Tab content
Tab content

Summer holidays are either here or quickly approaching for higher education and although many students are looking forward to sleeping in and chilling, I’m hitting the mammoth marking period of the year when deadlines for SAPs and hand-backs abound. During this time it is important to prioritise and keep tasks and actions clearly defined and assigned to appropriate time slots. But even when we are all away from work, it is also important to maintain a focused approach to things in order to ensure that we reach targets and, using that well rehearsed phrase, ‘get things done!’. I’m a bit of a task manager freak and probably, and I can say this, a workaholic – although the actual definition of that word is probably a whole waffle in itself. I like reaching targets and achieving things and in this week’s waffle, I wanted to share with you some of the tactics or strategies I use to achieve this.

I was looking through my old waffles and came across this one What to do over summer? which I wrote back in July, 2013 – have I really be doing this site for that long! The focus of this waffle was more to do with what you should be getting up to over your break which hopefully comes across during the rather echoing audio on that page – has my podcasting improved at all! Identifying and setting yourself targets is all well and good, but frequently we get back after a long break, a weekend or even an evening and have made little or no progress. I have three ways which I try and ensure that this does not happen with my ‘to do’ list. These work for me but since all of them rely on some sort of intrinsic motivation, they might not be the best way for everyone to approach getting things done. Yes they are strategies which support me, but there is the wonderful strategy of procrastination and excuses which easily trumps all these strategies. Even I succumb to these at times, so the following points are by no means perfect. They help me, so you never know, they might help you also.

  • Make it personal – In many aspects of life, work and tasks are enforced onto us. Many of us will work in environments when it is not optional to complete tasks and when these arrive it is not something we can chose to engage with or not. This work is often accompanied with deadlines which means that we have a very strong imposed motivation to get them done and finished. Emails need to be responded to within 48 hours, marked assignments need to be in for a specific date and even jobs which need to be completed by the end of the day or, in some cases, the hour! Leaving this strict regime behind, it can often mean the ‘motivation’ or ‘need’ to complete the tasks becomes lacking since there is no external factors making us do them. In order to provide this motivation, I focus on tasks/jobs during my small breaks from work which I personally want to achieve. Once work has subsided or we are on holiday away from its pressures and demands we can focus on those tasks which we want to complete. Although these might include reading that latest book or sleeping in until noon, they can also be completing personal ventures such as learning a new language, creating a website or even starting to blog. For me, this personal motivation is something which supports me in the completion of the task. Many of my colleagues might consider it strange that I want to learn how to code in javascript or to extend my knowledge of php over the holidays, but this is what I want to achieve and, because of this personal motivation, I am more likely to complete and succeed with my targets.

  • Make it attainable – If you have read any of my waffles about task management and getting things done, you will be aware that I am a user of Omnifocus. As new tasks and jobs appear either via email or requests from people I pass in the corridor, these are captured and processed at a later date. Every evening/morning – depending how tired I am – I assign these tasks to the day’s to do list. Initially I prioritise the tasks which MUST be done that day, and then slowly include tasks which I should do, could do or, the time will allow to be done. Even when I have completed this list, I ensure that the list is achievable. Yes, sometimes there is loads that needs to be done on that day, but that usually happens because I have been lapse with my organisation earlier on in the week. I always like to to get to the end of the day and know that I have achieved something rather than feeling I have wasted the day. One way to ensure that I have this positive feeling is to make sure that my to do list for the day is attainable. Just as this is important during every day, the same is true during the holidays, weekends, or days off. There are probably loads of things that I could add to a holiday to do list just as there are always loads which we add to the list of – ‘I’ll sort that over summer’. However, we need to make sure that the targets/jobs we set ourselves are both attainable and plausible. If anything, I will purposefully under estimate what I can achieve in order to ensure that I have that sense of achievement – its always feels more positive to add more, rather than having to confess that I haven’t finished or even started somethings.

  • Make it public – At the end of last week’s waffle on my thoughts about the science curriculum I mentioned that one of the benefits of blogging is that I get to share my ‘raw thoughts’ with the world…well with the nation…well ok, with my readers…both of you. I think scheduling is important and that ensuring that you maintain this, supports the not only the growth of sites/blogs but also you in achieving targets/goals. As you might know, I write a waffle every Sunday on this site. I’m not sure how many people would tweet me if I missed a Sunday to say – ‘where is this week’s waffle!’ but in my mind/imagination there are a lot of people staring at my twitter feed waiting for that tweet to appear so that they can start to view/listen to the waffle. I also blog on my personal blog every Saturday, present soon to be three radio shows, broadcast live on Youtube and stream on Twitch (its a gaming site) at 15:00 on a Saturday and Sunday. The publicness of these activities encourages me to maintain the schedule and keep up to date with the jobs. One question which I have learnt to handle both before and after any holiday period is any variation of -“what have you got planned for the holidays?” and “What did you do over the holidays?”. I see this as an opportunity to share my to do list for the holidays – much to the surprise of most people. I really appreciate it when colleagues after the holidays ask me if I have achieved what I set out to do, since this actually motivates me to get the tasks done during the vacation. In the same way I am a great believer in supporting others when they are trying to achieve something by ‘nagging’ them – hence the title of the waffle. This nagging comes in the form of just being a person who not only is taking an active interest in what the person is trying to achieve, but also being that person who is going to ask them about it, so that there is some sort of, and I hate using this word, accountability. If I know that someone is going to ask me if I have done something, then ther is a very strong motivational influence for me to actually do it. It also gives me a nice fuzzy feeling of success.

  • All this scheduling and achievable ‘to do’ lists can have a negative impact so, before you mention this in the comments below, I wanted to say I accept this and sometimes act on it. Last night I suddenly realised that I hadn’t done the ironing for the week and, since it was on that day’s task list, I actually did it at 11:30. I could have left it for today, but it would have caused me more stress doing it today than late last night. I’m currently writing a series of blogs of my personal blog called ‘My weird life’ and one of the entries in this series will definitely focus on my workaholic nature. However, if you avoid the extremeness of my strategies, you might be able to take some small aspect of my way of working which might support you in develop a more ‘relaxed’ approach to getting things done. I’m off to record this waffle and get it published maybe ahead of schedule but what ever strategies you employ to get things completed, remember it is important that you take time out and relax in which ever way you enjoy. Take a week to, sleep when you want, eat what you want and do what you want. This will ensure that you are recharged and ready for the next stage of achieving your goals.

    Do you have any strategies which help you get things done or keep on track? If you do, then I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas, please add them in the comments below or send them to me via Twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, Google+ or email.

    Remember keep up to date with my waffles by subscribing to;

    and on iTunes!

    Have fun and I’ll catch you later


    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.