Episode 24 – How to make time for SciComm

Got a ridiculously long to-do list? Feeling overwhelmed by all the stuff you need to get done? Time management is something we all struggle with and it can sometimes be difficult to make time to share our work with different audiences.

This week Jen and Michael invite our wonderful UniMelbSciComm colleagues, Linden Ashcroft, Catriona Nguyen-Robertson and Graham Phillips for a 5-way chat about the tips and tricks we’ve learned along the way about how to make time for the things that really matter to us.


Jen (00:00:00)
Welcome to Let’s Talk SciComm, a podcast by the University of Melbourne Science Communication Teaching Team.
I’m Dr Jen Martin and my co-host is Dr Michael Wheeler and we believe science isn’t finished until it’s communicated.

Jen (00:00:36)
Hello everybody and welcome to another episode of Let’s Talk SciComm. As always I am joined by my wonderful co-host Michael.
Hey Michael, what’s happening today?

Michael (00:00:50)
Hey Jen, it’s great to be here as always.
And this must be an extra special episode since we have the whole team here today. So welcome back, Linden, Graham and Cat.

Linden (00:01:00)
Hey, nice to be back.

Catriona (00:01:01)

Graham (00:01:02)
Thank you, thank you. It’s going to be chaos. I think it’s going to be chaos. Let’s, let’s see how it goes.

Catriona (00:01:08)
Chaos but fun.

Jen (00:01:09)
We love chaos. What could possibly go wrong? Five people who love to talk, all on a podcast together.

Jen (00:01:15)
So thank you, to all of you for joining us. For people who haven’t listened to all of Season 1, you may not know. But we all work together really closely as a team. So we all come from different areas of science, but we unite in our passion to help scientists become better communicators. And the reason Michael and I really wanted to chat with you all today is because we’ve had a few different episodes in the podcast which we’ve kind of labelled barriers to effective communication. So in Season 1 we talked about the impostor syndrome, in Season 2 we talked about procrastination.
And we want to talk about time management because the way we see it, science communication is not central to everybody’s job. And so often, although we might want to be communicating more broadly about our work, or we might feel we should communicate more broadly about our work, it’s actually just really hard to fit into our days.
And so learning how to manage our time is actually a really important skill. And there’s a great quote which you’ve all heard me share with the students from Blaise Pascal that “I’ve only made this letter longer because I’ve not had the time to make it shorter”, which highlights that being a good communicator, being clear, being concise, it takes time. It’s much easier just to waffle and put it out there to the world and hope people can make sense of it.
So that’s why we thought having a diversity of experiences and perspectives on how each of us has attempted, maybe failed, maybe occasionally succeeded to manage our time. Well, we thought that would be a pretty fun discussion to have.

Michael (00:02:44)
Yeah, exactly. And Jen, that’s a great quote. I’ve also got a time management quote that I’d like to share. So my time management quote is “The bad news is time flies. The good news is that you’re the pilot”. And that’s attributed to Michael Altschuler. I actually think it makes it sound quite easy, you know, all you have to do is fly the plane, there’s no one else involved and no other consequences, not to mention all of the other competing distractions and things vying for your time. So I actually think this quote should be changed. So I think it should be “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot. But the bad news is you don’t have a licence and you’ve got passengers on the plane and they’re all shouting incoherently at you”.

Graham (00:03:32)
Well and the plane’s going down.

Jen (00:03:35)
What could possibly go wrong?
Oh wow, so I’m the pilot. That means I have to make decisions, right?

Michael (00:03:42)
It’s a lot of responsibility.

Jen (00:03:44)
That’s right. Anyway, so team, you are all here as experts managing our time. It’s something we all have to do. I know that we all have different approaches to it. And I think sometimes, probably always it can be really challenging. So we want to hear your perspective.
So Graham, I’ve got a question for you first. You’ve obviously had a long and illustrious career in print and the TV media. I’m guessing that time management has been a very important skill in your career and I want to know what you think the relationship is between time and the quality of what you produced. You know, if you’ve got really strict deadlines, is it noticeable that the quality of your work decreases, when you have to do something really quickly?

