And for those who need statistics from my first full academic year of real GTD use:
Total tasks completed (i.e. those that I bothered to enter into Pocket Informant and not just do right away) from 2015.08.22 to 2016.05.11:
1200 tasks (probably 3-5 hours-worth of entry time over the span of 8 months).
And to see how much I used the various pieces of metadata, and to get a better sense of what I did with my time, in broad brushstrokes, I record the following summaries for posterity:
I wouldn’t analyze these too closely, since some tasks were deleted, since not every task had every possible piece of metadata – some of them were just ephemeral reminders to myself (“Bring cheese”) set up with Siri, and since different tasks required differing amounts of time to complete. But still, it’s kinda interesting, if you’re into that kind of thing…
And speaking of generic end-of-academic-year checklists:
- Clean work office
- Inventory work office supplies
- Bring home perishable food items (office, fridge)
- Clean up computer folders on work computer
- Copy work computer course folders to Dropbox
- Order any outstanding textbooks for next semester
- Wish happy summer to faculty/staff
- Return library books
- Update CV
- Write semester-end thoughts for each course (keep textbook? different assignments…)
- Brainstorm generic teaching improvements
- Clean home office
Ha! Thought I’d let a GTD post go by without a checklist? You’ve been chklstd!
I continue with my conceit that anyone will care about my checklists. I create them largely to facilitate my use of GTD (see GTD tag). Specifically, to speed up entry of tasks in my Pocket Informant task manager, as well as to make it easy for me to complete small, atomized tasks of a larger project, without having to stop and reconstruct all the subtasks each time. So without further ado, these are the tasks I should perform after each conference:
- Save receipts for reimbursement (scan, file)
- Revise Contacts (PI, Contacts)
- Update Farley file on old contacts
- Add new contacts with Farley file info
- Set Google Alerts for new contacts/authors
I’m not saying I’m a cyberstalker, but…
- Email contacts with any follow-ups
- Tell any non-attendees about interesting bits
- Schedule any due dates for future publication of paper (PI, make Project)
- Search for any mentioned publications/authors (Zotero, DTPO)
- Enter specific Papers and Panels (DTPO)
- Import conference program
- Make conference tag
- OCR program as needed
- Enter comments/questions on my paper/panel (topic tags)
- Enter my notes on other papers (topic tags)
- Import conference program
- Enter general thoughts on conference (DTPO, with conference tag)
- Current trends among other researchers?
- What kinds of questions/debates came up?
- Identify potential “competitors” (DTPO, with conference tag)
- Develop strategies to coordinate with other researchers & minimize potential overlap/scooping
- Enter any Notes, Photos… from conference, museums, bookstores… (DTPO)
- Take notes on museums & other sites visited (site tag)
- Consider how to use in courses
- Add any forgotten pre-conference prep tasks to checklist template
I think that’s a good start.
Continuing with my never-ending quest for the perfect research workflow.
The processing stage of research is usually the most challenging, thought-intensive part of the research process. Because I have oodles of primary sources and feel compelled to use them in order to make robust generalizations, and because more sources generally increase the odds of finding exceptions to the rule, this is where my research tends to bog down. So it would seem particularly important to manage tasks here, and to match your time and energy level to the sources you’ll be reading. Read More…
Yeah right, like I know the answer to that question. But it doesn’t mean I won’t speculate. And my speculations led to me develop the following strategies that should help one be a (more) productive scholar while teaching 3-4 courses per semester:
- Accept you won’t be that productive.
- Spend almost all your time working and thinking and writing.
- Avoid teaching many new courses (i.e. new preps).
- Design your research around small projects (articles, book chapters, encyclopedia articles, book reviews…).
- Design you research around edited projects. Let other people do most of the thinking and researching and you just get to react to it.
- Collect as many primary sources as you can, while you can. You never know when you’ll be able to get back into the archives.
- Design your research around questions that can be answered with published primary sources.
- Explore an old subject from a new angle or perspective.
- Recycle and renew half-written drafts from your past, even stretching back to grad school.
- Focus on subjects that aren’t incredibly popular, so as to avoid having to keep up with a large and ever-burgeoning literature.
- Focus on subjects that aren’t incredibly popular, so as to avoid getting scooped by PhD students and faculty at Research I institutions.
- Speed up parts of the research process through software (particularly bibliographic and note-taking).
- Analyze historiographical trends, by counting titles and keywords.
- Write crappy history. Specifically, avoid delving into the complexity of real human lives (and real human interactions), and instead generalize about an entire continent over a generation by referring to one published theoretical treatise on the topic, or one single case study.
Guess which one I choose? Actually all of the above, though I’d like to think I’ve avoided #14.
But now is the time to focus on:
16. Waste some of your time trying to figure out a way to systematize and atomize your research process, so that you can complete bits of your research during the normally-busy school year.
And how would one do this exactly? I don’t know, but here are my first ruminations on the puzzle. All framed by, you guessed it, that damn Getting Things Done cult. Read More…
With all the preparatory discussion of Getting Things Done out of the way, here are a variety of work-related projects and tasks that I use in Pocket Informant, most of which can be reused regularly. These are largely glorified checklists, which, recent research has shown, are extremely useful. Even experts (like experienced doctors and pilots) benefit from them when time is short and focus is too easily distracted. Remember that the point of these GTD-themed task checklists is to do all of the thinking about the process once, when you make the list (though you can obviously revise it). So GTD checklists should be slightly different from “trigger” lists (lists of things that trigger you to remember other things), in that the GTD tasks should be explicit physical actions. This way you don’t have to reconstruct the process every time, usually right before the thing is due. You don’t have to, for example, spend the mental energy (as small as it might be – it adds up) to remember what exactly you’re supposed to do with the ‘receipts’ entry on that list. These lists are made even more useful with additional metadata à la GTD, and the ability to integrate them into your calendar. Read More…