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Start by Doing Less

To help you make headway with your academic work why not try a different strategy this year. Rather than trying to do it all, which means having to work longer hours, wouldn't things be so much easier if you just had less on your to do list?

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It's perfectly acceptable in academia to work every hour under the sun and while sometimes you need to, it shouldn't be our everyday norm. There are successful academics out there (hopefully myself included) who believe a successful career does to not have be at all costs. So, my recommendation to you - as you begin your New Year - is to make peace with fact the you are not going to get everything done - why would you even want to? After all, only twenty percent of your working week is where the most valuable stuff happens.

Remove One Thing

This January and beyond take a look at your to do list and remove one thing. It could be anything, just one task that you can let slide. At best remove the task and just never do it. That's a little more headspace and attention you now have available for something more valuable. If removing a task completely is nye on impossible then try my two other routes. Defer it - perhaps it's not critical or important and you could tackle it some other time - does it really have to be done this week or next? Even if it means going to the trouble renegotiating a deadline it's worth a try to give you a little more breathing room. Alternatively, try an even better one... outsource it. I mean... get someone else to do it - this could be a virtual personal assistant - google them - there are even ones for academics. We also offer this service here at Dr Sam Lynch (emails us to find out more). Basically, if you need help with time-consuming tasks like transcribing, data entry, booking conference trips, writing up minutes or those which take you away from your most valuable work, then reach out to virtual assistant. There are also cloud based automated tools for lots of things like transcribing - all of which can save you precious minutes. Outsourcing is also great when you can find someone who is better placed to do that task within a team or externally. Send it on but be collegiate and repay the favour in turn.

Delay your response

This year when a new project appears don't rush in to say yes. Sit on that opportunity for at least 24 hours. This way you can think through if the project is worth your time and attention. Don't be scared to say no. And when you do say no to a project stick with your decision - no regrets, no wondering what might have been ... just make your decision and move on.


This is a scenario we are all too familiar with. You take your annual holiday or return from an extended break only to find your inbox flooded. You need to start from zero. Take all of that stuff you have accrued in your inbox over the holiday season and move it to a new folder called "When I Can". This means you can commence your return from leave with a shiny fresh inbox with minimal emails clogging your headspace. As and when you have time dip into that when I can folder. If something is important people will call you and if you've missed something take the risk that 9 times out of 10 it will be nothing too scary and might even be handled before it reaches you as a problem. Give it a try - it's one of the best tips I have come across for email.

Drop a project

Yes, you heard me right. Don't set yourself up for failure. Sometimes you need to cut ties with one task or project that is dragging on and not being realised. It might just be the thing that gives you a fighting chance at completing the other valuable endeavours on your list. You can always pick it up some other time but you need to be realistic and honest with yourself.

So there you go, a few tips to get your working week running a little smoother. Let me know how these tips work out for you.

Dr Sam Lynch - is a researcher, consultant and head of department focusing on consumer decision-making and omnichannel fashion retail. Sam is also a coach helping academics to work smarter through her blog and workshop series. You can find out more by visiting the homepage or reach out via twitter @drsamlynch

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