All posts by Natalie Houston

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Ten Things to Do Instead of Checking Email

steaming pot

So, let’s imagine that you’re in your office, and have about 15 minutes before you need to walk out of your building to get to a meeting. What do you do in those 15 minutes?

Many readers probably answered “check email.” Checking email has become the default work-ish activity for many professionals. I said work-ish because while checking email may be work-related, for most people it is not a central activity of their work.

In fact, checking email can easily become a kind of distraction, keeping …

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Stay Focused with the Momentum Extension

2015-03-08 14_38_06-Program Manager

One of the most important things you can do to enhance your productivity is to keep focusing on your highest priorities, the big important things, which can easily be obscured by the rush of urgent demands and everyday maintenance tasks. Even when you’ve taken the time to reflect on your roles and define your priorities, it’s easy to lose sight of them during the day.

The Momentum personal dashboard extension for the Chrome browser offers an appealing way to set a clear focus for the day and be…

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Updates to Noisli


One of the most powerful things you can do to improve your focus and productivity is to adjust your working environment. We each have different preferences for things like soft or hard furniture, room temperature, and background noise. Figuring out what works best for you in your environment can help you make the most out of your work time.

I’ve written before about Noisli, an online tool that combines a highly customizable background noise generator with a distraction-free writing environment….

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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…