I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just can’t seem to switch into productivity mode. Today, for example, it is one of the coldest days of the year, and it’s all I can do to resist crawling back into bed and pulling the covers up over my head. And this is despite a full plate of things, including writing this blog post, that need doing.
Here is a piece reflecting ideas from a group of designers—really creative types – that makes a number of good suggestions about how to kick-start your motivation genes when they seem to be lying down on the job.
The post from fastcodesign explains how Russia-based designer Yevgeny Yermakov has been asking designers a series of five questions — about work habits, favourite books, career challenges, and creativity — and publishing their answers on his website. His project, “5 Questions for 100 Designers,” is growing into a trove of wisdom from the industry’s leading minds.
One of his questions asks, “Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently?” Fastco says that the designers’ diverse strategies include everything from setting timers to taking nature walks to listening to black metal, and show there’s no one formula for productivity — but keeping to-do lists might be the most popular practice.
The article offers tips from 15 of these prolific designers’ “secrets for getting stuff done.” Here’s a sampling:
- 1.LISTS! 2. A paper calendar I write on with pencil (only). 3. Finish what I start before starting something new.”
- “The obvious answer is to-do lists and apps (Evernote, Clear, Sparrow, Text Expander, iCal). ” Time management apps are extremely useful.
- “30/30 has helped me enormously with structuring my day. Lists, lists, lists!”
- “About 32 years ago I started carrying a small notebook with me and I’ve done it ever since. I jog three miles every morning and find that time useful for organizing the day in my head. Finally, I never go in to work on weekends.”
- “Use a timer. Set it hourly. Seriously.”
- “Listening while I design — to music, lectures, white noise — maximizes my efficiency.”
- Making “sure to get out of the house every single day. It’s really unhealthy to wake up and work in the same place you sleep and never leave. You’ve got to give yourself breaks, whether it’s to go for a walk, get some exercise, go out for lunch, coffee, or even just going out for dinner at night.”
- I always take a “nature break.” Sometimes it’s a walk around the neighborhood, on a busy day, it’s just a sit on my porch. I’ve learned that I’m most productive when I get fresh air.”
- “… I’m actually pretty unorganized compared to others. I don’t keep to-do lists, I don’t have any notes and don’t use my calendar really. My habit is to just work & get things done. Getting things done is highly addictive ….”
- “Taking care of the things in your life that matter, be it family, friends, exercise, meditation, things that make you happy, are vitally important….”
To see more, and discover who said what in response to this burning question, take a look at the fuill post at http://www.fastcodesign.com/3034151/15-designers-reveal-secrets-for-staying-productive?partner=newsletter
Whether seeking a reference for an academic application or a job search of any kind, letters of recommendation, which is to say “references,” matter a great deal. In an article published in University Affairs in 2009, Adam Chapnick offers some “straightforward advice,” as he calls it, on the topic.
The fact that this is listed on the UA website as one of its most read stories suggests the importance of the topic. The 50 or so comments that are posted online in response to Adam’s piece are testimony to how engaging his article is.
I can affirm the importance of letters of reference. I have served on many admission committees for graduate studies, for example, and can testify to:
a) the importance of strong letters of reference
b) how many letters of reference come in that don’t offer many specific details to support their recommendation of a student for admission.
It often makes me think that the referees may not have been furnished with an information package (see #2, below) – and have found themselves having to write out of a vague sense of a candidate’s academic record and strengths. After all, professors typically teach many students in any given year. We need to be reminded of all that you are in order to write soundly and specifically about you.
Adam notes that asking for a professor’s letter of reference is very stressful – and that students are often not aware of the etiquette surrounding the process. By etiquette, he seems to mean good manners, but much more: good manners mean making things as easy and pleasant as possible for those we engage with – or, in the case of references, rely on.
Considering that you may have to ask the same person for letters several times, both now and in the future, it seems to me that it would be worthwhile for you to check out what he and his respondents have to say.
Adam covers such topics as
1. Who to choose and when to approach them, asking yourself:
- How well did you do in the professor’s course(s) / how well did you perform as a TA or RA?
- How well does this professor know you and/or your work and how recent is that knowledge?
- Will the professor’s reputation carry weight? Is this the right professor for this application?
2. What to say and what to give them, ensuring that each professor:
- knows who you are and understands that you are looking for a strong reference
- knows why you would like a letter from them specifically
- understands that you face a deadline
- can be provided with an information package about you (and here he suggests what you might include – offering outstanding guidance in this crucial matter)
3. Saying Thank you:
- always let your professor know whether the application has been successful
- if you anticipate asking for additional letters, send yearly updates about your progress
- no further signs of appreciation are necessary but, if you wish, a kind, detailed e-mail that your referee can include in his or her teaching dossier, is a good idea
My synopsis, as usual, doesn’t do nearly enough justice to the link I am sending you to – check things out for yourself at http://www.universityaffairs.ca/career-advice/career-advice-article/how-to-ask-for-a-reference-letter/
And while you are there, sift through the comments from other students who’ve been through the process, and other profs who deal with these requests all the time – and Adam Chapnick himself. Really helpful nuggets here and there.
In December, University Affairs posted a video featuring Rose Hastreiter, a senior consultant at Direct Corporate Solutions, talking about time management tips for graduate students tackling big and little projects.
Hastreiter was filmed during Congress 2014, held last May at Brock University.
In a quick three-minute interview, she offers the following advice:
- don’t re-invent the wheel — find out what tools others have used
- build a plan — “backward engineer” the plan by first looking at your goals
- break down the steps — in her words, “take that beautiful mountain of a vision … into what we call mole hills”
- if it’s a long-term plan, identify the “mini-projects” to tackle one at time, a method called “Work Breakdown Structure”
- estimate your duration – “take into account your physical start point, your physical end point for the activity,” says Hastreiter
You can watch the video on the University Affairs website under the Career Advice section at http://www.universityaffairs.ca/career-advice/career-advice-article/time-management-tips-phds/