Data wrangling librarian commuting between my kitchen and my home office

Category: Productivity

I Wanted Peace In My Mind

Following up on my last post, I declared task list bankruptcy at work and spent a day sifting through all my notepads, emails, reminders, and whatnot. I grouped the items into broad buckets and, when I was done, I found that had 14 different buckets I was tending.

To be fair, some of those buckets were administrative: working on my contract, doing a bit of professional development, and the like.  But even taking that into consideration, I didn’t really think I was managing that much stuff on a day-to-day basis.

I worked with my supervisor to fine-tune and prioritize my buckets, then I set about trying to tame it all. Our office has access to Planner, which is Microsoft’s version of Trello. I gradually poured everything into that in an effort to better visualize my tasks, and I am trying to make sure I’m adding new stuff as it arises.

I also finally did something I’ve long thought I should be doing, which is to block off time in my calendar for tasks. I already had meetings and personal appointments in there, so now I have blocks for managing certain buckets at certain times. I also organized my email so that tasks contained in emails are filed into appropriate folders. In other words, if I am working on the data management bucket at a set time, I have a folder of emails I will work through. I also want to add regular tasks in order to get reminders to do them.

Nothing about this is revolutionary, and it’s still very much a work in progress. But it’s nice to be able to look at all the projects I’m on and feel like I know what I need to do next without getting stressed. I hope I can make this last.


With an Excuse or a Surprise

Once upon a time, I had a pretty good system for staying on top of all the things I had on my plate at work. It involved a notepad, Google Tasks, and Google Keep, with a dash of prioritized email folders.

What I didn’t notice until recently was that my system was deteriorating. Stuff in my notepad never made it into Google Tasks, notes in Google Keep got pushed down below the fold where I never scrolled, and my email folders were stuffed to the brim. I found my response time to things I needed to get done began to lag, and I realized I started a lot of my emails with, “Apologies for the delayed reply.”

This erosion came to a head one Wednesday afternoon when I noticed I had seven pages in my notebook peppered with tasks that I hadn’t gotten around to. Fortunately, I hadn’t missed any critical deadlines, but I definitely felt like I needed to reboot in order to get myself back on track.

I don’t have anything shiny and glorious set up yet. I’m still practicing ways for me to stay on task. I’ll probably write more about my progress later. I just want to note that the main lesson I learned from this was that any productivity systems only work when I stay actively engaged in it. When it becomes rote and mindless, it falls apart.

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