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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 worker, it can be difficult to keep everything organized. Organization of our tasks and projects can assist with getting things done in a timely manner and may help reduce stress. In this guide, we’ll go over several key areas of organization for students and researchers and present tips for optimizing work habits with tools we're already using.

General tips

Effective work habits are going to be what works for you and your needs. There is no one-size-fits-all for organization. It is useful to consider what stresses you out, as well as what is working well, in your current work habits. 

This guide provides suggestions for the key areas of work habits for students and researchers. It will not address balancing your personal and professional life (we recommend the Graduate College workshop "Time Management Strategies"). 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 and monotasking are similar methods, useful for thinking about how to approach time spent working​. Batching is where you work on similar tasks in the same work time (i.e. emails and to-do lists, or lesson planning and libguides, or class readings and research). Monotasking is working on one thing at a time, as opposed to multitasking (don’t respond to messages/emails while working on a task). 

Additionally, microtasking can be useful for optimizing time and reducing stress. Microtasking 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 microtasks, work that takes 5-20 minutes, means that we can optimize our odd and sometimes unexpected schedule gaps. 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.

It can be useful to make time to plan and prioritize your tasks. Eisenhower's Principle can be helpful when it comes to prioritizing and is shown below.

 

Eisenhower's principle matrix