Getting Things Done

frustratedThe demands on a professor’s time is increasing every day. For some, the expectations placed on them by their institutions is an ever-changing target. At my own institution, the emphasis has evolved from teaching to research and the need to seek extramural funding. In addition, the administration is seeking to increase the number of students at the institution without the addition of new faculty positions. The struggling economic situation of many states, including the one in which I live, does not bode well for funding education either. When trying to “do more with less” how can one “get things done”?

Time management/productivity books and sites have exploded over the last several years. Of special interest to me are blogs and online (“cloud”) applications that help me stay organized, though it seems to be a losing battle at times. Here are a few blogs and apps that I find particularly useful:

iGoogle – create a personal web portal that includes blog widgets to keep up-to-date with the latest in your discipline. Widgets are available for note taking, accessing online apps like Google Calendar, or chat. The best thing is that your notes, calendars, etc are available whenever or wherever you’re connected to the Internet. Set up different tabs to organize your widgets. You can group and arrange your widgets with tabs. I’ve got separate tabs for “Home”, “Office”, “News”, “Projects”, and more specific tabs for “Macs”, “eLearning”, “Lifestyle”

Getting Things Done – David Allen is the recent “guru” of productivity.  Check out “What is GTD” and GTD Times – the ultimate GTD blog.  Watch David Allen at Google:

Zen Habits – a great productivity blog written by a freelancer and father to 4 kids … you’ve got to be organized to live like this! Check out the productivity section

Lifehacker – is the ultimate blog for finding ways to be more productive, save money, and get things done.

“To do” or task managers – There are a number of “to do” managers available each with their own unique capabilities, I’m partial to ones that can sync between my various devices and include an online version. Here’s a few: Omnifocus, EasyTask, Things, Todoist, Remember the Milk. If you’re an iPhone user like me check this Lifehacker post out. I’m presently using EasyTask

43folders – As the site author Merlin Mann states “Right now, 43 Folders is focused on an arc about how to improve the quality of your career and life by managing your attention in a way that allows you to work your ass off on the creative projects that matter most to you.” Definitely worth checking out.

Firefox browser – can be customized in a variety of ways to help get things done. If you already use Firefox check out the productivity  add-ons.

Simplify Your Work Life by Elaine St. James – It seems that professors spend a lot of time waste in meaningless meetings, not delegating responsibilites to others, and taking on more than they need to and should. These issues are not only the fault of the individual but also university administrators seeking to squeeze more uncompensated work out of their employees. If you want to change, check out the little book Simplify Your Work Life. Here’s a snippet from the review:

.. St. James points out that most of the conveniences Americans rely upon to make work easier–such as fax machines, e-mail, and cell phones–really make it “easier to do more work” at any time of day or night. As a result, the 40-hour workweek is a distant memory. “American workers could learn a lot from the European workplace,” she writes. “In most European countries, the 32 hour work week is mandated by law.”

How is it possible to be like the Europeans and still get the job done? .. she asks readers to set firmer boundaries between work and home. She makes … suggestions, such as “stop working weekends,” “add one day to your vacation” (to allow for transition time), and “eliminate your commute.” She also offers on-the-job advice, such as “be selective in giving out your e-mail [address]” (to eliminate distracting messages) and “double your estimate” (“face it, things always take twice as long to complete as you think”). Ultimately, she suggests ways to be more efficient spenders in order to have more flexibility (which results in saner and more meaningful work). … –Gail Hudson  Read an excerpt

Time management – is a problem for many professors. Here’s Randy Pausch’s take on the issue:


About Michael Ritter
Retired Professor of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, science textbook author, educational technology blogger, podcaster, and freelance media consultant.

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