Using Evernote vs Todoist as your todo list

I’ve been a happy user of both Todoist and Evernote for a few years now – see my post on using Todoist and Evernote together with Google Calendar to get things done. 

However, last year following a period of illness I’ve reconsidered the tools I use. In this post I explain why I switched from Todoist+Evernote to only using Evernote, and why I later decided to go back to my trusted system. 

Downsides of Todoist

My main problem with Todoist is that it is too easy add tasks.

That might sound a bit weird. Of course the adding tasks functionality of Todoist widgets is great, and it is easy to capture all the little things you need to do. But since all tasks have the same “weight” (even if you give them different priority), your overall task list becomes too focused on not-always-important, little tasks. Although I was regularly organizing my list, just having all the other tasks there was kind of weighing on me.

A related problem is that when you add a task, you don’t see what tasks you already have scheduled. So you can be too optimistic when adding a task for “tomorrow”  when you already have various meetings and other tasks scheduled. 

Finally, Todoist has a desktop app, but it doesn’t work if you start it when you are offline. 

Evernote as your todo-list

Evernote is not a specific todo-list app, but it is possible to use it as such. You can see notes as individual todos, and then organize them via notebooks or tags, or you can create a checklist in a single note. I decided to go with the checklist approach, and created two notes  – “Current” and “Maybe”.  “Current” was for anything that was coming up, and “Maybe” for projects that I might or might not do. 

Most of the time I worked with the “Current” list, where I made a table with one row for each week, and columns for different types of tasks. I started with “work” and “home”, but later split these up into more categories, based on priority.

This system had several advantages that I missed with Todoist. When adding a task, I had to add it to a specific row, so I would already see what other tasks I had planned for then. Also, I became more aware of the weight of the different tasks, and I feel that overall my todo list became more balanced. 

This way my todo list was also accessible offline, and it was in the same app as my other project-related notes. 

Downsides of Evernote

Unfortunately, there were a few disadvantages as well, that made me miss Todoist. 

The main thing I missed was the integration with Google Calendar – in Todoist I would enter a date and time, and an event would show up on my calendar. Now I had to create a separate “Planning” calendar, and add tasks manually – which I didn’t do consistently.

Another problem was recurrent tasks, which I did once a week or once a month. In Todoist this is basic functionality, but Evernote does not have this feature – you can set a reminder for a note, but when it’s time, you have to reset the reminder yourself. 

Back together

After 2-3 months of using Evernote only, it felt good to create a list in Todoist again. I’m more mindful of the downsides and am trying to manage them better, for example by using filters for my tasks and scheduling tasks for next week on the calendar. It’s not yet the ideal system I wish I would have, but I think using it consistently does help in the long run. 

Do you have any tips of how to create a better todo-list / calendar system? Let me know in the comments!

Checklists for productivity in academia

As I get more responsibilities and work on more projects, I find myself increasingly using checklists. Especially with things that do not occur too frequently, I have to think “how did that go again, what should I not forget?”. After reading The Checklist Manifesto, where Atul Gawande discusses checklists in airplanes and in surgery – where you really don’t want to forget anything, I decided to try it out for myself. 
So far I’ve made myself checklists for the following:

  • Student starting a project  
  • Planning a conference trip  
  • Giving a talk
  • Having a paper accepted

I keep the checklists as templates in Todoist. I’ve broken down each of these into different stages (for example, before the trip and after the trip), with various one-off tasks I need to do, such as booking travel, or filling in reimbursement forms. Sometimes I add links to the tasks, which will take me to the website or Evernote note I need to complete the task.

One of my conference travel checklists in Todoist | veronikach.com

Then as soon as one of these events comes up, I copy the template to a new project, and fill in dates for each task which are suitable (this could be automated somewhat, but I prefer to have control over this). This way I will never forget all the details that need to get done.  

I like this approach and would like to apply it to more things I do in my job. For example, I’m thinking about making teaching each class into a template. Although my materials are prepared from the year before, I still need to go over the materials, post all the details on the learning environment, grade exams etc. Since I already know all these things are coming up, I might just as well add them to my todo list (and reserve time for them!) with a few clicks. As I’m trying to improve estimating the time I need for a task, I can become more and more specific with this.

