Things have been happening at work. More things, harder things, faster things. Magic!
I started being systematic with one productivity/anti-procrastination strategy of making a to-do list for the following day at the end of each workday. I’ve been taking time to do it – up to 15 minutes – as I work through my to dos on the computer, sift papers on my desk, look at upcoming meetings. I grab a blank sheet of scrap paper, put the date on top, add in appointments, and fill in other tasks for the rest of the time. I also take a hard look at my task list on my computer (I use Microsoft Outlook for this and find it very useful) and shuffle them or refile as appropriate so that the electronic list reflects my paper plans.
I’m doing my best to put the intellectually demanding tasks first thing, for a few reasons. First, more brainpower. Second, I won’t get distracted by other tasks that pop up throughout the day. Third, if I start by doing something hard it primes my motivation and I’m more likely to get more done for the rest of the day and less likely to procrastinate.
I’ve also cut myself some slack when I wasn’t feeling up to some tasks – say phone calls, or brainstorming, or big-picture planning – and let myself tackle some of the smaller tasks that have been piling up. For example, I’ve been meaning to change settings on the wiki my office sponsors, and sign up for notifications if it gets changed. This has been on my list since before I returned from mat leave in August! I didn’t know how to do it, so it kept getting bumped. Finally, I just read through the instructions, went as far as I could, and wrote away for help. They replied the next day, I followed their instructions, and it’s done. Done! Off the list, and no longer something to deal with as I bump it week to week on my schedule.
As a result of this “just do it” attitude I’ve cleared away a pile of paper that has similarly been hanging out for months. Items still to tackle are now on my computer task list, others are filed or discarded.
As these various distractions (aka work) have been dealt with, I feel myself breathing better and space opening up for more productive work. There are lots of bigger projects to do this summer, from writing new material for the website to reviewing university policies on equity and diversity. With many smaller projects gone, and ones that come up rapidly dispatched, more space exists for doing the reading, writing and reflecting that I need for the job.
Finally, I’ve also started scheduling in some time each week to read/review training materials from some of the many courses I’ve gone to, and to tackle some of the other big projects such as visioning for the office.
What I find particularly magical about my newly reduced task list is that I’ve done this over a couple of weeks where I sometimes haven’t felt that motivated, and definitely have engaged in some procrastination. Yet by using these strategies I am getting on top of work and actually getting closer to my summer dream of being on top and possibly even ahead of the curve for summer and heading into fall.