Category Archives: GTD

March 18, 2015, 9:00 am

GTD for academics: The importance of review

This is the second in an ongoing series of posts about using the Getting Things Done (GTD) system to manage time, tasks, and life in academia. Here’s the first post.

4680873542_d046edbe82_zIn the first post in this series I discussed the basic premises behind GTD and the problems it attempts to solve. In the next few posts, I want to give a description of how I operate on a day-to-day basis as a professor using GTD. You’ll see parts of my system in the process.

Doing academic work with GTD involves things that happen in the moment as well as careful planning that I set aside time to do at various points in the week. The interplay between our plans and those moments is what life and work are all about. This post was going to be a single post at one point, but in writing this I realized that both the planning part and the moment-by-moment part deserve some depth. So this post will focus only on planning,…

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March 9, 2015, 9:00 am

GTD for academics: The mindset and the precepts

352200409_283935d56a_mLike many of you, I have a lot going on both in my professional as well as my personal life. Also like many of you, I am pretty committed to finding and maintaining a healthy work/life balance so that I can get maximum enjoyment out of both life and work. But how do we find and maintain that balance? For me, it’s a matter of being sort of obsessive when it comes to productivity. And with this article, I want to kick off a regular series of posts where I talk about my system for productivity, which uses the Getting Things Done or GTD system created and championed by David Allen.

I remember the first time when it dawned on me that whatever it was I was doing to manage time, tasks, and projects wasn’t enough. It was at my previous institution; I was walking down the hall when I happened to pass my VPAA, who said to me: “So, I’ll see you at 2:00?” It took me a half second to realize that …

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August 22, 2014, 9:58 am

Approaching balance in an academic life

3832406129_c81191cc27_mRecently, I received an accolade that not only meant a great deal to me, but also set many thoughts in motion about how I think about work. OK, this is just a Twitter mention, but it comes from a person whose own work I respect; and for me, “succeeding at research and teaching while staying human” is a pretty economical description of a successful academic career.

This tweet has come into sharp relief lately. Our semester is starting up on Monday and the ease with which I can find balance will lessen considerably. Also, when I look back on some of the comments I’ve received on recent blog posts, there’s a pattern showing up that has me concerned for some of my fellow academicians, namely that there’s a desire to have a more balanced approach to work – excellent research and excellent teaching – but this balance is disincentivized or downright impossible. There seems to …

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April 15, 2012, 10:49 pm

The bubble within the bubble

This op-ed from the Times Higher Education raises an important point about the demands placed on the personal lives of academics:

Robert Markley has made it to the promised land, securing a tenured post at a large research-intensive university that would be the envy of a thousand early career hopefuls.

But it’s not all milk and honey. He is on his second marriage (and attributes the break-up of his first directly to his work), sees his new wife only during holidays and on occasional weekends, and spends up to 40 per cent of his income on the travel and two homes that make even this possible.

The professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is among the scholars in our cover feature who go to extraordinary lengths – and accept…

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December 1, 2011, 8:51 am

Experiments in digital grading

This semester, I made the decision to phase out paper from my professional life. Little by little, and over the course of perhaps a couple of academic years, I hope to shift as much as I can over to digital versions of everything I use in teaching, scholarship, service, and mentoring. There are several reasons I want to do this, but the main thing that convinced me to make the choice to go “as paperless as possible” were my grading practices. At some point during this semester, I became convinced that I simply must move away from paper when dealing with student work. Why? Here are a few reasons:

1. Paper-based student work is cumbersome. More than once this semester, student work has gotten lost or misplaced because it was put into the wrong stack, stapled to the wrong thing, or in one case the staple for one student’s submission got hung on the staple for another student’s submission…

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June 14, 2010, 7:36 am

Random observation about workflow and life

It used to be, in graduate school and in my early career, that I really couldn’t get any serious work done unless I had large, uninterrupted slabs of time to work with. I had to have 3-4 straight hours, at least, if I wanted to read a journal article, work on research, or get grading done.

But increasingly, it seems like, in my work at a small liberal arts college, this ideal of monolithic slabs of time with which to work has become unlikely. There’s always the out-of-nowhere fire to put out, the meeting that gets scheduled in the middle of a big block of time, the unexpected student dropping by, and so on. Having kids makes the fragmentation of time even more common and pronounced.

However, I’ve noticed something since being mostly at home with my 6-, 4-, and 1-year olds this summer so far: Not only can I count on frequent interruptions if I try to sit down and work on things, I…

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January 13, 2010, 7:30 am

Daily routines

John Cook shared this interesting article on Twitter the other day. It lists 25 great thinkers and their daily rituals. This got me thinking about my daily routine, the little rituals that I observe, and how the rhythms of a routine help me find balance, stability, and productivity in my life and work. I’ve seen the value of a routine through my kids (ages 6, 4, and 1), who early on needed routines to help them learn day from night and know when to eat and nap, and who still need to stick to a routine or else become incorrigible.

While having three kids this young makes routines and rituals more a matter of probability than anything and routines hard to follow, there are a few rituals I like to keep around no matter what happens:

  • I get up at 5:00, and from 5:30-6:15 I do Matins from the Treasury of Daily Prayer, eat breakfast, and get all the stuff the kids need for school that day as…

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October 3, 2008, 7:46 pm

Back to Jott

After trying either to live without Jott or to use an alternative speech-to-text service like reQall (which seemed very unwieldy to me), I finally decided to go back and give the new, for-profit version of Jott a spin. And actually, it’s fine.

The service is still the same — you call 866-JOTT-123 and leave a message, and Jott transcribes it to text — and it appears to work just as well as it used to (which isn’t always so great, depending on the signal strength and your enunciation skills). What made Jott the killer app for me, before it went out of beta, was that the text transcription of voice messages was sent directly to GMail. (Or your choice of several other links.) Some of the links from Jott to the rest of the web are still free (such as Twitter) but the others, particularly all the Google apps, are “premium links” which you can have for $3.95 a month. Having to go to a web…

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September 29, 2008, 6:20 am

Monday GTD moment: Scholarship and GTD

This is the third installment of Monday GTD Moment, where I take a post to blog about Getting Things Done and how it applies in an academic setting. If you’re unfamiliar with GTD, here’s a good overview, and make sure to read David Allen’s book that started it all.

Last week I wrote about grading and GTD. I noted that grading is kind of a poor fit in traditional GTD. A prof can grade anywhere, so the idea of contexts fits awkwardly; and grading “tasks” are usually projects, although we think of them as tasks and although the next actions contained in those projects are usually nothing more than smaller projects. GTD wasn’t really made for the academic profession, and so the staple activities of academics don’t often fit well.

Another area similar to grading in its relatively poor fit within the canonical GTD philosophy is research, or more generally scholarship. By “scholarship” …

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September 22, 2008, 6:32 am

Monday GTD moment: Handling grading in GTD

This is the second installment of Monday GTD Moment, where I take a post to blog about Getting Things Done and how it applies in an academic setting. Here’s the first post. If you’re unfamiliar with GTD, here’s a good overview, and make sure to read David Allen’s book that started it all.

It’s week 5 of the semester for us, which is crunch time for students — and professors. This is the time of the semester when everybody has tests and papers all due, usually on the same day, which means there’s lots of grading. I don’t like grading, but it has to be done. And if I treat grading lightly or let it pile up, I will make mistakes when I grade and students won’t get the feedback they need to improve in a timely way. As an academic type, grading is one of the most important, difficult, and time-consuming features of my job and therefore requires careful management. But it doesn’t fit…

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