October 11, 2012, 8:00 am
Taking a nap is one of the most efficient ways to rest and refresh your body and mind at once. Yet most of us have had the experience of getting up from an impromptu nap and feeling worse, rather than better, than before. That groggy, mud-for-brains confusion is enough to make anyone scared of naps as potential productivity quagmires rather than the boost that they can be. So here are my favorite strategies for getting the most out of your nap time.
Rule #1: Set an alarm.
Setting an alarm does three important things. First, it prevents you from sleeping too long into the next stage of your sleep cycle, which is what causes grogginess (see Rule #2 for more details). Second, setting an alarm reinforces the choice you’re making, and quiets the little voice in your head that might be saying “you really should be working right now.” If you’ve set an alarm, then you can just say “it’s ok…
September 25, 2012, 11:00 am
One of the central principles in David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology is that you use your inbox (whether physical or digital) only as a collection bucket. Things (whether papers, mail, magazines, objects, emails, bits of information, file attachments, etc ) flow into your inbox where they need to be processed. Once processed, they move out of the inbox. (If practiced assiduously, this can lead to Inbox Zero, a blissful state now legendary among productivity enthusiasts).
Processing your inbox, in GTD terms, means going through each item and figuring out whether it requires an action or not. If it doesn’t, then it can be discarded or filed. If it does require an action, then you have to choose one of the three Ds:
- Do it (if you can do the required action in 2 minutes or less)
- Delegate it
- Defer it
For many people, a large number of actionable items will wind up…
September 13, 2012, 8:00 am
One of the fundamental design features of the Windows operating system is to provide multiple ways of accomplishing an action. Thus, many actions can be triggered from menu commands, icons or buttons, or by keyboard shortcuts. Users can thus choose the interface options they are most comfortable with. Because there are many paths to the same action built into the operating system, there are a lot of shortcuts or alternative ways of doing a task that many users might not be aware of.
I’ve been using Windows machines ever since my MS-DOS computer gave up the ghost back in the day. I’m not a Windows expert, but I consider myself to be pretty familiar with the operating system. If I don’t know how to do something, I can generally figure it out. But there’s still lots of shortcuts that I don’t know.
I was delighted to discover Shift-Right-Click a few weeks ago. On a Windows machine,…
August 28, 2012, 8:00 am
The first week of the fall semester is an especially charged time. There are all the practical, logistical, technological things to deal with, like changed classroom assignments, projector equipment malfunctions, and photocopier breakdowns. You might not have gotten enough sleep, and your routine just changed. But in addition, almost everyone’s emotional reactions are a bit amplified right now. Some of the emotions I’ve observed or experienced, both as a student and as faculty, during the first week include:
- Anticipation: Who’s going to be in my classes? How will things go this term?
- Regret: I wish it was still summer. I wish I’d worn something different. I wish I’d read the books already.
- Happiness: I’m glad to see my friends again. I’m glad to be at school again. I’m glad to be doing this work.
- Nervousness: Where is my classroom? What will my teachers/students/colleagues…
August 21, 2012, 8:00 am
[This week, GradHacker and ProfHacker writers are collaborating on a series of posts about productivity apps and systems. The 8am post every day is part of this collaboration. Today's post is by our own Natalie Houston.--@jbj]
The very term “productivity system” makes me happy — I like to think systematically in order to design solutions to problems and I enjoy learning about and creating new systems for doing things. That tendency towards systemic, big picture thinking is both a strength of mine and a potential weakness, since I know that I can potentially get caught up in the beauty of a new system and lose sight of its intended impact. I’ve learned that keeping a few basic rules in place helps me balance that interest in improving my systems with my desire to actually do the work that productivity systems are supposed to assist. I’ve shared these rules with other people from…
August 20, 2012, 11:00 am
August 10, 2012, 11:00 am
Because I’ve spent so much of my life in and around educational institutions, the start of the new academic year each August often feels more significant than the start of the new calendar year in January. I started college, two rounds of graduate school, and my faculty position in August. Many of the moves I’ve made to new cities or new apartments have been in August. When I need to remember exactly when a particular life event occurred, I often use academic year events and schedules to figure it out.
The transition to the new academic year is also significant because it affects so many areas of my life and those of people around me. My schedule will change; I’ll wear different clothes (some of the time); I’ll be interacting with different people; and I’ll be working on different kinds of projects than I do during the summer. My responsibilities and priorities necessarily change with…
July 23, 2012, 3:00 pm
Last week, as the calendar nudged past July 15, I found myself in several conversations that revolved around how quickly the summer was going by, or how many weeks remained before the crush of the fall term would begin. Mid July is (for many North American academics at least) a good time for evaluating how you’ve been spending your summer and for planning how you’d like to spend whatever remains of it.
Academic calendars vary widely, of course, as do faculty, administrator, and staff responsibilities during summer months. I well know that not everyone gets one month, much less three, away from the classroom. But I also know that the pace and atmosphere at many colleges changes considerably during the summer, as do personal and family routines. Even if your day-to-day routine doesn’t change much in summer, chances are that something or someone around you does.
Besides, summer for…
July 17, 2012, 11:00 am
I’ve just finished reading A. J. Jacobs‘s latest book, Drop Dead Healthy, an entertaining and often informative memoir of two years he spent trying to become “the healthiest person in the world.” Along the way, Jacobs interviews a variety of people, tries a lot of new things, and does, indeed, improve his health substantially — but this isn’t a book of health instructions so much as a large-scale experimental response to the puzzlement that many people face when making choices about their health. Jacobs, an “experiential journalist” and editor at Esquire, has built part of his writing career on not being afraid to look foolish, act in an extreme way, or irritate his friends and family with his projects: two previous books chronicled his experiences reading the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica and a year spent following all the codes of the Bible.
You don’t have to go to such extremes…