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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Managing Your Work Habits

A guide to help you choose methods and tools for organizing your research and work in meaningful ways.

About This Guide

With all of the responsibilities that go along with being a student and employee, it can be difficult to keep everything organized. Organization of our tasks and projects can assist with getting tasks done in a timely manner and may help reduce stress by providing more time for activities outside of work or school. In this guide, we’ll go over several key areas of organization for students and researchers and present tips and tools for revising your own work habits.

Disclaimer

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing your work habits. Use the strategies that work best for you and your work style, and remember - your organization strategies reduce stress, not add to it!

Defining "Work Habits"

Work habits are the ways we organize and optimize our time on school and job-related tasks to increase our productivity. Work habits can also be thought of as the strategies we use to reduce our time spent working and increase time available to spend on leisure and self-care and the tools we use to set professional and personal boundaries. Adopting effective work habits can help also students and researchers avoid burn-out and feel more satisfied with our work.

General Tips

This guide provides suggestions for the key areas of work habits for students and researchers. Having a system in place for each of these areas ensures that nothing is left out and works with systems that you are likely already using.

Batching, Mono-tasking, and Micro-Tasking

Batching and mono-tasking are similar methods for thinking about how to approach your work working​. Batching involves working on similar tasks in the same work time (i.e. emails and to-do lists, or class readings and research). Mono-tasking involves working on one task at a time, as opposed to multitasking (don’t respond to messages/emails while working on a task).

Additionally, micro-tasking can be useful for optimizing time and reducing stress. Micro-tasking is the process of taking a large task (e.g. writing a final paper) and breaking it down into smaller more manageable tasks (e.g. read 5 articles today, write 500 words, check citations, etc.). Having a running list of micro-tasks, work that takes 5-20 minutes can make projects feel less overwhelming and intimidating to begin. Taking care of these tasks throughout the week can open up other blocks of time that can be spent on larger tasks (e.g. intensive writing or research) or resting.

Other Tips

Schedule time to schedule - planning effectively can take time, and spending time organizing your calendar and to-do list can set you up for a successful week.

Use a buddy system - whether through a formal channel like an academic coach or information group like peer study groups, having other people to keep you accountable can be helpful for motivation.

Maintain an organized filing system - tasks will get done more quickly and effectively, and with less frustration, when relevant documents are easy to find and early labeled.

About the Savvy Researcher

The Library's Savvy Researcher workshop series brings information professionals together with graduate students and faculty to explore topics related to research and academic success. This guide accompanies the Managing Your Work Habits Savvy Researcher workshop.