When I read advice from organization gurus to “do it now,” I usually have the impulse to tell THEM what to do. But recently, as I read Kerry Gleeson’s book The Personal Efficiency Program, I decided to follow the most basic aspect of her program. And it’s actually starting to work!
Writing a dissertation or publishing research takes a vast amount of organization. But you have to begin with the small, routine organizational habits. Maybe these simple ideas will help get you on the road to being more organized, and therefore more efficient.
Do the Small Things Now
Here is a common dialogue with my coaching clients:
“So, it sounds like you just need to call her.”
“Yeah, I’ll do it by next week.”
“Why not do it today, right after we hang up?”
Almost without fail, my clients tell me later that they immediately feel better when they do these little actions instead of putting them off.
I can understand my clients. I also have a tendency to want to put things off. Often these tasks are actions that cause a tiny degree of anxiety—maybe a phone call that involves a yes/no decision that I haven’t made yet, or a form to fill out for which I need some information but am not sure where it is. Sometimes they are just boring routine things that I would rather not do.
I can now report that the small adjustments I have made to force myself to do those two-minute, absurdly avoided tasks, have resulted in a clearer mind and a lifting of that little piece of guilt that I carry about undone tasks.
Do It Now, Later
But what about when there’s just no time to do all the little things, and they start to pile up? Gleeson deals with this common occurrence with an idea she calls “Do It Now, Later.” Although this sounds like another way to put things off, it’s carried out differently than avoidance, and the results are different.
Here are the components of “Do It Now, Later.”
Keep a list of those small, yet important tasks. Then set aside a time to do a bunch of them. Gleeson calls this “batching.”
Look at your calendar the night before, select a time to do the tasks, and then write them into your calendar as if they were an appointment. (This idea is mine, and it works – I rarely schedule something unpleasant for myself in the morning!)
Schedule a short time period, such as 15 minutes, if you are very resistant to doing these tasks.
Do not engage in other tasks during this time, such as checking emails not related to the task at hand. In particular, avoid what I call “the Internet Vortex,” my home away from home.
Along the same lines, try to arrange not to be interrupted (even if you’re desperately hoping to be interrupted.)
It’s also best to bunch similar types of tasks together, such as phone calls.
Do the tasks one after the other, whether you feel like it or not. That’s why it’s best to decide beforehand what you should do – it seems like a good idea when you’re NOT just sitting down to do it!
If you can, do these tasks earlier in the day – you’ll feel so good afterwards.
Check out my new assessment: Get it Done 101: How Are You Doing on the Basics? This assessment helps you realize what you have to do to improve your organizational skills. Next week we will go into more depth about organizing yourself to get the bigger, more imposing tasks accomplished.
© Gina Hiatt, PhD.
Gina is a dissertation and tenure coach. She helps academics, from grad students wondering about their dissertation topic to faculty members who want to maintain a high level of research and writing, to reach their goals more quickly and less painfully. Get Gina’s free assessments & ezine at www.academicladder.com