Ahh. I love this time of year. The turkey is digesting and will be a part of breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next few days. So cooking is not a distraction. Its grazing time.
That week-ish period between Christmas and New Years is also a good time for taking stock and seeing where we’re going, and perhaps making some mid-course corrections. Toward that goal, we’ll be spending some time the next couple of weeks reviewing aspects of Getting Things Done–part philosophy, part lifehacks–toward the goal of increasing your effectiveness and decreasing anxiety. This is targeted at the graduate student in the sciences but the principles apply to almost anybody who is creative, semi-autonomously, for a living. If you want to jump ahead, and already know a fair bit about GTD, the 43 Folders forum is an excellent place to jump in the deep end of the pool of everything lifehackery. We’ll be taking it a bit more slowly.
As we discussed before, there are four basic skills to being an academic.
1) Creativity–the generation of lots of good ideas and then culling them down to the best ones.
2) Scholarship–becoming an expert in your chosen field and maintaining an up-to-date knowledge of your general field.
3) Communication–expressing complex ideas in writing and through presentations (i.e., teaching)
4) Time Management–making continuous progress toward all three while still nurturing your health and personal relationships.
One useful way of thinking about managing our goals is from Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The four quadrats classify our daily tasks by their urgency and their importance to our goals (which presumably include the four goals of improving our creativity, scholarship, communication and time management).
- Group I entails crises and deadline driven projects (grades are to be turned in three days after Finals)
- Group II include your long-term incremental goals (like, for example, becoming more creative, a better scholar, and a better communicator!)
- Group III are interruptions that you have to deal with (a colleague walks in to chat, your phone rings)
- Group IV are all the busy work and pleasant time wasters.
Covey’s great insight is that we should maximize our time spent in Quadrat II by 1) eliminating as much as possible Quadrat IV; dealing quickly and deliberately with Quadrat III, and planning (a QII activity) so that we don’t face the urgent deadlines that throw everything out of kilter. Graduate school is all about Quadrat II–building and honing a skill set. How do we find time to do that? We continue tomorrow.