One of the knitting bloggers that I regularly read has started setting a timer on how long she’ll spend on a blog post before she hits send. As a result, we’ve been getting more frequent updates from her, including with a picture usually, but they’ve been shorter. I’m not sure it’s a model that would work for me, though i’m tempted to give it a shot. Often the prospect of writing a blog post, knowing I’ll be at it potentially for a while even with my own fairly speedy typing, gets it relegated to “when I have more time.” In the interim, here is what I have been doing to get my fragmented brain a little more under control.
The three consecutive research days (plus weekend) were, in my mind, a huge success. I think I told you that I had intentions of converting to do lists to post it notes and sorting them around our still-fairly-undecorated dining room.
That’s most of the result. A color guide for you: green (far left) is personal. There are some post it notes off screen and frankly, I didn’t really spend much time on personal stuff. That’s something I might tackle on an upcoming holiday weekend though. The odd multi-color section in the corner is blog posts, again, very incomplete. The first swath of orange is research projects. Each project that is currently in process or floating around the back of my head waiting for some work got it’s own line. A few little ones are stuffed in there too. The narrow and extremely full orange section is professional service, almost entirely made up of post it notes with “LITA BLANK COMMITTEE” in the top right corner. Pink is other work stuff. Left hand side is less categorical things; right hand side is liaison work. And finally, the yellow post it notes, that wee little section: those are my handoffs: the few things that I could immediately identify as things that needed to be someone else’s responsibility or we needed to acknowledge that they were no longer something to be doing.
Note that there are only 7 yellow post it notes.
Now, the personal stuff and the blog post squares are still on the wall (yes, I’m sure the Philosopher is enjoying my abstract brain explosions, why do you ask?), but I did take all of the other ones down and transcribe them into project management software.
Yes, I said software. The Philosopher spent a number of days picking apart various software options–both for me and for a few work projects he’s managing–and settled on TeamBox. This is web-based project management software with a heavy social component. There are a lot of opportunities for people to interact with each other about a project within the software, features that I’m not using at all presently. While the original plan was a home server hosted version, for purposes of throwing rocks at this, I opted for a free cloud hosted account to start out. With that I have 5 Projects [Work, Research, Misc, Service, Home], each with countless task lists and tasks on those lists. Some things got dates, others did not. A few still need a better breakdown than I gave them, but I tried to start with verbs and actions for each task.
I still need to add more due dates to tasks, I’m finding that this helps immensely in my getting things done. Looking at a list of several hundred to do items is really overwhelming. Seeing 5 things that I scheduled myself to have done today and seeing that three of them are in the brilliantly named list “Ten Minute Tasks” is far more manageable. Now I have a half hour of stuff and two bigger projects that I need to find time for today.
I did chat with my supervisor about those 7 hand offs and one other section that we’re trying to figure out if it’s possible to get off my plate. Madame Mentor has grabbed TeamBox as a good tool for a research project she’s working on and helped me acknowledge that one of my research projects really needs to go on hold until I can get a few more things off of my plate.
And overall, my brain is a little quieter. The research days also included a TON of research backlog work for one project and an incredibly productive meeting with another research partner. There’s still quite a lot more to do but I’m learning to add it to the list and make sure things get checked off, rather than trying to hold everything only in gray matter.
How are your time managing strategies going? Any new tips?
As counterintuitive as this sounds, I’ve found I’m more productive if I meditate before I start working. Even 10-15 minutes allows me to get more done. And as skeptical as I’ve been of aromatherapy, I’ve also found the “energy” and “creativity” oils make a difference.
Like the suggestion of meditation, a kind of “virtual decompression/transition”. I sit by a window whose ledge I have filled with bird seed (thistle, black oil and multi), listen to Gretchaninov’s Passion Week and put my feet up. Dogs sit on their cushion under my desk. It’s a sensory signal that NOW WE ARE WORKING.
Post-its are visual. I get a lot of gratification from crossing something off my list and have gone as far as, upon completing something not on my task list, adding it just so I can have the visual and kinesthetic gratification of crossing it off.