While multitasking is not a desired trait unique to academia, it's something that seems particularly important for graduate students and new faculty. I've had many students ask me how to multitask effectively, and I'm curious to know what the collective wisdom of this forum would be.
what are good practices to manage multiple distinct academic activities effectively ?
To make this more focused and relevant, I'll limit academic activities to
- Taking (or teaching) classes
- Working on multiple research projects
- Writing grant proposals (or applying for fellowships)
- service responsibilities
- a healthy lifestyle with outside hobbies
Different people would have different techniques. What I found very useful for me is to have a list of the 5-8 most important things I need to do.
I don't use any specific tool, just a simple text file to write my tasks down (always adding tasks so I will not forget anything), but keep the most urgent 5-8 tasks at the top.
I found out that the sole existence of this list is what helps me to focus. I don't follow the list item by item; I do jump between tasks; I start one task before I complete the the other. The important thing is that I keep looking at that list several times a day, recalling what else I still need to do, and trying to see the 'big picture'. Each time I look at the list I allow myself to re-prioritize tasks. Sometimes just to see the tasks written down is enough for one's mind to be able to arrange the day in the most effective way.