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From Sticky Notes to Systems: How I Organized My Academic Life

by | Feb 7, 2019 | academic project management

I really don’t consider myself super organized.

So it might seem strange for me to have created a course called “Organize Your Academic Life.”

But of course, I didn’t always have a complete system in place for organizing my academic projects. And maybe you don’t right now, either.

So in this email I’m breaking it down into phases for you so that you can see the progression I made from sticky-note-frazzled to projects-managed. Let’s go!

Phase 1: Sticky Notes and Remembering

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE sticky notes. And when I started out as a professor, sticky notes were my system. I had always taken pride in the fact that I could hold my calendar and my to-do list in my head. An occasional sticky note helped out. Nothing fell through the cracks!

By sticky-notes and remembering are not really a system. And frankly, academia is not a world where an “I’ll-just-remember-it” attitude is going to cut it. There are too many moving parts.

Phase 2: Paper versus Electronic Purgatory

I knew I needed to upgrade my “system”, but I just couldn’t commit: paper or electronic? I loved seeing the month all at once. I loved physically writing a list and the satisfaction of crossing things off it.

But let’s get real–my pipeline was so complicated that paper didn’t really work. And I really needed to functionality of an online calendar to coordinate meetings and integrate with the university.

I wallowed in paper versus electronic purgatory until I finally just decided to do me and use a hybrid system. When I finally let myself take advantage off both paper and electronic, I felt so free to just do what works for me. Yay!

Phase 3: Think Like a Project Manager

When I started this online academic writing coaching business, I entered the world of entrepreneurship. It’s way different than academia. But both are filled with creative people who a driven to make a change in the world. And I started to see how entrepreneurs managed the many moving parts of their businesses.

That’s when I began to understand the power of thinking like a project manager. And then it gets really good, because I started exploring project management tools and found one I really loved (Trello), and then I was hooked.

Phase 4: Templates and Systems are not Cheating

Once I was deep in this world of entrepreneurship, I realized that, like academics, these were people who really needed to maximize their time. How did they do it? Templates and systems!

In academia, I think there is a glorification of suffering. There is a lot of wheel-reinvention going on, a lot of starting from scratch. It’s as if we all must suffer through in order to belong here.

But actually, NO YOU DON’T! Templates and systems are NOT cheating! They are doing things smarter, and faster. And we all need a little leg up.

Phase 5: Teaching It to You!

So now that I developed my project management skills and applied them to my academic life, systems and templates and all, I’m ready to teach them to you!

So much of how we actually get our work done in academia is some sort of big secret.

Well, I think that’s bunk (to put it in PG-rated terms ;).

My new course, Organize Your Academic Life, will be available in just a few weeks (February 2019). To make sure you are the first hear about it, and to get a taste of how the course works, download my Trello Templates for Academic Writing Project Management now!


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