Graham (00:04:18)
That’s a really interesting question. And it would be one… before I had to work the time deadlines and I would say look I definitely, the more time you’ve got, the better you can make it. But now I find a very hard deadline like something is going to air at 8 o’clock tonight and you have no choice about that really focuses the mind, there’s no doubt about it.
And I think, I think having that kind of deadline is really useful, for getting tasks done because suddenly you get into this new kind of focus, you know, where you’re just completely focused on the task. Any, anything else you let go, you’re, you’re very good at prioritising. But I must say without that really hard deadline, it’s quite a difficult thing for me to do. I can’t pretend there’s a really hard deadline and get the same kind of focus. So I’m not sure other than to set yourself up in situations where you’re going to have these really hard deadlines, which a lot of people do, I think.

Jen (00:05:18)
So you don’t ascribe to that and saying that I love the sound of a good deadline as it whooshes by.

Graham (00:05:23)
Well,that’s, that’s the thing about the media is you, you can’t afford to let them whoosh by. You know a lot of, lot of other jobs that I’ve had even, you can say “Oh well look, I didn’t make the deadline, tried my hardest, but didn’t make it”. But you know, in the media either the publication goes out, the program goes to air whatever it is. They’re, they’re real deadlines you know, there’s nothing you can do about it. You can either have an empty space that goes out to air, or you can actually… so, so you don’t, so you get something done. But umm and it is a real, it’s a great sort of very focused mindset that it creates, but I’ve had trouble recreating it.

Jen (00:05:56)
Yeah, the research on procrastination suggests that internal deadlines as in self-given deadlines are as effective as external deadlines but I don’t find that to be the case at all. I can always convince myself that actually it’s not that important and there’s more flexibility in the system than, than I think. I’m very good at ignoring myself.

Graham (00:06:14)
Yeah yeah, yeah me too. But if there are others, a lot of people especially waiting on you to have that product finished, it makes it very hard not to meet the deadline, I find.

Michael (00:06:23)
Maybe we need to get T-shirts that say please give me a hard deadline.

Jen (00:06:29)
It could be our team motto. Please! I need a deadline.

Graham (00:06:35)
I’d like a T-shirt like that Michael. I think that’s a great idea.

Catriona (00:06:37)
We’ll have them up on our merch shop any day now, folks. Just keep listening.

Michael (00:06:44)
So Linden, I also was curious to ask you, ’cause I know you’ve got you know, you’re juggling a few different responsibilities.
How do you think about time management in relation to prioritising tasks, especially when you’re juggling a lot of different responsibilities?

Linden (00:07:01)
My approach to time has changed I think in the last few years, maybe because of the pandemic, but mainly I think it’s because I’ve become a parent. And so I’m working part time at the moment and before, and I used to be able to push myself and you know, I also work to a hard deadline, that’s what really motivates me. I think university trains us to do that in a lot of ways. And then we kind of, our bodies get used to it, and we, it takes a long time to change our brains to work in a different way that’s not so panic inducing. But I used to push myself and do late nights and all those kinds of things. But now that I have a small person I have to be responsible for, I just can’t, I cannot do that anymore.
And you guys are sharing some great quotes about time management before and the one that I have now stuck on my desk from the author Zadie Smith is “Time is how you spend your love”. And for me, that’s what I have to keep coming back to right now. You’re right, I do juggle a lot of things with my work and also with extracurricular activities that I do as well as parenting, as well as you know, not living in an absolute tip, which I’m kind of… moderately successful at that.
And if I ever want to get any sleep or if I want to see my friends I, I really have to be strict and say “OK, What are the things that really matter to me right now? What are the things that I just have to put off? What are the balls that I can drop? What are the balls that aren’t made of glass?” And this is a kind of phrase that entered my lexicon I think about the same time as my daughter entered my life. “What are the things that I can, can do later?”
That’s a, actually quite an uncomfortable thing to do, particularly if you’ve been a high achiever, if you used to being able to do all of the things that you want and just getting it all done and then going to bed at 4AM. It’s quite, it’s quite an uncomfortable thing to sit with, and it’s taken me a long time to just think, look all you can do is what you can do, and that’s not absolutely everything, so you have to pick the things that, that really matter.

