Profound sadness and changes to the blog

It is with profound sadness that I must announce the death of my dear friend, coworker and co-blogger, Mary Axford.  Mary died unexpectedly and suddenly in her sleep on January 26th. In addition to her well-researched blog posts, Mary was the driving force behind our Links Roundup feature here on the blog.  In fact, Links Roundup # 28, published just last week on February 2nd, had already been prepared by Mary and was published exactly as she had prepared it.

Mary worked at the Georgia Tech Library for over 27 years and was one of the first people to collaborate with me by co-teaching a Freshman Experience class.  We have co-authored several articles – one of which is still forthcoming – and co-presented at a number of conferences including Computers in Libraries 2014.  We worked side-by-side over the past three years writing and researching for this blog that we created and were so passionate about.  Mary’s enthusiasm for emerging technology and serving the students and faculty of Georgia Tech inspired me almost daily.

While I have not yet made firm plans for this website, I do intend to continue exploring alternatives for Personal Knowledge Management with all our readers after a short hiatus for grief, adjustment and re-planning. I appreciate your patience and positive thoughts during this difficult transition.

Crystal Renfro


Links Roundup #28

saddle and ropeCitation/Reference Managers

Find the Right Reference Manager is a post by Bonni Stachowiak on her Teaching in Higher Ed blog.  She gives the pros and cons of Google Docs Reference Tool, the RefMe app, and Zotero.Content Curation

Qiqqa (pronounced quicker) is a citation management tool that I’ve been intrigued about for years, since it has a LOT of features, some of them unique.  Have not had as much of a chance to use it as I’d like, and would really like it if I knew a grad student or faculty member that use it and can give a good review of it.  Anyway, they have just come out with a major upgrade.  It was developed by people associated with Cambridge University. They also have a blog.

You have probably heard now about the merger between MacMillan and Springer.  One interesting point made in the linked article is that the two have competing reference managers, Papers and Readcube, and it is unknown what merger means for their future.

Boost Your Productivity with Saved Searches in Zotero is another excellent post by Catherine Pope in her The Digital Researcher blog.  She talks about the search syntax in Zotero (sounds similar to that in Evernote in robustness), and how to save searches.

Content Curation

Introducing the New Suggestion Engine is an article with details on how this content curation search engine has improved.  I like!  Don’t get me started on search engines, though…I see so many lousy ones.


Evernote’s New ‘Scannable’ App Makes Scanning Automatic is a post by Robert Ambrogi on his Law Sites blog.  The post discusses the pros and cons of the new scanning app from Evernote (iOS only for now).

Make a Table of Contents in Evernote for Easy Access to Everything is a Lifehacker post by Tori Reid.  The article is short and simple, but illustrates one of Evernote’s great features.  Let’s say you are buying a sofa and have saved a lot of info from the web on different sofas you like from different stores.  Select all the notes on sofas and then click on “create a table of contents” – it is that easy, and you wind up with one note to rule them all!  ;-).  That is, one note that has links to all the other notes.

IFTTT/Task Automation

Will IFTTT, Workflow, Zapier Teach Us All to Connect Apps? is a post on diginomica by Phil Wainewright, who talks about these three apps and whether they are adequate in providing task automation and how they might reach wider audiences.  Had not heard of Workflow before, probably because it is iOS only.

Legal Technology

10 Most Important Legal Technology Developments of 2014 is from Robert Ambrogi‘s Law Sites blog.  The post is a roundup of those developments with Ambrogi’s comments on each.  Very informative and a provides an update to my post on productivity tools for law.

Microsoft Office/Office Software

Review of 40 Features of Microsoft Office 2013 is another articles by Cindy Grigg,‘s expert on office software.


Goodnight.  Sleep Clean is an article in the NYT Sunday Review by Maria Konnikova on new findings on brain functioning and why sleep is vital – essentially the waste products from the brain are cleared out during sleep.  Poor sleep may lead to diseases like Alzheimer’s.


20 Apps and Services that Made Me More Productive in 2014 is a post by Jamie Todd Rubin on his blog.

Timeful is an app that puts your events, to-dos, and good habits onto your calendar.  After learning about your habits, it makes suggestions of things to put on your calendar.  For iOS.

