When you started graduate school you might not have realized you would need to be a project manager. Project management skills are rarely part of the curriculum for masters and doctoral students. Yet as a student it is vital to be able to step back and see the bigger picture and to be able to create and manage a vision and plan of how you will devote time and attention to what matters. I have learned and tried many approaches to project management on my own quest to be productive. On this journey, I’ve discovered there is no one size fits all solution. What makes project management effective is all about learning to manage my work in a way that is self-honoring. I’ve come to realize that I need to schedule and break down my tasks in a way that honors and respects my humanity and reality.
Self-honoring project management is about having a sense of reverence toward yourself. It’s where you witness and respect the journey of pursuing a graduate degree. You remember that you are a vulnerable human being on the challenging road to a successfully finishing graduate school. You recognize that you are not a robot and that you can’t work or perform well on demand.
Self-honoring project management is where you plan in a way that honors reality. You are honest with yourself about what is realistic to do in a given time frame. You tame your unrealistic expectations and learn to plan what is truly, reasonably possible. You recognize that you have legitimate physical and emotional needs and that you need time to honor those needs. Self-honoring project management means that fear and pressure are not the primary drivers of your planning. It is planning from the inside out that helps you learn how to be productive on a consistent basis. You feel into yourself, listen to what feels true and plan accordingly. A key way to practice self-honoring project management is by clarifying your priorities.
If you want to be productive and able to follow your work plans, it is vital that you clarify your priorities. It is easy to move into a work week or workday without knowing what your priorities actually are. You end up with too many options of where to direct your attention. When you clarify priorities, you are declaring what tasks are on the “front burner” and what tasks are on the “back burner.” In this way, you know where to direct your attention and energy. You know what to work on and what not to work on. Distinguishing front and back burner priorities and tasks is an act of self-kindness. You honor yourself instead of letting stress, fear, or pressure bully you into multitasking and inhumane expectations.
MAP OUT YOUR PRIORITIES VISUALLY
Here is a simple practice to clarify your priorities. Take out a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. In the left hand column write down your “front burner” priorities for the upcoming week (or day). In the right hand column, write down your “back burner” priorities for the week (or day). The front burner tasks are the essential next steps you need to take. The backburner tasks are off limits and you are committing to leaving them on the back burner (for now).
When you learn to let go of your larger to-do list and surrender to your “front burner” priorities, you become more efficient and effective at making real progress. You become better able to do one task at a time in a more deliberate way and feel the satisfaction of completing tasks.
THE ACADEMIC WRITERS’ SPACE
If you want to learn more about working in a self-honoring way, please visit The Academic Writers’ Space (TAWS). We are a coworking community for graduate students and academic professionals. We are a safe and compassionate community where you will learn to work in a way that is self-honoring. At TAWS, we help you make tangible progress on a daily basis. We offer 21 writing retreats and 2 planning sessions each week. We offer a 1-Week Free Trial so you can see if our community is where you belong.