It would be great to have such a checklist for every new project. I can imagine such a checklist would contain, for example, creating a directory structure for the code. These tasks are of course much easier to estimate than actually working on the project, but perhaps some day I will get there as well. 

However, there are other things I do in my job that I can plan in advance. For example, this year I have also been documenting how long I needed to prepare for lectures and to grade assignments. I can use this information to create a checklist for each course, and just repeat the checklist every year. For activities that do not take place on fixed dates, for example reviewing papers or giving talks, I could already budget hours, and move them around as needed. This would probably also help with saying no to more things.  

Do you use any checklists? Or is this an overkill? Let me know by commenting below or on Twitter!

My goals for 2019 – 12 week year

I’ve been setting and reviewing goals for two years now, both in Evernote (part of my GTD setup) and here on the blog (2017, 2018). Although I try to do this systematically, I find it difficult to stay on track throughout the year, and, at the end of the year, to review everything that happened.

This year I want to try something different, borrowing from the 12 week year idea. I’ve heard about this on several podcasts that I listen to, but have not read the book or followed any courses they offer. My (naive?) take on it is that you only set goals for the next 12 weeks, and only focus on a few things at a time.

I’ve had some momentum with writing recently, so I decided that my main focus for the first part of 2019 is going to be writing as well. What am I going to write? Here’s where the “few things at a time” thing went wrong. Here’s my plan:

  • Draft of a survey on arXiV (in progress already)
  • Submit a paper to MICCAI
  • Write a lab guide and share version 0.1 with my student
  • Finish writing my teaching portfolio and submit it
  • Draft 36 blog posts (!!!)

That’s right, next to all the academic writing I am going to draft three quarters of the blog posts that I want to schedule for this year. This is an experiment, since I think I can get more done if I either just write, or just publish posts (share them online, etc).

How I am going to do this? I have to write 250 words a day, just like I did in November. That by itself will not get all the writing done, but it’s a great habit that helped me focus. I’ve also been increasingly planning my writing in pieces which take me 30-60 minutes to finish, and scheduling these on my calendar, so that’s a good habit to continue too.

I also updated my weekly review template a bit. I had a single note for each quarter last year, whereas now I already made 12 notes where I will fill in my reviews. Each note has a copy of the goals as a reminder, and specific questions on how I’m progressing with each of them.

Next to writing, I also have health and exercise goals in the same weekly review, but these are “maintenance” goals rather than challenges, so I will not be reviewing these on the blog.

What are your goals for (the first months of) 2019?

Tips for managing email as an academic

After a conference most academics probably face a fairly full inbox. In this post I share a few tips I’ve found helpful with managing my email. I am by no means an expert, but I’m happy with some of the strategies I use, which I share below.

Inbox zero

The idea of inbox zero is exactly what it suggests – once you process your email, ideally you should have ZERO emails left in your inbox. Following the “getting things done” system, I try to either handle an email immediately (if I can delete it or if I can reply quickly), or put it on my todo list for later (if I need to look things up first, can’t take action immediately, etc). Once an email is on my todo list, I archive it, so it’s not just sitting there staring at me. I can’t imagine how stressed I would be without this strategy.

I have a few things to improve though. A few emails do not fit into either category, for example if I read my email on the phone, but need to use my laptop to reply. This is not helpful since I am revisiting this email several times, instead of once.

Send later

I try not to email on evenings and weekends. The goal of this is to enforce boundaries on my work time and manage expectations of others, both with regards to when they can expect to reach me, and what I expect of them. I appreciate that people might have different working hours. Therefore, when I do email outside of my normal hours, I usually schedule the email to be sent later. I use the Streak plugin for Gmail, but there are others, like Boomerang, and Outlook has delayed sending functionality as well.

Snippets

Some of the emails I send are very similar to each other, for example with information about student positions. To avoid typing the same information over and over, I use the Snippets feature for Streak. The same functionality is possible with Canned Responses by Gmail, but I like the user interface of Streak more.

Skip inbox

For mail that’s not urgent to read, I have filters that skip the inbox, and deliver it to a folder I call “Snooze”. For me these are typically newsletters and announcements that are not personally addressed to me.

