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 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.








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:


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.

Tools for Academic Writing are many tools available for the writer today.  Recently, I was asked to provide a brief overview of the more popular low-cost tools out there for new writers.  Here are a few of the ones, in no particular order, that I found during my preparation for that presentation to my writing group.

Scrivener:   Of the tools we will look at today, Scrivener is sort of the Cadillac version of writing tools.  Available on both iOS and Windows, this tool has been around since 2006 and was specifically created to aid in the development of long writing projects. There is a free trial that lasts for 30 days of actual use (vs 30 calendar days), but the one-time cost is only $40.  There is a definite learning curve, but for dedicated writers who take the time to learn the tool, there is a dedicated following.  The tool facilitates the re-organization and shuffling involved in more involved writing projects.

Hemmingway App  This desktop application, for both Mac and Windows, grades the readability of your writing by identifying extraneous adverbs, the use of passive voice, and unnecessarily complicated words.

Trello  While not specifically designed for in-depth writing projects, this project organizer has promising applications for complicated writing projects, with its index card style layout.  It allows for concepts to be easily expanded and moved around while preserving that all-important visual overview of your article or book.

Gingko  This visual tool is best described by the site itself.  You really have to see it to appreciate it.  “Gingko organizes text into trees. It’s not simply for writing text, but also for organizing a plan of what you’re going to write and ordering sections of what you write.” (per site)

Grammarly  This is a free website tool that will check your grammar, looks for contextual errors and suggests better vocabulary choices.

I could go on for many more hours, but will stop here.  Did I cover your favorite tools?  What helps you most when working on your academic writing projects?  Share and let’s continue to learn together.

Links Roundup #32

saddle and rope 100 Twitter accounts for Philomaths (Lovers of Learning)

From our Friend, Jane Hart (of our favorite annual list: Top 100 Tools for Learning ) comes this new list of 100 influential Twitter accounts for individuals who love to learn.  Librarians might find the following particularly interesting:  Book Nerd ; Five Books .      But my favorite, science nerd that I am, had to be Hubble .  Don’t let me choose for you.  Go to Jane’s post for the whole list and find your own favorites.

Dropbox introduces Dropbox Paper

The newest entrant in the notebook software game is our familiar friend, Dropbox.  Currently in beta, Dropbox Paper is this cloud storage giant’s attempt to rival Evernote. The key here is that Dropbox is going after the business sector with its emphasis on team collaboration.  While I might play some with Paper for some team projects, I plan to stick to Evernote for my personal notebook for now.

Evernote Price Increases

This article from Android Authority reports on the recent news from Evernote (June 28th to be exact) of its intentions to restructure its pricing model, resulting in some significant changes that has a number of people very upset.  The Plus plan is increasing $1 per month, and the Premium plan $2 a month, while the free subscription has several new restrictions, namely you can only have Evernote on 2 devices (a desktop computer counts as one!) and there are bandwidth restrictions to 60 MB per month.  Even though the devise restrictions are daunting, remember that the cloud version could always be used without downloading to a computer which makes the devise limitation a little better.  Families that share a common Evernote account, however, might still find this insufficient and need to chose one of the pay options.

Should You Drop Evernote?  PC Mag. Reviews the 8 Top Alternatives

Columnist Jill Duffy shares why she (and I also) think that Evernote users should hang in there a little longer before making the leap to other applications… or at least carefully consider the benefits and what you lose by choosing an alternative.  Here she reviews Microsoft OneNote, Google Keep, Zoho Notebook, Moleskine, Simplenote, Laverna, and OpenNote .  The bottom line from Jill, is the same as mine.  Evernote is still the best product out there right now.

Best Notetaking Apps for Students

Our favorite friends at Lifehacker just (August 8th) put out this nice summary of Notetaking Apps for Students.  A great resource for librarians who want a nice article for sharing with students coming back for the new school year.

Creating a Mindful Library

While not a new article, this piece from the folks at Mindful Magazine seemed like a breath of fresh air as many of us become buried once again by beginning of school tasks and pressures. I like the idea of having a small little book collection in a quiet corner of my office devoted to mindfulness books.  This article provides just the jumpstart to make that happen.

How to Create a Video for a Class

Finally, from our friend, Bonni who brings us great posts at Teaching in Higher Ed, comes this post on creating point-of-use videos for a class or instruction session. More and more librarians are finding their reference consultations are being handled at a distance as online learning continues to proliferate. Here Bonni is not discussing software; rather, she is offering some tips of encouragement for those of us who find the idea of creating videos daunting.  Thanks, Bonni!