This page is intended to collate my posts on time management, organizational skills, and workflow design. I have written about how I organize my books, my journal articles and book chapters, how I approach digital document management, and how I plan my academic and personal lives.
6 strategies to focus on research and writing
I am easily distracted, and therefore I need to engage in som self-hacking where I force myself to regain focus through a few tricks. Here are some of my own strategies on how I get back on track when derailed and how I avoid spending hours in the inner depths of Twitter and Facebook and the Internet.
I always plan my entire year (beyond the academic year, I need to plan the full year from January to December). This post explains in detail how I do this process, using my Everything Notebook AND a set of printed calendars.
I am always anti-clutter, and am also often worried about accumulating documents that need to be read, filed, and processed. So I decided to create a technique that would allow me to delegate some of the filing, and do some of the processing myself. I call this the Four Trays Method.
8 strategies to keep up with your reading while on a teaching semester
The long-story-made-short version of this post is: book time to read, because that’s the only way in which you’re going to be able to keep up with the literature. Make reading your priority. In this post I describe a few strategies that I use to keep up with my reading even during teaching semesters.
In this post I explain how I break down every single project in thirds, and how that helps me plan my research agenda and my weekly and daily To-Do lists.
A few strategies to start up your work day
In this post, I reflect on four strategies I have used (and hopefully others can use too!) to start my day off right instead of answering email and/or surfing the web.
Strategies to sustain your research during teaching-heavy semesters
One of the biggest challenges for me as a professor has always been how to sustain my research productivity during a teaching-intensive semester. Here I offer some strategies I use for my own work.
This post explains my absurdly early rising time (e.g. 4am) to write, read, and do research more generally speaking.
Preparing my To-Do lists once a week and checking on them on an everyday basis both in digital and analog allows me to maintain focus. This post explains how I do it.
This post on how to start an Everything Notebook should be read alongside this one on how I use the Everything Notebook to plan my semester, month, week, and this one on how I synchronize my analog and digital planning systems.
Inspired by Dr. Aimee Morrison and Dr. Jo VanEvery, I tested what kind of activities I could achieve in increments of 30 minutes. This post reflects this exercise. Long story made short: you can do A LOT in 30 minute increments.
KonMari your campus desk and office: The benefits of decluttering your academic life
I find that having a clean and organized work space helps me concentrate, find the tools I need for my work, and keeps me strongly motivated. In this post I explain the Marie Kondo “KonMari” method of Tidying Up, and how I apply it to my campus and home offices.
Different people have different methods of keeping track of their goals. Writing long lists of To-Do items makes my brain freeze and I am unable to get motivated to do work. To counter this I use the Quick Wins method (a simple list of “things I can quickly accomplish and feel like I have done something for the day”).
I am very analog in everything I do, and research activity and workflow planning isn’t the exception. I don’t carry around many planners, nor do I dump everything in a cloud-based service: I have a trusty Everything Notebook, where I schedule tasks I have to carry out for my research and teaching and service, write my notes about seminars, courses, readings, capture fieldnotes, and plan my research output.
I always recommend that scholars keep a pipeline of projects at various stages and that they move each manuscript on an everyday (or every week) basis. However, when I need to finish a project, I simply zero in on it and focus solely on that task. Here I explain how I achieve this ability to focus.
I used to schedule myself to the every minute. Despite my Type A personality, this did not go well. In this post I explain why I have now implemented a much looser schedule. I still prioritize self-care and writing, but I now have many more buffers for unexpected activities.
Before I implemented the work breakdown method (very used in the project management literature), I would write on my daily planner “finish the literature review for bottled water paper”. This isn’t helpful. What I do now is that I break down every project by task, and those tasks, I make them of a smaller size by creating accomplishable tasks. I don’t attempt to Do All The Things, I simply write down what I can accomplish in one day. This post explains the process.
I used to believe that I was super fast for everything, and then I realized that even the smallest, most menial things take time (try to assemble all your receipts from a research trip and submit the reimbursement slip in less than an hour, for example). This post explains why now I not only break projects down into smaller tasks, but also build buffers into my schedule for “stuff that may come up“.
I am lucky enough that I have a dedicated, separated work space both at home and on campus. My policy is: unless it’s a teaching day (when I have to come to campus very early) or a day when I have meetings early in the morning (which I hope never happens to me, ever again in my entire life), I only come to campus until I’ve finished something at home. In this post I explain the rationale for this policy.
This post reflects the digital version of my organization strategy for the physical archives I have in my campus and home offices. Given that I am obsessed with organizing my stuff for easy access, I also have a pretty demanding model for how I organize my digital files. This blog post describes my strategy.
Organizing journal articles and books
This post explains the analog version of my digital file organization strategy. I organize books, reports, journal articles, grey literature in a way that allows my brain to quickly access it.
Prioritizing tasks in academic life
The best way to move forward is to prioritize whatever you put in your To Do List. In this post I explain some strategies I use to set specific priority hierarchies.
Feeling like you need to procrastinate or simply feeling stuck? This post offers ways in which you can make that “non-productive time” somewhat productive.
This is a round-up post regarding online applications that can help academics keep track of their time and schedule their tasks and create to-do lists.
A clean slate: Moving forward in academic writing by starting over
I completely cleared my deck earlier last year, and it helped me rethink where I was going