February 6, 2005

Managing work

After an "I'm overextended!" panic entry last week, a far-flung colleague recommended David Allen's Getting Things Done. I looked at the associated website, and it's clear Allen is a "workflow" consultant whose primary m.o. is a set of streamlined (and updated) to-do lists. I'm familiar with to-do lists and have had mine on the left side of my web page front matter for a year or more. I've managed the time crunches over the past year quite adequately with to-do lists. When I feel overloaded, that's my crutch: "Okay, time to make a to-do list." I get through the crunch, relax, and ... the to-do list drops off my mental landscape.

I don't like to operate in a crisis mentality, and that's what I associate a list with. Though I haven't read the book (I may if I have time when it comes into the library!), I suspect this mental association is the secondary issue with getting mildly behind (apart from being overcommitted—the list I drafted this morning has 18 items for today, and I just thought of a 19th). I think of to-do lists and my heart starts racing. So many things! When I operate by the seat of my pants and routines, no problem. Some things get dropped, but my life doesn't feel like a set of pressures and neverending deadlines. And closing in on 20 years in academe (including grad school), I've done quite well by this method.

The challenge: can I relax when I think about to-do lists, enough to work with them and keep them as part of my routine rather than as a stopgap measure?

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Posted in Random comments on February 6, 2005 12:34 PM |