Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Muse of Organization

Organization is an art, just like music or dance-- therefore, there should be a Muse of organization.  I wonder what her name is and what mystical rites are used to invoke her. I could really use her kiss right about now, as I sit on my floor surrounded by stacks of end-of-the-semester paperwork and a suitcase that needs to be packed.

Organization is one key to success and productivity, despite those cute plaques suggesting that an organized desk is the sign of a diseased mind.  But organization takes planning and who has time for that?

You make the time.

At the very least you have to set priorities or else nothing will get done.  Perhaps you've heard the parable of the big rocks, made popular by FranklinCovey, one of the world's leading organization and planning firms.  If I may offer my own interpretation:  Think of your life as a big bucket into which you must fit various items (rocks, pebbles sand). The "big rocks" are the things that are really important to you:  things like finding a job or graduating from college with a good g.p.a. or saving a downpayment for a house.  These are the things that can change your life for the better.  The "pebbles" are the things that keep us alive and keep us sane (our current job, eating, getting a good night's sleep, balancing the checkbook).  "Sand" represents all the things we'd like to be doing, like playing video games or partying with friends or reading the newspaper or taking a nap in the garden.

If you put the big rocks in the bucket first, then the pebbles which you pour in will settle between the rocks, and the sand will settle between the pebbles.  But if you start with the little stuff, you'll find that your bucket is full in no time and there's no space to fit in the big rocks.  It's a sort of trickle-down theory:  If you are organized at the top with priorities, the rest will pretty much organize itself.

So make time to sort out your priorities.  It doesn't have to be long-term goals.  Right now it's "What do I absolutely, positively have to do TODAY to make the next day, the next week, the next month go smoothly?"

"O Muse of organization, give me the time and the endurance to sort through all those journal articles!"

Friday, May 7, 2010

Why So Unproductive?

One word:  distractions.

Think of all the things you need to do.  Now look at what you're doing.  That's right... you've surfed onto a blog on the internet.  My guess is it's not the first one you looked at when turned on your computer, and it's not going to be your last stop on the interwebs today.

But think of all the things you need to do.  Is sitting here surfing from to to TMZ really more important than accomplishing your goals?

I know what you're thinking... and the answer is, "I can put you on the spot and ask that question because I am entirely aware that my relationship with the internet is responsible for most of my lost productivity." I'm sure there are lots of theories about internet addiction out there, but I will tell you why I spend so much time on it:  it's easily accessible, it doesn't require any thought, and it's mildly more entertaining than reading academic articles.  After a long day teaching, interacting with dozens of people, I just want to decompress.  So I turn to the internet and three hours later...

So how can you change this pattern of bad behavior?
  1. In keeping with the theme of this blog, make internet your reward.  Writing a dissertation?  Work for an hour, then allow yourself 15 minutes (and only 15 minutes!) of fun internet time.
  2. Unplug yourself from the internet when you're doing work.  Need to look up something for your novel, thesis, gardening club?  Write it down and look it up during your scheduled internet "research time"
  3. Those entertaining blogs like have RSS feeds that will deliver their content to your inbox once a day.  No need to keep hitting refresh!
  4. Set your Facebook page to deliver all notifications to your email inbox and act on them only once a day.  Better yet, tell everyone you're worried about security and deactivate your Facebook account!
  5. Block the sites that really suck you in.  Yes, like you would block porn from a 10 year old.  Even removing sites from your bookmarks/thumbnails can make them less of a distraction.
  6. When you're online and you need to get work done, make yourself invisible on chatlines.  Schedule chats with those people who mean the most to you when you can devote your full attention to them.
  7. Channel that energy into writing a blog that may actually help people be more productive :-)
The internet isn't our only distraction.  Stay tuned for more under the heading "Why So Unproductive?"