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Reacting to tasks just isn't working for me

I'd set up this interesting (I thought) way of partitioning my time during my sabbatical. But it slipped away from me and I've gone into a purely reacting mode of response to tasks.  And that's not working for me either. Lesson: no matter what I originally thought, my process design was no good.

Here's the tl;dr version of my approach to getting things done during my sabbatical: I came up with a list of 11 different major themes for my tasks; I would cycle through the entire list, one theme per day, spending at least 1 hour on that theme. The idea was that I'd eventually get a substantive amount done on all of the themes.

It didn't turn out that way. Stuff kept getting in the way - email, house chores, various other activities, figurative fires that needed to be put out, new tasks with short deadlines, and - perhaps worst of all - some things I just didn't feel like doing.

So I drifted back to The Old Ways, of letting my time be driven by whatever seemed most crucial to get done at any given time.  But that doesn't work for me either, because it turns into a litany of things I have to do, at the expense of things I want to do - until the things I want to do become things I have to do because I've let them drift for too long.

But the point was to balance the have-to-do's with the want-to-do's, because while the former are necessary (but not necessarily pleasant), the latter are pleasant (but not necessarily necessary).  It's really all about balance.

Also, I was irritated that The Old Ways prevented me from being able to predict what I might be doing in the future (even in the near future, like, tomorrow). Sometimes, we decide what we should do now based, in part, on what we expect to have to do tomorrow.  And I couldn't do that.

And my sabbatical is half-over and I've not done anywhere near as much as I would have thought.

So, time for a reset.

Since I still use my rolling tasks trick to suggest tasks (no matter what else, that continues to work well for me), I have a dynamic and self-organizing prioritized list of possible tasks to make sure I'm getting something done.  The question is to make sure that I'm setting aside enough time on a regular basis to get things done that really matter.

I still like the idea of have task themes: they give me some structure without requiring me to go through a list of hyper-specified tasks, structure with a bit of give to it.

So here's what I'm going to try.

There's 7 days in a week.  I'm going to develop only 7 themes and assign one to each day.  This will let me more easily predict my expected future tasks, yet maintain flexibility of choice. I'm going to make one theme a generic "Catch-up / relax" day to make sure there's enough slack for me to enjoy my sabbatical while still making sure there's enough time to get the absolute necessities done. The other 6 days and themes will be an amalgam of the 11 I had in the last version.

The amalgamation of the 11 themes is the tricky bit, because some themes (e.g., students, research) are just plain more important than others (e.g., blogging), and some themes (e.g., research) require far more attention and effort than others (e.g., home).

I'll post an update once I've got it sorted.

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