Back at blogging, after much longer than I expected. I admit it, after so long – all my adult life! – in a structured job, being it academic or corporate, I have had some difficulties refocusing my professional activities. I feared this situation, and it is happening. Not having deadlines is great, but on the other hand I’ve always been the most productive when deadlines approached: to me, there is no greater motivation than the slight panic deriving from the realization that you might not have enough time to complete a task, and it is exhilarating when you find out, usually very late at night, that you can actually complete it.
So, for the time being I need to forget about panic and exhilaration and force myself to be organized. First step it has been to set up a home office, which in my case means I replaced my way too old and agonising laptop and iPad with new ones, purchasing all the required software which I didn’t buy in years – you know, I always relied on my work computer. Now it’s time to start writing lists – and sticking to them.
Writing to-do lists, as easy as it may seem, may be a very complicated activity, especially if you start, as I did, reading lists-related topics online. Do you write to-do lists on paper, where you can see them all the time, and they can look back at you, intimidating; or in your computer, easier to carry with you but as easy to ignore or pretend you forgot of their existence? Do you write easy goals on the top of the list, to find motivation in quickly crossing out a few items? Or those quickly crossed out items are going to be a justification to indulge in less productive, and out of focus, activities? Alternatively, if you feel motivated you can start a list with the harder goals on top and feel strong once you completed one or two of the difficult ones. The Internet is generous with articles advocating for all these approaches and more, and I guess that like in most things of life there is no one right solution.
So I will try to find my solution: I never really used to-do list, except during one very productive period in my professional life, may be be my best time ever, when I did write lists with clear benefit. At that time, I was still a bench scientist and many of my tasks where bench related. Now the situation is different and writing took the place of bench work, so that should be an easy adaptation of the method I already know. Which means at the top of my daily list I will have carrying on – or better, finishing – recently started activities; new activities will lay lower down the list, and move their way to the top as I complete the items above. To maximize productivity I usually allow for one exception to this rule: let’s say I am writing a paper and I stumble in writer’s block; instead of staring at a white page or keep rewriting the same sentence for one hour I allow myself to switch to easier items lower on my list, such as reading blogs and newsletters (yes, I will make a list of those to make sure I stay as up to date as possible with as many websites as I can) or screening job postings.
Today I already achieved one important task, I’m back at blogging. Now I have to write my first to-do list in this new phase of my professional life. I’ll let you know how it goes.