Jen (00:09:09)
Yeah, I think Linden you’ve just… as I’ve I think I’ve discussed with all of you, I’m reading a book at the moment which is exactly about that. And I, I really recommend it. It’s called Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman. And Four Thousand Weeks turns out to be the average human life span. And you know, if I, I should have done this. If you say to someone, “How many weeks do you reckon you get on Earth?” People come up with ridiculous numbers like “Oh, surely it’s 100,000”. You know, people just don’t do the sums. They feel like they’ve got this inordinate length of time on the planet. And you know, 4000’s not that long.
And, and the argument in this book, his argument is essentially that we’ve been conned into believing that if we could just manage our time better, we could do everything and it’s simply not true. All of these gimmicks, all of these apps, all of these things that we’ve conned ourselves into thinking — if I just mastered that technique, I’ll have X number of more hours in my day or my week or whatever. It’s just not true. You don’t have time for everything. You’re going to have to make some really hard decisions about what you do. You’re going to have to prioritise. And as Linden said, work out what is glass and what’s not glass and, and stick with the glass. And you have to give up a whole lot of other stuff.
But we don’t work in systems that encourage us to do that, do we? We work in systems where you’re building a track record, you’re building a CV, you’re building this, this empire of who you are and what you do. It’s not about prioritising at all.

Linden (00:10:22)
Exactly and there’s so many exciting shiny things to do, particularly in the world of science communication, if you like doing outreach, if you like talking about your work with different people. There’s so many schools and there’s so many podcasts and there’s so many fun, exciting, shiny things to do. And saying no sucks. It’s hard. It’s a hard thing to do. And it’s a muscle that you kind of have to strengthen.
I don’t, I’m not saying that I have a strong one. I’ve said yes to heaps of things, but now more and more I just think, oh look, I have to say, I have to say no to that. And now, I can’t remember if I’ve shared this on the podcast before, but I have a list now of all the things that I say no to remind myself that I can say no to stuff.
And the, that time that I have gotten back I can use in a good way and the world didn’t explode and I didn’t instantly get fired or you know, somebody realised that I didn’t know what I was doing. It was OK and that, that gives you strength to really prioritise the, the things that you want to do. And then when you have maybe 120% of time of things to do, then you can figure out how to get those things done.

Graham (00:11:30)
Just on that, I was going to say I noticed when I went freelance for the first time. I used to be you know, employed by an employer, working for them as a scientist in fact, and there was all sorts of tasks that I thought, well gee really? That’s part of my job, I should know about that. And I should really do that, that’s part of my job.
But once I went freelance, suddenly I got this new focus and I just said OK, that is really part of my job but wait a minute, do I really need to do that? I’ve got to earn the dollars for this week. Actually no, I don’t.
And so I would, I really learned how to prioritise things, doing that because you suddenly thought there’s a lot of stuff you do that sure, is part of your job and sure as relevant and sure would be good to do. But do you really need to do it to achieve what you need to achieve? And I think going through that process when you are employed by someone else or in any way it allows you to sort of focus on those things that are really important. And I’m still reeling from the fact we only have 4000 weeks and wondering how many I’ve got left now. That was a very disturbing statistic.

Jen (00:12:24)
It is.

Linden (00:12:24)
You’ve got about 8 Graham…

Michael (00:12:26)
No, it’s…

Linden (00:12:28)
You better… Better to get to the beach.

Graham (00:12:29)
Yeah, I’m going to the beach now. I’ll, I’ll see you later.

Jen (00:12:32)

Jen (00:12:34)
So Cat, I really want to ask you how you feel about this. ‘Cause Graham, I wonder if what you’ve just said becomes easier to do the more experienced you become. ‘Cause I feel like as you become more experienced, you can kind of have a bit of an overview and say look, I’m actually already, I’ve already achieved quite a lot in my career and I don’t feel like if I say no to that, it’s going to come back to bite me essentially.
But Cat, you’re at an earlier stage of your career than Graham, and you balance so many things. You are probably one of the busiest people I know. You work in lots of different places. You’re just about to finish your PhD. You also have extracurricular commitments you know, you do a lot of stuff. But I’m guessing that you’re also at the career stage where it feels really quite frightening to say no to something because this is pressure of I need to prove myself, I need to build my, my track record.
So tell us about you Cat, the fact that you judge so many things. I feel like you must have cracked the secret to time management. Talk to us about how you manage so many things.