Although this type of functionality is offered by Gmail with automatically labeling emails, I prefer to define my own rules of what is important or not. This means that there is an initial time investment, every time I receive a newsletter, to create a filter for it.

Other tips?

These are the main strategies I use, but I would love to hear more of what has worked for other people – let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!

Multiple Overleaf projects with a single .bib file

I recently discovered that one of my biggest dreams – being able to link all my online LateX projects to a single .bib file (but without using Mendeley) – is possible!

Previously I had “solved” this problem with ShareLateX projects, by writing a script that copies my main .bib file to several project folders every hour. However, this requires Dropbox sync for ShareLateX, which is a premium feature for new users. Not to mention, it’s not ideal to do it every hour, and to have to update the script when you want the .bib file to be copied with an additional project.

Now a much simpler solution is possible with Overleaf. It’s probably been there for a long time, but I only realized this now. When you add a new file to an Overleaf project, there is an option “Upload from URL”. I thought this option would do just that – get the file from the URL and upload it. But what it actually does, is remotely link to the file. That’s the solution right there! (Thanks to Overleaf’s Dr. LianTze Lim for pointing this out!)

Here are the steps to get this to work:

1. Put your .bib file in Dropbox, set the sharing settings so that it’s accessible by anyone with the link. Copy the link

2. In your Overleaf project, Go to “Files”, then “Upload from URL” and paste the link here. With Dropbox, this link will end in “dl=0”. Change this to “dl=1”

If this works correctly, you should now see your .bib file in your project, but with a “linked” icon next to it

3. Proceed as you usually would with a bibliography file

If you are collaborating with others, the best way is probably to have two .bib files – the linked one (not writeable from Overleaf) and another one that is local to the project, for any new references. This way at the end of the project, you could move all the new references to your main .bib file.

I also tried to do this in ShareLatex, but couldn’t find this type of option. Although ShareLateX has free Dropbox sync because I’m an early user, this feature of Overleaf could have convinced me to switch (even if losing the sync). But Overleaf and ShareLateX are merging, so I’m hoping I might get to enjoy the benefits of both.

15 productive ways to use Evernote

15 productive ways to use Evernote | veronikach.com

If you are a reader of this blog, it’s probably no surprise that I love Evernote. In this post I summarize all my favorite ways to use Evernote – a few that I have written about before, and a few that still need to become blog posts. Enjoy!

15 productive ways to use Evernote | veronikach.com

15 productive ways to use Evernote | veronikach.com

15 productive ways to use Evernote | veronikach.com

1. Blogging

I write my blog posts in Evernote before transferring them to WordPress. I like this because I can use Evernote online, so I can write when I don’t have Wi-Fi, and I get less distracted in general.

2. Weekly review

I use Evernote in my Getting Things Done system, which I’ve blogged about here. During the weekly review, I use Evernote to write down a summary of what I have done each week for different goals, such as writing or exercise.

 3. No list

Also during the weekly review, I write down what opporunities I have said yes to, and what opportunities I have said no to. This has made me more aware of how many request I get and accept, and easier to say no.

4. CV

For the things I did say yes to, I might forward the invitation to Evernote and tag it with “my_CV”. When I need to update my CV, I can add all these items based on the tag. I do the same for any media that mentions me, just in case I need this for an annual review or a grant application.

5. Read later

The first thing I started using Evernote for was to save blog posts or articles to read later. I wrote about this in the “capture’ part of the GTD process. The saved posts go to my Evernote inbox. During the weekly review, I briefly look at the posts and either delete them, or add tags and move them to my ideas notebook. When I need information on a specific topic, I just search the ideas notebook for that tag.

6. Organizing literature

Evernote is great for saving PDFs, so I use it to organize the papers that I’m reading. I find the tags very helpful in finding the exact paper that I need. Read more about my system here.

7. Organizing travel

When travelling for a conference, I keep all the reservations and other important information in a notebook for that specific trip. Read more in this post.

