My little brother (who I am so incredibly proud of!) started as a freshman in a math program last month. I haven’t liked math since high school (might be because my first instance of falling asleep in class was in a math class), but I have been doing my best to be supportive of him. He and I are similar in some ways, and different in others, as most siblings are. One difference is that one of us… procrastinates more than the other.
Research I’ve Been Reading
My Google Scholar alerts sent me this great study out of Ohio State (Supporting Undergraduate Biology Students’ Academic Success: Comparing Two Workshop Interventions) by Hensley et al. 2021. In their study, they compared exam scores and degree commitment in two groups of students. One group of students got a “meta-cognition” workshop, which included teaching learning strategies based on Bloom’s taxonomy. The other group of students got the same workshop, plus a time management workshop, which included making a master task list, translating that list to daily tasks/priorities, different approaches to taking breaks and reducing distractions, and strategies to combat procrastination. The “meta-cognition + time management” group saw significant increases in outcomes in minority students (focusing on minority ethnicity or race). The study did not ask students to self-report disability status, which I hope to see more in research going forward. The authors do a great job of going through the caveats of their findings, so I highly recommend reading it yourself.
After reading the study, and struggling to explain my time management strategy to my brother, I decided this would be a good topic to write a blog post on, so here it is.
Google tasks is great! It has the option to create multiple different “lists.” Some that I have are teaching, greenhouse, field, and professional development. Within each list, you can add tasks.
Sometimes you just simply add a task, like “Move student plates from incubator to the fridge.”
Other times, you have tasks that are within a larger task or “goal.” For each exercise that I grade, I typically split grading across two days, and before uploading grades, I review all my graded rubrics to make sure I’ve been consistent. For each exercise, I make one task, like “Exercise 72.” Then, as sub-tasks, I add: “Grade first half Exercise 72,” “Grade second half Exercise 72,” “Review Exercise 72 grades,” “Upload and update Exercise 72 grades.”
For my research, I might have big goals like: “Make 60 ion-resin bags.” Making ion-resin bags involves cutting out the mesh squares, painstakingly sewing the squares together on three sides, adding the resin beads, sewing the squares closed, and conditioning the bags. For 60 bags, I have to cut 120 squares. It would be truly impossible to cut out 120 squares in one day, or even one week, without wanting to buy a one-way ticket out of town. If I divide the 120 squares into 4 chunks of 30 squares, that’s a task I can finish in 3 or 4 hours, and spread out over four weeks, I can maintain my willingness to get on the bus to campus at 8 AM. For this example, I would make a task like “Cut 120 squares,” and add four sub tasks like “Cut 30 squares.”
Once I have a bunch of tasks, separated into a number of lists, you can start adding dates. So, I might decide that I will cut 30 squares each Tuesday over the next four weeks. I’ll add those dates to the task. I’ll go through an add dates to all my tasks, and then I’ll look at my Google Calendar, which shows tasks assigned to each date at the top of the day. If I have too many tasks on one day, or it’s the end of the day and I haven’t finished everything, I’ll just go into the task and change the date.
What I really like about this approach is the organization and convenience. It’s easy to stay organized, and you can revise tasks anywhere, using the google calendar app or google tasks app. You can edit tasks from your Gmail page, which helps when you get a lot of emails with different things you need to do. You can also get a desktop (non-affiliated) app; I use TaskBoard. On TaskBoard, I’ll drag and drop my tasks so they go in chronological order, which helps me picture how my work will progress over time.
Because of my chronic illness, some days I don’t get as much done. On those days, I move tasks to another day, and somehow re-assigning the date makes it feel like I’m being responsible, and less like I have failed to complete something. When I do feel like I’ve failed to do enough, or I haven’t accomplished anything, I’ll go into my calendar and look at what I’ve completed that day, or in that week, and it boosts my self esteem.
I have invested in (expensive!) personalized planners before, since I need to track my chronic illness as well, and I’ve found that the Google Tasks strategy is way easier to maintain, and if I have a few days where I haven’t used my system, I can go back and add in whatever I’ve accomplished, and I don’t feel bad looking at the lonely, expensive planner sitting open on my table.
Hopefully, this is helpful to someone!
It’s been a tough semester, but generally, everything is progressing well with my research. My Masters En-Route comes in the mail in December… so that’s happening! Hope to share more soon!