How to be productive if you don’t like the Pomodoro Technique

Or, every tip that has helped me write my dissertation.

We are on day 8 of #100daysofdissertation, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out Academeology on Instagram and she’ll get you filled in. I’ve been really enjoying talking to other grad students about what they do to get sh*t done this past week, so I’ve decided to write up what works for me here. I hope this list is helpful to you, whatever large project you might be up against, academic or non. The title is mostly a joke, but I don’t use the Pomodoro method, instead I do a bunch of other stuff, like….

  • Time blocking: Time blocking is something I do in iCal, where I set out how much time I’m going to spend on each task during the day. Useful for: when you’re stressed about when everything will get done (I do it at the beginning of the week, it stops me from being immensely stressed on Sundays), if you spend too much time on tasks (I only really need 1.5 hours to prep a lesson, but I can easily spend 4-5 hours unless I stop myself).
My scary iCal time blocking. Don’t judge.
  • Pay yourself first: This has been huge for me. NCFDD (grad students, get in there!) is so helpful, and their big advice is to develop a daily writing practice, and aim to spend the first 30 minutes of your work day writing. This could easily be swapped in for spending the first 30 minutes of your day doing whatever work is most important. Useful for: It’s called paying yourself first because so many other small tasks pile up later in the day (especially things you “need” to do to help others), so if you dedicate the first part of the day to doing what you need to do (to get tenure, to graduate, to keep your job…) you’re more likely to be on track.
  • Short term/medium term/long term: Another strategy I try to use is to do one thing a day that contributes to a short term goal, a “medium” term goal and a long term goal. Right now, that looks like lesson prep (for tomorrow, etc), emailing folks for a conference panel (started this when submission was due in a month), and dissertation work (part of the much longer term goal of graduating). Useful for: Making a conscious effort not to get bogged down by the details and to also think about the next month, 6 months, year….see also making a 5 year plan.
  • Bullet journaling: Let me preface this by saying my bullet journal is not super beautiful, but I enjoy having one notebook where I put almost everything–to-do lists, meeting notes, diagrams of arguments I’m making in my dissertation. My bullet journal game has been upped since I got Evernote premium, which lets you take pictures of your journal and then makes them searchable. Good for: Tactile learners, people who need to diagram (meeee).
My not super fancy bullet journal.

There you have it. I’m down to my last 20 pages of writing over here and I owe most of it to these strategies (but also blasting obnoxious pop music has helped). What are your best productivity strategies? I would love some more!

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