Over at TLQ, some participants have expressed interest in my goal-setting, list-making, calendar-tracking habits, and rather than hog the comments there, I’ll write it out here.

Everything I said here is still true: I’m temporally challenged, rebellious, dislike alarms, need paper, in fact need multiple paper calendars because the more I write down an event, commitment, or task, the more I believe it will actually come to pass and that I’ll have to do something about it. Otherwise, it’s more like, “Oh, that was a real thing? Not fiction? Are you sure? I only wrote it in one place, so it can’t be that important.”

If I were up for a two-page-per-day calendar plus goals set-up, this is what I’d prefer.

Sir John has set up a shared electronic calendar for us to track events like his meetings, my meetings, dryer-delivery, vet appointments, and so on. I remember to check it . . . about every three days. I gather his side of it is a whole lot more detailed, but I don’t have to go there. He’s one of those people who likes to schedule everything, with little alarm bells, and will actually shift from one activity to another when the bell rings.

I’m the sort who resists (mightily) getting started on anything, and then once I’m into it, don’t want to shift my attention to something else when the alarm goes.*

For the last few years, my usual format in my Moleskine is to have a weekly “goals” page, followed by daily or half-daily pages. The goals page notes at the top which week of the semester or break it is, out of how many. In recent months, I’ve added a “habits” page facing the goals, where I check off things that I want to do, if not daily, multiple times per week: stretch, go for a walk, change the cat water, hydrate the houseplants, take out the compost. Goals are generally divided into the categories Health, Teaching, Research, Admin/Service, and Life Stuff. Goals may be either discrete (Write Thing) or process-oriented (spend 30 minutes/day on Project). This summer, I’ve been unusually resistant (even for me) to using the calendar at all. Normally I’m happy to play around with the notebook and set up weekly and daily goals, even if I wind up doing other things I didn’t plan to do. But there are a LOT of things I need to be working on, and another LOT that I want to do because they are fun, and a discouraging LOT of house/life-related things that feel too much like work. It’s all a bit overwhelming, and I wind up wasting time instead of either doing something productive or deliberately doing something fun.

So I made a list of All The Things. It revealed to me** that most of the worky things I need to work on (plan classes, write book) are big, on-going projects that I should be doing little bits of every day, while the fun and house/life things are more likely to be one-offs (or at least composed of no more than five steps). Little-bit-every-day things can go on the habits page! In fact, the habits page can also get a line for Thing That Will Stay Done.

For the time being, therefore, I’m mainly using the habits page, and trying to check things off some reasonable amount per week, rather than writing out goals that haven’t been changing much for the past month or two. Oh, hey, maybe I’ve been resistant because I’m bored! I can believe that. It would definitely be nice to have some new goals. No doubt they will come when classes start. I expect then I’ll go back to needing a page per day to keep track of commitments and make notes about things that happened.

*I am frequently astonished that I have achieved as much as I have in my life, with this attitude, not just to switching tasks but in general. Proof that there are many roads to productivity! And also that reading fast and retaining the knowledge temporarily is one of my superpowers.***

**This is obvious to anyone who is good at time management. I’m slow, okay? Or no, the PC term I used above is “temporally challenged.” Let’s stick with that.

***I don’t retain anything I read fast, especially if it’s a work-related Policies and Procedures document. That sort of thing gets purged from working memory within hours. OTOH, I retain the most astonishing bits of trivia, including verbatim quotations from books I read when I was 15. My mind is a dim, dusty, outrageously cluttered attic with generations’ worth of trunks and boxes and piles of junk. In my teens and in college, I was much like xykademiqz, preferring boom/bust work cycles. When I was dissertating, I planned to a fare-thee-well and more-or-less stuck to that schedule. For awhile, anyway. Also like xyk, I always used to plan classes the morning-of, though while driving rather than in the shower. Not commuting last year, plus being online, meant a lot of really different planning for teaching. I think I like systems but I like the systems to change. OK, now I want to go read more at these links, and their links, etc. Maybe reading about other people’s systems will inspire me.

2 thoughts on “MyCal

  1. I loved this post, which led me down the rabbit hole of your other productivity posts.

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