I was reading Are you Leaking at Christine Kane’s blog. In addition to being a great singer songwriter, CD’s & Lyrics, she also talks about life balance and creativity.
In the post above, she talks about energy drains and how any incompletes in our life, from email to laundry to car repairs, can drain our energy when we let them hang over our heads for a long time.
Well, in academia, I think we all have “incompletes” of many types. They’re hanging around just by the nature of the work. Not only is there all that stuff we do for students, but there is always another project we want to work on, or that we finally have to finish.
To connect what she wrote about with this type of work, I think it would be beneficial to make 3 to-do lists for long-term projects.
1. One list would be for everything that needs to be done on all our projects. Think of 43 Folders and capturing all that has to be done and getting it downloaded to paper.
2. Then, for the second list, identify what we want to do on a given day towards finishing that long-term project and being as specific and realistic as possible. For some people, it might work to project plan the whole thing, but I think for many people just concentrating on a week at a time would be helpful.
3. After we’ve worked on the project, I think we want to create a what-to-do-next-time list. I think the habit of always saving time to do this list each time we work on the long-term project will help prevent the energy drains that Christine talks about.
Other people have said similar things before and most often linked making the lists to productivity. I’ve even talked about how I think I’m more productive when I fill in the project name on my daily schedule and cross off the hours as filled.
However, making a what-to-do-next-time list for writing projects seems highly beneficial in order to help prevent massive energy drains from the whole project being one big “incomplete.”
Maybe I’m just slow and everyone else has already made this connection. But for me, it’s the difference between saying to myself:
work on the project to get it done, OR
work on a small piece of the project so you can feel better about what you’ve accomplished for that day and so the whole incomplete project doesn’t drain your energy and make your whole life feel out of balance.
In academia, our in-boxes (physical, virtual, and mental) are never going to be empty. But, this idea might be one way to help us feel better about walking away from them at the end of the day without the energy-draining feeling of them leaking all over us.