at any step, but most can be avoided if a diverse and informed group of people are communicating together about the decision at hand.

How do you manage the stress of all the things you are not able to complete?

I try, but don’t always succeed, to be mindful of the process. There is a finite amount of time I can work in the day and still be effective the next day. I have learned what time I need to recharge and refresh so I am the most effective I can be.

Sometimes these boundaries get overrun. When they are it is important to give yourself time to process the stress. In my case, light physical exercise, disappearing into a good narrative (book, show, video game), and plenty of sleep often help the most. I strongly recommend Emily Nagoski’s book, Burnout, for a full treatise on how to handle stress.

What is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Mindfulness, being present in the moment.

Pay attention to the life you are living right now rather than the meeting later today, or the goals for the quarter. Those things have their place but be sure to  take time to pay attention to the now. This will help you gain insight not only into your own motivations but those around you.

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