My favourite topic – getting organized!

We get into grad school on the basis of our academic records – and the promise that we will employ our considerable intelligence and diligence in the pursuit of knowledge once we get there. And we will.

However, staying on top of things is a considerable challenge, as we all know or expect.

So what’s the most important self-management tool once we get into grad studies? My vote is for the need for really good organizational skills.

Some would argue that getting and staying organized may have been easier in the past when multitasking was less a fact of daily life, and it’s easy to blame the pressures and distractions of the wired world for our slippages when it comes to staying focused and on track.

However Daniel Levitin argues in The Organized Mind that – based on what neuroscience teaches us about the brain and organization and productivity – there are plenty of strategies available to us for managing life in an age of “information overload.”

Lucy Feldman, writing for The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy (August 18/14), extracts “Ten Tips on Organizing Your Mind” from Levitin’s book.

Among them are:

  1. Taking breaks.
  2. Setting up different computer monitors for different activities.
  3. Embracing a (modified) paper to-do list.
  4. Filing correspondence in multiple ways.
  5. Purging when needed.
  6. Designating time for short tasks and longer projects.
  7. Not spending more time on a decision than it’s worth.
  8. Sleeping, even napping on the job.
  9. Avoiding over-organizing
  10. Leaving work at work.

Some of these seem like common sense to me, though Levitin uses neuroscience to back them up. Some seem unlikely to happen in my little office (different computer monitors? – I would have to suspend them from the ceiling). But some I can take to heart – like #3 (index cards – of course – why didn’t I think of that?) and #7 (I could afford to do less of this).

It’s worth finding a few minutes to read Feldman’s article. Better still , read the whole book – if you can fit it into your schedule!



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