Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Personal productivity insights

  • "And now for something completely different" really works. If you're going to take a break for lunch, take a break. Don't keep trying to read journal articles; read a different book or a magazine, something that's not related. Or take a couple of minutes and write a blog post :). When you get back to work, you'll then be refreshed by more than the food.
  • Love your tools. If you are a faux-organized type like me--that is, you are not naturally organized but have learned a lot of strategies for simulating organization--you probably have learned to love lists, Excel, timers, and everything like that. As long as the strategies don't overwhelm the task, these kinds of devices can energize you about working on your project because you want to fill in the slots or check off the boxes.
  • Only look at everything once. Back in the olden days when I was learning to bake, my mother told me that a friend of hers had a rule: "Only touch everything once." That means that if you get something out and use it, put it in the sink or dishwasher. Put away the ingredients after you've used them. I think that was what she meant, anyway. But this rule applies to other things, too, including email. For example, in my online classes, I was logging in a few times a day just to see how the discussion was going, but I wasn't commenting or grading. I've done this with blogs in face-to-face classes, too--spent time reading them and then had to read them again to comment or grade. That's a waste of time. My new rule for myself is that if I log in, I have to be doing something active: commenting or grading or responding to student emails.
  • Take a lesson from Amy Chua. No, not a parenting lesson; I have no comment about that, nor do I know anything about Ms. Chua except what I read in the WSJ article. But it's clear that she didn't get where she is by reading fluffy lifestyle pieces in magazines about people like herself or made-for-the-talk-show-circuit books by people like herself. In fact, I'm betting the only such book she's ever read is her own. It's not her fault if she makes a ton of money trading on people's gullibility; it's my own fault for being stupid enough to pay attention to stuff of this kind in the first place. Amy Chua's lesson-by-example for me is simple: "If you want to be productive, don't read my book, and ignore the massive publicity machine surrounding me and other celebrities/controversies enjoying 15 minutes of fame." In other words, unless something is either entertaining (hello, bloggers!), useful (again--hello, bloggers!), or both, I'm going to chuck it. That's how this week's Time magazine, which I subscribed to reluctantly after Newsweek stopped having any actual content, got thrown in the trash. [Edited to add: Well, the recycling bin, but that doesn't have the same drama quotient as "trash."]


Annie Em said...

Great advice, and yes, so sad about Newsweek...

Anonymous said...

Excellent advice!

undine said...

Annie Em, you noticed it too (Newsweek)?

Thanks, nicoleandmaggie.