College/Uni Article - Tackle Big Projects with Action-Item Lists

Tackle Big Projects with Action-Item Lists

Article Summery :
I know what I need to do; why do I need to write it down? You may have fallen into the trap of thinking this way. And hey, if it works for you, thats great! I find, however, that many people with too much to do, or with large projects looming in front of them get into a state of complete overload because they havent prepared themselves by keeping very simple action-item lists.

Article Key Words :
time management, avoidance, Writing, project management, organizing, writing articles, goal setting, prioritizing, dissertation coach, tenure, faculty, graduate students, graduate school, academic

Main Article Content :
I know what I need to do; why do I need to write it down? You may have fallen into the trap of thinking this way. And hey, if it works for you, thats great! I find, however, that many people with too much to do, or with large projects looming in front of them get into a state of complete overload because they havent prepared themselves by keeping very simple action-item lists. Whats an Action-Item List? There are many kinds of lists, and each is useful in its own way. A list can range from 100 things I want to do before I die to a list of reasons that you want to stay in your current career (hopefully you have 100 reasons for that, also.) Here is my definition of an action-item list: An action-item list consists of discrete actions, broken down into the smallest reasonable behavioral steps that you need in order to finish a project (or even a portion of a project.) A Peek Inside Your Brain Lets say that you are a writer who has just gotten back an article you had submitted to an editor. You intend to begin at the beginning and just start revising. Unfortunately for many of us, our brains dont function well in this mode. Here is a peek inside the brain of a typical person in this situation: I cant believe there are so many corrections. He/shes an idiot these are ridiculous suggestions. Im an idiot. I cant believe I wrote such a terrible article. Maybe Im not cut out for this. No matter what pathetic drivel I manage to write, it wont be good enough. Just that first suggested revision will take me hours, no, days to complete. I really need to run some errands. Ill get to it next week. Your brain can be a scary place. How can you stop this maelstrom of negative thoughts and get started accomplishing something? One way is to make an action-item list. Here is an example of such a list: 1. Rewrite paragraph introducing Concept A, being more specific. 2. Check accuracy of 3rd paragraph. 3. Create more elegant connecting sentence after Concept A on page 3, paragraph 2. By breaking down the overwhelming, negatively-charged project of revising the entire article into discrete tasks, you can get over the avoidance hump and start on task number one. Why Action-Item Lists Work Why can such a simple act as making a list work? A list can do the following: Make an overwhelming task seem doable by breaking it into discrete written parts Calm you because its no longer floating in your head its there in black and white Prove to you that the task will end some day Be a touchstone for when you feel unclear about what to do next Provide that all-important feeling of accomplishment when you put that check mark next to an item, or cross it out! If you are working in 15-30 minute increments, as I often suggest, you will have your work already broken up into separate items, so you are oriented as to where to start no matter how long a break youve taken Make sure you add the action-item list to your repertoire. Its those little techniques that build the good habits that add up to being productive!




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