Make it happen: 6 Strategies to improve productivity

productivityLike many members of the Textbook & Academic Authors Association, I hold a tenure-track position which includes—for the most part—the usual expectations. Scholarship is particularly important, with peer-reviewed publication the expected outcome of my research. Service to the profession is important, but less so. In my current position (Director of Public Services, Evans Library, Texas A&M University), I do not teach, but I am expected to demonstrate excellence in the performance of my duties. These duties, in my case, include leading about thirty-five employees who staff three service desks in two buildings (one of which is open twenty-four hours, five days per week). It is very challenging to oversee a busy public services unit and maintain a research agenda that will result in a sufficient number of publications to satisfy the University Libraries’ Committee on Appointment, Promotion, and Tenure. [Read more…]

5 Web tools to help you manage and organize citations

citationsWhen it comes to academic writing, it is important to be diligent about collecting and organizing sources that will support your statements. The success of the overall project is often determined by the organizational skills you show during the research stage, and if you lose track of the sources of your ideas, you may also end up inadvertently committing plagiarism.

The following five tools can help you manage your sources and organize citations in accordance with whichever citation format you follow. [Read more…]

5 Key takeaways from today’s OneNote webinar

OneNoteIn today’s webinar, “Get Organized With ‘OneNote'”, presenter Eric Schmieder shared tips on using OneNote to organize your thoughts, ideas and projects. Here are 5 key takeaways from the presentation: [Read more…]

Join us 3/10 for the TAA webinar, Get Organized With ‘OneNote’

Eric SchmiederLearn the power of Microsoft OneNote 2013, an unsung hero of Microsoft Office that can be used to organize your thoughts, ideas and projects in one place, accessible whenever and wherever you need them. Join us Thursday, March 10 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. ET for the TAA webinar, “Get Organized With ‘OneNote”, for an overview of OneNote 2013, its features, and the ways to access and edit your OneNote notebooks from a PC to web browser, or mobile device. Register [Read more…]

Tips & tools to reach your writing productivity peak

productivity peak“I’m master of my universe.” This is a mantra that Kathleen P. King, author of more than 30 books, including 147 Practical Tips for Emerging Scholars and The Professor’s Guide to Taming Technology, both practices and encourages fellow academics to use when deadlines or writing anxiety start to set in. Have a plan, set deadlines, and be flexible—be master of your universe. You are in control of the deadlines you set for yourself and how dedicated you are to your writing. However, she says, you also need to reflect on what your writing habits are, how you can improve them, and how you can leverage your strengths and preferences to be most productive. [Read more…]

6 Useful software tools for academic writers

Software ToolsIf you’re like most academics, you have many demands on your time. Wouldn’t it be nice if some of those demands could be made a bit easier?

Here are 6 useful software tools that can help make the writing process faster or help you better organize your notes and literature:

1. Dragon Naturally Speaking. This speech recognition software (available only in paid versions) allows you to dictate documents, search the web, dictate and send emails and more using only your voice.

2. Docear-The Academic Literature Suite. This free open source tool helps you organize, create and discover academic literature. [Read more…]

Tip of the Trade: How do you track your ongoing projects and manuscripts?

White Board

This is an artist rendition of Kennamer’s white board.

“I use both a very low tech and a higher tech method. In my study I have a magnetic white board with which I track major projects. This is where I keep the ‘big picture’ components of ongoing projects. There are three columns labeled project, status, and comment. When I take on a new project I write in the project name and use a combination of writing and magnets to keep up with the status of projects. I continue tracking through receiving payment for the project. [Read more…]

Maintain an open ‘ancillary idea file’ for your textbook

TextbooksAs an author of several textbooks and ancillaries over a couple of decades, Kevin Patton, professor of Life Science at St. Charles Community College, shared the following valuable textbook writing tips on TAA’s Textbook Authoring listserv:

“Keep a file open on your desktop as you work on the textbook. As you ‘think about’ ideas for the ancillaries, jot them down in your open “ancillary idea file.” No matter how good your memory is, you’ll forget those brilliant insights when the time comes to implement them.

When I do this, I usually set up a skeleton outline of chapter numbers/names (if I’m fairly confident it won’t change much) or an outline of major topics and subtopics that I’ll be covering in the book. When you have an idea for that chapter/topic, you can simply drop it right into the correct location in your idea file–thus keeping it organized as you go.

