In this workshop you will critically review your approach to managing your priorities, time, projects and stress. You will leave with several strategies you can immediately use to improve your personal effectiveness.
The more you have to do, the more effective you need to be to keep up with it all. Making the best use of the time and resources available to you can increase the quality of your productivity and reduce stress. These are things we already know, but in my personal experience, the distance between knowing and doing is often great. Why? Because we’re busy! I’ll show you how busy you are. How many of these could you tick off as relating to you?
I’m researching my doctorate
I have meetings to attend that are not directly related to my research
I have a partner
I have a family
I have a job
I have responsibility for another person
I try to look after my physical health
I try to look after my mental health
I’m a member of a club / society / group / volunteer
I’m responsible for running a household
I want to further my career
I remember when I used to read for pleasure
Hobbies? What are they?
See? Busy. And you have exactly the same number of hours in your week as everyone else has in theirs. You’re just packing more into those hours, and probably sacrificing some sleep in the process. When I start to feel under pressure or over capacity – there is simply too much to do and not enough time to do it in – I don’t feel like reviewing my working practices, or learning a productivity method, or attending a workshop. It feels like I simply can’t afford the time, when I should be working on the things I have to do. This is a mistake, and one I repeat several times a year. Then I eventually remember that taking a short while out to get my priorities and my work in order is exactly what helps me get everything reined in and under control again. Briefly, this is what I do…
Emergency steps to get it all back under control:
Get your priorities straight. What are the 3 most important things in your life, at this moment? Pick four if you absolutely must. If you only have one or two, all the better. Write them down.
e.g. mine would be: Spend time with husband preparing for Christmas / finish thesis corrections / Finish organising December events (at work). Notice I didn’t put generic things, like ‘work’ or ‘thesis’ – make these priorities specific.
Look at everything you have in your diary for the next week or even two weeks. And then (be brave!) cancel, delegate or postpone everything you can that doesn’t align with your three key priorities.
Out goes Saturday’s shopping trip. Emailed colleagues to postpone non-essential meetings. Arrange to work from home for a day to save on travelling time. Plan for your digi-box to record your soaps and regular TV for the next week – you can catch up afterwards and save time by fast-forwarding through all the adverts. Tell your friend you can’t meet for lunch / drinks, but you can have a coffee instead.
Go dark. For at least two consecutive hours a day, switch OFF your phone, CLOSE your email client, CLOSE your browser. And spend those two hours tackling the biggest, ugliest frog on your to-do-list.
Some folk find this easier than others, for those of us with less than iron wills, there are apps you can download to restrict your wireless access for set periods of time, such as Concentrate.
Focus. “Man who chases two rabbits catches none” – Chinese proverb. Multi-tasking only works when the tasks use different resources. If the tasks are competing for the same resource (e.g. your thinking, your memory, your creativity) then you are dividing your resources. And switching between tasks takes cognitive effort. Each time you switch, you’re losing precious time readjusting to the other tasks.
Work on one thing at a time, and make sure you’ve defined exactly what that is. Write it on a post-it note and attach it to your monitor / lab wall / write it on your hand. Try David Seah’s gauntlet of productivity if you’re mind wanders easily.
If you have real issues focusing, and are feeling the pull of procrastination, try the Pomodoro technique. And keep tally of your progress.