8. Happy thoughts

I forward emails with that made me happy to Evernote and tag them with “happy”. This could be anything from getting a paper accepted, to a comment from a blog reader that my posts have helped them. The idea is similar to the “jar of happy” – review these notes when you are feeling down. Similarly, you could add photos, drawings, handwritten notes – anything that can remind you to appreciate life.

9. Journal

I have used Evernote as my 5-minute journal, although I have now switched to paper so that I don’t use my phone just before bedtime.

10. Text snippets

I have several notes where I store pieces of code I often use for my blog, such as:

  • hiding an image (great for attaching Pinterest graphics to the post)
  • shortcodes for WordPress
  • embedding newsletter sign-up forms

Of course I can always find these snippets from within WordPress, but I find it easier to keep these snippets in a single note.

11. How-to guides

I have started writing guides for myself, on how to do things that I have to do from time to time, but not often enough to remember all the steps. For example:

  • Installing essential WordPress plugins for a new website
  • Installing and configuring software if my laptop dies
  • Creating a yearly financial report

12. Meal planning

Evernote is great for keeping track of your favorite recipes! I have two notebooks (both shared with my partner) to plan my meals – one with recipe ideas, and one with recipes where we drag and drop recipes for the upcoming week. This way it becomes really easy to create a shopping list!

13. People

I do not really use Evernote as an address book, but I might keep important information about people I know, like food they don’t eat, their favorite beer, what gift I gave them last year, etc.

When people recommend me books or podcasts, I tend to add a short note to Evernote about it. This way if I check out and enjoy the recommendation, I can thank the person later!

14. Buy later

When I think I might want to buy something online, I often save the item to Evernote first and tag it with “buy”. From time to time, I go through this tag. Often I’m able to delete a lot of items – a few that I bought, but most that I decided I didn’t need. Great for keeping your place uncluttered AND saving money.

15. Gift ideas

No “best ways to use Evernote” list is complete without gift ideas! Similar to the “buy later” section, I save items that could be good gifts to Evernote, and tag them with “gifts”. The difference is that I don’t delete the note once I’ve bought the gift. Instead, I can edit the note to include who I gave the gift to.

 

If you like these ways to use Evernote, check out my Pinterest board where I’m always collecting more ideas:

;

 

How to use a single .bib file with multiple ShareLateX projects

I’ve been using ShareLateX, which lets you edit your .tex documents collaboratively online, for years now. I’m happy with it, except one thing: you have to have a different bibliography file per project. In this post I explain a workaround I created for this problem. It’s not beautiful and requires that you use Windows and have ShareLateX premium, but if you have a similar problem, read on!

A better workflow

If you are like me, you generally “manage” your bibliography by the following method:

  • Copy-paste .bib file from a recent project
  • Copy-paste new references from Google scholar while writing
  • Clean up all the missing fields etc, when paper is ready for submission
  • Forget you did this, and do this all over again for the next project

Sure, it’s possible to have a single master bibliography offline, and then every time you add a reference, to export the bibliography, and import it in your current projects. But this is a bit time-consuming, so I decided to find a way to automate the process a little bit. There are four steps to this:

  1. Create a clean master bibliography in Dropbox
  2. Enable syncing between ShareLateX and Dropbox
  3. Set up script to copy master bibliography to ShareLateX folders
  4. Schedule the script

Master bibliography with Jabref

The first step to a better system is to actually have a cleaned up bibliography file that you will WANT to use. I do this in Jabref, because it is as close to “just editing .bib files” as I can get, has everything I need, and is free/open source.

To finally create a single bibliography, I copy pasted the bibliographies from my MSc thesis, my PhD thesis and my papers since my PhD into a giant .bib file. This created lots of duplicates, but these can be edited in Jabref. This was quite neat, since it allowed to me to choose the “most cleaned up” version of the reference. This was a time-consuming process, but hopefully with this system I don’t have to go through it again. My master bibliography now lives in a Dropbox folder called “Bibtex”.

 

ShareLateX – Dropbox sync

The next thing that I needed is syncing between Dropbox and ShareLateX. Unfortunately this is a premium feature at this time.

