In this article, you can learn how you can organize your life to minimize stress while achieving results and improving your:
- self esteem and self love,
- day-to-day work,
- academic career.
Finding the balance between life, work, and play is exactly what we need to thrive. However, we sometimes lack the right tools and insight to do so. It can feel even more daunting to make lifestyle changes once you are further along in your career. You might be overwhelmed, reacting to life instead of actively pursuing what you want.
Inês Coutinho is a mother, pet owner, academic, and researcher who had the same conundrum. But then, she found the Grid: a one-page method she could use to organize her life in a way that serves her wishes and wellbeing. It has now been four years since she discovered the Grid method. We thus invited Inês to share how the Grid has helped her gain more balance and happiness. Let’s get to know her and her Gridding process.
The balance between personal life and work life that we should all aim for was what attracted me the most. Also, the idea that there are better ways of managing time than making to do lists!Inês Coutinho
Busy people need more than a simple list
Inês: “I am 35 years-old, married, and have a 12-year-old daughter. Our passion for animals resulted in the adoption of 1 dog and 3 cats. We are never bored at home!”
“After finishing my Ph.D. it became clear to me that I have a passion for learning. Teaching and researching were my calling. I started a career as a researcher. Soon, I had the opportunity to teach in the Conservation and Restoration Department at the NOVA School of Sciences and Technology in Portugal (FCT NOVA). Currently, I am an assistant professor at FCT NOVA. My specialty is the Conservation of Glass and Ceramics and my research focus on the history of glass in Portugal. I teach both at Bachelor and Master levels, and I also supervise several Master and Ph.D. theses.”
Busy people like Inês need ways to manage their work while having a life outside of it. Focusing on academia without giving attention to other parts of your life can easily lead to dissatisfaction or worse, burnout.
If you are in a similar position, you might have noticed that simple lists don’t offer you enough versatility. While they support you in getting some of the work done, other parts of your life might still suffer from less attention as can tasks without a firm deadline.
The challenges and risks of being in ‘react-mode’
Inês: “At the end of 2017, I started teaching and researching at the same time. The first years of teaching can be very exhaustive. With all the teaching material to prepare, students to supervise, laboratory at my responsibility, plus all the bureaucracy we must take care of… I could not find time for my family. After dinner, I ended up every evening falling asleep on the couch with my laptop on my knees. I was really struggling with time management.“
Disorganized high achievers tend to prioritize their work over their own wellbeing. However, there is a way to counteract or even fully avoid this. Time should be your friend, not your enemy, and the Grid method is here to help.
Getting help: Discovering the Grid organizational method
Inês: “I started to look for ways to keep the work organized and have time for my family at home (at this point I did not even realize that I needed time for myself!).
I had already heard about Magdalena because she used to teach a course at NOVA University for researchers that were applying for European Research Council (ERC) grants, and I came across Amazon with the book “Get Productive Grid”. I did not even think twice, and I immediately got the book. I think I read it over an afternoon and started implementing the Grid in my life in December 2017.”
Get Productive Grid: a good way to start if you like books
If you are looking for ways to make a swift change in your life, the Get Productive Grid book offers you a great introduction to how you can build balance and stability. In it, you will find a three-month Grid campaign to get you into balance and productivity that is no longer deadline-driven and that respects your other needs.
The book has practical Grid examples so you can easily create your own practice, and exercises to help you start and to evaluate how your practice is going. Many Gridders can see an improvement in their energy levels and results within just a day of using the Grid!
For a more in-depth and immersive guide that taps into some of the underlying neuroscience and psychology roots the Grid is based on, you may want to sign up to the Grid Introduction Training course. This personal development journey is designed to teach you how to Grid by taking a far more systematic approach to your life. You will be guided to establish your vision, learn to set goals in line with your Grid priories, discover how you can tackle procrastination and begin to use the Grid to its full potential. It is certainly a very worthwhile journey as you can discover in this case study from Banu who completed the course in 2021.
How you can start to organize your life to minimize stress
Inês: “I started using the Grid in December 2017 and I did monthly grids. I was very disciplined for 4 or 5 months. I really started managing my time better, my work was not late, and I had time for my family. Then, I even started having time to spare, with me! And then, I think probably because of the illusion that I was already mastering my time management, I stopped gridding.”
“Needless to say, everything went messy again with no boundaries between personal life and work. After a few months, I started again with monthly grids. I think it was an ‘on/off’ relation until March 2020 when Covid began. With the total lockdown, I started doing daily grids and it kept me sane! At the beginning of 2021, I switched to weekly grids. It is a format I still use and the one I think really works for me!”
Beginning well and then feeling over-confident is normal. What’s so great about the Grid is that the method builds self-coaching and habit adjustment into the gridding process. This means that once your nervous system experiences the positive affect, when that stops, you tend to notice! And, you are naturally motivated to want to get it back!Dr. Magdalena Bak-Maier, Grid creator
From promising beginnings to a life-affirming Grid practice
“I felt that something on the Grid still needed some personal fine-tuning. With that conscious I spent some time analyzing the Grid, going again over “The Get Productive Grid” book, checking my notes to try to understand what changed in my life so that the original Grid format was not quite working for me anymore.”
“I realized that in the last year there were a lot of changes in my life and in the way I face the balance between my work and my personal life. One of the most important is that I have created boundaries: I always stop working at 5 pm. I get up around 6:30 am, start working at 8:30/9 am, and during my work time I try to be very focused so I can get the most I can done and shut down the computer at 5pm.”
“With this, I have time to take care of me (do my trainings, enroll in online courses in several subjects of my interest, etc) and to take care of and spend time with my family (I love cooking and baking!), including the pets!”
The Grid process adopts with your needs
The Grid is designed for personalization that keeps up with your lifestyle and needs. It can be anything you need it to be, while the Grid principles keep you safe and doing well.Dr. Magdalena Bak-Maier, Grid creator
Inês: “My Grid now only has 3 areas, because the ‘Life’ quadrant’ is already well established in my daily routine.
My ‘Self-care’ quadrant is small, not because I do little for myself, but because my self-care is also fully integrated into my life, and I do not feel the need to write it down to make it happen.
My grids are made on a notebook with white plain paper sheets. I have tons of pens with different colours and fantasy tapes (to divide the quadrants).
The first thing that I do is to choose a sentence, usually a Buddhist one, that I tape at the top of the page to inspire me every day. After, I divide the page with the tape into 3 areas: Work, Career, and Self-Care.
I usually do my Grid on Mondays, after the morning coffee, to start my week in a good mood and with the feeling that I have things organized and under control! The following step is to attribute time for each task identified on the Grid on my weekly schedule.”
The key benefits of adopting this life habit
“It keeps me organized and with the feeling that I have deadlines and schedules, etc, under control. It helps a lot in avoiding the feeling of overwhelm.Inês Coutinho
Inês: “I would have to say that gridding for a long period made me realize I needed boundaries in my life to be happy and to feel energized. This was for sure the key impact and that ultimately led to significant changes in my life. The main benefit was to make me think and reflect on how I was living my life and how that was affecting people around me, especially my family.”
You can change so much in your life with one simple realization, it is simply amazing.
For other academics as well, the Grid is more than a piece of paper: it is a powerful tool for both reflection and action.
You deserve to feel the magic of balancing your life and having more energy, too.
Organize your life with these resources
- Understand the Grid and start your own journey with the “Get Productive Grid” book.
- Find balance at your own pace with the immersive online Grid Introduction Training. Read more about it here.
- Join us for one of our small-group events. Meet like-minded people, connect to your heart and get personalized help with your Grids or Goal Setting.