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Academic Workflow


TIME & TASK MANAGEMENT

I capture notes in an analog notebook that I take with me everywhere I go. Any “to do items” from that notebook get transferred to task management software. I use a timer to complete tasks in 25-minute chunks to prevent procrastination.

Last updated: December 28, 2018

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Academic Workflow


TIME & TASK MANAGEMENT

I capture notes in an analog notebook that I take with me everywhere I go. Any “to do items” from that notebook get transferred to task management software. I use a timer to complete tasks in 25-minute chunks to prevent procrastination.

Last updated: December 28, 2018

Bullet Journaling 

I use a modified version of the note taking method called Bullet Journaling, which was invented by Ryder Carroll. I've been using Ryder's system since 2015. I've used all sorts of formats (small pocket notebook, larger format notebook, and digital using the Apple Pencil) and the best I've found is the hardcover Black n’ Red notebooks (my preference is the smaller 5 7/8" x 8 1/4" size). The paper is smooth, the wide rule makes quick work of notetaking in meetings or while reading, and it’s sturdy enough to be jostled around on my bike.  Right now, I carry a Lamy Safari with an extra fine nib on my shirt collar so I always have a pen with me. The bullet key Ryder recommends handles nearly everything I need and so that's what I use, too. However, I have added a caret-style bullet (^) to indicate when I’ve moved something over to Omnifocus to manage (see more below). I advocate for a plainer, simpler method, as opposed to the multi-colored, sticker-clad sort you'll see if you go Googling.

While I used to manage everything in my bullet journal, I currently use it exclusively as a rapid logger. I take meeting notes with it, I read with a pen in hand and jot down things I want to synthesize in my Zettelkasten (more below), I draw diagrams, plan projects, note to do items as they occur to me, journal sometimes. To me, my bujo is a temporary storage device that is always with me and enjoyable to use (because of the nice paper and pen). I offload the task management bits to Omnifocus and the knowledge management bits to Tinderbox. I’ve experimented with digitizing my journals, but I haven’t yet found a reliable way to revisit them.


Omnifocus

I was an early adopter of Omnifocus, but abandoned it about 10 years ago for simpler and more aesthetically pleasing options. A few months ago, I committed to it again and I’m better for it. I found that while the rapid logging of the bullet journal method works very well for me, I wasn’t able to get a handle on the planning and status of complex, longterm projects. I tried several tools before settling on Omnifocus and have also imported my working system into those tools to see if any handle my tasks as well, and the bottomline is that Omnifocus is the most robust and thoughtful tool out there right now for my needs. I have wishes for it, especially with regards to calendar integration and time blocking, but I feel I can trust it. It captures my tasks, organizes them meaningfully, and puts them in front of me when I need to see them.

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I organize my projects in a series of folders: “Be a Good,” Paperwork, Teaching, Research, Service, Life, Routines, and Reference. Each project name begins with an emoji so I can easily scan the list and see which projects are what. For example, in the screenshot on the right, the red notebook emoji 📕 indicates projects related to my general exam, while the green one 📗 indicates projects related to a research project, and the composition book 📓 indicates minor projects that are research-related. I use Textexpander to easily type these emoji. For example, when I type :ge: (for general exam), my computer automagically converts it to 📕.

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The “Be a Good” project is a place for me to use Omnifocus as an encourager and enabler to become the person I want to be. I list out various roles as single-action projects. Presently they are: Wife, Beck (i.e. self), Friend, Daughter, Colleague, and Neighbor. I put tasks in those projects that help me be those things with integrity. When a neighbor we invited over for dinner asked for the recipe for the soup I made, I put “Send Marci the soup recipe” in the Neighbor project. When a colleague who left for a new job suggested we get together for lunch once she’s acclimated to her new position, I put “Email Deborah about lunch” in the Colleague project with a defer date of six weeks.