Catriona (00:13:29)
I have certainly not cracked any secret to time management. You asked me to come on for this episode, like what time management? But you’re right in that I do do a lot of things and I feel like I am sort of in that stage that Linden mentioned, where you can pull all nighters. And because I have no one to have to take care of, I am certainly like sort of probably stretching myself a bit thin at times.
But I also do feel like there are so many shiny things that I want to do. So because I have four jobs, I kind of have this organised or not so organised, it gets messier throughout the week. But it’s, it’s this to-do list of all the things that I need to do for each. And then I sort of have a column for each so I know OK well, I need to do this task for this job, this task for this job. And then we’ve also got a column of all the you know, all the fun things. And I’m just like oh, this is exciting, I’d like to do this.
But then yeah, I do realise that for a lot of those I set internal deadlines that I just let slip. So I guess for anything that goes into that column, it’s easier to just sort of think, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t do it, you know. It’s not like someone’s relying on you to do this.
Sure, I kind of sometimes feel like I am trying to build up my profile. I’m trying to build up this sort of reputation of who I am. I want to be writing more songs about science, for example. But then you know, I’m just like nope, I am doing too much and I need to have a life as well, so no song this week sort of thing. And, and yeah, it does take a little bit of getting used to you know, knowing oh OK, I can’t do everything.
But Jen, you also mentioned that I am near the end of finishing my PhD and that has been a state that I have been in for a long time. Not 100% my fault, but, but the ball is in my court now and I’ve just like not picked it up for so long. And it’s because I have all of these great things that I want to be doing and I have jobs and people are paying me to do tasks on *inaudible*. At the end of the day, I don’t want to come home and write a thesis so…

Linden (00:15:42)
Who does?

Unknown (00:15:45)
Yeah well.

Jen (00:15:46)
Really? I, I don’t understand Cat, surely that’s the joy of your life.

Catriona (00:15:52)
No, it’s not shiny.

Linden (00:15:54)
Can I just add to that? I remember, I know it’s, I should know who was responsible for this to-do list structure. But you know, that kind of four quadrant to-do list structure when it’s kind of important and urgent, important not urgent, not important, not urgent and not important but urgent. You know, those kind of four quadrants. And I think particularly where we are at the moment with lots of teaching and lots of other commitments, it’s very easy to just get sucked into the… well, not sucked into, you have to do these things, the important and urgent, important and urgent things.
But Cat as you were saying that prioritising what is really tricky is then saying OK, I have to do that thing that’s not urgent but important, and that is a real, that’s a really difficult thing to do. And that’s when sometimes I find you know, mildly I also have multiple lists of various colours and shapes and sizes with various like heavy underlines on them. But I find making time for those things that are not urgent but important can be a really valuable way to push that forward. And not always at the end of the day as well as a, to get that thesis across the line.

Jen (00:17:10)
I think it takes a lot of discipline though Linden, ’cause what I’ve started trying to do is block out times in my calendar for those important, not urgent things. But then I grapple with myself. It’s this absolute fight that I get to that time in my calendar where I identify that I want to spend time on this non urgent but important thing, but then there’s all these urgent things that I feel like need doing.
And I know I don’t have any other time in my calendar to do them, so I end up negotiating with myself that well, I’m just going to have to do the urgent things and that important thing is not so urgent, just going to have to kind of wait. And it’s just this constant exhaustion of arguing with myself.

Linden (00:17:44)
Yeah, no, you’re so right. I was hoping that you would say, “Oh, I’ve got the perfect solution of how to manage that”. Damn. No I, I totally agree and again I don’t know for me, I think it’s a muscle that you gotta build up and also it’s a constant discussion that you have to have. And you think OK, well, all right, all the balls are just going to have to get turned in the air and then I’ll pick up the pieces and restructure and start again.
I feel like sometimes it has to happen, sometimes on a weekly, on a weekly basis to try to figure out OK, what needs to be done? What do I really want to do? Where is my love placed? How can I do this as, as best that I can? And sometimes you have to redo that fairly regularly. Well I, I do, at least.

Michael (00:18:24)
I think we’re touching on something that’s really important here. You know, being able to identify the label for a task, you know. Just think about all the things that you’ve got to do and just labelling them yourself is the first step to then saying OK, well I need to make sure I spend time on a variety of these different things that I’ve labelled rather than just doing the urgent but not important tasks by default all the time and maybe not thinking about it. ‘Cause I think it, doesn’t it come down to the, the 80/20 rule where you know, 20% of the work that you do ends up as resulting in 80% of the, the outcome, and so the other 80% of the work you do doesn’t actually lead to progressing you in any way.

Linden (00:19:11)
What are you saying? What are you saying? We’re useless 80% of the time.

