The folks at Freedom have a helpful tutorial about “how to be more productive in the afternoon.” The same principles, though, will apply also to the mornings or whenever one’s preferred time is for focused work.
Kristina Malsberger discusses managing oneself and one’s commitments amid what can be a hectic whirlwind of incoming information and requests. According to Malsberger,
there’s a simple, centuries-old solution: the daily to-do list. Sure, checklists have their detractors—folks that claim they constrain creativity or induce undue guilt—but when done well, a to-do list functions like a trusty aide-de-camp, greatly improving your ability to remember, plan, and prioritize.
Malsberger then provides several practical recommendations about using and managing to-do lists. Among these are not “treating your to-do list like a junk drawer for all your ideas, wishes, and reminders.” Instead, a someday-maybe list that’s regularly culled for dead wood is much more helpful.
For the balance of Malsberger’s reflections, see her original post on the Dropbox blog. For discussion of someday-maybe and other types of helpful list ideas and workflows, see David Allen, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (rev. ed.; New York: Penguin, 2015). See also other discussion of productivity-related matters here.
I’ve recently started using Todoist as a personal task and project management tool. The immediately prior iterations I’d tried with Google Inbox and Google Reminders or Microsoft OneNote each had various pain points.
Inbox and Reminders integrate with Google Calendar, but can be difficult to adjust in Calendar. Any tasks scheduled at the same time group together in Calendar, and the group is tied together unless the tasks are individually rescheduled to different times (no dragging-and-dropping allowed). In addition, Inbox’s ability to schedule email is quite nice, but retrieving a list of all the email needing a response is sometimes cumbersome. Also, snoozed email doesn’t get added to Calendar unless some specific “remember to” text is added for it. So, daily planning seemed somewhat encumbered by the still-evolving implementation of integration among Inbox, Reminders, and Calendar.
OneNote is a tool I’ve been using and have found very helpful for some time now. But, sometime’s I’d forget to copy tasks over to a new day’s page, and planning out what emails needed to be written when proved not to be the easiest thing either (i.e., copy-and-paste the URL in Gmail to get back to the email later).
Thus far though, Todoist has been a happy medium for a lot of this, and they’ve recently rolled out a robust, user-friendly two-way sync with Google Calendar. The implementation with Google Calendar is really quite transparent and helpful. The Todoist for Gmail extension for Google Chrome also makes planning when and how to address incoming email quite straightforward.
For a survey of the Todoist’s new integration with Google Calendar, see the following YouTube clip:
It’s certainly not new, but I recently came across the GTD Times blog run by the David Allen Company. The most recent entry is the first part of a keynote in which Allen overviews his approach to “getting things done,” as covered more fully in his book by the same title. If academia should ever manifest itself as an environment with an overabundance of demands, Allen’s advice may be a helpful starting point in adequately coming to grips with that situation.
On similar notes, see also David Allen @EntreLeadership.
If you’ve never read David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity (Penguin, 2001), a recent episode of the EntreLeadership podcast has a sit-down with Allen and crash course in the fundamentals of what he thinks makes for effective
time management self-management in time.