At the start of this year, when everyone was flush with New Year Energy and optimism, I had a bunch of conversations with various peeps about the way I used whiteboards and bullet journals and generally planned my life.
At the same time this was happening, I was basically packing in all of those habits and letting them lie fallow for the summer. Not because they were bad habits, but because they were responses to specific situations where conflicting priorities and time-crunch made my natural workflow untenable and inefficient.
Basically, once the scholarship kicked in and my thesis was underway, I didn’t need to plan so heavily because a) I rarely needed to be anywhere, b) most of what I was doing was reading things and noodling with ideas, and c) it didn’t matter if I destroyed my sleep schedule by staying awake and working until 5 AM, because it wasn’t like I needed to get up at a specific time. I could get away with a monthly plan, a list of upcoming deadline, and a quick whiteboard schedule on the busy weeks when I had a lot on.
The needle swings back the other way this week. Quarterly checkpoints, monthly checkpoints, weekly checkpoints, daily plans in the bujo. Detailed project lists where I adequately scope out what needs to happen and why. Partially this is because it’s July, when my commitments ramp up a bit due to book launches and writing events. Partially this is ’cause I’m a relationship, and I find myself syncing in with someone else’s schedule – I want to be free when they are free, and I do not want to be distracted by a nagging feeling that I should be working.
Mostly, it’s because the mandatory classes associated with my PhD ended and I am largely left to my own devices again, which means I am more likely to waste time if I am not mindful of it.
The temptation with any organisational or time management system, when you first come across it, is to embrace every aspect of it in the hopes it will make you suddenly superhuman. A dynamo of getting shit done, buoyed up by the glorious certainty of your to-do list.
I’ve done that in the past. And things rapidly fell apart.
Any productivity system I trail is there to solve a particular problem. Productivity systems are a tool, not a superpower.