Lessons from an Impossibly Busy Month

There’s a reason I haven’t posted in over a month.  September was a hellishly busy.  I got to do some great things, spent time with great people, and work on some very cool projects, but  still.  I was the busiest I’ve been since I was working on getting tenure.  I was in transit or out of town for half of the month and felt perpetually frazzled and behind.  But ever one to try to learn from my mistakes, I offer here some lessons from that impossibly busy month.

  • I need a better system of task and deadline management.  It’s not that I don’t have a to-do list, it’s that I have too many to-do lists, scribbled on multiple scraps of paper and scattered across multiple locations.  And then there are the calendars.  Like the lists, I have too many of them.  I am seriously thinking about merging my calendar and to-do lists into a paper system and am very intrigued by the idea of an Everything Notebook.  My old systems of organization have been outstripped by a more complex schedule and life.  Time to create some new systems for workflow–I’ve got some ideas and will write on this in a future post.  And, please, if you have ideas or strategies, please share them in the comments section below.


  • The timer is my friend.  I’ve written before about jump starting a hard task or shaking off procrastination by setting a timer for 15-20 minutes to force yourself to do something.  In a busy month, setting a timer allowed me to chip away at tasks that otherwise would have seemed insurmountably overwhelming in the fog of my general busy-ness.
  • Even when ridiculously busy, it is possible to keep some larger goals on track.  I almost abandoned the prospect of running my first half-marathon because I thought I was too busy to keep training amidst the busy travel schedule.  But I stuck it out.  And guess what?  Last Sunday I finished my first half-marathon (I’ll resist the temptation to show you a picture of my finisher’s medal).  So don’t give up on goals or projects or tasks that are important to you even when a crazy schedule might tempt you into doing so.





6 thoughts on “Lessons from an Impossibly Busy Month

  1. I adopted the bullet journal thing, and adapted it to fit my needs a bit. It’s slightly different from the “everything notebook,” but both have basically the same idea: you write things down in a single place in a way that you can keep track of things both in short and long term. I’m guessing individuals would find that one or the other works better for them, or seems better. Good luck! And yes to the doing the other stuff that’s also important!


    1. What brand or type of notebook or journal do you use? I’m really particular about these sorts of things and always looking for ideas.


      1. I use a Moleskin, with lined pages, I think this is it, but mine (this year) is green: http://www.moleskine.com/us/collections/model/product/ruled-red-notebook-large

        A local bookstore has them, so I looked at them before I started a year or two ago.

        The paper has a good feel, and doesn’t bleed through with the sharpie pens I’m using (but did with some other pens I used, just sometimes). The ruling is moderate (I write small, so don’t like big wide rules). And I like the elastic closure thing and the placemarker string.

        They’re sort of expensive, but I buy one every 18 months, seems, so not so bad for that.


  2. Thanks for sharing your experiences and congratulations on making it through the month and completing your half marathon; even if you weren’t juggling other responsibilities, that would still be a feat to be proud of! Maybe in the future you could share how you managed to fit your training in with the other academic and life responsibilities that already require so much time and energy. I could use some advice and tips in this area!

    I like the idea of a timer for two primary reasons: 1) It breaks unmotivated paralysis. Too often my exhaustion leads me to the couch which leads me to a state of demotivation which obviously leads me down a path of unproductive actions and thoughts. But I find that once stimulated by a noise or something that simply breaks my thought, and forces me to rise or move, I can change direction, location, and focus…so if I’m going to plop on the couch, if I set the timer beforehand, I will only give myself a limited amount of time before forcing myself to move again and get myself back on track; 2) It gives me a goal I know I can achieve. Tackling a project for 15-20 minutes in my mind is manageable and thus the thought of it would be less likely to stimulate my proclivity for avoidance and procrastination, compared to a task that might seem insurmountable at the time or for which the end is no where in sight. Usually, once I get started, I’m golden; so a timer might be just the trick!


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