Who can’t use some fresh ideas about how to manage a killer workload and competing life demands? (Especially in March!) Not me – I still struggle with this every day. Although I have my “system,” which consists of a to-do list that I rework every morning, this post struck me as a goldmine.
What I often fail to do is to prioritize well. My good energy probably goes into seemingly urgent tasks much of the time, with the truly important to-dos being relegated to “later.” The result is the “just in time late-night delivery” for which I am all too well known.
In this post on Lifehacker (January 20/15), Alan Henry describes Chris Penn’s adaptation of the Eisenhower Decision Matrix for easy use by anyone who wants to know how to prioritize quickly – and with a built-in mechanism for easy adaptability.
In his piece, which links to Chris’s work, Alan shows how Chris blew the ED matrix up “into a simple grid he has on the wall behind him while he works, laid out with sticky notes for his to-dos and masking tape to keep everything in place.”
The grid assumes that everything is not equally important and creates quadrants. Here’s how it works:
- upper left corner — important tasks that are urgent
- upper right corner — important tasks that aren’t urgent — as in they don’t need to be done immediately
- lower left corner — less important tasks that are urgent — as in they’re not critical but do have a time limit
- lower right corner — tasks that are neither important nor urgent (but still need to be done eventually)
Then use sticky notes for each to-do, so that they can be moved around quickly as priorities change, as priorities have a habit of doing.
The grid may sound familiar to you. I know that I have encountered this matrix before.
But, as Alan says,
The beauty of Chris’s particular setup …is that the masking tape is easy to put up (and take down if you need to), and the sticky notes adhere to the wall without damage and can be moved around easily. It’s analog, but it works like a charm, and you don’t need to spend a ton of time entering to-dos into a system or copy/pasting to move things around. It’s a simple system to put in place, and all you need is a spare bit of wall to make it work.
You can follow this link to learn more — http://lifehacker.com/prioritize-your-to-dos-with-sticky-notes-and-masking-ta-1680447902
Paul Yachnin argues in “Rethinking the Humanities PhD” (University Affairs March 2015) that Humanities PhDs need to be envisioned in new ways. He calls for an embrace of the word “skills” on the part of the Humanities, urging them to work to modify their PhD programs in ways that will encourage their students “to turn outward toward the world.”
I find his notion of “the particular value of public skills” to be interesting and persuasive. So much of what is presented in this blog amounts to encouraging students to consciously develop – while they are still students in graduate programs – the soft skills that will help them to present themselves well to potential employers of all kinds. These “transitional” skills or “parallel” skills – in addition to their research knowledge and accomplishments – can make candidates stand out in competitions for jobs or placements of any kind.
However, Yachnin’s characterizing of these kinds of competencies as public skills intrigues me, as does his argument that the development of such proficiencies should not be add-ons to graduate programs of study but intrinsic to them.
He notes that the idea of a “skills gap” in the preparation of graduate students for employment is still very prominent in public discourse. He believes, however, that the thinking about “professional skills” is too often thought of in purely economic terms, which is to say tightly focused on questions of economic agency and economic growth.
His argument is that there are also skills that can be thought of “in deeper terms,” as having to do with preparation for public life and public service: after all “society is a society and a polity as well as an economy.”
He believes that Humanities programs are particularly well-positioned to nurture what he sees as “artisanal” skills – skills that are “embodied, social and ethical” and linked to the old idea of craftsmanship. Skills are abilities that you practice in an effort to assist and to “bind people together across generations.”
He is thinking of the skills that we have always associated with graduate training in the Humanities: the cultivation of reading and writing, and the ability to think through problems, gather evidence, question evidence, organize arguments, and teach and listen to the ideas of others.
But he asks us to think in terms of the ways such skills can be transformative in the world beyond the university, as mechanisms for “knitting people together into communities of practice.”
He offers a number of practical suggestions for building such public practices into PhD programs of study in the Humanities, by urging (if not requiring) that students move outside of the university environment while completing their degrees, and by asking them to move back and forth between the departments and other fields in the community as a component of their degree studies, cultivating their public skills in the process.
Clearly this amounts to a revised “pathways” focus on the part of graduate programs in the Humanities. By “reorienting the humanities towards the world,” he believes that Humanities degrees will “lead to a multiplicity of career pathways rather than to only one.”
You can read Paul Yachnin’s article in full at http://www.universityaffairs.ca/features/feature-article/rethinking-the-humanities-phd/