Links Roundup #34: Tidbits from around the web.

saddle and rope

Have the recent changes to Evernote’s pricing structure left you less than enamored with it as your go-to organization tool?  Michael Hyatt, who has written often on his use of Evernote, recently took a second look at several of Evernote’s top competitors and created a great comparison review in his article: Three Evernote Alternatives and How They Stack Up.

Also, our favorite folks at Evernote were busy taking notes for us at the 2017 SXSW Conference. Check their notebook here for highlights from the 30+ sessions in the Workplace Track discussing topics on workplace productivity and diversity.  My favorite note was from Carmen Medina’s talk, “Update Your Critical Thinking Skills”, where she says “Whatever information comes to us, we believe that it’s an accurate representation of reality when in fact it’s just the information we’ve received.”  Doesn’t that elegantly describe every Googling University Student you’ve ever met?

Next we turn to Podcasts.  For those of you who love to listen to podcasts while exercising or commuting, Bonnie Stachowiak offers her Podcast Greats for 2017.  While Bonnie’s list focuses on Teaching and Higher Ed, Kylie, a brand new librarian, listed her favorite librarian podcasts recently on her blog. If you are trying to find podcasts for your library users, Nicole Hennig has discusses ways to find Diverse and Accessible Podcasts in her recent Dispatches article in American Libraries.

The gurus at The Next Web reviewed the Best Chrome Extensions to Boost Your Productivity in 2017. And while LifeHacker and Tom’s Guide both reviewed the best Firefox add-ons last year, Mozilla is reminding us that they will be transferring from add-on features to WebExtensions by the end of this year.

Do you use the Public Folder option in your Dropbox in order to share files with others?  If so, this alert is for you!  Dropbox has announced that they will discontinuing their public folder options.  Individuals can share individual files by using a shared link. The public links were to quit working on March 15th.  See all the details here.

And finally, a shameless personal plug.  My article, “The Use of Visual Tools in the Academic Research Process: A Literature Review” was published this month in the Journal of Academic Librarianship (volume 43, Issue 2).  To quote from my own abstract,

“A number of visual tools including concept mappers and mind mappers are well suited to help advanced students, faculty, researchers and librarians to organize the ideas and knowledge throughout the various stages of complex research, from envisioning an idea to the early stages of actively researching and documenting research findings. This paper will discuss the potential uses of visual mapping tools and review the current state of academic literature surrounding the topics of mind mapping and concept mapping.”

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Book Review: Finishing School: THe Happy Ending to that Ending to that Writing Project you can’t seem to get done

Book cover for Finishing SchoolProfessional librarians today are expected to be active in our organizations and in many cases, to be active writers, producing peer reviewed articles, book chapters and even books.  But writing does not come easily to many, and even the most prolific writers sometimes encounter the dreaded writer’s block.

Enter the subject of today’s book review, Finishing School.  The Happy Ending to That Writing Project You Can’t Seem to Get Done, by Cary Tennis and Danelle Morton.  Tennis, an advise columnist, created the Finishing School method to solve his own writer’s block in completing his first novel.  He collaborates here with Morton, a multi-book author and journalist, who, like Tennis, had hit a wall when trying to finish a project that was near and dear to her heart. By following the Finishing School method, they were each able to finish a stymied project after only three months. They credit their success to the systematic method they share in this book.  Because, as the authors’ remind us, “Not finishing a piece of writing can feel like the death of a dream.”

This past year I participated in a Professional Writing Group at my library. I found the camaraderie of meeting with other librarians who were also committed to producing several pieces of academic writing over the year-long program to be inspiring and motivational.  We were able to support one another as we each experienced snags in our projects, and projects that may have been abandoned, gained new life through the encouragement of fellow writers.  I found myself to be more prolific than ever, maintaining my monthly posts to this blog, completing several book reviews for Library Journal, and completing both a feature article due to appear in CR&L News in April, and a scholarly literature review which as been accepted for publication in the Journal of Academic Librarianship.

Throughout the process of completing the literature review, I hit several walls that were very difficult to break through.  I wish I had found Tennis’ and Morton’s book early on during those stressful times.  In their book, the authors describe the six emotional pitfalls that most writers may face during their writing projects, often in an escalating spiral: Doubt, Shame, Yearning, Fear, Judgement and Arrogance. After we understand the emotions behind our blocks, the authors then describe the Finishing School Method, with Morton sharing her experiences as a participant in Tennis’ school for the first time. The focus of the Finishing School is not on critique of the writing itself, but on the systematic production of product, good or bad. Accountability to a fellow school participant provides the incentive to continue to meet agreed upon goals, and setting consistent, achievable goals helps cement the writing process that will carry the writer to successful completion.  The book concludes with suggestions for developing your own Finishing School group in your area.

I enjoyed reading Finishing School. Alas, since both of my writing projects were completed prior to finding this book, I find myself currently struggling with a totally different writer’s dilemma: finding another interesting topic to write about.  Ah well.  I wonder if there is another book for that?

How about you? How is your professional writing going?  What do you find helpful when hitting a writer’s block?  How do you find new topics to write about?  Share with us so we can all learn together.

 

Links Roundup #33 : A Happy New and Productive Year!

saddle and rope

OneNote Tips

There have recently been a number of new blog posts and articles on power user tips for OneNote.  Blog posters at Petri.com have a series they are labeling as “Leveraging OneNote”  which I found well worth reading.  Recent posts in the series has talked about manipulating lists and using OneNote for project management.

 

Tackling Writer’s Block

While not a new post, this post from Eva Lantsoght over at PhD Talk might prove helpful to those of us with academic writing goals for the new year. Check out Writer’s Lab: 30 Ways to Tackle Writer’s Block.