Procrastinating? (well, not at the moment, am writing this) is a Gradhacker post by Erin Bedford on how to get over procrastinating on projects.

Your Extra-Somatic Brain, a Gradhacker post by Hanna Peacock, discusses to-do lists and their usefulness in grad school.  She mentions the apps OmniFocus, Microsoft Outlook’s Tasks, Things, Todo7, Toodledo, 2Do, and Asana.

Are Those Files Final? is a Profhacker post by Natalie Houston that makes two really good points – putting final in a file name is almost a guarantee that it isn’t, and that one should find a naming convention for your files (especially those on which you collaborate) that works and stick with it.

Using Project Management Approaches to Tame Your Dissertation is a Gradhacker post by Katie Shives that discusses five phases of project planning that can apply to researching and writing a dissertation as well as any major project (including writing articles).  The phases are:  conception and initiation; definition and planning; execution; project performance/control; and project close.


How to Better Retain Information from Books, Articles, and More is a Lifehacker post by Herbert Lui which discusses 3 techniques for improving recall.


Virtru Makes Email Encryption Easy, in Either Outlook or Webmail is an article by Robert Ambrogi of the Law Sites blog.  He reviews Virtru, which encrypts email, is easy to use, and has several options.  He also links to his other posts reviewing more email encryption programs.

Thesis/Dissertation Research

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Researchers is another great post by Catherine Pope of the Digital Researcher blog.  In it she discusses her tips for anyone starting on this kind of intensive research, and has good advice on taking notes, citation management, task management, setting writing goals, organizing research material, backing up your work, and learning new skills.  She discusses tools she has used for each.  Useful for academic researchers, and something librarians can point out to their graduate students… and by the way, Crystal’s Productivity Tools for Graduate Students guide is another great tool to show them.


Twitter Tools Sampler is an article by Leslie Walker, the Social Media Expert.  Tools mentioned are TweetDeck, HootSuite, Twhirl, Twitterific, Tweriod, Buffer, Twilert, Twiriod, TwitSprout, TwentyFeet, and ManageFlitter.


4 Quick Tips for Writing in Any Discipline is a Gradhacker post by Shira Lurie discussing common grammer mistakes and how to fix them.  In it she links to another Gradhacker post by Kelly Hanson, A Tentative Taxonomy of Writing (in Grad School), which gives writing advice on drafting, rewriting 1, 2, and 3, and professional correspondence.

Google Docs vs. Scrivener for Writing is a post by Jamie Todd Rubin talking about when each one is the more useful tool, and for which kind of writer.  In his opinion, for writing that needs to be highly structured (written from an outline, for example), Scrivener can’t be beat.  His more recent writing, however, tends to be more unstructured, and Google Docs with its streamlined functioning suits when he just wants to write without the software getting in his way.  He makes the most important point we’ve mentioned before – the best tool is the one you find works for you.


Goal Setting for a New Year

goal_imageI used to belong to a women’s group where each January, the leader of the group would pass around a bowl of cardboard angels cut out from old Christmas cards. On the back of each colorful angel was a single word, the word that was the special word for the recipient for that year. Sometimes the words would imply action, like persistence or fortitude or adventure. Sometimes they would imply a gift such as gratitude, love or family. But the word, she assured us, was specially chosen for each of us that year and as we watched throughout the year, sure enough, we often saw our word take shape in our lives.

As I sit here, this dark, chilly January day, I wish for a cosmic hand to offer up to me the perfect words to direct my goals for the coming year. Where do you look for inspiration when the idea of goal setting leaves you dry and unimaginative?

Perhaps the first place is to review a few basic goal setting questionnaires, just to get the ideas firing. I like for its general focus on your whole life, not just the work portion. Searching out those other life goals might provide some guidance about what would complement in your work life goals. Spend some time considering why you entered the career you chose. What made you passionate about your work? What kinds of challenges fed your enthusiasm instead of draining it? What do you offer others through your work? Why is it important?

Martin Seligman, a professor from University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center wrote a bestselling book in 2011 called Flourish. In it, he describes his PERMA model, outlining 5 elements existing in a person experiencing a state of well-being. It also provides some clues for us to consider when we are developing our goals.


