Category Archives: Profhacks

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…

Read More

September 15, 2008, 5:24 am

Monday GTD moment: The tickler file circa 1888

This is the first of what will hopefully turn into a weekly feature here at Casting Out Nines — a Monday morning post on workflow/task management in general and GTD in particular. Hopefully a GTD post will get everyone out there motivated to manage our time and work better through the week.

The tickler file is one of the more memorable characters in David Allen’s Getting Things Done. It consists of 43 different folders — twleve of them labeled by month and the rest labelled 1-31 for the day — which you use as a system for physical items from your inbox that you choose to defer to a later date. The tickler file is set up with the current day up front and then subsequent days behind; the months are at the back, next month first. If you have an item from the physical inbox you are deferring to a later date, just chuck it in the appropriate folder, and — this is what makes it work –…

Read More

August 20, 2008, 2:23 pm

Farewell, Jott, I hardly knew ye

Jott, the voice-to-text program I have blogged about a couple of times, has come out of “beta” (you mean Web 2.0 apps can be something other than “beta”?) and, sadly, is no longer a free service. (You mean Web 2.0 apps aren’t always free?) There will be a “Jott Basic” plan that will remain free, but all it allows you to do is leave voice messages to the online “Jott desktop”; it does not include the feature that made Jott so addictive useful, namely the ability to have voice messages transcribed and sent directly to your email account, Google Calendar, Twitter, or other supported services. For that, you have to pay $3.95 a month for the regular plan or $12.95 for the “Pro” plan. Also, the basic plan includes ads.

I can’t begrudge Jott for wanting to have some kind of a revenue stream, but I have to say that I am very disappointed in this move, and I won’t be using Jott from here on out….

Read More

August 18, 2008, 9:01 pm

Teddy Roosevelt's to-do list

I’ve just finished reading Edmund Morris’ splendid biography The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. I can’t remember how I got interested in this book, but I came away from it greatly appreciative of Roosevelt not only as a great President but as a man whose capacity for both thinking and doing were almost superhuman. Although some aspects of his life seem questionable to me (there’s a distinct subordination of his family life to his career, for instance), I do admire his voracity of mind, his passion for public service and for doing what’s right, and the sheer force of his personality in getting things done.

Here’s one snippet from the book that really stood out to me. Shortly after Roosevelt was nominated for the Vice-Presidency in 1900 (the previous Vice-President, Garret Hobart, having died suddenly the previous year), he went out on the campaign trail for William McKinley. His schedule…

Read More

August 8, 2008, 4:19 pm

Tao on time management

Update: Welcome, readers from Terry Tao’s blog. I invite you to browse, starting with the Top 12 Posts retrospective page. I’ve got more articles on math and on time/task management if you want them.

Have you ever wondered how a Fields Medalist does time management? Terry Tao is happy to oblige. It’s not your standard GTD-esque post, as Terry discusses some of the pecuilarities of managing time when practicing a subject so unpredictable as mathematics, where long periods of going nowhere punctuated by massive flashes of insight wreak havoc on calendars and to-do lists.

June 28, 2008, 12:27 pm

Jott as a diction-checking device

I’ve blogged before about Jott, the web service which lets you call in and leave a voice message, and then it transcribes it to text and emails it to you or others you want to contact. I use Jott quite often in lieu of a voice recorder for quick thoughts that might be actionable. When I want to catch an idea, I get my cell phone, hit “5″ on the speed dial to call Jott, then talk through my message. A few moments later, I get a transcribed version in my GMail inbox which then gets reviewed at my next GTD weekly review.

Jott’s capabilities as a speech-to-text converter are impressive, but it’s not perfect. When I get a mis-transcription, sometimes I wonder whether it’s Jott’s fault or whether it’s something having to do with how clearly I am speaking. Take this recent message for instance. I had just finished teaching a section on exponential growth and decay in my calculus class that me…

Read More

June 19, 2008, 2:34 pm

LaTeX as a word processor?

Good article here at The Productive Student giving five reasons why students should use \(\LaTeX\) as their word processor and not Microsoft Word:

1. Never worry about formatting again.
2. It looks way better. [By the way: Very nice article on LaTeX's typesetting at that link.]
3. It won’t crash: LaTeX is basically a plain text file. You can edit it anywhere, in any text editor, and it basically can’t crash on you. File size is very small which makes it very portable.
4. It’s great for displaying equations, which is why it’s the leading standard among sciencitifc scholars.
5. It fits in with the workflow of a student and allows you to do one thing well: Write.

The writer also shares some of his practices for writing papers (not necessarily math or science papers) with \(\LaTeX\), stressing \(\LaTeX\)’s ability to handle bibliographic data as the “killer feature”….

Read More

May 22, 2008, 8:32 am

Looking for an internet voice mail app for students

Sorry for the light blogging, but I’ve been trying to cram in a bunch of work this week so I can take next week completely off. (Summer classes start the week after that.) Today I’m prepping for my summer calculus course, and I have a question for the audience about a particular web service I need but can’t seem to find. 

The calculus class I am teaching this summer is in the evenings, and as far as I can tell all the students who are taking it are commuters. Normally, during the regular school year, I set up lots of office hours and have an open-door policy for students to come and get help when they need it. But since the class is in the evenings and I am staying at home with the kids during the day, and since the students won’t be on campus anyway except for my class, office hours are not really going to be the optimal way for students to get help. I’ll have office hours by…

Read More

February 6, 2008, 3:11 pm

Bento and GTD?

This blog has gotten a lot of search engine hits lately from queries of the form “Bento GTD”. I guess that’s because I wrote about Bento once and I have written a lot about GTD. And while I was demo-ing Bento, once or twice it crossed my mind that an intrepid person could possibly hack it into a GTD platform. But it appears like there is some kind of movement out there for using Bento for GTD. (Or maybe just one person who can’t stop hitting the “Submit” button on his search engine.) Would one of you folks who are searching along these lines mind filling us in on this, in the comments?

I found Bento to be merely OK — more pretty than useful, and I was able to cobble together what I really needed (a searchable, rich-text repository of information on my students) using VoodooPad Lite, which is free. I didn’t think Bento was worth the $79 $49 price tag. But I’m cheap, so that’s not…

Read More

January 26, 2008, 3:06 pm

Happiness and productivity in college, the GTD way

I missed this the first time, but Study Hacks posted this article on Getting Things Done for College Students back last summer. It’s basically a self-contained overview of GTD, although it differs from “canonical” GTD in that it takes into account that college students don’t have a fixed 8-5 work day. Instead, they propose fixing down “work hours” and making that be your work day. There are other college-student specific variations in the main article. Well worth a look if you are a college student needing a trustworthy system for productivity.

That article is just one link in this massively-link-filled post on being productive and happy in college in general, which contains so much good advice on time and “stuff” management for college students that I think the average college student would be overwhelmed by it all. But it’s definitely deserving of a read from all students out there.

Read More