Productivity Hints, Tips, Hacks and Tricks for Graduate Students and Professors

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2024-01-12 - Productivity Hints, Tips, Hacks and Tricks for Graduate Students and Professors

Book cover of "Productivity Hints, Tips, Hacks and Tricks for Graduate Students and Professors"



My philosophy: Optimize transaction costs


(highlight:: Distilled into empirically-wrought principles, my high-level advice is:
Reduce transaction costs to engaging in productive behavior.
Erect transaction costs to engaging in counter-productive behavior.
Minimize opportunity cost. Do what you're best at doing, and partner with specialists when you need to do something else. [This is the hardest principle for engineers to accept. We feel that if we can do something, we should.])
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- [note::3rd point is definitely hard to accept - "but I can learn something! Save money! Feel good about being independent!" I say to myself.]


In short, mold your life so that the path of least resistance is the path of maximum productivity.
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Anecdote: Pull-ups

Don't work from home

Eliminate temptation to waste time


(highlight:: To stop losing time to these sites, I started blocking access
to them completely by redirecting them in my /etc/hosts
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- [note::Ooo, I like this. Not only blocking them, but redirecting your attention to remind you of something you should be doing instead.]


(highlight:: Psychologists know that randomly rewarding a subject for
a behavior behavior leads to the strongest conditioning, with the
longest period to extinction when the reward is removed.
(It takes months to break the habit on mindlessly pounding out
your favorite URLs even once they're blocked.)
Use RSS and Google Reader digg reader
to funnel all of the sites you read into a single stream.
With an RSS aggregator, you can tear through all your regular
sites in a fraction of the time, once a day.)
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Salvage dead time with technology

Get rid of your TV

Taming email

Don't repeat yourself: Use a blog to "reply to public"


(highlight:: If you find yourself giving a common answer to different questions or
answering the same question repeatedly, it's time to convert the answer into a
blog post.
For more on the "reply to public" strategy, see my article on efficient
academic blogging.)
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- [note::Love this phrasing - "reply in public". Reminds me of the "create knowledge article as the solution" norm in the context of customer support.]

A note on encryption

Work from a laptop


Buy a separate power adapter for every location where you regularly use a laptop.
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Use a calendar system

Turn off instant messaging

Minimize collaboration costs

Use a citation/paper-management system

Procrastinate productively

Exercise productively


(highlight:: It took longer to figure out how to prevent exercise from becoming a
trade-off with respect to work or leisure.
They key was in dropping the cost to engaging in exercise so low that
whenever I needed a short break, even for a minute, I could fill that break
with a quick set of exercises: I turned my office into a small but complete
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Iterate toward perfection


(highlight:: Treat perfection like a process, not an achievable state.
Perfectionism is crippling to productivity. ... The metric academics need to hit is "good enough," and after that,
"better than good enough," if time permits. ... One good-enough paper that got submitted is worth an infinite number
of perfect papers that don't exist.)
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