How to: get organized + maintain sanity (Part 2)

Kickstart Open Lab: Staff Edition provided an opportunity for staff members to enhance workflow and processes by incorporating a new technology. In the previous blog post, Part 1 of “How to: get organized + maintain sanity”, several easily accessible tools including TeuxDeuxTodoist, and Google applications such as Google CalendarGoogle Keep, and Google Tasks available through both calendar and Gmail, were identified to aid in the movement toward organization. Though all of the tools previously introduced have the potential to be helpful, perhaps the most important aspect of organizing to-dos is discipline.

According to recent research, establishing a habit takes a minimum of 21 days and on average 66 days. Thus, in order to effectively realize to-dos it is necessary to practice discipline to develop a positive habit of organization. So how exactly does one practice discipline? Day 2 of Kickstart Open Lab: Staff Edition focused on a few key ways in which to do so. One technique developed by the Center for Writing’s annual Dissertation Writing Retreat known as “parking downhill” encourages stopping and reflecting. For example, upon the close of the day, spend 15 minutes thoughtfully reviewing your efforts and specifying your first steps for the following day. In a nut shell, try to summarize what you did today, ask yourself what is left to do in this task, and pinpoint the first thing you’re going to do tomorrow.

While it may feel awkward to make a plan of action and then simply exit your work station, it is important to prioritize, to set, and to follow goals. In an interview recounted in the Paris ReviewErnest Hemingway stated, “The important thing is to have good water in the well, and it is better to take a regular amount out than to pump the well dry and wait for it to refill.” In other words, it is far more realistic to do a little bit everyday than to tackle everything at once and become exhausted. The appeal of “parking downhill” is that it allows you to leave the project in a place where it’s easy to get it rolling again, acts in a sustainable manner useful for long-term projects, and helps you to acknowledge successes. This is all in the interest of sustaining yourself, your sanity, your, if you will, “water in the well”.

Similarly, a routine that can be employed at the beginning of the day is best described as “parking uphill”. Set aside 15 minutes of the start of the day becoming familiar with your schedule and the tasks to be completed in a prioritized manner. Clarify your thoughts, identify what absolutely must be accomplished (perhaps utilizing a technology tool of your choice!), and begin!

Ultimately, there is no cookie-cutter, one size fits all solution. You know yourself best – what you like, how you remember, and what works for you. To truly see if it works for you, you must commit to a tool or practice with discipline for an extended period of time. And, if you conclude the tool is not living up to your standards, try another one. Practice discipline earnestly everyday in order to have your best days of organized and crossed off to-dos. Follow through with yourself and attain your 2015 resolution to organize your to-dos with whichever tool suits your fancy, sanity intact!



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