Each Sunday, I review all my projects and plan which tasks I’d like to accomplish in the week ahead. I have a series of tasks that recur every week that take me through this process. Essentially, they require me to look at everything in my Omnifocus database, question/recall my priorities, and honestly assess how to stay on track. This process is an amalgamation of excellent advice from The National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, Cal Newport, Kourosh Dini, and David Sparks (and surely others I’ve long forgotten).


Pomodoro Technique 

I use a time-management strategy called Pomodoro Technique for tasks that I might otherwise avoid doing.  I've used Pomodoros to prevent procrastination since 2011.  I've used them rigorously and also on an as-needed basis. I particularly like to use them to estimate how long something will (or sometimes, in a strategic way, should) take. When I find myself avoiding a task that needs to be done, I label it with the tag “Avoiding” in Omnifocus. I have set the Forecast to automatically list anything with this tag on the current day. I'll make a list in my bullet journal and put a • for every Pomodoro I'd like to do. I set a timer to X each • out as I go. I used to use a kitchen timer, but now that I'm in a shared office space, I use the app Be Focused because it won't startle others around me, works well, isn't ugly, and has a setting for a ticker sound, which I got used to hearing when I used the physical timer. Lately, I’ve also been experimenting with Binaural, an app that plays two separate frequencies, one in each ear. The difference between the two are at a range we normally cannot hear (0.5-50.0 Hz) and our brains do the math and tune into the difference. It has a timer function, and so the sounds play for 25 minutes and when they stop, I know it’s time to take a break.

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ACADEMIC WORKFLOW


READING & WRITING

I read digitally, mostly, but with a pen in hand. I use the Zettelkasten method for creating notes about my readings using a robust digital knowledge management tool. My solution for reference and search is unwieldy, but it’s sort of working. I’m actively working on establishing a distraction-free, non-linear writing environment that uses markdown and plays well with my reference management software.

Last updated: December 29, 2018

ACADEMIC WORKFLOW


READING & WRITING

I read digitally, mostly, but with a pen in hand. I use the Zettelkasten method for creating notes about my readings using a robust digital knowledge management tool. My solution for reference and search is unwieldy, but it’s sort of working. I’m actively working on establishing a distraction-free, non-linear writing environment that uses markdown and plays well with my reference management software.

Last updated: December 29, 2018

Mentioned:

Chrome

Paperpile (SAAS)

Google Drive

Hazel (App)

DEVONthink (App)

iPad Pro with Apple Pencil 

GoodNotes (App)

MetaPDF (SAAS)

Zettelkasten

Tinderbox (App)

Google Docs

Scrivener (App)

Distraction Free Mode (extension)

Hemingway Editor (App)

DISCOVERY & Capture

I use Chrome to search for articles and have mapped abbreviations to scholarly search engines (e.g. Google Scholar, ACM, my university’s library, etc.) so that I can easily search them. Once I find an article I want to read or track, I add it to my reference management software, Paperpile. I have set Paperpile to backup to Google Drive, which syncs with my computer. Hazel watches this folder and copies the PDF to my DEVONthink Inbox anytime something new appears. Once an item is added to DEVONthink, it is run through an OCR engine and is automatically removed from that folder. This allows me to search any PDF I have in Paperpile, and also to use DEVONthink’s algorithms to find related articles (and zettels, more below).


Reading 

I generally read articles on my iPad Pro, importing PDFs into GoodNotes so that I can highlight and write annotations on them as if I were writing on paper. If for some reason I want to highlight and read on my laptop, I use MetaPDF to do so (via Paperpile). I use eBooks when I have no other choice, but I prefer GoodNotes. As I read, I keep my Bullet Journal close by and make notes using a • to indicate I should spend time documenting, synthesizing, or researching the concept when I’m done.

Important also is how I read. While I don’t always manage it, I try to slow down and read to read (as opposed to read to have read). I work to cultivate a nourishing and present-oriented reading environment, and do my best to pay attention to the process of reading itself.


