All posts by Natalie Houston

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Pause, Clarify, Decide

Bucket of rocks

Professionals in every field today often find themselves overwhelmed by the flood of incoming information, opportunities, and tasks. Most of us want to do more than just keep up with the inbox — we have larger projects and goals we want to pursue, which sometimes get pushed to the side when we’re under the pressure of urgent deadlines and requests.

Stephen Covey’s classic productivity tool, the Urgent/Important matrix can be helpful in distinguishing between those activities that are urgent and…

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Creating Color-Blind Accessible Figures

Colored pencils, 2 views: full color spectrum + limited color spectrum simulating color-blind view

Today marks the start of the #1ineveryclassroom public awareness campaign by the UK-based Colour Blind Awareness organization to point out the prevalence of colorblindness and the need for greater awareness on the part of educators.

There is tremendous variation in how individuals perceive and distinguish colors. These differences can be due to color vision deficiency or color blindness, as well as other medical conditions affecting the eyes or brain. Other factors such as device display settin…

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25 Verbs to Use Instead of Email

laptop

Many people talk to me about the stress that email causes them. Often we think about email stress as caused by sheer quantity: many professionals receive 50–200 emails a day which can easily pile up and cause stress if they’re not efficiently handled.

But email itself is not the problem.  Email is just the communication tool we happen to currently use.

A powerful way to remind yourself of the deeper purpose behind your communications is to stop using email as a verb, when you’re writing somet…

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Are those files really final?

cemetery

A recent post by Charlie Harvey, titled The word final should never appear in filenames points out that when you’re sharing files with colleagues,creating a clear system for filenames reduces a lot of potential frustration:

There is a file you need to read. Maybe it has some important stuff in it. A contract that went through a bunch of revisions. That sort of thing. Only, when you go to the directory on your company samba share there are 30 files that it could be.

Inevitably at least 3 of thes…

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From the Archives: Wrap Up the Semester

present

Sooner or later, all semesters end. And each is soon followed by another academic term close upon its heels.

Here are some tips from the ProfHacker archives for ending your term so as to be in good shape when you return to your office in a week or two.

Look Backwards

Think about what worked and what didn’t work so well this semester. Write down some ideas for what habits or practices you want to continue and what you want to change next semester.

Update your cv and your annual review/promotion …

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Why You Should Use an Email Vacation Responder

mountains

How often do you check your email? Do you love checking email? Is answering email your primary mission in life? Do you ever wish you could just get away from email for a little while?

Well, you can, by using an email vacation responder. Even if you don’t consider your holiday plans to be “vacation,” maybe it’s worth designating a couple of email-free days sometime in the next couple of weeks.

How it Works

When you have the vacation responder turned on, when someone emails you, they receive an i…

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Batch Convert Word Documents to PDF in Google Drive

pile of paper

PDF format is very useful for any documents that are going to be shared with others, whether by posting online, via email or printed as hard copies. Using PDF means that you can control not only the content but also the presentational formatting, and ensure that what you create will remain consistent for your audience. PDF was designed to be cross-platform and is accessible from a variety of machines and devices.

Recently, I was reminded of a simple approach to batch converting Microsoft Word d…

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Prioritize your Activities by Gain and Pain

cover of Decide

Most ProfHacker readers have more things they would like to do, and more things they need to do, than they have time for in a given day. Prioritizing to-do items (or projects and next actions, if you follow David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology) is one of the areas that causes academics and other professionals the most stress.

Many popular ways of sorting and prioritizing your action items for the day, week, or month, involve assigning some kind of importance label to them (A, B, C) and…

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Updating the Three-Envelope Method for the Digital Age

Envelopes

So you’ve written an article and sent it off to be considered for publication in a journal. You wait. And wait. And wait. And then when you eventually get a response, perhaps it’s a rejection, or a revise and resubmit.

What do you do next?

No one likes disappointment, but academics have to get used to the experience of rejection and figure out ways to manage it. A lot of people find themselves so crushed by rejection or negative feedback on a piece of writing that they set it aside and never re…

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Commit to Your Calendar

calendar

When you glance at your calendar for next week, what do you see? Is it mostly empty except for a couple of meetings on Thursday, but you know that you have classes to teach on Monday and Wednesday? Or maybe your calendar looks completely full, but you know that you won’t really get to half the tasks you’ve filled in the days with. Many of us either carry commitments in our heads that we have to think about when scheduling other events, or we have to sort through the mixed list of appointments a…