I’m Busy – My Best Tips and Tricks for A Productive Professional Life

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked productivity on this blog, but recently I’ve had a number of people point out to me that I’m extremely busy. If you don’t know, I have a few different roles professionally and personally – if you’re really curious, here’s the list as of today. But without boring you, know that I have multiple job titles and roles. I’m at the point this fall that I’m openly telling people that if they hear a story of me throwing someone out a window, it’s because that person told me “I’m too busy”, because I don’t know of anyone else on my campus that has as many irons in the fire, as it were, as myself. They probably exist, but haven’t revealed their true amount of overloadedness to me.

Anyway, this post isn’t about how busy I am – it’s about how I maintain a high level of productivity while being so busy. I figure every so often it’s a great idea to point out what I’m doing that makes me productive, so that I can share it with others. Also helps me highlight some of my older content that you may have missed. So here’s what I do:

  1. Everything is on every device or accessible from every device. I wander around with my iPad Pro, which can connect to my MacBook from anywhere, meaning that when I’m out at a meeting across campus and I have a few moments to take care of some work, I can do it remotely.
  2. I also dispatch and answer emails and texts as quickly as possible, so that they don’t bunch up. There is an added psychological benefit both to myself and for myself in this as well. I honestly believe I’m seen as much more competent than I might be just because I get back to people quickly. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not ill-equipped for my job, I just don’t think I’m as great at it as others tell me I am!
  3. I use a calendar booking service (YouCanBookMe) and I send automated reminders to people that we’re scheduled to meet. Prior to this I’d say I probably spent at least 10-15 minutes per day answering emails that purely were about scheduling time to meet. YouCanBookMe, and to a lesser extent, sites like Doodle.com and SignupGenius.com are essential scheduling tools.
  4. In the classroom, I take advantage of technology to facilitate my teaching – through entry/exit tickets and tracking participation in Microsoft Excel. Both save time when entering information into my Gradebook.
  5. While I have 2 offices on campus, I also try to be as productive out of the office as possible. This post, written prior to the pandemic, highlights 5 tips I gave then that helped me weather the “work from home” storm much easier in 2020 than I might have otherwise done.
  6. Sometimes when I get tired of having to type the same things out over and over again, I write them down so I can direct people to them. This might seem a bit callous or flippant, but it’s the honest truth:
    1. Students having issues with registering? See my DSU Probs posts.
    2. Want to know all my best R tips? Read this book (I put 10 years of tips in this)
    3. Want to run a server like I do? Read this book (I put 20 years of tips in this).
    4. And, ya know, posts like the one you’re reading right now!

So there you have it – in very basic terms how I stay productive. What I perhaps didn’t put here is that one also must balance things out within oneself to be productive – if you haven’t thought about it, I suggest two small additions to your life:

  1. Routine / Ritual: Whether it’s a morning ritual to get pepped up, an evening ritual to wind down, or a lunchtime moment of enjoyment, find something that you can structure around and try to hold is sacred. This trains your brain to understand that even when life is absolutely crazy, there are almost always constants. This is also a great way to add new habits to your life that you want to take pride in.
  2. Balance work and life as best as possible. I do this in a few little ways:
    1. Saving work – If something isn’t time sensitive, I have no problem putting it down to do later in the week. It’s a common misconception that you should keep working until your to-do list is empty. The honest truth is that your to-do list should never be empty, but your time sensitive tasks for today should be. Think about it this way: If you have something due in a week, and you know you have a light day later this week, what is better – assign that task to the light day, or do it today and miss out on a) dinner with your spouse, b) a conversation with co-workers, c) a TV show you enjoy relaxing to? A-C are much better options than being bored at 10 AM on Thursday because you did the work Tuesday night.
    2. Don’t be afraid of embracing unmotivated boredom time at work. I have, on several occasions, freaked out co-workers by dropping by their offices and saying “I’m bored, what are you up to?”. They usually tell me “Don’t say you’re bored – it looks bad!” – but the honest truth is, sometimes we aren’t motivated. Sometimes we are bored. And those are times when a little human interaction can be really beneficial. Not only does it give you something to do that many people find rewarding (e.g., talking to people they like, assuming you like your co-workers), it also creates relationships that are reciprocal in nature. No one wants to be that co-worker that only talks to you if they need something.
    3. While I personally plan on saying “No” a bit more this fall (given my work level), I generally give the advice to not be afraid of saying “Yes”. Be an “experience junkie” – take on new challenges and find enjoyment in them. Just don’t overload yourself.

So there you have it, my tips and tricks, Fall 2021 edition. Stay safe, stay sane, and stay busy!

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