To offer an implementation of several of TrikeProfs points: I use a Bullet Journal for organization, which helped me a lot with a set of similar problems.
What is a Bullet Jounal?
A Bullet Journal is a combination of ToDo-list and a calender that you write from scratch. For each day you create a list that contains bullets, which can be task you want to finish, appointments/events to attend and can also serve as a notebook foe stuff you learned during that day.
[✓] Read paper x completed task
[>] Write summary of paper x moved task
[ ] Feed the cat unfinished task
( ) 12:30 Lunch with co-workers appointment
( ) 14:00 Lab meeting appointment
• A Bullet Journal might help note
me to organize my workload.
There are rules for handling bullets: If you finished a task, you tick it off and are done with it. If you did not finish a task on that day, you have to move it to another day. If the task is no longer relevant, you have to strike it out. If you adhere to this rules, at least in theory, no task can be forgotten. Once it hits the journal, you are stuck with it.
On the other hand, these rules are more of a proposition and it is quite common for everyone to change them to fit theirs style of work. I added weekly overviews to keep a closer look on my appointments and a monthly wrap-up of everything I have learned and want to keep in mind.
A more detailed explanation can be found on the website. They have a really nice video.
Why this works for me
Most of these points translate to the suggestions TrikeProf made:
- Writing down what I want achieve forces me to have a goal.
- Ticking off a bullet (1) gives me a warm fuzzy feeling and (2) means I can forget about it and focus on the next task.
- I can take notes that I will find again.
- If I really do not want to forget something, I add it to the journal.
Make it work for you
As said, for me this works quite well, but that is due to a period of learning. It takes work, but in my opinion it is worth it.
Some things to keep in mind for successful journaling:
Write down what you want get done today: I think this is crucial for your specific problem.
Do not overload your days: If you put too much stuff into one day you might get frustrated. This works for me because finishing tasks is fun. Carrying then with you is not.
Create the right bullets: Break down big task into several bullets. This is especially helpful for overwhelmingly big tasks, as it allows you to handle them bit by bit.
[ ] Read paper x is more intimidating and offer less reward than:
[ ] Read introduction of paper x
[ ] Read methods chapter of paper x
[ ] Read conclusion of paper x
[ ] Write a short summary of paper x
Which you can handle one by.
Another aspect of this is to write bullets which have a fixed and easy to identify end point. While
[ ] Improve runtime of program
can never truly be finished
[ ] Fix runtime problem in function foobar
can either be finished or marked as "unsolvable".
Rephrase bullets: If you can not get a task done, rephrase it or split it up (see above).
[ ] Research topic y
[ ] Look for papers on topic y
[ ] Skim and categorize papers on topic y
... add more as you go along
You might want to be cautious to take advice from me on procrastination. I should really prepare the talk I am giving tomorrow instead of writing stuff on stackexchange. But it helps me to not forget so many tasks. I promise :)
I am not sure if this is necessary here, but: I am in no way associated with the creator of Bullet Journal whatsoever.