Uncommon Ground

Getting organized in 2018 – Introducing a blog series

Welcome to 2018! This post is different from others you’ve seen if you’ve been here before. Instead of comments on a recent piece of research, on science policy or science communication issues, or on issues concerning conservation, biodiversity, or the environment, this post begins a series that will share how I organize my work. Why? Off and on through my career I’ve had people ask me about how I get things done. Especially since I became Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of The Graduate School at UConn nearly 6 years ago,1 quite a few people have asked me how I can do that and continue to advise graduate students, teach (a little), and make research contributions. By writing down what I do, I’ll now have a link I can send anyone who’s interested.

Today’s post merely announces the series. The first real post will appear on Monday, January 8th and there should be another one every Monday morning after that for several weeks.2

Important disclaimer: I am not a productivity expert, and nothing you’ll read in this post or the posts that follow has been validated by empirical research.3 What I’m doing to organize myself may not work for you, and what I’m doing right now may not even be the best way I could organize myself. What you’ll read here is what I’m doing now. Adopt and modify anything that seems like it might be useful. Ignore anything that seems pointless. If you have suggestions for how I could organize myself better, please leave a comment. Not only will you help me, you’ll help other people who read this.

A note on software I’ve been a Mac user since 2009 or 2010. I also use an iPhone and an iPad. I know that some of the software I’ll mention, e.g., Evernote and Scrivener, is available on Windoze and Android. I’m pretty sure that some of it isn’t, e.g., Ulysses and OmniFocus. There are probably Windoze and Android equivalents of anything I mention, but I don’t know what they are so I can’t comment on them. When I am aware of alternatives to software I use, I’ll mention them, but I probably haven’t tried them. That doesn’t mean what I’ve chosen is best. It just means that I’ve found what I use works well for me.

I should also mention that I have no connection with any of the software products I’ll mention other than as a satisfied user. If you decide to purchase any of them, none of the companies will send me a royalty. Just as you should adopt and modify any advice you think might be useful and ignore what isn’t, you should use your own judgment about whether or not to purchase any of the products I use.

  1. Technically, I was Interim Vice Provost and Dean from January, 2012 through April, 2013. I’ve been Vice Provost and Dean (without the Interim in my title) since April, 2013.
  2. Right now I have ideas for 7 more posts. There may be more or fewer when this is all done.
  3. A good friend of mine who is a social scientist pointed out to me that natural scientists, like me, tend to forget that there is a science to understanding human behavior. We’d never accept intuition as evidence in our own research, but we do it all the time when we think about human behavior. A proper understanding of how to improve individual productivity and performance would require controlled experiments or careful causal analysis of observational data. There may be something I do as a result of reading an article or book that has some empirical evidence supporting the behavior, but what you’ll read here is a series of anecdotes, not the experience of an expert or the result of evidence-based research. Remember, “The plural of anecdote is not data.” https://quoteinvestigator.com/2017/12/27/plural/

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