SYNTHESIS

I use the Zettelkasten method of note-taking, by which I mean that I create notes that contain a single idea or point that is significant to me. These notes are usually linked to other notes, authors, and citations, allowing me to understand that single idea in the context of the larger literature that I’m exploring. I use the knowledge management software Tinderbox to write these notes and map their associations. I’ve created a series of videos that explain exactly how I do this. I also sync my Tinderbox zettels with DEVONthink using these scripts so that I can search my own notes alongside my articles to find connections I might otherwise miss.


Writing 

I've not yet settled on a rock-solid writing environment. My goals are that it be non-linear, markdown-compatible, and distraction-free. On top of that, it needs to work with my reference management software. So far, no solution meets all of these requirements, but I’m still hopeful.

Since I’m currently using Paperpile, I am limited to using Google Docs as my writing environment. This has worked fine for my needs so far (final papers in courses, grant proposals, lecture planning, research protocols, etc.), but I worry that it will fall short in more complex documents such as my dissertation (and possibly even the general exam). I’ll be experimenting with using Scrivener in the new year and will update this page once I have more opinions about that.

Right now, I’m using the Distraction Free Mode extension in Chrome for a better Google Docs writing environment. Previously, I’ve enjoyed OmmWriter, the Freewrite typewriter, Workflowy, Ulysses, nvALT, Typora, and iA Writer in varying degrees, but none have withstood the test of use over time. I sometimes employ the Hemingway Editor to catch overly complex sentences, passive voice, and adverbs. 


Referencing 

I use Paperpile for my reference management and I mostly love it. It comes with some serious limitations: you (currently) cannot use it offline, or on a mobile device (including tablets), and it only works with Google Docs. If those aren't dealbreakers for you, it's seriously good. I love how easy it is to add to a citation, organize it through tags and folders, search for it while writing, format it in any number of ways, and attach files and notes for future reference. It's a joy to use every time I use it. And the support staff's been responsive to my questions.   

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ACADEMIC WORKFLOW


TEACHING

I try to remember each student's name the week before class begins. I keep notes on my students the way I imagine doctors keep charts. I hand draw my slides for lectures.

Last updated: June 21, 2017

ACADEMIC WORKFLOW


TEACHING

I try to remember each student's name the week before class begins. I keep notes on my students the way I imagine doctors keep charts. I hand draw my slides for lectures.

Last updated: June 21, 2017

Mentioned:

Flashcards+ (App)

Trello (SAAS)

TextExpander (App)

Calendly (SAAS)

GoodNotes (App)

JotNot (App)

iPad Pro with Apple Pencil 

CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT 

Before the quarter begins, I use the app Flashcards+ to upload photos of my students and quiz myself on their names. This is the first way I show that I care about them as individuals and am invested in knowing them. During the quarter, I use Canvas as I must, but I generally dislike it. I use Trello for most of my documentation and student/team management needs. I create a board with three lists — On Track, Ahead, and Behind — and create cards for each student or team, as necessary. I comment on the cards and label them (revise, concerned, follow up, etc.) as needed. When grading on rubrics or sharing repeated links/suggestions, I use TextExpander to save time and ensure accuracy.


OFFICE HOURS AND MEETINGS 

I give my students a special link to an event I create just for them using the service Calendly. It allows them to schedule, cancel, and reschedule meetings with me. It saves us both time, gives them control, and allows meetings to be scheduled, reminded about, and canceled without back and forth emailing.


LectureS 

I've been drawing my slides for presentations in the classroom and at conferences since 2008, but I used to draw them using sketchbooks, Micron 005 pens, and either a scanner or the app JotNot. Now, however, I draw using an Apple Pencil in the app GoodNotes on my iPad Pro. It took a while to get used to the rubber on glass feel of drawing on a tablet, but now I feel as competent on the iPad as I do in the sketchbook and the drawings have so much more flexibility and replicability and edit-ability. I can't imagine going back, nor would I want to, because I'm able to quickly and uniquely create slides that are whimsical and interesting to look at. I also use drawing to brainstorm with students, listening to their ideas and sketching out concepts they say out loud. I do this on whiteboards and also on the tablet. It works well on whiteboards if there's a group or if the student wants to draw, too. Otherwise the tablet system works great (especially for virtual meetings).