As the Digital Collections Program Manager at DUL, I spend most of my time managing projects. I really enjoy the work, and I’m always looking for ways to improve my methods, skills and overall approach. For this reason, I was excited to join forces with a few colleagues to think about how we could help graduate students develop and sharpen their project management skills. We have been meeting since last Spring and our accomplishments include defining key skills, reaching out to grad school departments about available resources and needs, assembling a list of project management readings and resources that we think are relevant in the academic context (still a work in progress: http://bit.ly/DHProjMgmt), and we are in the process of planning a workshop. But my most favorite project has been making project management themed zines.
Yes, you read that correctly: project management zines. You can print them on letter sized paper, and they are very easy to assemble (check out the a demo our friends in Rubenstein put together). But before you download, read on to learn more about the process behind the time management related zine.
Gathering Zine Content
Early on in our work the group decided to focus on 5 key aspects of project management: time management, communicating with others, logging research activities, goal setting, and document or research management. After talking with faculty we decided to focus on time management and document/research management.
I’ve been working with a colleague on time management tips for grad students, so we spent a lot of time combing Lifehacker and GradHacker and found some really good ideas and great resources! Based on our findings, we decided to break the concept of time management down further into smaller areas: planning, prioritizing and monotasking. From there, we made zines (monotasking coming soon)! We are also working on a libguide and some kind of learning module for a workshop.
Here are a few of my favorite new ideas from our time management research:
- Monotasking: sometimes focussing on one task for an extended period of time sounds impossible, but my colleague found some really practical approaches for doing one thing at a time, such as the “Pomodoro technique” (http://pomodorotechnique.com/)
- Park your work when multitasking: the idea is that before you move from task a to task b, spend a moment noting where you are leaving off on task a, and what you plan to do next when you come back to it.
- Prioritization grids: if you don’t know where to begin with the long list of tasks in front of you (something grand students can surely related to), try plotting them on a priority matrix. The most popular grid for this kind of work that I found is the Eisenhower grid, which has you rank tasks by urgency and importance (https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_91.htm). Then you accomplish your tasks by grid quadrant in a defined order (starting with tasks that are both important and urgent). Although I haven’t tried this, I feel like you use other variables depending on your context, perhaps impact and effort. I have an example grid on my zine so you can try this method out yourself!
- Use small amounts of time effectively: this is really a mind shift more than a tool or tip, and relates to the Pomodoro technique. Essentially the idea is to stop thinking that you cannot get anything done in those random 15-30 minute windows of downtime we all have between meetings, classes or other engagements. I often feel defeated by 20 minutes of availability and 4 hours of work to do. So I tried really jumping into those small time blocks, and it has been great. Instead of waiting for a longer time slot to work on a “big” task, I’m getting better at carving away at my projects over time. I’ve found that I can really get more done than I thought in 20 minutes. It has been a game changer for me!
Designing the Zines
I was inspired to make zines by my colleague in Rubenstein, who created a researcher how-to zine. The 1-page layout makes the idea of designing a zine much less intimidating. Everyone in the ad-hoc project management group adopted the template and we designed our zines in a variety of design tools: google draw, powerpoint or illustrator. We still have a few more to finish, but you can see our work so far online: http://tinyurl.com/pmzines
Each zine prints out to an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper and can easily be cut and folded into its zine form following an easy gif demo.
Introduction to Project Management (you can use this one as a coloring book too!)
Monotasking for Productive Work Blocks
Planning and Prioritizing
Project Manage your Writing
Access them all at this link: tinyurl.com/pmzines
Ad hoc Project Management working group members
We will have more zines and a libguide available soon, happy reading and learning!