Graham (00:19:15)
For me, I don’t know if this is a problem for other people, but I find I like to do the tasks that are most enjoyable and that’s the order of priority, which there may not be the necessary order I need to have them done. And the way I deal with that is I sort of look at the task for the day and look at the one I least want to do and then force myself to do that first, because it’s the one that I really don’t want to do. And then somehow or other once I get through that, things start picking up. I’m feeling quite good at that stage ’cause I’ve got that really horrible task out of the way and then the rest of the day seems easy. I don’t know if that works for anyone else, but that’s certainly a thing that’s worked for me.

Jen (00:19:53)
Oh absolutely, that’s one of the arguments for why having cold showers is good, because the argument is that if you can, if you can cope with a cold shower first thing in the morning, but then you feel invincible and you’ve done the hardest thing for your day and you, everything else just becomes you know, eminently possible at that point.

Graham (00:20:09)
Like banging your head against the brick wall. It feels so good when you stop. I also had a different kind of analogy there.

Jen (00:20:15)
Maybe, maybe.

Linden (00:20:17)
I hope not too many tasks on your to-do list are like banging your head against a brick wall.

Graham (00:20:21)
Oh, some of them feel like it.

Linden (00:20:23)
Your willpower is often strongest in the morning too. And I find that for those big jobs, for me at least, getting those done in the morning, even if it’s just for a little bit. I’m the same as you Jen, I started scheduling time quite deliberately now, even if it’s just half an hour or 40 minutes.
Just a little bit, just progressing those important but not urgent tasks a little bit, a little bit. The things that I’m probably looking forward to the least, even though I want to have done them. You know, those great tasks you want to have completed. They’re the things that are not pulling on me as much as oh, I’ve got to email that person, I’ve got to mark that thing, I’ve got to prepare that thing, I’ve got to do whatever it is.
Having yeah, doing that at the start of the day… Maybe I’m subconsciously doing what you say Graham, getting the worst done first.

Graham (00:21:09)
But what about, what about this for a way that’s I’ve done actually? So you find another task that really should be done that you really really hate, put that on your to-do list for the day and then suddenly all the tasks that you don’t really want to do become ways to procrastinate from doing the other things.
And my example is changing the washers in the taps at my place. I hate doing that kind of stuff. So I pop that on the to-do list. [Then I go, oh] I’m not going to do that, I’ll do the marking before I do that. I mean sure, every tap in my house trips, but at least you know, it’s a way to sort of inspire me to get some of the other things done.

Michael (00:21:42)
I think that sounds good.

Linden (00:21:44)
Does that work? If setting yourself an internal deadline doesn’t work. Does setting yourself a internal task that you’ve already put off for five years. Is that? Does that really work for you?

Graham (00:21:54)
Oh look, not, let’s look, let’s go easy there. *inaudible* In five years? It’s look, it’s, no… it’s no more than four I’m sure.
But I’m yeah look, it kind of does depending on the task. But I certainly find that is a, that has worked for me is suddenly I think oh, I’ve got to do this, it’s not really urgent, but yeah, I really should do that. Once that’s on the to-do list, I tend to avoid it and suddenly all the other awful tasks seem much more pleasant in comparison.

Jen (00:22:16)
So Graham I don’t know if that would work for me ’cause I just, I’m just a sucker for crossing something off my to-do list. I get such a sense of achievement and reward. So for me, any task that can be done quickly, like you know, unless it’s every washer in your house, something that I can fix, I can do, I can tick it off. Then I feel excellent.
It’s the big tasks that you know, you just, they’re just, they just feel amorphus, they feel enormous. I find it really hard and particularly as we keep saying if there’s no internal deadline, you know, if the deadlines are all internal. Because I find for me, I’m very… I’m a people pleaser so I wanna be… If I feel accountable to somebody, I’ll do it.
So if I’ve got an inbox full of emails, I know people are relying on me to respond and I know I can tick it off once it’s done. That’s heaven to me. But then I never get anywhere near the other stuff. So I know Linden and I are trying to make each other accountable right now, you know, to get our writing done. And I’m trying to break it into little things so I can tick stuff off. You know woo-hoo, I wrote 100 words, I’m going to give myself a gold star for those 100 words. So it feels like I’m accomplishing something because yeah, changing a washer, that sounds delightful to me ’cause it’s done and it’s finished.

