Don’t get bogged down in advice/tips

I find it’s really easy to come across tons of ideas and tips and shortcuts that are supposedly going to help you work better, faster, more efficiently, or some other supposedly positive attribute. (I give some of that kind of advice right here.) And, some of these pieces of advice you find will actually be worth it. But, in my experience, the majority aren’t. It’s really easy to soon find yourself researching and searching for these new ideas and instead of spending that time getting any work done. And at the end of the day, you’re actually farther behind then if you’d just used your “old” methods.

That’s not to say don’t try out new ideas. But to be smart in how you approach and examine new ideas. If you find one that you can actually (easily) implement, and it helps, then keep it. If it turns out to be just a neat idea, then throw it away. At the very least, either toss it aside or try it. If you try it, don’t waste a lot of time on it. Give it at most a few tries, and if it’s not helping, then move on. Most likely, the tips/ideas/suggestions that are going to work best for you will be some combination mash-up of the ones you read online with your own current working habits.

I find my working habits are a constant work in progress. What works super well one day/week/month doesn’t work so well the next. Currently I’m using a combination of the following four approaches:

  1. Keeping a to-do list that I actually follow and keep up-to-date. (More on my current method in a later post.)
  2. Using the pomodoro technique to focus on getting work done when I’m unmotivated and having a hard time getting going. Or if I just want to make sure that I’ve put in a reasonable amount of work on a topic.
  3. Setting up deadlines for myself, by announcing to other people I”m going to have x done by y, therefore making me accountable.
  4. Scheduling in time for exercise, so I don’t burn out or let it just get pushed to the side.

In my experience, the tips/suggestions that have worked for me are usually ones that, when I find them, there’s some level of common sense built in and are uncomplicated. If it’s going to require me to make charts or break down every task into it’s smallest components or keep detailed records of what I do, then using the method is going to take *more* work and not make things simpler. Remember, the best principle to follow is always KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

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2 thoughts on “Don’t get bogged down in advice/tips

  1. I very much agree with 3. One of the troubles I’ve had with my thesis is that there really hasn’t been a deadline that I need to get it in by. It’s gotten easier since I’ve started discussing timelines with my supervisor… but that in itself can be a tough conversation to have.

    • I have one friend who is posting progress updates to Facebook as a way to keep accountable. And I’ve become better at stating deadlines I want to impose on myself to others. It doesn’t always work, but it helps. I find you just need to be careful to make the deadlines realistic – don’t give yourself too little (or too much) time. And also, to focus on tasks that make sense. As I work on my candidacy, I could be focusing on page or word count, but instead I’m focusing on sections/thoughts completed. That way I can focus on producing quality instead of quantity.

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