If you have the syncing enabled, each paper lives in its own Dropbox folder, under Dropbox/Apps/ShareLatex. Here are mine:

Each of these folders has a .bib file. Although locally I could ensure that the projects link to my main bibliography file in Dropbox/Bibtex, I cannot do this in the cloud.  (Or, there is a way to do this but I haven’t found it, which would render this blog post obsolete).

 

Copy bibliography to project folders with a script

My “genius” solution is to copy my master bibliography to the individual project folders. Of course I don’t want to do this manually – I want an “if this then that” solution that does it for me when the bibliography is updated.

In the end I settled for a slightly simpler solution of “copy every hour between 8 and 17” (when I’m most likely to be writing). Not as elegant, but (at least in Windows) it’s the 20% of effort that gives me 80% of results.

To copy files automatically, I used a Powershell script that says what to copy and where, and the TaskScheduler, which actually runs the script.

The Powershell script is called jobBibtex.ps1 and has the following contents (you can just create it with Notepad, but be sure to save it as “other” and not as a text file):

[sourcecode language=”plain”]

$SourcePath = "C:\Users\Veronika\Dropbox\Bibtex\refs_main.bib"
$DestinationPath1 = "C:\Users\Veronika\Dropbox\Apps\ShareLaTeX\Crowd2018"
$DestinationPath2 = "C:\Users\Veronika\Dropbox\Apps\ShareLaTeX\Survey2018"

Copy-Item –Path $SourcePath –Destination $DestinationPath1 -Recurse
Copy-Item –Path $SourcePath –Destination $DestinationPath2 -Recurse

[/sourcecode]

The script now has hard-coded in it which projects it should copy to. A better version would go through all the folders in Dropbox/Apps/ShareLatex – this is the next improvement on my list.

Schedule the copying script

The last thing is to schedule the copying script. I used this tutorial to get this done, but here is a short summary. From the start menu, search for the TaskScheduler program. Once there, go to “Actions” and “Create basic task”

 

In the menu that comes up next, you need to select a name for your task (“Copy bibliograhy”) and select a trigger, for example “Daily at 8AM”. As the action, select “start a program”.

The program that you are starting is Powershell.exe, and you need to add the following argument (replace the path with wherever you saved your .ps1 script:

[sourcecode language=”plain”]

-ExecutionPolicy Bypass C:\Users\Veronika\Dropbox\Scripts\jobBibtex.ps1

[/sourcecode]

Save the task and run it to see if your .bib files were really copied!

80/20 rule

Clearly this is not a perfect solution.

  • This is a one-way sync, so editing a copied .bib file on ShareLateX will not reflect in your master bibliography. This is problematic for collaborative projects. My solution would be to have two .bib files in each project – one with the master bibliography, one with additional files your collaborators want to add (which you could later add to the master .bib file).
  • The projects which to copy to are now hard-coded in the script – it would be better if if the script would work for any new folders in Dropbox/Apps/ShareLateX
  • Copying every hour is too much, a “when updated” copy would be more neat

But, it is the 20% solution that gives me 80% of the results I wanted, and hopefully will save me time in the future.

 

Do you have similar solutions in place? Leave a comment below!

My 5 best purchases under $100

I recently read Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, where he interviews entrepreneurs, athletes, writers and many others. One of the questions he asks often is “What’s one item you’ve purchased in the past six months for under $100 that’s had the biggest positive impact on your life?”. I really enjoyed the replies, so in this post I ask myself the same question, with a bit more flexibility on the time of purchase and price. I recommend these for yourself or as gifts – for more gift ideas for academics see here and here. Now on to my 5 best purchases under $100.

1. Pullup bar ($20)

A great reminder to do at least a bit of exercise every day, which is of course good for you.

I actually found mine next to a dumpster, so it was free – but you can get one for as little as $20.

2. Soda stream ($80 and up)

A great way to stay hydrated! I really like sparkling water, so I drink more water when I have it. I used to buy bottles at the store, but dragging that much extra weight (I don’t have a car) was a pain. Plus, the Netherlands has really great water just from the tap.

Now, I always have as much sparkling water as I’d like, I save money AND it’s more sustainable.

3. Wake-up light ($50 and up)

Great for waking up refreshed! I’m definitely a morning person, but before this purchase, I would still have days where I was uncomfortably woken up by my alarm.

