Taking Note

big picture question, productivity
That simple title, "Taking Note," could lead into a dozen different posts. I could write about my love of writing notes on books and lectures in longhand. Or about my obsession with high-quality French and Japanese paper goods. Or how I find writing with a fountain pen a superior writing experience in ALMOST all situations. Or about one of my favourite new podcasts, "Note to Self," and digital notes. But this is actually about taking note in terms of NOTICING. Because we can go through our hours and our days without taking much note of our surroundings, or what we're doing with our hands, or the words we use, or the emotional wake we leave behind, or myriad other things. Making a habit of taking note, of NOTICING, can be…
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The Frog vs. the Wombat

creative work, productivity
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” – Mark Twain Twain’s words on how to start your day have turned into a catchphrase for productivity gurus. “Eat that Frog!” as a Google search turns up blog posts, videos, cartoons, and even books on task management and productivity. Lifehacker has a good summary of the principle. Simply put, your “frog” is that thing you need to do but don’t really want to. It’s an unpleasant task, or something that is going to take time and energy away from other things you enjoy more, or it’s necessary drudge work that is required for success but doesn’t involve any explicit reward, etc. The gist of Twain’s comment as it…
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Time and Money

big picture question, productivity
When I received my first tenure-track job offer, from a public land-grant university in the midwestern United States, I was a bit nonplussed with the salary offered. I had looked at the MLA's suggestions for salaries at various stages of the profession and suggested to my new department that they consider coming closer to that magic number. After they were done convulsing with laughter, they upped my starting salary by $500. Woo hoo. I was, as I frequently remind myself, young and foolish and didn't know the first thing about negotiation. Nor did I possess the smarts to talk to someone about how to go about negotiating a hiring package in the buyer's marketplace that is the foreign language job market in North America. But part of my problem then…
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Do You Pomodoro?

creative work, productivity
You may have heard of the pomodoro technique, but you may not have tried it. And if you haven't tried it, or don't regularly use it, you should reconsider, STAT. Briefly, the pomodoro technique involves setting a timer for 25 minutes and focussing on one task for the duration of the timer. Focussed work. When the timer bings, you get 5 minutes to stretch your legs, get a drink of water, touch your toes, go to the loo, check Facebook or Twitter, whatever. Then it's back to the next 25 minute segment of work. It's a pledge to not multi-task. Even when we know the research all points to the fact that multi-tasking is a whole load of dung, the nature of creative and intellectual work--heck, the nature of work,…
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When Your To-Do List Gets Out of Hand

productivity
I love lists. I have a few different digital list-making apps on my phone (Wunderlist and Google Keep, for example) but nothing beats a notebook or twelve in which to write down lists of all sorts. I start most days with some sort of to-do list. If I play my cards and make my list right, I can start each day with a new one. Some days, though, yesterdays to-do list becomes today's to-do list and maybe next week's or next month's to-do list, as well. What has gone wrong when your to-do list gets out of hand? Check out this list for some likely causes. 1. The "ick" factor. There is an item on your to-do list that you just don't want to do. Maybe it's unpleasant or onerous…
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