All posts by Natalie Houston

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Three Words for the New Semester

One of my favorite things about the rhythms of academic life is that we get to start fresh several times a year. A new semester brings new students, new courses, new research opportunities, and the chance to try doing something a bit differently.

Here at ProfHacker, Amy’s written before about setting New Year’s resolutions to improve on the previous semester’s experience, and Anastasia’s written about setting teaching resolutions for a new semester.

To focus my intentions and actions for the ne…

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Year-End Reflection

cardinal

The end of the semester is a natural time for reflection and planning, and with the calendar year drawing to a close, you may feel added impetus to review the past four, six, or twelve months. Review and reflection about what actually happened over that time is an important step to take before jumping in to setting goals or resolutions for the new year or new semester.

Here are a few questions that can help with end of the semester or end of the year review. Set aside a block of time where you …

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The Now Page Movement

clocks

Setting clear priorities for how you’re going to use your time and energy can often be a challenge. For academics, figuring out how to arrange the competing demands of research, teaching, and service is but one part of the larger challenge of creating a work-life balance that serves you well. And many professionals today are struggling to keep focused on important projects amidst a flood of incoming emails and meeting requests.

The /now page movement

A few weeks ago, Derek Sivers created a /now

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Tune In to Focus at Will

water drops

Our brains are designed to pay attention to novelty in our environment: at the most basic level, early in our evolution, novelty often meant danger — a predator approaching in the forest, say, or a severe storm approaching. So even as you’re focusing on a task, some portion of your brain is still busy scanning the environment for change, even when those changes are not likely to signify life-threatening conditions. If your brain is easily alerted, it can make it difficult to focus your attentio…

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It’s Not Too Late: Making Mid-Course Adjustments

sailboat

On many campuses right now, it’s midterm season. Students and faculty are feeling the strain of heavier workloads, colds and viruses are making the rounds, and the enthusiasm that marked the first few weeks of school seems like a distant memory, at least on certain days.

But if things aren’t going as well as you’d like in one of your courses, it’s good to remember that there’s still almost half a semester left, at least five or six weeks, maybe more depending on your institution’s calendar. Tha…

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Greg McKeown’s Essentialism

The first thing to know about Greg McKeown’s Essentialism: the Disciplined Pursuit of Less is that it’s not about essentialism. At least, it’s not about essentialism as the term is used in philosophy and literary theory. I resisted reading this book for a long time, in fact, because of its title. Books on productivity, leadership, and personal development often use acronyms and neologisms, and that doesn’t bother me. But to take a term with many centuries of debate attached to it and treat it l…

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From the Archives: Getting Ready for the New Semester

classroom

Sooner or later, the fall semester will start — and of course for some of us it already has. Here are some tips from the ProfHacker archives to help you navigate the transition.

Getting Ready to Teach

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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…