This is no longer the case since the wake-up light! It emulates the sunrise by starting with a dim red light, which slowly turns into a brighter yellow light within half an hour, at the end of which there are some nature sounds. I typically wake up somewhere in the middle of this cycle. I still do have a “backup” alarm on my phone a few minutes later, but I dont remember ever needing it since the purchase.

I have a model from Philips which currently costs $130, but there are other (also Philips) options available from $50, or less if you go for other brands.

4. Fitbit ($85 and up)

Great for walking more, sleeping more, and just general keeping track of your health. I would recommend a model with heart rate monitoring, since I find that the most insightful feature.

I have a Fitbit Alta HR, which is great for small wrists and costs $125, but other models like the Charge HR start at $85.

5. Comfortable shoes

Spending just a little bit more on shoes has been a life changer. It’s not that I always had impossible shoes with high heels that I couldn’t wear. My choices were actually quite reasonable – often flats or boots with a medium heel. But they had to “look good” and I had to have several different types and colors. As a result, each pair had to be “affordable”.

In the end I had a lots of shoes, but none of them were very comfortable – I couldn’t just decide to go for a long walk in my “normal” shoes. This was quite limiting during conference travel, because I would always have to think ahead what I would be doing later that day, or go back to the hotel to change, and so forth.

Since I bought my first pair of Ecco shoes (around $100 for new), I have downsized my collection quite a lot, only buying REALLY comfortable and versatile shoes. I also buy used shoes more often know, since I know what brands to search for. In the end it’s cheaper than what I used to do! But the most important benefit is that I’m no longer wasting energy on an issue that’s not really important.

***

What do you think? What things have you bought in the past year that you would recommend to others?

5-minute journal with Evernote and Zapier

5 minute journal with Evernote

All the productivity resources I’ve been consuming over the past year seem to agree that journaling is an essential habit that helps with everything else. See for example this blog post by Tim Ferriss or this podcast by AsianEfficiency (both my favorites).

 

There are lots of journaling apps, such as Five Minute Journal and Day One. They remind you when it’s time to journal and offer prompts on what to write, such as “what are you grateful for?”. However, I didn’t want to add new apps to my list, so I decided to maximize the apps I was already using for this purpose.

 

Evernote

My journal simply lives in a notebook in Evernote. I currently have a single note per day, with the following template, which follows the 5 minute journal prompts:

It is possible to set a reminder in Evernote that will alert you when it’s time to journal, but I have a daily in Habitica that helps me remember.

 

Zapier

That’s great, but doesn’t this mean you have to copy and paste the template each time you want to journal?

No – that’s where Zapier comes in. Here I have a “zap” that automatically creates the note with the template each day, so on the day itself I only have to open it. Zapier takes you through the process of creating the zap, but here are the steps:

  1. Create a trigger using Schedule and set it to every day, or however often you want to journal.
  2. Create an action using Evernote and select the “append to note” action.
  3. Enter the name of the notebook (“Journal”), the name of the note (I use the date, this is provided as one of the defaults)
  4. For the content of the note, copy paste template below* Edit the text, formatting as you prefer.
  5. Test the zap and you are done! Happy journaling!

 

*I have tried to update the code so that it’s only needed to specify the border once, but this removed the formatting – let me know if you have a better/neater solution for this!

[sourcecode language=”plain”]

<table style="border: 1px solid black;">

<tr>
<td style="border: 1px solid black; min-width: 300px;">
<b>Morning</b>
</td>

<td style="border: 1px solid black; min-width: 300px;">
……………………………….
</td>
</tr>

<tr>
<td style="border: 1px solid black ; min-width: 300px;">
I am grateful for
</td>

<td style="border: 1px solid black ; min-width: 300px;">
</td>
</tr>

<tr>
<td style="border: 1px solid black ; min-width: 300px;">
What would make today great?
</td>

<td style="border: 1px solid black ; min-width: 300px;">
</td>
</tr>

<tr>
<td style="border: 1px solid black; width: 300px;">
Affirmation: I am…
</td>

