June 18, 2013, 8:00 am
The Flex wristband by Fitbit, released in May, is the latest personal fitness tracker to bring some aspects of the quantified self movement to the general public. I had pre-ordered the Fitbit Flex earlier this year and waited eagerly for it to arrive. I’ve now been using it for about a month and I’m very pleased with it.
Why I Chose the Fitbit Flex
I’ve been interested in personal fitness trackers for some time and had looked at the available options. I nearly bought a Nike FuelBand two years ago, but its activity tracking was tied to the Nike Plus site which I’m not interested in, and it doesn’t track sleep. The Jawbone UP tracks sleep and activity, but was only compatible with iOS devices when I evaluated it. (An Android app was released in March of this year, though it’s still not an option for me, as the app is not compatible with my Android phone or tablet.)
I know a lot …
June 11, 2013, 8:00 am
Gantt charts are a widely used project management tool that visualize the start and end dates of projects, sub-projects, and tasks using horizontal bars. Gantt charts are often used to plan and track large-scale projects with many people and/or sub-projects and deliverables.
At their best, Gantt charts provide a clear overview of the dependencies and timelines of the component parts of a large project. They can also be used to track progress completed on those tasks and projects. At their worst, Gantt charts are cluttered, hard to read, and time-consuming to create.
Gantt Chart Tools
Today, many different tools exist for creating Gantt charts, ranging from basic charts in Excel to online Gantt tools, to project management software. Some options include:
June 3, 2013, 11:00 am
What single behavioral change could make a difference in the productivity, health, and happiness of large numbers of people at your university? Getting more sleep.
In Change the World and Get to Bed by 10:00, a recent blog post at Harvard Business Review, Julia Kirby calls on business leaders to get involved in making better sleep a public health issue. She suggests that companies could begin work policies, wellness education, and most importantly, cultural changes to help their employees improve their sleep.
Kirby points out that:
. . . the work environments cultivated by many companies are the cause of many people’s inadequate sleep. Whether it’s a hypercompetitive culture encouraging ambitious employees to burn the midnight oil, or the anxiety of working for a bad boss causing insomnia, or a level of pressure that leaves decision-makers lying awake at night, companies…
May 28, 2013, 8:00 am
The rhythms of academic life have a certain predictability: no matter how grueling a particular semester may feel, it will eventually end. That end of semester crunch, which brings with it extra grading, meetings, and administrative tasks, will for many people temporarily override your usual research and writing routines for a week or two at the end of term. A particularly challenging semester may override those routines for much longer than that.
If you’ve been away from your research for a while, it can feel a bit daunting to know how to get back into it. You may have put aside the routines of your research life in the midst of teaching and service demands and have to figure them out anew. If you’ve been away from your research project for a while, it’s easy to lose touch with the deeper questions and ideas that motivate your research.
One of the best ways to get back to a re…
May 24, 2013, 3:00 pm
As summer begins for many academics, expectations tend to run high: this is the time when we’ll get to dig into our research, plan innovative new courses, read the new books in our field, or paint the front porch that we didn’t get to last summer. Maybe you feel excited about what the summer will bring — or maybe you also feel some anxiety. The following links offer several different approaches to shift your mindset so as to best take advantage of this season — whatever that means for you.
May 23, 2013, 8:00 am
Whether your summer plans involve writing, teaching, travel, or relaxing, we’ve got something in the ProfHacker archives to help.
Plan Your Time: Anastasia points out that we often fall prey to an illusion of an “Endless” Summer and suggests that “more unscheduled time or perceived freedom can be dangerous, with the temptation of grandiose planning and over-commitment.” Last summer she experimented with an alternative calendar app to help plan her summer.
In Summerproofing Your to-Do List, Jason usefully warns that
It can be very easy to reach August with May’s goals largely untouched. This is perhaps especially true when you’re not teaching
Jason lists several task manager tools and approaches in his post, pointing out that it’s worth spending time now to set up whatever system you’ll use to track your summer goals and actions. In Get the Most From Summer With Well-Made Deadlines,…
April 22, 2013, 8:00 am
Do you ever promise yourself that you’ll do something, only to let it slide?
Many of us have good intentions that we don’t act upon.
One way to clarify your commitments and to take action towards your important goals is to involve other people.
Find an Accountability Partner or Community
A good accountability partner should be able to ask you clarifying questions, offer you encouragement and support, and hold you to your commitments. Depending on your personality type and the kinds of goals you want to work towards, you may want a partner who is primarily supportive or one who will be more firm with you if you start to back away from your commitments.
Several online communities exist to help motivate and track personal goals. 43 Things has been active for several years and allows you to see the goals that others have set and comment on them to provide support and advice….
April 15, 2013, 8:00 am
When Brian wrote about the new Gmail Compose back in November, it was an optional interface. At the end of March, it became the new default compose behavior for Gmail users.
The new interface is deliberately minimal, according to Jason Cornwell, a lead designer at Google. By making the window smaller and hiding the text formatting options that used to make your email compose screen resemble word processing software, Cornwell suggests that the new interface will “give you permission to write shorter messages.” (To access the text formatting options in the new interface, click on the underlined capital A next to the Send button.)
Many productivity experts like Leo Baubauta of Zen Habits and the crew at five.sentenc.es have been arguing that overly long emails larded with quoted replies deter good communication and often languish unread.
But even for writers of pithy emails,…
April 2, 2013, 8:00 am
As Jason recently explained in What We Talk About When We Talk About Productivity, here at ProfHacker, “We’re less interested in helping you be more productive in the abstract than in solving specific productivity-related problems, especially the crippling self-punishment associated with anxieties about productivity.”
In that spirit, here are a few questions that can increase your awareness about how you’re spending your time and energy.
What are you doing right now? The first step in cultivating mindful awareness is just to pause and notice something. If you want to begin doing something differently, you have to first understand what it is you are currently doing. Simply pausing a few times a day to take an inventory of how you’re spending your time can teach you about your own habits, energy levels, and current priorities. (To help with this, you can set a recurring alarm on…
March 25, 2013, 11:00 am
It can happen to anyone. You’ve been extra busy, or a family member was sick, or you just had your mind on other things. You thought you were dealing with your email, but you were just reading the urgent items.
Suddenly, your email inbox is filling up: the count of unread messages (or, perhaps even worse, messages that have been read but not actually dealt with) has crept into the triple digits. (Maybe even the quadruple digits.)
You vow to sit down and clean it out. But you only get through a screenful or two at a time and you can’t imagine how you will ever handle this backlog.
Here’s a simple tip that really helps. Sort your inbox by the name of the sender. This will allow you to quickly see groups of messages that you can delete without reading. Some of these include:
- outdated announcements of events
- old newsletters or bulletins
- notifications from online services