How the hell is everyone doing this week? Let’s get some shit done, okay??
Thanks to all of you who filled out this VERY SHORT survey that is VERY USEFUL to me. If you haven’t already done so, please click here and take this 2 minute survey please.
So, I don’t know about you*, but I often get decision paralysis when I have a shit-ton to do and have demands pulling on me from all different directions. So instead of working on anything, I do things like write MHAWS, doomscroll the internet, and generally just GIVE UP! TO MUCH!! TO DO!!! AHHH FUCK!!!! This might be exacerbated if you feel like you are carrying a heavy mental load in your home life. Or for department service (like when you have to do EVERYTHING FOR EVERYONE). Or for your projects!
*actually, I DO know that you also face this because some of y’all told me on that short lil survey!! Thank you!
When this happens, one option for me is to create an ordered to-do list based on my very own, very (un)scientific) criteria. Here’s mine for Jan 2023. If you are someone who likes my organization but feels bad when you look at the number of projects that I’m working on, here’s a mostly empty sheet that will give you the idea of what I’m working with but not the firehose of projects. You could also do this physically with post-it notes or in a notebook, but I find it VERY USEFUL to be able to sort my obligations by lots of different things.
How I created this:
I looked through my obligations (the “overcommitted census” that I did when I wrote the last MHAWS). I like to think about whole projects, but you could very easily create a row for each component of a project. For example, if you are working on your dissertation, each row could be a chapter. Or a section of a chapter! Or a paragraph! You do you, my bebes. I also just put down projects I need to be working on RIGHT NOW (i.e., nothing that is totally on my back burner or I know I will need to work on it in March but not right now or whatever). You might want to include ALL your projects!
I created categories that are meaningful to ME. You should create categories that are meaningful to you! And know that these categories might change over time, the course of your career, etc. Or change in weight! Not everything has to be equally weighted too! I used equal weight and scored everything on a 1-10 scale, where 1 is low and 10 is high.
Satisfaction: How much do I LIKE working on this project? (or, alternatively, how much do I NOT HATE working on this project?). High values are projects where I enjoy it when I open those documents. If I’m feeling lots of negative energy towards my research, I might prioritize projects or pieces of projects that bring me the most joy.
Close to finish: How close is this project to being off my fucking desk? Projects with a high score are so.fucking.close to being done. If I’m trying to get through feeling overcommitted and frazzled, then I might prioritize projects w a high score here so that I can feel some goddamn relief from the pressure.
Guilt: This is a very Mirya thing, but maybe also a very you thing? (I think so, based on conversations that I’ve had with many of you!) I am highly motivated by guilt. Sometimes too much so? It is important to consider how much of a role it plays in our lives! So here’s my classification: do I feel guilty because I haven’t been working on a project and other people are waiting on me? Then I give this a high score because it means that if I work on it, I will feel less guilt.
Career Importance: Will it matter for my career if this project pans out or not? (Does anything matter? No. Could I never publish again? Sure. Look around! Mediocre white men have been doing that shit for centuries. Will I never publish again? No. Look at this fucking list.) High = important for my career. Most things are not individually important.
Depends on others: Will I be waiting for others to complete some shit to actually get this shit done? (Included in this coding is – will the other people on this project meet their deadlines?) This also reflects for me whether I need to carry the full mental load / project manager / cheerleader / mum role in a project. Which I FUCKING HATE. Maybe useful for you if you work with coauthors a lot, maybe not!
Work to complete: How much will it take to actually get this shit DONE? Higher = less work.
Total points: A sum of these categories.
Deadline: Is there a deadline associated with the project? I respond VERY WELL to external accountability and deadlines matter to me so I might first sort by this and then by another category.
Completed: The lil dreamer in Mirya is imagining a beautiful world where I mark some of these projects as complete. Forever a dreamer.
This is just a template! You can use your own categories! In fact, I really encourage you to figure out what are the various characteristics of projects that are important to you. This is not the end-all be-all solution to any huge problems in the world, but just a little tool that helps me think about which projects I should work on when I have time – even just 15 minutes in between meetings! – and I start to feel like I’m buried in shit to do. Also, you can just ignore all this shit and work on what you want (ahem, me writing this silly little newsletter instead of working on my FUCKING BOOKS).
Get shit done, my bebes.
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I'm always loving the #MHAWS newsletter. Thank you, Mirya. Do you -- or anyone reading this week's newsletter -- someone who has experience writing memoire? I'm writing one and am stuck at 12,000 words which is too short to publish (so much untold) and too far in to abandon. I need advice. Please and thank you. Signed, Your fav academic-adjacent Tulane alum. xo