Throwback Thursday: How can a postgraduate student get (more) things done?

This post by Dr Geoff Dickson first appeared here on Thesislink in 2012

The short answers to get organized. The longer answer goes like this.

Time – you never have enough of it.  So how can you make the most of it? There are a myriad of time management and personal productivity frameworks. About two years ago, I looked at a lot of them and opted for Getting Things Done and Thinking Rock.  Later I evolved from Thinking Rock to Things.  Let me explain.

Getting Things Done (GTD) is a method pioneered by David Allen.  At its heart is a system for dealing with stuff.  Allen defines stuff as “anything you have allowed into your psychological or physical world that doesn’t belong where it is, but for which you haven’t yet determined the desired outcome and the next action step”. GTD gets you to move tasks out of your mind by recording them externally.  The net effect is that your mental bandwidth is not preoccupied remembering tasks. Therefore, one can concentrate on performing the tasks, instead of remembering. Think of it as a sophisticated to-do list…on steroids.

When a thing arrives – via email, phone or hard-copy, they need to be processed.  Four options: delete, delegate, do (if less than 2 minutes is required), or defer.  When you defer something, you place it in a safe and trusted place, usually with a way of being reminded about it.  The other key argument of Allen’s GTD approach is an effective workspace.  This starts with a good pen, quality writing paper, and an efficient filing system. There’s more to it than this, but there are A LOT of resources available on the internet (as well as a book what is well worth the investment).  Check them out.

Thinking Rock is free software that is designed specifically for GTD.  There are many, many others.  Thinking Rock is the software that mirrors most closely the GTD approach.  I started with it because it was free and I guessed (quite correctly) that it would help me learn and understand GTD. Later I went to Things, a Mac-specific tool.  The best feature of Things is its ability to integrate with the Mac Mail.  Within minutes I can empty my email in-box.  Nirvana.

When I am using GTD well, I am at my most productive.  Not only does it seem to create time, but it greatly ameliorates any feeling of being overwhelmed.  I like being not overwhelmed…a lot. GTD can instill confidence, and boost creativity and energy. GTD provides structure without constraint, and can manage with maximum flexibility. GTD is well suited to the demands of a postgraduate student.

GTD resources:
Getting Things Done:
Thinking Rock:
More GTD:

About Graduate Research School (Auckland University of Technology)

The Auckland University of Technology Graduate Research School offers support and resources to all postgraduate students at AUT. Come and visit us on the 5th floor of the WU building.

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