How Prof. Tim Essington Works – UW Graduate School Skip to content

How Prof. Tim Essington Works

Tim Essington, ProfessorTim Essington

Department/program: School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences
Research focus: Marine Biology and Conservation

Tim Essington is a marine biologist whose research focuses on fisheries policy tools and fisheries management. In a recent feature article by the Whole U, Essington explained how comedy improv helped him learn to embrace mistakes. Now, he teaches an improv course for students in the environmental studies department, aimed at helping them communicate their research.


Give us a one-word description of how you work:


How do you manage your to-dos?

I am completely reliant on Todoist. I keep multiple to-do lists going, one for short term (daily), another for medium term (weekly +) and then another for long term (quarterly). Most importantly, I never use my email as a de facto to do list. All emails are either assigned to the ToDoist app, responded to, or deleted immediately.

What are your essential apps, software or tools?

R, iCalendar, Chrome, Adobe Acrobat, MS Office, Matlab, Todoist

Where do you most often work?

On campus, in my office.

How do you manage your time?

I schedule time for everything. If it doesn’t go on my calendar, I won’t do it. I try to get blocks of dedicated time for particular activities, keeping in mind that my mind is usually mush between 2 and 4 p.m. but is much sharper from 8—11 a.m.

What is your best time-saving shortcut?

Saying “no” to interesting opportunities.

What are some of your productivity strategies you’ve honed over your years in academia?

Scheduling time to do things that are important, and delegating tasks as much as possible. Like most people, I find the challenge lies in seeing the forest beyond the trees.


What mundane thing are you really exceptional at?

I am very good at trying to reduce the amount of North Italian white wines in the world.

What are you currently reading for pleasure?

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

What’s the last thing that made you laugh?

Oh gosh, I laugh all the time. I perform at a local comedy improv theater, so every practice and every show I’m surrounded by very funny people. I’ve noticed that ever since I started doing this, I see the funny in everyday life much more clearly.

How do you recharge?

Exercise, work-free days with my spouse, and learning new things.

What’s your sleep routine like?



What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Say what you do and do what you say.

Who’s your support system?

My amazing spouse. She’s simply amazing.

What pitfall do you consistently see students falling into?

Worrying that they aren’t doing “enough” and being overly critical of their own work.

What do your most successful students do?

They take ownership and leadership over their research, take risks and have a decent work/life balance.

How UW Works was inspired by LifeHacker’s How I Work.

Did you enjoy this series? Check back Wednesdays during the Spring quarter for the latest mid-week motivation! While you wait, you can read more in this series, nominate a student or professor to be featured, or answer the questions yourself! (Students should answer the questions via this form; faculty should use this form. If you prefer to answer the questions over email, drop us a line at