Post Academic

Making Checklists Sexy

Posted in Surviving Grad School by Caroline Roberts on June 7, 2010
Tags: ,

Okay, checklists are not sexy. But they sure are back in style thanks to Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto, which offers evidence that even the smartest people in the world forget stuff and could use a checklist to remind them.

Grad School Drama is also riding the checklist train and offers advice on how to manage a checklist:

Task Lists! Make a list. Prioritize the tasks based on importance and time constraints. Revisit the list several times during the day. And CHECK OFF THE TASKS as you go (that’s a note to self). Seriously, making the list is not enough. Let it guide your efforts. If you have a 40+ page chapter, consider writing only 3-5 pages in a single day. Consider reading only one or two articles.

See, it’s one thing to make a checklist, but that’s no better than making a New Year’s Resolution to lose 10 pounds, quit smoking and stop dropping F-Bombs. If your goals are too grandiose, you will not achieve them, and you’ll feel like a failure. It seems like common sense, but breaking up large tasks into small chunks and actually checking them off as you go can have a surprising psychological impact.

Academics in particular really need a checklist because they don’t have editors or producers calling them every few hours asking about your progress. (Yes, those phone calls from editors and producers can feel naggy sometimes, but they’re the reason people in the Hamster World make deadlines, so I’m grateful.) A checklist can fill in whenever your advisor is checked out.

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