Oberlin Blogs

Being Productive During Winter Term, Part 2

January 30, 2016

Andres Cuervo ’17

In the first part of this series I took you through a brief history of my attempts to organize my life up through the date of that post. Well, now it's two weeks later -- the end of Winter Term 2016 -- and I'm going to reflect on how I did!

My Actual Winter Term

So, I conquered my Winter Term project! I ended up with a 20+ page report on the redesign of the Bonner Foundation's hour log system, BWBRS (Bonner Web Based Reporting System). It required spending a lot of time designing mockups in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, writing and editing the report itself, but mostly: working up the motivation. Because this was a self-motivated project I had to schedule my own time to work on this independently, which was a challenge considering I had a few other things to get done (that I'll share below).

I kept up my motivation by taking some advice from my last Winter Term and breaking my tasks up into smaller chunks. In Todoist I did this by making a project folder ("BWBRS WT") and putting tasks and sub-tasks into it so that each day I could tackle just one small thing like "Read over the report" or "Start on redesign of the mobile login page," instead of thinking "I have to keep doing my entire project today ...," which is just daunting.

Image of some of my broken-down tasks for my BWBRS project, for example: finalize report
A selection of my tasks from my BWBRS project.


Some Other Things I Worked On:

The SWAP Website

I'm the web developer for SWAP: The Oberlin Book Co-op and I had to work on the website as we prepared to make some changes to our database. There was a lot of database rewriting, and it interrupted my day sometimes, which is why it was nice to have my Winter Term project on a schedule. Whenever I found SWAP eating away at time I had reserved to work on my Winter Term project I could just move due dates back and keep track of the work I had to make up, allowing me to get back on track.

A Game Design Project

I'm taking CSCI 361 - Game Design this coming semester and we're encouraged to do a tiny "game" before the semester starts in order to get used to our development tools. I'd say I made 80% of the game, which I'm counting as a success in the midst of all the other things I did this Winter Term!

Code Experiments

I started making these little experiments with HTML/CSS (basic web development languages) on a site called CodePen.io. They actually require a few hours for me to make them perfect, so while I won't be keeping up with it during the semester, I'm really happy I started playing around with code again and I'll try to keep it up as a little side project.

Continuing To Get Things Done

Some things I want to get done this semester and how I'm going to do them:

  • I received Varieties of Scientific Experience by Carl Sagan as a Christmas present recently and I want to actually read it (sidebar: reading is something I haven't been able to do for fun in college so far), so I've decided to reserve an hour every Monday morning before class to read. I don't know if I'll be able to keep this up during stressful deadline periods, but hopefully I can keep it up most weeks!
  • Making time for a weekly review. I'm scheduling Friday mornings to do a "weekly review," inspired by the "Get Things Done" (GTD) productivity method. I'm going to (hopefully) take stock of my week and prepare for the weekend, take time to figure out my schedule, and generally clean up the little things that get lost during the week (is there anything I forgot to do? any meetings I need to reschedule? things like that). It'll be interesting to see if it actually helps, but even if it's just a placebo effect (i.e. I just feel more productive), I'll be happy!

I have a lot left to figure out in terms of scheduling, but I'm pretty happy with my plans as they stand. I'll be scheduling my Bonner hours, OSCA shifts, and other group meetings, but I should be able to find time for all of this in my triangle-shaped schedule (see below). Wish me luck, and leave a comment with your own goals, strategies, or even worries about productivity!

Image showing the upside-down triangle formation of my class schedule.
See, it's a triangle!

Similar Blog Entries