After a fairly mixed up two days (with building work going on in our office) I thought I’d try and put together a slightly different style of post. Let me know in the comments what you think, is it a good idea? Or should I stick to what I know with my diary style posts?
I told you on Monday that I ended up massively overwhelmed by a to do list that rapidly expanded over the weekend. It led to a very unproductive day, but I was relieved to find out (through Twitter) that I’m definitely not the only one this happens to. Because of that I thought I’d share how I dealt with the onslaught of new things to do.
Introducing my post-it note wall
This is how I deal with it. Firstly I realised this is, in a way, similar to Sam’s post about his writing technique, I think that’s why it appealed to me. What I do is simple, for every job I need to do I add a post-it. They live on the wall next to my computer in the office and they regularly get moved, removed and added to. The system is simple; every time I think of something I need to do I add a post-it. Every time the boss asks me to do something, I add a post-it. When my inbox fills up with jobs that I need to do, I add a post-it. When a job’s completed the post-it comes off the wall. When part of the job’s done it’s ticked off or crossed out (as you can see on some of the post-its in the picture). The post-it wall gives me an easily accessible overview of all the jobs I have on the go. This includes new experiments for my thesis, experiments that are started but need completing (e.g. there’s a replica missing), admin jobs (3rd year report is looming) and side projects (like my work at the hospital).
This achieves three things for me, 1. It clears the jobs out of my head and my inbox, if they’re stuck on my wall I don’t need to stress about forgetting things, they’re there and I can deal with them in time. 2. I love a proper to do list but they don’t work well for tracking multi-part jobs (like most experiments), I can form my daily/weekly to do list based on what’s on my post-it wall. 3. Possibly most importantly, it gives me back control of the things I need to do, it collects them in one place where I can then prioritise them.
On Tuesday morning I updated my post-it wall, removing completed jobs (there were a pleasing amount!) and adding new jobs. All those overwhelming weekend emails? Added to the wall and moved out of my inbox. Having a clear inbox immediately de-stressed me.
This is how the post-it wall was looking before I updated it (left), along with all the post-it’s I managed to take off the wall (right). Removing a post-it is way more satisfying then crossing a job of a to do list, because it only happens when the whole task is complete.
I love my post-it wall, it gives me control which is something I feel I lack a lot of the time. I’m fairly sure my system will start to evolve and become a little more complex, grouping post-it’s of similar tasks together (e.g. results chapter 1, side project 2 etc.) for example. For anyone struggling with managing the PhD workload I’d definitely recommend giving it a try (and I’d love you to let me know how you get on).