Ask the Grumpies: How to teach organization and time management to a middle schooler.

First Gen American asks:

How [does one] teach organization and time management to a middle schooler.

We have had some luck with putting a checklist on the fridge that DC1 has to go through every night, but it isn’t foolproof. If it were, DC1 would be getting an A in orchestra because zie wouldn’t have forgotten to log hir practice.  How do you remember to practice but not remember to log the practice?  It boggles the mind.

Does anyone else have more/better suggestions?

Part 3 of Writing Productivity Series (prevalence)

Here are the first parts of the series: Part 1, Part 2Part 4 is next.

What follows is a series of chunks from a paper I wrote for a class.  If you’re my boss or co-worker (or mom), please don’t tell anybody my secret identity  :-) 

The paper is about a topic near and dear to us here on this blog: how to be a more productive writer.  These sections are mostly unedited, but some parts have been snipped out for snappier reading (hahaha!).

 

Text behind the cut.

Read the rest of this entry »

Part 2 of Writing Productivity: Quick starters

Part 1 is herePart 3 is herePart 4.

What follows is a series of chunks from a paper I wrote for a class.  If you’re my boss or co-worker (or mom), please don’t tell anybody my secret identity  :-)

The paper is about a topic near and dear to us here on this blog: how to be a more productive writer.

These sections are mostly unedited [they could use it but this is a blog post], but some parts have been snipped out for snappier reading (hahaha!).

In part 1 I talked about what ‘writer’s block’ might be.  In part 2, I discuss its opposite.  It’s behind the cut (for length).

Read the rest of this entry »

Part 1 of a series: Writing productivity

Hey, a series!  Wow, it’s gonna be terrific.  Starring everybody, and me!

Part 2Part 3.

What follows is a series of chunks from a paper I wrote for a thing.  If you’re my boss or co-worker (or mom), please don’t tell anybody my secret identity  :-)

The paper is about a topic near and dear to us here on this blog: how to be a more productive writer.  Stay tuned for lit review extravaganza.

These sections are mostly unedited, but some parts have been snipped out for snappier reading (hahaha!).

Because these are so long, they’re behind a cut.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ask the grumpies: getting out of unproductive funks

First Gen American asks:

How do you suck yourself out of an unproductive funk. Do you find that allowing yourself to wallow in it for awhile is actually is more helpful than beating yourself up about being unproductive.

Yes, with the caveat that beating oneself up about being unproductive can sometimes be an important component of wallowing in it.  To get the full wallow a little self-hatred is necessary.

To get out:  Just Do IT.  Sometimes I will ask #2 to remind me about vans by rivers and request a kick in the posterior.

#2 says:  I think the how getting-out part for me has involved meeting people at coffee shops.  I haven’t done much of that recently.  Hard deadlines also make me ridiculously productive.   Unfortunately last-minute deadline blitz is unsustainable, if for no other reason than RSI.

We here at grumpy rumblings love to cross things off lovely lovely lists.  Sometimes even if I can’t be productive, I can write a list about what it would take to be productive.  Then day two I can cross one of the things off the list.  Breaking up tasks into smaller tasks is great for goal motivation.  Doing them from smallest to largest is also good for motivation, though one of us works best when she has an important goal that she doesn’t want to do hanging over her head– it makes all the other tasks on the to-do list seem so much more worthy of doing by comparison.

I guess it depends on WHY the funk.  I have anxiety which I manage with meds and awareness of it.

It’s also important to ATTEMPT to realize that it’s really not so bad once I get going.  Starting is hard! But starting is often the hardest part. Like Boice says, tell yourself to do it for 30 min– if that’s too long, then 10 min, or even 5 min. You can do almost anything for 5 min, and once you’re started it usually isn’t so bad.

What do you do, Grumpy World?

How to fix some random kid (and grown-up!) problems

We get a lot of comments, both good and bad, about how much stuff we make our oldest kid do.  Ze, for example, makes hir own lunch for school, has a list of household chores to do (mostly limited only by height restrictions), and is in charge of remembering things like homework and recurring special things like pizza money on pizza day or that Wednesday is special uniform day.