Graham (00:23:16)
But I think that’s a good point about the little, the little rewards, like gold stars. I like this sort of exercises and stuff. I started keeping a spreadsheet. I normally wouldn’t do that kind of thing, but I was just finding I wasn’t doing them. But once I had this little spreadsheet of exercises I should do that I had to tick off like physical exercises, suddenly I was pretty keen not to have blank spaces in the spreadsheet. So I found that quite motivating for those kind of tasks anyway.

Jen (00:23:40)
Yeah, that’s the whole idea behind don’t break the chain. I can’t remember if it was Jerry Seinfeld or someone, the idea that he convinced himself the only way he’d become a good comedian was to write a joke every single day. But some days you don’t feel like writing jokes. But he put up a grid on his wall and crossed out the day every time he wrote a joke. And he ended up with his lovely chain of crosses. And so his motto is don’t break the chain; Even on a day where you don’t feel like writing a joke, you just do it so you get your chain. And that’s exactly what you’re talking about Graham. And that works wonders for me too. The visual is really powerful.

Michael (00:24:09)
I think you’re touching on something really important there as well Jen is you know, we’re not always going to be in the right mind frame to do a certain task, and we don’t have to be necessarily to actually do the actions you know, towards completing that task. And I think sometimes it can be good to practise working on something where you don’t feel like you’re in the right mind frame because there’s no point in waiting around for that perfect mind frame to come, because it’s, chances are it’s, you’re never going to be in the perfect mind frame. You’re always going to feel like, oh. I’m not quite ready.

Jen (00:24:40)
That’s the whole idea behind the idea of motivation follows action. We all wait till we feel motivated for something. Chances are you’re never going to feel motivated. What gives you motivation is taking action and tackling the thing that you don’t want to do. And all of a sudden you’re like Ooh, now I feel like doing more. So that’s the whole idea behind just do something for five minutes.
Or you know, people who are trying to start an exercise routine. Just put your sneakers on. If you don’t actually make it out the door, that’s fine, but just put your sneakers on and open the front door. By the time you put the sneakers on and open your front door, chances are you’re gonna walk out your front gate and maybe go around the block or something.
You know, I’m just gonna write for five minutes. And if at that point I don’t want to write anymore, that’s fine, I’m allowed to stop. But after five minutes, like Oh actually, I’m making some progress here. So I really like that idea, that whole thing of how do you eat an elephant? You know, one bite at a time.

Linden (00:25:22)
Yeah, absolutely. Although can I say thinking about what Cat said, about late at night is when she gets her hard tasks done. I kind of am the opposite in that if I do decide OK, I’m going to give it a nudge tonight and work quite late, I feel as though I’ve got these just paddocks of time to get stuff done and so I can procrastinate. Maybe I’ll just do, look at this thing. I’ll just check out this. I’ll just go down this rabbit warren. I’ll get in this Wikipedia hole.
And when it comes to getting stuff done, can I just put out a bit of a plug for cutting yourself off. I can be quite strict on myself now because I’ve employed a lot of external apps to help me, cutting me off from Twitter after a certain amount of time, cutting me off from Instagram, locking myself out of my inbox, those kinds of things. So all those short little dopamine bursts of ticking something off the list or getting a notification, I cut those out so I can focus on the thing that, that I want to do. ‘Cause otherwise, it’s 3 AM and I’m only just getting down to business.
This feels like a confessional, this episode. I’m not really sure if we’re doing ourselves any favours today.

Catriona (00:26:32)
You see, I value my sleep too much.
I’m like OK, if I’m going to work tonight I am working tonight because otherwise I could be sleeping.

Linden (00:26:43)
Yeah, maybe it’s my free time that I value too much right now ’cause that is at a premium.

Jen (00:26:49)
I think it’s very, very true that if you’re trying to force yourself to do something that feels hard, you are naturally going to be attracted to anything that feels easier. So you have to take away all of the easy things.
So for me, that means phone in a different room, closing down a whole lot of things, potentially turning off the Wi-Fi. You know, anything that can make the path of least resistance of just getting distracted impossible. I just have to.
And it seems ridiculous. You know, we’re adults. We shouldn’t need those things, but they really help.

Catriona (00:27:18)
Best work I’ve ever done was on a plane, like 14 hour flights because you can’t do anything else.

Graham (00:27:25)
Except now they’re introducing Wi-Fi on planes, right? So there’s no escape.

Catriona (00:27:30)
Oh no.

