Ancrene Wiseass

A would-be medievalist holds forth on academia, teaching, gender politics, blogging, pop culture, critters, and whatever else comes her way.

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Location: United States

Yes, this really is yet another blog by a disillusioned grad student. I sympathize, but that's just the way it has to be. For hints as to what my bizarre alias means, click here and here and, if needed, here and here. To get a sense of what I'm up to, feel free to check out the sections called "Toward a Wiseass Creed" and "Showings: Some Introductory Wiseassery" in my main blog's left-hand sidebar. Please be aware that spamming, harassing, or otherwise obnoxious comments will be deleted and traced.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Blogging and Timing

'Kay, so I gave the blogroll an overhaul. If your blog's been removed and you'd like to have it restored, just let me know: I took off blogs that had moved to undisclosed locations, blogs I hadn't read for a while, or blogs whose owners I hadn't heard from in a while. So your removal may well just be a reflection of my laziness. Feel free to email!

Next thing I need to do: revamp the "Showings" section of selected introductory posts. Any suggestions?

Another thing I'm overhauling is my time-management skills. So I bought one of these. I especially like the timer's versatility, since it can be clipped to things, used as a magnet, or placed upright on a table and since it has a vibrating and light-up alarm, as well as the traditional beep. This means I can use it to time myself without annoying everyone around me.

What's this all about? Well, I've reached a point in my career (and life) in which I have loads of things to do, but very few firm deadlines and few people to be responsible to, other than myself. I also tend to want to do tasks from start to finish, and am extremely detail-oriented. Now, that kind of thing can be extremely useful at times, but it's a real problem when you're working on a big project. It is, for example, pretty much impossible to just sit down and write a dissertation chapter from start to finish, despite what some folks might tell you.

Since I get obsessive about finishing projects and pay lots of attention to all their ins and outs, other stuff can fall by the wayside. This means that, when I dig my way out of some big task, I emerge blinking and bleary-eyed to the sight of a pile of bills, a full email inbox, and an unmade bed. Not so good. And when I'm not in Mole Mode, I just tend to multitask to the point of utter uselessness.

So, I need to get better at letting the small stuff go, consistently working on several things for short periods every day, improving my ability to focus on the task at hand, and saving time to look after myself and--yes--maybe even have some fun now and then. I think it would all help me to feel a little more in control of the process, which would be a Very Good Thing.

I bought a very helpful book by Elisabeth Wilson called Relax while I was traveling, which sensibly suggests ways to be more productive and organized as a way of reducing stress, along with the meditation and relaxation techniques you might expect. One of the techniques she recommends is Mark Foster's "rotation method" from Help Yourself Get Everything Done, and I'm going to try it. It's a little like cross-training for life beyond the gym.

Essentially, you make up a list of the most urgent tasks you need to complete and then work your way through the list as many times as you need to as many times as you can with the time you have. On the first rotation, you spend 10 minutes on per task, on the second rotation you spend 20 minutes per task, and on the third rotation you spend 30 minutes per task. This ensures that you spend at least a little bit of time on everything and don't get too bogged down to see the big picture.

I'm going to try it out for the first time on Monday--I'll let y'all know how it goes.

Any of y'all have tricks you'd like to share?