In order to remain in a state of well-being, Seligman asserts, we need to be experiencing some form of positive emotion. This could occur in many forms, as gratitude, excitement, love, intellectual curiosity, or any one of a number of different positive emotions. One of the ways for many of us in the academic community to feel a positive rush of feeling is to find ourselves totally engrossed in pursuing a topic of personal interest. Reaching a state of flow, where we lose track of time and place as our attention is totally focused on our present pursuit of knowledge is a good illustration of Seligman’s second step of Engagement. What areas of academic pursuit allow you to reach this state of engagement? How is this pursuit represented in your annual goals?

Seligman’s third point is the importance of Positive Relationships. Who in your personal or professional life inspire you? How might you be able to interact with them more in the coming year? What common interest might you be able to work on together? Surrounding yourself with positive relationships helps you lift your own emotions and energizes your work.

Why do you work in the field that you are in? What Meaning does it have for you? What inspires you about your work? Is it working with students? Personal research? How can you fit more of what you most love into your annual goal setting process?

As we have considered the positive Emotions, areas of personal Engagement, positive Relationships, and Meaning of our work world and how they might fit into our professional development and goal setting for the new year, we reach the final letter of Seligman’s PERMA model: Accomplishment. Hopefully, by aligning our goals with the other aspects of the PERMA model, we already have a good idea of several areas in which we can focus for the coming year. Identifying and listing specific accomplishments for the coming year in each of these areas gives us the focus and incentive to make the coming year one of great personal satisfaction and fulfillment.

For more on goal setting and discovering your purpose in life, in addition to the resources previously mentioned, I can also recommend Michael Hyatt’s podcast: How to Create a Life Plan.

Links Roundup #27

Happy New Year!Calendars

Organize with Smart Calendars is an App Smart video from the New York Times Technology Section on three useful calendar apps: Sunrise (iOS and Android), Cal (Android and iOS), and Tempo (iOS).  Cal is put out by, a task management software, and integrates with it.  Sunrise puts your Evernote reminders into the calendar automatically if you connect the two.  This tip comes from Nicole Hennig’s email newsletter on mobile apps for education.

Citation Management

How to Manage a Research Library with Zotero is a blog post by Alex Hope in his Dr Sustainable blog.  It discusses his workflow, and citation management software he has used and why he prefers Zotero.  Be sure to read the comments – other researchers chime in with their reasons why they have chosen a particular reference manager. Have just started following this blog and it looks very useful.

Ebsco has integrated EasyBib into its databases, so that users can select an article and automatically open Easybib to add the citation information to their account.  EasyBib works on a freemium model, and a lot of undergrads, among others, really like it.

Computer Programming

Hour of Code, a post from Profhacker by Anastasia Salter, discusses the usefulness of coding in higher education (and resources for learning to do it) aimed at non-professionals.

Educational Gaming/Apps

2014: 5 Games to Learn From is a Profhacker post by Anastasia Salter.  She has written a number of posts on using games to improve learning and teaching, so if interested in this topic check out her other posts.

Nearpod is a very interesting-looking product for creating instruction sessions.  It allows adding slideshows, audio tracks, video, images, quizzes, polls, and various other types of material.  Works on a freemium model, and the free version looks useful for most teachers.  There is a school edition for which you have to call for pricing.

Wiz IQ is similar to Nearpod, though at first glance seems to have fewer features.  The site has a 19-page PDF on creating videos, annotations, and presentations for your class.

Best Educational Mobile Apps – 2014 Edublog Awards lists 25 Apps chosen by Edublogs and has a description of each.  While many are aimed at K-12, some are applicable to the academic community.


How to Keep Course Files Organized is another useful post by our friend Bonni Stachowiak in which she talks about folder structure for both email and computers.  Her method could be applied by non-teachers, since it has some useful general tips.


The Android version of Evernote now has the business card camera and LinkedIn integration that the iPhone version has had for some time.

Crystal brought my attention to the fact that OneNote now has a blog for education and a site for teachers.

Grovo is a site that produces short clear tutorial videos on many apps and social media tools.  They often put together several of them to create a “course” on the most popular tools.  A recent edition is a useful brief introduction to the new web version of Evernote.

