All posts by Natalie Houston

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Defend Against Disruption and Distraction

squawk bird

Many professionals today struggle to handle interruptions that can pull you away from focused work. Interruptions come in lots of different forms, such as notifications of email or text messages, phone calls, someone knocking on your office door, or your own stream of thoughts.

In a recent episode of the Productivityist podcast, Mike Vardy talks about the distinction he makes between disruptions and distractions:

Disruptions are things that:

  • actually do demand your attention or response
  • are of…
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How to Wipe a PC Hard Drive

In my last post, How to Dispose of Old Electronics, I mentioned some different options for wiping a hard drive on an old computer that you are preparing for donation or recycling. Deleted files can be partially or fully recovered, so if you have files with personal data you should wipe the hard drive. Wiping is done by overwriting the data sectors on the hard drive in multiple passes.

This post describes how to use Darik’s Nuke & Boot (DBAN), a long-established freeware tool for wiping drives o…

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How to Dispose of Old Electronics

old computers

Do you have an old non-working computer stashed away somewhere in your garage, attic, or closet because you’re not sure how to dispose of it?  Do you have a stack of CDs with old backups on them that you no longer need? An old printer or monitor? Power cords or connector cables that you don’t use?

Here are a few suggestions for how to dispose of these items safely and responsibly.

Back Up Your Data
If you’re disposing of a working computer, first be sure to back up any data stored on it. If you…

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Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution

lake

In personality typologies derived from the work of Carl Jung, introverts are described as people who gain energy from solitude and extroverts as people who gain energy from being around other people. Understanding where you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum can help you understand your own energy patterns and how best to work with them within your professional and personal life. (As an introvert, for example, after attending several sessions at an academic conference and interacting with…

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Color Enhancer Extension for Chrome

rainbow

Anastasia recently wrote about a variety of Chrome browser extensions that can make your workflow more productive or more fun. Extensions can also be used to add themes or features for accessibility.

Google recently added a new Chrome browser extension called Color Enhancer which allows users to set up a customized color filter that, when the extension is enabled, is applied to all web pages viewed in Chrome. This allows individuals with color blindness to create a filter that will help them pe…

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Three Things You Should Stop Doing This Summer

anxious cat

As the summer begins, many of us are busy setting writing goals, drawing up to-do lists for household projects, and scheduling a bit of travel, whether for work or play. All of those are good things to be doing right now.

But in addition to planning out what you want to do this summer, it can be really helpful to figure out what it is that you don’t want to do.

I call this the No-Do List. You could also call it the Not-To-Do List, but I like putting the word No at the forefront, since Not Doing…

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How to Get That Suitcase Unpacked

suitcasesOne of the great productivity mysteries has to be why so many of us put off unpacking a suitcase after a trip. This is the stuff of sitcoms, of advice columns, and blog posts. And of real life: I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes leave my bag halfway unpacked for several days after a trip, even though it makes me feel somewhere between irritated and nauseous to see it sitting in the middle of the room.

So why is it so hard to unpack a suitcase?

The primary reasons are:

Fatigue: If you ar…

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3 Ways to Makeover Your To-Do List

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When you look at your to-do list for the day, week, or month (or lists of projects and actions if you follow David Allen’s GTD distinction), do you feel a sense of clarity and direction? Or do you feel confused, overwhelmed, or frustrated?

If you feel overwhelmed, it may not just be the quantity of the work you plan to do. It may also be due to a lack of clarity about the work you plan to do.

Taking a little time to clean up your to-do list with one or more of the following steps can offer huge…

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Share URLs Quickly with ShoutKey

seagull

Imagine you’re in a meeting, seated around a table with eight other people. You want to share a URL with them, but it’s several levels down in the hierarachy of the particular website. What do you do?

If you’re all already connected online via a shared document or text messaging, then you could just drop the URL into a message for them to click on.

But what if you’re not all connected, or you don’t know the names and email addresses of all the people you want to share the URL with? ShoutKey is …

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From the Archives: Mid-Semester

Robin

Because academic calendars vary so widely, some readers are coming back from spring break now, while others are enjoying a few days away from regular schedules. Some readers are wrapping up winter quarters or have started spring terms; others are somewhere in the middle of a spring semester.

The middle of an academic term can be a tricky time: the first flush of student and instructor enthusiasm for a particular topic or course may have waned a little. Students are feeling the burden of multipl…