Jen (00:27:32)
So team, I feel like we’ve done some really good confessional work today. We’ve all outed some of our, some of our difficulties and just made it clear that everybody struggles with this stuff. So if you look around you and think oh, everybody else manages to get their stuff done without this agony but it’s not me, I think that everyone struggles with this.
But just before we run out of time. I would love it if each person had kind of one top tip to share. What’s one thing that you read or an app that you use or a, or a new thought that you’ve brought into your world that’s really helped you to manage this stuff? I don’t know. Who would like to volunteer to go first? Who’s still thinking?

Michael (00:28:06)
Jen, I like to follow the advice of Mary Poppins here, who said “Well begun is half done”.
So you know, just getting a start on those important tasks that are not urgent I think is the most important thing to do.

Graham (00:28:19)
I guess for me I’m not sure if it’s anything I haven’t said already. But the biggest thing for me is that work out what you want to achieve, what your priorities are, and then assess every task to see is it going to help you with those priorities. If it’s not, ditch it. I reckon that really helps me manage time and just focus on the things that really need to be done.

Linden (00:28:40)
That’s such a great tip.

Jen (00:28:42)
Yeah, I think that’s such awesome advice Graham. And I guess we all need to really take that on board, ’cause in a moment where you feel overwhelmed and you’ve got too many things to do, taking time out to think big picture can feel really hard. But if it buys you the certainty that where you’re investing your time is sensible, I think that’s really worth doing.

Linden (00:28:59)
I think my tip would be that you can only do so much. And for me, that kind of… physically is manifested now when I make a to-do list for the day. I try not to have more than five things on it. Because if you make a list of 45 things, you’re going to feel bad at the end of the day because you haven’t completed them all. Whereas if you’ve got five things and you can get those five things done, I think that’s a reasonable expectation for a day to get five small to moderate tasks completed. You can feel good. You can feel that you deserve your break at the end of the day, which gives you more energy to get five more things done the next day.

Catriona (00:29:30)
Yeah, I agree with the to-do list. I would say that mine has more than five things, but I really like to have my to-do list and then I put asterisks next to the things that I’m like OK, these need to be done. And yeah, probably wouldn’t have more than five of those. So like prioritising within your to-do list.
But then that satisfaction of crossing things off when they’re done and then, I really like to-do mine on post-it notes. I know some people like to do it in diaries and and have it dated, but if you have it on a post-it note you cross off all the things and then you can scrunch it up and throw it out when you’re done and it’s so satisfying.

Graham (00:30:03)
I love the scrunching up when you’re done. I love that part of the to-do list.

Jen (00:30:06)
I love scribbling things out in a big texta. The satisfaction of scribbling it out.

Michael (00:30:13)
Yeah, definitely.

Jen (00:30:14)
I think for me, probably one of the biggest things has been learning about how much accountability helps me. So things like communal shut up and write sessions, and those sort of things really work for me. But I think for me the biggest thing I’ve learned is actually to become more comfortable with being really uncomfortable. To me, the feeling that I’m kind of letting someone else down, that I’m not getting something done. I can get feel really anxious about that and only ever do kind of the reactive quick, busy work.
Just kind of taking a step back and saying actually, it’s OK. You know, people wait all the time. You’re not a bad person by not responding to this immediately. It’s OK to switch your email off for a few hours at a time and know that things will be building up, but you, you’ll get to it later. Like just feeling, taking deep breaths and saying it’s OK, I feel a bit uncomfortable, but that’s OK. That’s just part of how I’m going to operate from now on. That’s been really powerful for me.

Michael (00:31:05)
What excellent advice to finish on. So thank you so much team for coming on and sharing your tips about time management.
That brings us to the end of the episode, and it also brings us to the end of Season Three. So thanks for joining us.

Jen (00:31:15)
Time passes quickly, Michael, another whole season done. But thank you so much for listening and for your feedback and for sharing.
We’ll be back with Season Four in a few weeks. We can’t wait till then, and in the meantime, use your time wisely.

Michael (00:31:53)
Thanks for listening. If you’re enjoying these episodes, you can help spread the word by telling a friend about Let’s Talk SciComm, or even sharing one of our episodes on social media.
That’s all for this week, but we’ll be back in your feed next Thursday. But until then, you can reach out to us @LetsTalkSciComm on Twitter and Instagram, and Let’s Talk SciComm Podcast on Facebook and we would love to hear from you.