 

Scanning Applications

If you are looking for better ways to quickly scan documents on the go and are tired with the resolution of your phone’s camera, try one of these scanning apps recommended recently by PC Magazine: The Best Mobile Scanning Apps of 2016.

 

Best Posts in 2016:

Several of my favorite sources have posted summaries of their best posts in 2016.  In case you missed them the first time around, they are worth visiting now:   Michael Hyatt’s Top 10 posts/podcasts of 2016  and also his list for Top 5 Business Books of 2016. (One of which is Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work, that I also reviewed here in October!

From Bonnie Stachowiak at Teaching in Higher Ed we have her Top 10 Downloaded podcasts of 2016.

And while we are visiting the Teaching in Higher Ed site, Bonnie also had a great post recently on her recently updated Personal Knowledge Management System.

From the Greater Good Science Center we have Their Top 10 Insights from ‘The Science of a Meaningful Life’ in 2016.  The folks at this Berkeley center always have interesting posts.  And the librarian in me couldn’t pass up the opportunity to highlight their post on Our Favorite Books of 2016.   By the way, their great MOOC, The Science of Happiness started up again on Jan 3rd.  You can still register and catch up.  I really loved this study when I did it in 2014 (see my discussion of it here) and recommend it to all of my readers as well.

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Monday Tool Tip: Limited time offer: Learn Microsoft OneNote FREE

monkey computer toolsJust a quick note to all my subscribers.  I just learned of a free online conference to learn the latest tips and tricks of OneNote going on this week: November 12 -17th.

The Learn OneNote Conference 2016  requires only registration (free) and the pre-recorded videos from OneNote experts can be watched at any time during this one week window.  All video content will be removed 48 hours after the conference end on November 17th.  You will be offered an option to purchase a Lifetime Access pass to watch the sessions later, but that is not required.

The 21 different speakers will each be sharing a video and are organized into general topics as follows and will be released throughout each day.  After released, you can watch at any time within the conference window at no cost:

Nov 12th: Getting Started

Nov 13th: Powerful OneNote Features

Nov 14th: Using OneNote in everyday life

Nov 15th: Using OneNote in business

Nov 16 & Nov 17: Using OneNote in education (2 days of videos on this topic)

There are more details about each speaker and their topic at the conference website: http://www.learnonconference.com/

Enjoy!

Book Review: Deep Work by Cal Newport

Cover of the book Deep Work by Cal NewportIn a world where recent attention has been on the wonders of individuals who have mastered multitasking comes this thoughtful book from Cal Newport, author of “So Good They Can’t Ignore You.”  While not the only proponent of single tasking, Deep Work was a drink of cool water for this librarian.

Why Deep Work?

    • Multitasking takes away focus.  Recent research has shown that multitasking really is just single-tasking with rapid switches of attention between the various tasks before the individual.  This makes focus much more difficult for most, and impossible for some.  Newport explains that when you switch your attention, “just to quickly check email”, for example, the effect of that mind switch leaves up to 10-20 minutes of residue in your mind that serves as a kind of cognitive handicap that results in static when you try to re-focus on your topic of deep work.

What IS Deep Work?

  • Deep Work is “the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time.” (per Newport)  Newport spends a significant amount of time explaining the value of deep work to one’s productivity and success, and then presents a plan for training us to become deeper workers ourselves. More than half the book is filled with various strategies  for developing the skills needed for deep focus.
  • Caution!  Deep work is hard.  Don’t read this book if you are looking for a way to make your life easier.  Deep work takes effort and practice to attain, just like any other skill.. in fact, just as multitasking took work to achieve.  But its benefits, including the satisfaction received by simply practicing the technique, proponents argue, make the effort more than worthwhile.
  • Deep work allows  you to learn new complicated things more quickly.  When you attain the ability to focus deeply, you tend to retain more information and assimilate new skills more quickly.
  • The better you become at deep work, the more high quality work you can produce in a given unit time.  Its benefit expands as your skill at doing deep work increases.
  • Newport describes in his book how deep work allowed him to not only complete this book, but how he also wrote twice the number of peer reviewed papers during the same year.  This kind of focused achievement is impressive to say the least.
  • He also shares a case study where the Boston Consulting Group committed their employees to a deep work experiment.  Despite misgivings, all employees took one full day  identified as a “no contact day.” During this time, they did not respond to email, client calls etc, but  focused totally on deep work.  The result?  Job satisfaction went up, clients were happy, and employees were more productive too. So maybe the world would not stop spinning after-all if we unplugged from our emails and phones.  (as a note of amusement… as I write this, both of our campuses have their internal applications down… no email, no campus connectivity. And I’ve managed to get a great deal done here as a result.  Hmm.  Maybe there is a lot to this concept!)

What are some of Newport’s Tips for starting to practice deep work?

  1. Quit social media.  You must be extremely selective about the apps and tools you use.  What applications provide “substantial positive benefits” to your work?  Those are the tools that MIGHT be worth keeping.  Otherwise, be ruthless about striking out the others.
  2. Using website blockers like Leechblock (Firefox) or StayFocused (Chrome)  might help you to avoid all the attention grabbing sites as you begin to train your mind for Deep Work.
  3. Try creating a Rhythmic philosophy of work; in other words, schedule your deep work for the same time every day.
  4. If your everyday schedule doesn’t allow enough time for deep work, try a Bi-modal philosophy; in other words, choose certain days where you choose to only do deep work.
  5. As a third alternative, you might try a Journalistic philosophy; this method allows you to schedule specific blocks of deep work based on your responsibilities and meetings for the week ahead.

Deep work is a commitment just as any other change that you choose to make in your life.  The more you practice doing deep work, the better you will get at it and the longer you will be able to devote to deep work sessions and the more you will produce from the sessions.