Getting organized

Monday, January 31, 2011

Tomorrow is February 1st, but I'm pretending it's the first day of the year and I'm starting my resolutions tomorrow.  I didn't make any resolutions at the beginning of 2011, and perhaps in part because of this, January was the least productive month ever.  Even if I rarely keep resolutions, they at least make me work harder at something for awhile.  Without having any set goals for the year, I feel like I made no progress on the dissertation, the novel, or any other important thing going on in my life during this past month.  I went two weeks without grading a single thing, and these were the first two weeks of the semester!  Not a good way to start a semester, so I'm committing to starting fresh and working hard in the month to come.

This isn't to say I was a total barnacle this past month.  My dissertation director set a March 4 deadline for my prospectus, so I have been ordering and printing primary texts, making my bibliography, reading up on the history of the British East India Company, and trying to narrow down chapter topics.  Even though this journey has only begun, I'm getting organized, which to me is fun.  (In another life I think I was a professional closet organizer.)

My home file cabinet is completely full of boring paperwork (read: bills and bank statements), and since I'm trying to avoid my office at AU as much as possible, I needed a new home filing system for the diss.  At the beginning of the month I went to Office Depot and bought two filing crates and two-hundred files in bright, happy colors, and so far my color-coded system has worked fantastically.

I have files for appendix-related materials (charts, maps, pictures), for bibliographies I come across, for each woman writer I'm working with.  I have files for each chapter and each sub-topic within the chapters, so when I come across an article I don't need now but that might be important a year from now, I just print it and drop it into the appropriate file.

Even more important than my paper filing system, though, is my electronic one.  I'm using Microsoft One Note to keep all of my notes, web links, pictures, and even to-do lists together, and it is so much fun and so easy to use.  I highly recommend it to anyone taking on a massive project.  (I have a separate one for The Novel and another for planning trips.)

For anyone not familiar with One Note, it works like an electronic notebook.  You give your "notebook" a name, set up tabs for the different sections, and then make individual pages for each section.  In my screenshot above, you'll see I have a "To-Do" tab and then a different to-do list for each month.  I also have a  "Summaries" tab, with a separate page for each of the women I'm working with and a breakdown of all of the topics they wrote about.  If I find a picture or image I like online, I copy it and paste it onto the appropriate page of my Appendix section, and One Note automatically records the title and web address of the picture.  One Note is awesomeness incarnate.

I'm just one page away from completing my January to-do list, which I'll finish up this afternoon, and then it's on to February!  Here's to hoping it's a fun, productive month for all of us!


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