GTD + Bullet Journal Introduction

Displaying IMG_20180304_101120.jpgI’m a long-time user of the productivity system “Getting Things Done,” but I’ve been occasionally derailed by boredom, travel, and (ironically and counterproductively) deadline crunches. After moving back across the country, I hadn’t gotten back on the horse because there’s always something more urgent (or fun) to do than a wholesale review of my life.

I’ve also long had an eye on bullet journalling. It’s flexible, personal, and can involve fancy pens and even elaborate art if you like. I hesitated for two reasons. First, it just doesn’t seem right to use pen and paper in 2018. It doesn’t have all the affordances of a digital system, and it feels indulgent somehow.

After I finished and passed (yay!) my integrative paper, I needed to reorient myself to the many projects that were on hold for weeks before that deadline and to plan my next steps. Overwhelmed by the many projects and possibilities, frustrated by the difficulty of time-blocking in my digital calendar, inspired by my friend’s fancy journal tape (I am a sucker for a good craft supply…), and homebound with a busted rib, I did a lot of research and dove in.

There is a LOT out there about how to get started, and I’ll make a recommended resource list, but the best place to start with bullet journalling in my opinion, is with the basics. It’s tempting to look all the beautiful things people do with it, but because I am using my journal as a tool for future planning, rather than an artistic outlet or an archive, I avoided looking at the online communities until I had the system down (more or less.)

To be clear, I don’t have a problem with outlets and archives, and I am not a purist by any means, but I wanted a system that works for my functional needs first, and if I manage to make it pretty and fun to do, well, all the better :) I don’t plan to be a bujo celebrity on insta (they do exist) and I don’t expect you to be impressed with my system on an aesthetic level.

Starting next week, this series of posts will explain how I incorporate GTD principles into my bullet journal, and how I use it to stay on track in grad school and life.

Index of (planned) posts: 

 

  • Getting Started with Bullet Journalling
  • My GTD + Bujo System
  • Graduate School + Bujo
  • Tools
  • Trackers, Tricks, and Tips

Also, if there’s something not on this list you want me to write about, please leave a comment!

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Preventing loneliness, burnout, and other miseries

Before coming to graduate school, I read a lot about how depressing and frustrating and difficult it is. Not just the coursework or the research, in fact, few of the complaints I had read even mentioned those things. They talked about feeling alone, depressed, unsupported, and especially poor. Every week or so on the forums, there’s a post like this, about quitting. Just today, a friend shared this article about the hidden cost of graduate school with me (hint, it’s your mental health.)

This was interesting, since the first doc students I met were notable and inspiring because they loved their work so much. They definitely had a lot of late nights and anxiety about comps, or the job market, but at the end of the day, they loved their work and got a lot done.

So what is the difference?

Here’s what my friend shared, along with that article, on Facebook:

 

Research suggests social support networks are among the most reliable predictors of happiness and success, that social support networks prevent people (and even rats!) from forming debilitating addictions, and are more productive, engaged, energetic, and resilient (see: this TED talk about addiction and Happiness Advantage for the rest. No, I won’t stop citing that book.)

Of course, that’s easier said than done. Many of us moved thousands of miles (even over oceans) to come to graduate school, and maintaining old friendships is hard when they are far away. Many graduate students report feeling less engaged with their old friends after starting a new routine and lifestyle with different concerns. Many people tend to pull away from their social support network when work gets tough. Breaking in to new friend groups is challenging, especially with limited time and money, and it will still be a while before you may feel comfortable being yourself around new people.

So what’s the solution?

I think the only thing to do is acknowledge that making new friends is scary and difficult, and that it will take a long time, and commit to doing it anyway. We have a weekly cohort social event, even though there are so few of us, and some of my lab mates have been really welcoming. I’ve started attending a church I can walk to, and I’m planning to start and host a meetup group when I get up the nerve (and money :) It’s going to be hard, but it’s too important to give up on.

The risk here is feeling rejected and exhausted when you can’t immediately replicate old, close friendships, and I certainly get that feeling. That’s a perfectly healthy way to feel, and you don’t need to feel guilty or weak if you experience that. Be compassionate with yourself and remember this day 5 years from now, when you meet a first-year :)

A friend of mine (now a PhD) suggested to me that perhaps it would be best if all graduate students checked in with a therapist occasionally, and especially at the outset. I did exactly that, and I now feel much less alone, and much less afraid of failure. Find some Emotional hygiene habits and techniques that work for you– prayer, meditation, exercise, art– and defend your self-investment time consistently. This resilience you’ll build won’t just help you fearlessly befriend new people, but also bounce back from setbacks and failures in your research, finish big projects, and weather the job market.

 

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