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Posts by Nels P. Highberg


November 3, 2009, 10:00 AM ET

Creating GTD Action Lists for Students

A few weeks ago, I wrote an introduction to GTD, or Getting Things Done, a productivity system that many academics find useful as a way of organizing all of the demands on our personal and professional lives.  In this post, I’d like to say a bit about the pedagogical uses of the GTD system.  As I said in my introduction, one of the core principles of the GTD system is to break down complex projects into discreet action items.  After a few years of doing that for my own work, I started doing it for students, and I’ve been really happy with the results.

When courses begin, faculty usually provide students with a syllabus and schedule that lists major deadlines and activities for the entire semester or quarter.  I try to list the readings due for each class meeting along with due dates for formal writing assignments.  But there’s a lot more students should be doing to...

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October 22, 2009, 06:00 PM ET

Developing Policies for Late Assignments

In one of our Wednesday open threads a couple of weeks ago, George mentioned my policy for handling late assignments.  I’ve written about it on my personal blog before, but I thought I’d expand on it in a PH post since it’s something people have told me they find useful and even provocative.  Keep in mind that I mostly teach writing.  Even when a course is not specifically a writing course, almost all of my assignments are writing assignments, and that shapes my policies in general.  In terms of late work, I try to keep things clear and simple.  I will take any essay up to a week late without a grade penalty, but I will not offer any comments on that essay at all.  Since I usually offer students the chance to revise all of their major assignments (except at the end of the semester), the lack of comments puts them at a significant disadvantage.  I always offer to meet...

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October 6, 2009, 06:00 PM ET

Talking About Blogging in Tenure and Application Documents

A few weeks ago, I left a comment on a Prof. Hacker post about academics and social media where I said I was surprised at the role that my blog played in my tenure dossier.  Julie referenced that comment in a comment she made on her own post about the role social media played in her life as a graduate student.  We at Prof. Hacker try to offer concrete strategies that evolve from our lived experiences, and it made sense to me to present how exactly I discussed my blog in my dossier.  This may help others think about how they might present their own experience in their own tenure and job application documents (taking into consideration the particular contexts in which those documents are written, of course).

There was a section in my dossier where I had to describe my research direction and contributions.  This is where I listed my publications and described how they fit...

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September 22, 2009, 03:00 PM ET

An Introduction to GTD (Getting Things Done)

GTD is an acronym that a lot of professionals throw around, and those of us who do often forget that not everyone is clued into the cult.  Prof. Hacker has been asked more than once to say a bit more about what it is and why academics might want to know about it.  Though we already have a GTD tag connected to some previously written posts, we are hoping for this post to provide a quick, general overview of the system.  Over the next several weeks, or perhaps for the life of Prof. Hacker itself, we’ll present a series of posts by several of us that focus on aspects of the system that are most relevant for academic life.

GTD refers to Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, a book published by David Allen in 2002, and it has since become a phenomenon.  As I write this entry seven years after the book was published, it is number one on Amazon’s list of ...

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September 17, 2009, 08:00 AM ET

Stop Comparing Yourself to Other People

We all do it.  Think back to that first year of graduate school.  You probably took the introductory classes alongside the other entering students, and you spent time wondering things.  Which one of you is the smartest?  Which one of you has the chance to be a star?  Who in this room will have an easy time getting a fellowship?  A job?  Maybe you even asked yourself, “Who in this room is going to get what I want before I do?  And how can I stop them?”

Academia is often about competition.  Sure, we think of ourselves as colleagues working toward common goals.  In grad school, we all want to learn about this field that has fascinated us.  As faculty, we all want to teach well and create a vibrant educational setting for our students.  In our professional organizations and at our regional and national conferences, we want to further our knowledge about the questions...

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September 14, 2009, 08:00 AM ET

Don't Let Productivity Stress You Out

I used to subscribe to Men’s Health.  Soon after each issue arrived, I’d go over the diet, exercise, and lifestyle tips looking for anything I thought would make it easier to handle my expanding waistline and approaching middle age.  At first, it was fun to sit on the couch and dog-ear useful pages.  It wasn’t long, though, until I was becoming less aware of what would help me live a better life and more aware of what I wasn’t doing.

I  had more questions than answers.  Was it protein I was supposed to eat soon after a workout to increase the benefits of exercise?  And what counted as “soon”?  Thirty minutes?  Sixty?  Ninety?  And was it free weights or machines that were best for someone at my age and activity level?  Was I supposed to change workouts every six weeks or six months?  And which apples were the healthiest to have with lunch?  Golden Delicious or Granny Smith?  A...

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September 10, 2009, 08:00 AM ET

Pay It Forward

Each year, my university gives two research fellowships to junior faculty.  They come with course releases and research funds, which makes the quest for them rather competitive.  When I decided to apply for one in my third year, a colleague down the hall who had won one offered her application to me.  She said that she’d used the application someone in her department had written a couple of years earlier, and she thought she’d won because that earlier application pushed her to think about format, design, and content in new ways.  I felt that same after reviewing hers.  I saw different ways of presenting certain aspects like the schedule for project completion and list of references.  When I won, I knew it had a lot to do with what I learned from being given my colleague’s application.  If I hadn’t been able to review it, I know my presentation of what I planned to ...

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