<td style="border: 1px solid black; width: 300px;">
</td>
</tr>

<tr>
<td style="border: 1px solid black; min-width: 300px;">
<b>Evening</b>
</td>

<td style="border: 1px solid black; min-width: 300px;">
……………………………….
</td>
</tr>

<tr>
<td style="border: 1px solid black; width: 300px;">
Great thing #1
</td>

<td style="border: 1px solid black; width: 300px;">
</td>
</tr>

<tr>
<td style="border: 1px solid black; width: 300px;">
Great thing #2
</td>

<td style="border: 1px solid black; width: 300px;">
</td>
</tr>

<tr>
<td style="border: 1px solid black; width: 300px;">
Great thing #3
</td>

<td style="border: 1px solid black; width: 300px;">
</td>
</tr>

<tr>
<td style="border: 1px solid black; width: 300px;">
How could today have been even better?
</td>

<td style="border: 1px solid black; width: 300px;">
</td>
</tr>

</table>
[/sourcecode]

 

 

My goals for 2017 – progress report 3 of 4

It’s the end of September, so it’s time for another quarterly review of my goals for 2017. You can find the first two reviews here and here.

Start my new job

Last time I said a better name for this goal was “develop a system for working in my new job”. The “getting things done” system I described last time is still doing its job and I have even written more detailed posts about it, here and here.

But maybe the name of the goal is not so bad after all, because I realized that every time I’m still introduced to new parts of my job. Although I started in February, it was only a few weeks ago that I also started teaching, so everything feels a bit more real now. Against all the new faculty advice, we (each course is taught by two people) did setup the course almost from scratch instead of following the plans from previous years. I don’t regret this for a second. Although there is an initial time investment, it’s more motivating and I’m excited to see how we will improve the course for next year.

There were a few other “first times” that happened this quarter, all having to do with getting invited to speak or review. That feels pretty awesome! I think that next to my job title, this website and Twitter have been very helpful with that, so next to feeling valued for my work it’s nice to see that the time I invest into my online presence is also paying off.

Submit. All. The. Papers.

As probably happens to most new faculty, this didn’t happen. The counter is still on 2 out of 5. In my defense, I did actually write, but it was related to revising the 2 previously submitted papers. I have another revision due in the next quarter, so just like 2014, this year is a year of revisions.

I will be happy if next to the revisions, I can move one of the other projects along, but more realistically, I will only get to these in 2018.

 

Write a blog post every week

Still going strong! The past weeks it’s been a been difficult with travelling to a conference and teaching, but I’m glad I’ve still been able to keep it up. Although it feels like a part-time job, I’m realizing more and more that it’s meaningful for me to do this (and that I should have done it a lot earlier!), so I prioritize blogging even if I don’t feel like it.

 

Read at least 1 book per month

I finished reading “Reamde” which I started last time and am now reading “How Learning Works“. I really like reading it while I’m teaching, because I notice ways in which I could implement the advice in the book.

I guess I didn’t manage the “1 book per month” thing since Reamde took me quite a long time to finish, but overall for the whole year I’m still on track. Next on my reading list I have “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss – very excited about that one!

Running

Last time I cautiously shared a goal I didn’t dare to discuss before (fear of failure?) in the beginning of the year – running.  A few months ago I had started with short and relaxed, but frequent runs. Since then, the frequency has suffered a bit, but the distances have increased. I even signed up for a 10K, which is happening this weekend – fingers crossed! (Also, shout-out to Married without Children podcast for the motivation!)

Bonus goal: Finances

I’m continuing the trend of sharing goals I had, but didn’t dare to discuss before – money. This year I set out to lower my mortgage from six to five figures. It wasn’t an impossible goal to begin with, but after reading the Mr Money Mustache blog, I got some extra motivation and completed the goal this summer. That was quite satisfying, so I decided to go bigger with the goal of being mortgage-free within five years.

If you a wondering how any of this is possible at all for junior faculty, this is in large part due to being an employee as a PhD student. I didn’t want to share this goal before because it feels weird to write about being in this privileged position, when there are so many researchers with financial problems. But at the same time I feel like I have to share my experiences to show that it’s possible. If you are interested in more details, I’d be happy to share – just leave a comment or get in touch.

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