The past few weeks have been really busy for me--deadline after deadline with no real break. The end is in sight, as things get considerably less busy after this weekend (for a few days, at least). The sheer number of tasks and things to deal with is somewhat overwhelming, but I've been managing them pretty well. Today, in particular, I was able to just put my head down and work, work, work, finishing several big tasks in the process. Here are some strategies I've been using, particularly this week, to make everything flow a bit more smoothly and to keep the productivity level high:
1. Big to-do lists. I've been sitting down on Friday, right before I go home, and listing out all of the tasks that have to be done the following week. And I categorize them. (For some reason, this strategy only works when I'm super-busy....otherwise, daily to-do lists work much better for me.) That way, when I come in on Monday morning, everything's laid out and I can start crossing things off. Having a master list also helps me utilize those 5-10 minute time blocks ("hmmm, I have 5 minutes, that's enough time to send out the reminder email to Group X"). And yes, I've made sure to put research tasks on that list too, as a reminder that I can't and shoudn't let research slide just because all hell is breaking loose everywhere else.
2. Stepping away from the computer. I was stuck on two separate writing tasks, projects I was procrastinating on for various reasons and not making any progress on. I picked one task, turned off my monitor, went to a corner of my office with a pen and paper and wrote the damn thing out longhand. And you know what? The thing just flowed out of me. (It needs plenty of revision, but just getting a draft down on paper was a huge relief.) And afterwards, I went back to my computer and the second writing task (the 2-3 page grant proposal), and was able to finish it and send it off within 20 minutes. Woo hoo!
3. Cutting out the non-essentials. I've ignored emails that don't require an immediate answer, skipped out on meetings that weren't crucial, and closed my office door for at least a few hours a day. I've also passed a few things off to my colleagues, with no guilt.
4. Taking care of myself. It's so tempting to say "I'll just stay up late and finish X and Y, skip the AM yoga, and not go to the gym", but I know that when I do that I'm less productive and less focused. I'm happy to say that I've done yoga every morning this week (which starts me off in a happier, more focused mood) and gone to the gym twice (which refreshes me and keeps me focused at the end of the day).
The end result of all this is that I feel calmer and more in control of my life, and I've even finished most of the tasks on this week's list already. Being this meticulous has really helped me prioritize how I spend my time. I just hope I can take some of these lessons away once this crunch time is over and apply them to my non-crunch time life.