Also, include some general headings for global, nonspecific ideas that may occur to you. For example, headings such as Question Types, Terminology, General Study Tips, etc., can help you sort out those ideas that might apply to the whole supplement (or all chapters).”

Kevin Patton hosts two textbook blogs: The A&P Professor and The A&P Student.

Manage your writing goals with ‘Pyramid of Power’

Susan Robison

Psychologist and author Susan Robison (right in blue jacket), attracted a full group for her Roundtable Discussion expanding on her earlier session, “Time Management: Why You Don’t Need It, Can’t Do It Anyway — And What To Do Instead.”

To help her clients focus on important tasks instead of wandering from task to task, Susan Robison, a psychologist and faculty development consultant with Professor DeStressor, created the “Pyramid of Power” — a pyramid-shaped goal-setting model.

“I chose the pyramid for the design of my model because that is the most stable structure you can construct,” she said. “It has a wide base and a narrow top, with your goals at the top. The model can work top down and bottom up.” [Read more…]

Don’t manage time, manage goals

Susan Robison

Susan Robison instructing conference attendees on how to manage their workload, not their time, to complete tasks.

While you can’t actually manage time – because it operates independently of you — you can manage your goals, said Susan Robison, a psychologist and faculty development consultant with Professor DeStressor, during her 2009 TAA Conference session, “Time Management: Why You Don’t Need It, Can’t Do It Anyway – And What To Do Instead.”

“One of the things that the research on time management workshops show, is that they don’t work,” she said. “What happens to people emotionally is they come out of the workshops feeling absolutely overwhelmed by a thousand techniques they’re not going to do, and so they’re not going to manage their time any better.”

If you find that you don’t have enough time to do everything on your to do-list, said Robison, you may have too many goals: “What you really need to get under control are those goals. Learn to manage the control of the tasks or goals and how to sequence them, what to do, when to do it, and so on and so forth. Those are things you can control.”

Robison shares five things you can do to begin managing your goals:

  1. Anchor your tasks to a sense of meaning and purpose. “No more trivial tasks unless those trivial tasks are in support of things you are deeply, deeply moved by and want to do with your lives,” she said.
  2. Prioritize which tasks are worthy of your resources of time, talent, energy, and attention. “Although there are tasks we all have to do because they support what we want to do — such as filing your grades from the last semester — you should be spending most of your time doing things you choose to do and that are fun to do,” she said. “Develop a Dream Book or Wall to keep all of your goals parked so that you can pick and choose which ones get your attention and other resources. Procrastinate creatively so you can make time, energy, and space for professional activities, including research and writing. Plan backward and estimate time-to-completion more accurately.”
  3. Allocate tasks across units of time. Use tracking sheets to keep track of all your goals, not just writing, and apply the “strive for nine-or less rule” so that your to-do lists are realistic and achievable. “Here’s how the strive for nine-or-less rule works: You choose to do nine things a day. You decide which nine things by choosing three things that move your vision forward, three things that avert disaster (pay your bills, show up at a meeting your dean is going to be at), and three things you’re going to do to take care of yourself (your bedtime, your exercise routine, and what you’re going to eat, etc.). If you finish all nine of them, you get to start on tomorrow’s list. If your to-do list is all of the things you choose to do that day, you will get all of them done. I guarantee it.” Use the “focused 15” to develop work habits that lead to flow, engagement, and fun. Do this by making sure that each of the nine tasks are 15-minute segments of your important goals.
  4. Accounting for the results of the allocation. “Your accountability to yourself includes your tracking sheets, Dream Book, and Strive for Nine,” she said. “Your accountability to others includes finding a buddy to work with, a ‘Mastermind group’ (a whole group that reciprocally helps each other), or a Coach (a non-reciprocal relationship — someone who helps you either informally or someone you hire formally).”
  5. Build and broaden your resilience and happiness while you do the above things. “Resilience is your ability to handle stress,” she said. “If you don’t build in some credits, when the debits come along, you’re depleted. Some people live right at the edge of their threshold, and when something comes along, they flip out. The key to doing stress better is to actually purposely choose to stress yourself in ‘choiceful’ ways, so you can build your capacity for stress.”