I regularly battle with myself about whether or not I am being productive. During the week, I continually feel like I am not accomplishing things – like I have squandered away hours in front of the television, read too many of Guy Kiwasaki’s articles on Twitter, or slept in too late on the weekends. However, each Sunday, I reconvene, and take stock of what has happened over the week, and what I have to do the following week. And I am typically surprised by two things: 1) I did actually get some things done, and 2) I am doing a lot of stuff.
I’ll start with number 2 first. I am currently working on one paper for publication, writing site reports for five different archaeology projects, writing my dissertation proposal, working on two 75 source bibliographies, and working two jobs, playing on a baseball team, among other things. I have a lot of stuff on my plate. Each week, I gradually chip away at all of these things. Occasionally I pick up new projects as others are completed. For example, when my bibs are done, I will have to start prepping for a workshop I am attending at the end of September. I try to make sure I schedule things so they don’t overlap too much. One thing ends, another thing begins, and no two things ever culminate at the same time. That means trouble.
Okay, number one: getting things done. I am a subscriber to David Allen and his book Getting Things Done. In it, he pounds into your brain a variety of important principles, but the ones that have helped me the most are weekly project reviews, and breaking projects into tiny steps. Each of these allow me to maintain one important thing: momentum.
Momentum is critical. If I can make sure that I am accomplishing at least one step in at least two or three of my projects each day, I maintain enough momentum to move on to the next step. This keeps me moving. This keeps me from becoming bogged down by one project…I have always hated slogging through one thing, writing that paper all night, for example. I’d much rather write a paragraph for this paper, then write an email for another project, and then read a chapter in a different book for something else. This way I keep chipping away at different things, never get bored or stuck, and maintain momentum. Instead of accomplishing one big thing, I’ve completed a bunch of tiny things…before you know it, something is done.