work smarter: handling “want to’s” and “have to’s”

Work Smarter, Not Harder

I can pinpoint exactely where I started wanting a life outside of grad school. I had a three-month break from classes due to some awesome block scheduling, which was enough time for me to discover hobbies outside of school. All of the sudden, I wanted to do something other than study.

Right now, anything school related is a have-to task. Everything else is a want-to task. I have to prioritize the have-to tasks over the want-to tasks to make any progress, but how do I balance the have-to takss with the overwhelming desire to start/finish/get something done with a want-to task?

I use my want-to task list as a reward system. Blogging is a want-to, reading a non-school book is a want-to, and even cooking a somewhat elaborate meal is a want-to. I use these tasks to incentivize me to focus on the have-to tasks at hand.

Depending on the length of my have-to task list, I either allow myself a want-to task when I accomplish a certain number of have-to tasks or have worked on a longer have-to task for a set period of time (usually 1 hour). This allows me to give my brain a break from the heavy processing school requires, which ultimately leaves me more focused at the end of the day despite taking "me time" breaks.

The process behind the reward system is easy, but categorizing tasks as have-to and want-to is not. 

Evernote screenshot 092514

I use Evernote to create weekly task lists. If something ends up on a task list, then it is a have-to task for that week. By Saturday, everything should be checked off* and I should be creating next week's list. Each time I check off an item, I reward myself with something. Larger tasks get rewards like non-school reading time or netflix, while smaller tasks get a slice of key lime pie.

To sum it up, use you want-to tasks as rewards for finishing those pesky have-to tasks. You'll better manage your time while balancing what you need to do and what is important to you.

*Sometimes things carry over a week because they were a stretch goal for that week or are ongoing tasks.

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