Using Evernote (the Right Way) is a post on Medium by Thomas Honeyman. His way is to use a small number of notebooks and a lot of nested tags.

In Penultimate Update Adds Multi-page Editing and Better Writing, Evernote discusses the most recent updates to Penultimate (an iOS only app).  The title is descriptive of the article.

How I Use Evernote to Remind Me of Everything is a new post by Jamie Todd Rubin discussing his system for using reminders, linking notes together, and integrating Evernote reminders into the Sunrise calendar app.

Questions and Answers about Context is an Evernote blog post about using the Context feature, showing content related to the note you are working on.

How Evernote Can Help You Achieve Your Goals in 2015 is a post by well-known writer Michael Hyatt.  In the post he lays out a details format for setting up your goals.  The method sounds very much like one similar to David Allen‘s Getting Things Done (GTD) program.


The Big List of IFTTT Recipes: 34 Hacks for Hardcore Social Media Productivity is a post on buffersocial by Kevan Lee.  It discusses IFTTT recipes for managing social media.


How to Start or Improve a Podcast is a Profhacker post by Jason B. Jones.  It provides links with discussion which should get the podcast newbie a great start.


Note-Taking in Graduate School is a Gradhacker post by Justin Dunnavant, which discusses his personal system for taking notes for classes, books, and journal articles.  He still relies on paper for some tasks, and the discussion is valuable in part because he does show that getting to 100% digital is still difficult, even with all the advances in technology.  One link that I thought particularly valuable is the synthesis matrix for organizing a literature review – after taking part in a major lit review last summer, I really wish I had known about this!


Presenter’s Toolbox: Apps and Gear for a Successful Presentation is a post by Scott Schwertly, a well-known business consultant, on tools he uses to create, present, and follow up after presentations.


One of our perennial favorites on this blog is Jill Duffy, who does a weekly Get Organized column for PCmag.  A recent post lists her votes for Best Productivity Apps of the Year.  The apps she mentions are Timeful, Mailbox, Johnson & Johnson Official 7-Minute Workout, Asana, Evernote, and

Best Software and Productivity Apps for iPad Air or iPad Mini is a post from Cindy Grigg, author of‘s page for Office Software.  She discusses some information and pricing about the machines, which apps come with it, and other best productivity apps.  She has related posts for the iPhone and iPod Touch, for Mac Notebooks, and for Mac Desktops.  On the Android side, she has articles Office Software and Productivity Apps for Android LG Tablets and Smartphones, Office Software and Productivity Apps for Your New HTC Android or Smartphone, and Office Software and Productivity Apps for Android Sony Tablets and Cell Phones.  And, finally, Top Android Productivity Apps for 2014.

Get Your Ideas Out of Your Head to Start Improving Them is a Lifehacker post by Eric Ravenscraft in which the central idea is that writing your ideas down is essential to being able to judge their validity.  Does not mention, though I think vital, that writing something down helps clarify what can be a vague thought.  Lifehacker, by the way,  is full of such productivity tips… far too many to cover in this blog.  You can subscribe to see more of them.


#TAGS: New Home Page for Twitter Archiving Google Sheet is a Profhacker post by George Williams discussing using TAGS to archive tweets based on Twitter search terms.

Video/Audio Production

Cheap and Easy Audio for Videos is a post by David Lee King discussing equipment and techniques he uses that are cheap and provide good quality audio for any videos you produce.


The Best Software for Writing Your Dissertation is a Gradhacker post by Lesley McCollum discussing the problems with Word and options such as LaTex, Lyx, and Scrivener.  Links to other useful blog posts.



May Your Holidays be Blessed with Joy

May your holidays be blessed with joy, love, health, and prosperity, and may the New Year bring you the same – regardless of your religion or lack thereof. Scroll down to see pictures to put you in a holiday mood.

We will return with a post on January 5th.


