Blog Articles 46–50

One Tweet Research

I spent the day yesterday at the NSF CISE CAREER workshop. It was excellent, and I strongly encourage any young US CS faculty to go to a future installment or watch the online videos if a CAREER proposal is in their future.

One thing that came up repeatedly is the need to clearly — and concisely — explain your research. Several program directors referenced the Heilmeier Catechism, the first question of which is “What are you trying to do? Articulate your objectives using absolutely no jargon.” Another brought up that it’s important to be able to explain briefly what you’re doing (or planning to do).

I’ve been adopting something like this in my talks for a few years now. When I’m giving a research seminar, one of my first few slides is ‘#1TweetResearch’: how would I convey, in a single tweet, the overall thrust of my work? Here’s the slide from my last seminar:

Coordinating Collaboration

In previous articles, I have written about how I organize my own personal productivity. However, many of my projects are collaborative, and physical paper doesn’t work very well for sharing task lists.

The Wall — Tracking the Pipeline

Earlier, I wrote about the notebook I use for planning and tracking my daily and weekly work. It’s great for the low-level tactical aspects of productivity, but is not very good at long-term planning. I’ve tried to use it for that — semester planning pages and similar ideas — but it has not been very effective.

To manage the birds-eye view of my work, I use a Kanban-style board made of Post-It notes and painter’s marking tape on the wall of my office.

Work Management as Self-Care

In my previous post, I described how I use a physical notebook to manage my daily and weekly work.

Getting things done is not the only purpose of this notebook, however. It is also an important part of how I maintain my mental health.

The Notebook — Daily and Weekly Work

Moleskine notebook with pen

My notebook is the center of my day-to-day workflow. In it I track what I need to do, what I am doing, what we’ve discussed in a meeting, and countless other things. It isn’t terribly often that I actually go back more than a week or so to look at things — I tend to transfer long-term notes into digital storage after I’ve processed them — but they’re still there, and I find the very act of writing with pen helpful.

However, it isn’t just an ad-hoc thing where I write without structure. There is quite a bit of structure to how I use the notebook, and it helps immensely as I plan and execute my work.