Better Grad Student

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40 Days of Tips, Tricks, and Links: Day 12 & 13

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WordPress was misbehaving yesterday so I was unable to make an update. Worry not though, today’s post has literally twice as many tips as the last post. So brace yourselves!

I wanted to share with you two separate tools that I use very frequently to help with productivity. Productivity, and specifically productivity on the computer, can be a nebulous goal. How do you decide that you’ve been productive? You really can’t without gathering some sort of data on the issue. This is where RescueTime comes in. This small app, once it’s installed on your computer, will keep track of how much time you spend doing different tasks on your computer. At the end of the week, it will tell you how you’ve spent your time and whether or not this falls into the productive or distracting categories.


Red vs. Blue


The above picture is my efficiency summary for the previous week. I’m not 100% sure how it calculates the final value (maybe it’s just an average) but this basically says that, overall, I did more productive activities than distracting ones. They’re also kind enough to break it down by day:


Blue won this time... but barely.


Tuesday, I didn’t work at my desk much, and this is reflected in the low amount of time in both the productive or distracting category. You can also set up the time frame that RescueTime records; I have mine set to 8AM to 6 PM Monday through Friday. This way, I’m not recording what I’m doing at home to relax, and I can get a better picture of what I’m actually doing at school. There are several more settings that you can tweak and optimize, but I’ll let you explore those if you decide. Overall, RescueTime has allowed me to see just how much time I spend on distracting sites and helps me to budget my time more wisely.

Part two of today’s post is about a little program I love called Evernote. Evernote recently became quite popular when it was released on the Mac App Store, but it’s been around since 2008. The basic premise behind this program is to capture the information that you want to store, in the format of your choosing. As its name implies, Evernote allows you to keep your notes forever and it allows you to do this on pretty much any format: Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, Android, and WebOS.


Elephants... memory... get it??


A note can be any information that you want to store for later: webpages, pictures, videos, internet links, etc. All of these become searchable within the program for easy access. Personally, I use it to capture ideas and information for both research and this blog that I want to use later. It syncs up seamlessly between my phone and computer and has really enhanced my ability to keep track of ideas and to recall information for later use. If you’ve ever been in the situation of forgetting something that you really wanted to remember, which, let’s be honest, is everyone, then I highly recommend this program.

P.S. Both of these are free!

Please tell me what you think in the comments! Also, if you like what you’ve been reading here, sign up at the top of the page to receive emails every time I make a new post. Thank you for reading!


Written by Taylor M.

March 23, 2011 at 5:36 pm

40 Days of Tips, Tricks, and Links: Day 6

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My Master slideToday’s tip is a quick one that has saved me a ton of time when making presentations. Generally, when giving a presentation, you don’t want your slides to be a distraction to the viewer. At the same time, you need space to identify information such as the title of the slide, the university which you represent, and the number of the current slide. Some people, I would venture to guess, create images to block out the different sections of their presentation, and then just copy and paste the basic formatting from slide to slide. This is one way to make a presentation, but there is a much better method.

You can edit the default settings for a new slide and set up your desired theme as the new default. The default settings are controlled in the Master View. The Master view lets you control the appearance of all the different slide types. I only use the title and text slides and work within those two slide types for all my presentations. I have it set up so that the black bars, the university name, and the current slide number are always present in a new slide. This creates a consistent theme across all of my presentations and it’s something that I don’t have to worry or think about anymore. Spend a few minutes setting up your desired theme now, and you’ll save significant amounts of time in the future.

Please tell me what you think in the comments! Also, if you like what you’ve been reading here, sign up at the top of the page to receive emails every time I make a new post. Thank you for reading!

Written by Taylor M.

March 15, 2011 at 5:53 pm

How to Organize Scientific Articles

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Grad school is the land of a thousand papers. You will be reading for what seems like eons. You have to read to learn; there’s no way around it. You will be surrounded by scientific articles and pretty soon they’re going to be getting out of hand. Organization will be key to reigning in this literary beast. Knowing where your papers are and how to get a hold of the information they have, and quickly, will be essential to your future success. Spending some time now will help you avoid wasting even more time in the future.

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Written by Taylor M.

February 5, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Regain Your Freedom

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Distractions! It’s what the internet was practically built upon and it’s what keeps you from being productive during the day. I know from personal experience how a simple visit to Wikipedia can turn into 20 minutes of your day lost. The habits that have formed from years of internet use are practically ingrained in my hands. In my quest to be a better grad student, I finally came upon a solution to beat the distractions of the internet and actually get some work done. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Taylor M.

January 28, 2011 at 6:00 pm