Balancing projects

More and more, I’m realizing that, while I’m good at getting things done, I’m not good at balancing projects. I think this is because I’d rather get really into what I’m doing/working on, then try to jump between projects constantly.

Although, oddly, when working on a project, I constantly jump between tasks. I’m easily distracted (which probably explains why I enjoy working at home in my quiet apartment over campus). And so, when working on something, when I notice something else needs to be done, I often have a hard time making myself put the new item on my to-do list while finishing off the current item. Sometimes, it’s because I’m frustrated with the current task, and so the change is very appealing. Other times, there’s absolutely no good reason for switching, because doing so creates more work (since I’ll have to figure out where I was in the old task later).

But projects… yeah. There’s something about them. And right now, I’ve got three major-ish projects on my plate. My research (which should have top priority). My start-up which feels like it needs to have equally top priority (but I haven’t been giving it this). And my side project, which I want to give much higher priority too, because I’ve always wanted to learn this.

What I’m finding though, is that I need to decide each day, which one I’m going to work on, and put aside the idea that I will somehow manage to work on more than one in the same day. (I’m ignoring attending talks/meetings in this – I’m talking about sitting at my computer and writing code or reading up or brainstorming.) Lately, I’ve been letting my research win pretty much every day. Which has been good for it (it’s the only reason I’ve got as much done as I have). But, it means the other two are suffering.

So this past weekend, I dusted off (so sad that this type of language doesn’t make sense anymore when everything I do is on the computer) the start-up project and started to work on it. And then gave up my entire Monday to it. Which was worth it, in that I made (in my opinion) huge progress. But, it also meant that I got zero research done.

I really wish I could figure out how to more evenly balance all these tasks. So that I could spend my morning (or first four hours of productivity) on research and then move over to start-up work or my side project. Of course, getting through four hours of productivity can feel like climbing Mount Everest, and can mean that no other work is even possible.

Any of you have any tricks for switching between projects? Does setting up specific time on your calendar help? Or days of the week?

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One thought on “Balancing projects

  1. I tend to do days as well. Can’t switch between major projects in the same day. I think it’s because it occupies the back of my mind while I’m working on it, and there’s only room for one constant-background task at a time.

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