Sorry for posting so sporadically lately. It's partly that I've been insanely busy, but also partly due to my first bout with blog writers block (or "bloggers bloq", if I may coin a new term!). Anyway, although I've been swamped -- with term papers, job applications, an R-n-R, etc -- on one of my momentary breaks today I got to thinking about prioritizing and getting stuff done.
I actually had an interesting, albeit brief conversation with Fritz Allhoff about this a couple of weeks ago. We were talking about how, the longer one goes on in academia, the more one ends us doing, and how one's graduate school self would be quite in awe of how much one does as as a faculty member. (Fritz, of course, does an insane amount of stuff. He publishes lots, runs a journal, and many other things to boot!).
Anyway, I got to thinking about our conversation today, and about how I've been dealing with having so much to do. Because I think I've learned some good habits here -- habits I didn't have as a grad student -- I figured I'd share some of them with you, and solicit you all to share your own "getting stuff done" strategies with the community.
Anyway, here goes. My first strategy is to chip away a little bit of everything each day. Here, for instance, is how I've gone about my business today. Woke up, got to the dog park around 8:30. Worked on a lecture on Locke for my intro class until about 10:00. Graded a term-paper. Polished up a cover letter, and sent out a job application. Graded another term-paper. Finished my Locke lecture. Graded a term-paper. Ate lunch. Polished up another cover letter and sent out a job appliation. Started revising an old a lecture on Aristotle for my ancient class. Took a break after an hour. Graded a paper. Polished another cover letter and sent out a job app.
Basically, the only one of my pressing projects I haven't chipped away at today is the paper I need to revise for my current R-n-R. I'm a little bummed I haven't been able to get to it today, but it's okay because I have a few months to do it and have worked it into my schedule on most days (where, again, I just try to chip away at a little bit at a time. Last week, I made sure I got one section done. This week my aim to get a second out of the way).
Anyway, let me briefly explain why I think this "chipping everything" strategy is useful. The basic rationale is simple. If you chip away at everything a little bit each day, stuff doesn't pile up. If, say, I had focused today only on getting lectures today, or grading, or whatever, the other stuff would have piled up. And that's not good. Another nice side-effect of the strategy is that you don't get too sick of anything. Grading a pile of papers is awful. Doing one paper, then moving onto something else (a lecture, whatever), then grading another paper, then moving onto something else, etc., is way better. You slowly get things done without the soul-crushing experience of doing the task all at once (variety keeps you decently happy - it sure has today!).
Here's a second strategy I've happened upon (and then I'll stop): focus on "easy" things first, and get them done, while working in "hard" things. Let me explain. The other friday I was working on my RnR paper first thing in the morning for a few hours and getting nowhere. This bugged me. I had wasted two hours I could have spent doing something "easy" and more productive, such as grading, writing lectures, etc. In the past, I would have let the RnR derail me from stuff, and I would have wasted another, say, four hours toiling away at it (not getting other stuff done). Instead, last Friday, I set it aside, did a bunch of easy stuff (grading, lectures), and then came back to it (the "hard" thing) later on at the end of the day, and actually got lots on it done. It's amazing what stepping way from difficult things can do, especially if you get "easy" stuff done in between. So, I say, do that. When you run into a wall with something -- a paper, whatever -- set it aside, get something "easy" done, and come back. That way, you'll at least get a bunch of easy but necessary projects done during the day, while still giving yourself ample time to working on a tougher project. Far better than getting derailed on the tough project half the day!
Anyway, these are just some tips. I have no idea if any of you will find them helpful -- though I hope some of you do! ;) Anyone else have any getting-stuff-done tips they want to share?