It’s expecting a lot of a 7 year old (and even more of a 6 or 5 year old, which DC1 once was!)  But it’s something we need to do to keep our household running in the absence of a full-time live-in housekeeper.  As full-time working adults with high-level jobs and a 2 year old we just don’t have that kind of mental load.  And DC1 is capable and it isn’t usually that big a deal when we all forget things.

Except occasionally DC1 forgets to wear the special uniform 3 weeks in a row and we get an email noting that if there’s a fourth time, then demerits will follow.  We’re not sure what demerits are going to do, but they sure sound scary.  Or DC1 will forget chores or homework and blissfully spend the evening playing board-games with DH, only remembering long after bedtime or the next morning that there’s an assignment due.

So here’s what we do that works.

Uniform, pizza money, and school holidays/fairs are all put on DC1’s wall calendar.  Each day at bedtime ze crosses off the day and sees what is listed for the next day.  If it’s the special uniform, ze takes it out of the closet and hangs it on hir dresser knob.  If it’s pizza money, ze demands it from DH and puts it in hir back pack.  If it’s a holiday, then we’re reminded.

For that long list of chores, during one of DH’s business trips I made DC1 make a full checklist of all the chores ze has to do each night.  Homework (or workbooks on weekends), piano practicing, making lunch for the next day (if applicable), putting away the clean silverware, loading the dishwasher, feeding the kittens, helping fold laundry (if applicable).  (See, we’re tyrants!  DC1 never gets to do anything fun.)  Once all of those chores are done, DC1 is free to spend hir time as ze wishes on weekends, and can do anything except video games on weekdays (since even the checklist couldn’t help DC1 remember hir chores if video games are an option).

Of course, it’s not enough to do the homework or make the lunch.  Those items also have to make it into the backpack.  So there’s a new rule that they have to go into the backpack as soon as they’re done.  They’re not allowed to sit out on desk or counter where they can be forgotten and then I have to turn back to get them on the way to school and everybody is late.  Because I hate that.

So… calendar, checklist, and automation.  That’s how we keep things together with DC1 during the week and that’s how we’re able to give DC1 so many responsibilities.

Related:  financial diffraction talks about using her calendar to keep track of money

How do you and yours get out the door in the morning every day of the week?  Any tips?

Taming the Work Week: A review

Taming the Work Week is a short e-book by M. R. Nelson, aka Wandering Scientist aka Cloud.  In it, she makes the argument that everyone has a work limit, and that working beyond that work limit not only leads to diminishing marginal return (she doesn’t use that language), it can also lead to costly mistakes that actually create more work.

She notes that although research is clear that for early 20th century factory workers, 40 hours/week is the limit, we have no idea what the work limit is for knowledge workers.  And we really don’t.  It probably depends on a lot of factors (task mix, personal ability, etc.).  However, she provides steps for individuals to figure out whether they are working efficiently, and if not, how to work more efficiently.

It’s a short book with a lot of good tips.

Some may work better for some people than for others. For example, if you get more of your socialization at work than at home or after work, you may need that daily down-time with your colleagues interspersed with work, rather than waiting until you get home.  You won’t be as efficient or productive per-hour at work, but you’re also filling that socialization need on a regular basis.  On the other hand, if your home and social life provide a lot of social interaction already, cutting down on interruptions could greatly increase your productivity, allowing you to get out of work earlier without guilt.

Similarly, just going home when you’re not being productive doesn’t work for me because suddenly I become less productive earlier and earlier in the day as the days go on because I’m rewarding bad behavior and I have no self-control.  Instead, I need to task-switch from doing thinky research work to doing unrelated scut work like teaching prep or service.  That way I’m still being productive on stuff that has to get done eventually and I’m not training myself to leave before it’s time to pick up the kids (which is my hard deadline at the end of the day).

Nelson acknowledges these different kinds of different work styles.  Probably my favorite part of the book is where she provides some of the standard “how to be efficient” advice and points out when it doesn’t work for her and why. (Just going home doesn’t work for her either, but for different reasons.)  This added discussion of “why” really illustrates how you can think critically about the advice that’s out there to craft your own methods to improve your efficiency.

The biggest downside to this e-book is that the writing is uneven– it starts out stilted (carefully avoiding using contractions, for example), then shifts to a more conversational tone that is much easier to read.  Keep reading past the opening section or two– it’s worth it.