Getting Things Done

I am taking five graduate classes, I have a graduate assistantship and a part-time job, I just mailed off the manuscript for a book of poetry coming out in the spring, I am an Anderson Career Services Student Ambassador, an AICPA Legacy Scholar, and the secretary-elect of Beta Alpha Psi. On Thursday, I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for five, my Christmas shopping is done, and my fantasy football team is holding down a solid second place in its 10-team league. I am presently riding the train up to Santa Fe, and despite the number of plates I have spinning, I feel rather relaxed and on top of things.

I say all this not in the name of self-promotion, but to set up the topic of this blog post: my tips and tricks to Getting Things Done.

First let me divulge that I was terrible at time management and task accomplishment as an undergraduate. I was the all-nighter kid, the never-reads-the-chapter, always-taking-a-break, perpetually-behind kid. I was definitely not the Secretary of anything. And though I worked as a tutor in my college’s writing lab (where I enthusiastically coached other students on academic and creative paper writing) I could be found most nights, all night, staring at the blinking cursor on a blank screen. Suffice it to say, college was a pretty excruciating and sleep-deprived experience.

Fast-forward back to the present— my MAcct degree is almost half-done, and I’ve hardly felt a thing!  Ok, it has been hard work, but the kind of work that is calm, steady, manageable, rewarding, and even fun. I was reflecting a couple of days ago on what it is that I do that helps me get so many things done without really ever feeling busy, and I came up with three things:

  1. Have Use a Planner. This is an easy one. When I was working at the same job all day every day, I could basically keep track of my schedule in my head. But there is no way, at this point, that I could remember all the places I am supposed to be and all of the things I need to get done, and with whom, and by when. So I have a planner. And I use it. And it is amazing.
  2. Find a Really Big Table. Most activities and assignments are made 83% easier if you have the ability to spread out your materials as you attack them. This statistic comes from a very unscientific study of my own productivity. But I stand by it. Big tables. For the win.
  3. Just Do It. I saved this item for last, because it is real secret to all my success. And it’s not something I came up with on my own. Over the past couple of years, I worked for and at times shared an office with a woman named Shasta Brooks (of Mail Call and Shasta Brooks Law). Anytime someone asked her to do something, she would do it immediately—and cheerfully. It was equal parts amazing and flabbergasting. There I was, with my to-do list, working and prioritizing and scheduling and trying to stay organized and always a little bit behind and a little bit grumpy. And she was just doing. With a smile. I have since switched to Shasta’s method, and let me tell you, it’s wonderful. When something is assigned, I do it. When I get an email, I answer it. As soon as I have the tools and information, I take care of the thing. There’s no backlog. No rushing right before the due date. No more all-nighters or don’t-bother-me moods.

Just things getting done.

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The Tests.

We never had this many tests when I was an undergraduate!

Mostly we wrote papers, which meant a lot of all-nighters and a lot of coffee. (I’ll take a test any day.)

The week before last, I had tests in 3 of my 5 classes. The downside is: a lot of tests. The upside is: teachers don’t usually assign additional homework on test week. So once the test is done–you get a little breather. (It’s a magical little grad school secret.)

The first test of the semester in each class was the hardest, because I didn’t really know the professor, or his/her testing or grading style. But this was round two–and I was ready! I knew what to study for whom, and which test would be the hardest. I studied A LOT because there’s nothing like going into a test super-prepared. Plus, I’m only doing this grad school thing once! (I hope.)

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The Best Pencil

It is the end of my first week as a Master of Accounting student. I have spent nearly every free moment of my weekend doing homework with this pencil, which is a little worse for wear but which I can’t replace because it has the best lead of all the pencils in my pencil box.

I have been working on a System’s Understanding Aid for my Accounting Information Systems class.  It’s basically an enactment of all the phases in the accounting cycle, one by one, on paper.  I’ve written invoices and completed bills of lading, posted journal entries and ledger entries, and closed the books at the end of “December 2013.”  I even had a freight carrier pick up cargo on Christmas Eve, which I don’t think is actually possible.

It was a lot of tedious work, but it was also a lot of….fun.  (Am I allowed to say that?)

I think this accounting stuff might be right up my alley.

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