All posts by Natalie Houston


From the Archives: Academic Conferences

name badgesConferences are an important part of many people’s academic careers: they provide the opportunity to present your research to specialists in your field; to talk with friends and colleagues at other institutions; and to learn about new publications, methods, and current research. They can also cause anxiety or disappointment (especially those conferences that include job interviews). But being prepared for your next conference, whether it’s your first or your fiftieth, with some tips from the Pro…


Best Practices for Timekeeping at Conference Panels

stopwatchI’m writing this post as I travel home from the North American Victorian Studies Association meeting, one of the professional conferences I regularly attend. Thinking over the panels I attended at the conference, I was pleased that almost all the presenters I saw kept within the allotted 20-minute time frame for individual papers, which allowed for substantial time for questions from the audience. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

Maybe you’re the third speaker on a panel at a conference,…


Write in a New Way with Gingko

gingko logo When I work with graduate or undergraduate students on their writing skills, I often ask them to tell me about their writing process, from the note-taking stage through pre-writing, writing, and final revision. I often ask whether they outline a paper before beginning to write, as that’s often a useful way to begin exploring how a particular writer thinks and organizes ideas. I don’t believe that all writers need to outline, nor that all outlines should be done in a certain way. Unfortunately, …


What Would a Famous Writer Do?

typewriterThere is little doubt that large numbers of readers, who are often themselves also writers, are fascinated with the routines and rituals of famous writers and other artists. The Paris Review interviews are a long-running example of the Famous Writer Interview genre, which often include questions about a writer’s preferred work space, time of day, tools and methods, and other habits. The BBC has archived radio interviews covering similar territory and Maria Popova’s Brainpickings site often featu…


Four Simple Ways to Improve Your Day

green spaceFour simple ways to change your day, right now, using one of the most powerful free technologies available: the human body.

Close your eyes and breathe.
When you close your eyes and focus on your breath for even just a minute, the nervous system begins to slow down, increasing the ratio of alpha waves produced in your brain, and lowering pulse and blood pressure. Don’t worry about trying to breathe deeply or slowly (though that will naturally happen if you have more than a minute to devote to th…


How Do Your Tools Help You Move Forward?

unicorn The itch to try out a new shiny app or workflow method is perhaps something of an occupational hazard for ProfHackers and others drawn to productivity improvements and lifehacking. After all, we try things out so that we can tell you whether they are worth your time. And some experimentation is a good thing.

But if something is working for you, then don’t feel like you have to change it. I’ve seen too many people think they ought to make their workflow completely digital, or go all-Google or no…


Start a New Habit with


If you want to start a new positive habit, like writing every day or exercising four times a week, one of the best ways to encourage that new behavior is to track your success. Each time you record your successful behavior, you’re reinforcing both your intention to create a new habit and your new successful action.

There are lots of ways to track your new habit, many of which we’ve written about on ProfHacker:

  • move a post-it note or magnet from one side of your desk, mirror, filing cabinet, et…

From the Archives: Start Your Semester Off Right


Beginning-of-semester and end-of-semester posts are something of a ProfHacker tradition, as well as the setting of resolutions for the new season. (See, for instance, last year’s From the Archives: New Semester, New Year and 2010′s Preparing for the First Week of Classes.) A few gems worth highlighting from some of these posts include:

In New Year’s Resolutions: Learning from Mistakes Edition, Amy reminds us of two key points about using a calendar to your best advantage:

  • Look at it every morn…

How to See All Your Students More Easily

eyeEach fall, as I prepare for my classes, I often think back to my first semester teaching, now 20 years ago. As a graduate student, I was fortunate to receive some excellent pedagogical training as part of my preparation to teach introductory writing classes. Although much of the week-long training was focused on the methods and content we were expected to use, some of the lessons that still stand out in my mind were about the basic elements of teaching that transcend discipline and subject matte…


Time Travel to Plan Your Semester

push to travel Whether your institution requires early submission of your syllabus and course materials, or whether you just have to have to be ready for that first day of class, if you are teaching this fall, you will probably soon be spending some time creating syllabi, assignments, and course websites. Preparing your course outline is just one small part of the chaos of the first week of the fall term, which often brings excitement, pressure, or nervousness both for faculty and students. It’s easy to focus…