Gratefulness, Mindfulness and Productivity

"Buddhist monk in Mae Klang Waterfall" by ผู้สร้างสรรค์ผลงาน/ส่งข้อมูลเก็บในคลังข้อมูลเสรีวิกิมีเดียคอมมอนส์ - เทวประภาส มากคล้าย - Captured by uploader. Creative Commons 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Buddhist monk in Mae Klang Waterfall” by ผู้สร้างสรรค์ผลงาน/ส่งข้อมูลเก็บในคลังข้อมูลเสรีวิกิมีเดียคอมมอนส์ – เทวประภาส มากคล้าย

The rush, craziness, joy and anticipation of the holiday season has already begun.  As my gift to you, I’d like to remind you (or perhaps introduce to some of you) of tools that we have to help us deal with the challenges, not only of the busy holiday season, but also could help make our day-to-day lives more rewarding and, well, happier.

I was fortunate enough to come across a wonderful MOOC that has just finished on the edX platform called The Science of Happiness.  Led by Dacher Keltner and Emiliana Simon-Thomas, this MOOC was produced by the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at the University of California, Berkeley.  I found this course so very interesting and informative. It helped motivate me to make changes in my own life to increase my happiness.  The best news of all is that you all haven’t missed the boat!  The Science of Happiness is being run again beginning December 1 on a self-paced basis.  Instead of the 10 weeks that my course ran, the free self-paced course will be open for a full semester, giving everyone more time to read through all the great resources the instructors provide. (Check out my previous post on Mastering MOOCs with Evernote for some hints on organizing your study.  I have created a great personal notebook from my journey through the course) I also loved all the videos they had of well-known researchers and authors in the field discussing various aspects of the program. I have a long list of new books I’d like to read just from all the speakers.  I highly encourage everyone to consider this course, no strings, work at your own pace.. you have nothing to lose, except maybe a sad face.  Listen to the instructors introduce the course themselves and then check it out on edX here.

My second gush is about the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) itself.  I never knew this great site existed prior to this course. The instructors have used a number of articles from the center in their readings and I am sold on the free e-newsletter.  It is like getting an uplifting hug in your inbox. The articles are all based on real research, but they are written for a lay audience so they are easy to read and digest.  The site is organized into Family & Couples, Education, Work & Career, Mind & Body and Big Ideas, or you can choose between topics like Gratitude, Happiness, Mindfulness, etc.

OK, enough gushing.  Suffice it to say that this course came to me at a time when I was feeling really crushed by life and listening to the videos and reading the articles on mindfulness, gratitude, compassion (including compassion of yourself!) and trying out some of the happiness exercises helped me refocus on bigger picture.  It helped remind me of some techniques and practices that centered and rejuvenated me — practices that I had let fall to the wayside in the busyness of life.

So what, you might be saying, does all this touchy-feely stuff have to do with productivity? Much more than you might initially think. We have explored some of these concepts before with regards to time management (Time Management or Focus Management?  and May I Have Your Attention?).  In those posts we learned that multitasking was a myth, and that managing our focus can be key when many competing priorities are demanding our attention.  This is where mindfulness can come into play. As our secret weapon, the abilities that we gain through the practice of mindfulness can help us stay grounded and focused in the present moment. By knowing how to take short mini-breaks to empty our minds and release our stress, we can return to our tasks with renewed energy and clarity.  Tara Healey wrote, “Mindfulness interrupts the conditioned responses that prevent us from exploring new avenues of thought, choking our creative potential.”  This kind of positive return sounds like a good reason to spend some time cultivating my own mindfulness skill.  How mindful are you?  Take this quiz from the Greater Good Center to help you target ways to improve.

Finally, I’d like to briefly touch on two other topics from the Science of Happiness MOOC.  Those of gratitude and awe.  To me, those kind of go hand in hand and relate to the picture I chose to start this blog post.  In it, not only do we see a Buddhist monk meditating, but we see the glorious waterfall behind him.  I can almost hear the water rushing down the rocks. Nature is one easy place for me to stop and feel awe of the magnificence around me. When I take the time to focus on pictures, or even better, to actually visit some of these beautiful places where nature is King, I find my breathing and blood pressure slowing; I am reminded of the vastness and wonder of the world, and I feel an unfurling of all the tight negative emotions or troubles that may be weighing me down. And I am grateful.

I am also grateful for each of you, our readers, for taking time to visit our site, come to our talks and provide us feedback. Wishing each of you a holiday season of happiness, gratitude and awe.