What is the best way to achieve your goals? There are numerous books, websites and Youtube videos dedicated to this question, but in the end it is something personal. My advice would be to try out different things and see what works for you. Over the years, that is exactly what I did. Here is a brief insight into my strategy.
1. Don’t try to remember things
How often does is happen that something pops up in your head: “I should water the plants” or “I need to respond to that e-mail.” The moment those thoughts fly by, you decide to remember to do it later. And what happens: you forget…
To avoid this from happening, I follow the advice of Daniel J. Levitin in his book The Organized Mind: write it down! Our minds are constantly being bombarded with information. So, we need to keep our mind clear. To get rid of all the excess information, I use the software Wunderlist. Every time something comes to my mind, I write it down in this app (which I have on my phone and my computer).
I actually used this strategy before, but I kept forgetting to look at the list of things to do. And I could not add “look at the list” to my to-do-list, because well… Therefore, I have made Wunderlist the homepage on my internet browser. The first things that pops up is my to do list!
2. Keep track of your progress
When you are doing research, you are constantly juggling several projects at a time. In my case, I am currently dividing my time over these subjects:
- Finishing my project at the Karolinska Institutet
- Starting a new project at Uppsala University
- Managing my blog Avian Hybrids
- Popular Science writing (mostly for Scientias)
You can image that it can be difficult to keep track of all these different projects. To have an overview, I use the app Trello, which allows you to make ‘boards’ for different projects. The nice thing is that you can subdivide tasks within each project into sizable chunks so you don’t get overwhelmed by the work ahead of you. Below is a screenshot of Trello.
3. Have a plan for the day
Did you ever arrive at work not knowing what to do, although you have mountain of work waiting for you? So, you start checking Facebook and Twitter instead. To avoid procrastinating (also see number 4), make sure you have a plan for the day. Ideally, you write it down the day before.
I use the two apps mentioned above (Wunderlist and Trello) to get an idea of what needs to be done. Which tasks are urgent? Or quick? Do I have a deadline for a certain project? Based on urgency, priority and time, I make a plan for the day. And then: just do it!
If you need some extra motivation, just watch this video…
4. Avoid distractions
When things get difficult or boring, your mind tends to wander off. Before you know it, you are surfing the internet. Scrolling through Facebook. Watching cat videos. Or reading random news websites. It also happened to me. Unconsciously, I would open my browser and start exploring the internet. To avoid this from happening, I use a website blocker, preventing me visiting certain websites. Very effective!
I hope these tips are useful. But remember, some of these things might not work for you. Just give it a try and find your best strategy to get things done!