To-Do Lists

Reading Curtis' text at the Bernard Becker Library, St. Louis. Photo: Z. Khalid

This past week I spent a lot of time thinking about productivity (remember my friend’s blog post?), mainly centered around my inability to get any academic work done. To put a long and  boring story short, my personal/family life is in shambles, and I’ve been so occupied with that realm of my life that I barely had any time to crack open a book, let alone begin writing on the numerous papers and articles I have due this summer.

One of the issues that crossed my mind is the fragile line between the personal and professional worlds of the graduate student. I know individuals for whom there is no dividing line: the personal is the professional, and the professional is the personal. Inspiration transcends from both worlds, at times even providing immense (character or academic) strength to fuel the research and writing process. Others, keep the two drastically separated from each other, splitting the two worlds and even living through dual identities. It seems to me, however, that the majority of graduate students I encounter have managed to find a delicate balance between the two worlds–or at least, give the impression that they have.

Me? I try to balance my two worlds. I talk about my academic work with my family only when it’s necessary (well, interesting), and I socialize sometimes with my peers outside of the ivory tower. When I first started grad school, the line was spray-painted with a neon green: I didn’t dare attempt to merge the two worlds because I wasn’t sure where I belonged. It took me a long time to realize that both worlds could exist at the same time, and maybe with efficient time-management tools, I could emerge a healthy, robust and sane individual.

Which brings me back to the title of this post: To-Do lists. I am not ashamed to admit that I rely on to-do lists religiously. I make lists for everything: my long-term academic plans; as outlines for my paper; for my daily or weekly chores; for my social life; and etc, etc, etc. Oh, the horror when I lost my agenda–my lifeline–this past December. Everything was in there, including dates of assignments, my thoughts on my dissertation, my social engagements, among other things. I couldn’t even remember if I signed up to do a book review for a class. These lists are important to me because they keep me focused and remind me constantly of the short-term and long-term goals I planned for myself. As high-maintenance as this sounds, they have become a part of who I am. And you know what? They are admittedly my secret for managing 10 projects at a single time.

Do you like to-do lists? Use them often? Or do you consider them a waste of scrap paper?

Here’s mine for the summer (June-August)…I really hope this is typical for grad students…:

  • Edit and revise book review 1
  • Finish draft of book review 2
  • Research, write, and finalize paper for “Fitting for Health” conference
  • Edit and revise paper 1 for publication
  • Edit and revise paper 2 for publication
  • Complete progress reports
  • Grant applications
  • Work on DIY Citizenship conference
  • Organize archival sources for research trip in November

That’s just from the top of my head, on my academic life. For my social life, I have my best friend’s wedding, a huge move, multiple birthdays, and regular date nights.

I’ll be surprised if I’m still sane come September.

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2 thoughts on “To-Do Lists

  1. Interesting topic, Jai. I do use to-do lists — but I’m afraid that more often than not, they wind up being reflections of what I know I didn’t do than what I’m confident I’ll accomplish 🙂

    Sounds like you have tons on the go — best of luck with all your projects (not that you’ll need it, I’m sure 🙂 )

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