New Year’s THEME Instead of Resolution: What Would Be Your Theme and Litmus Test Question?

Over at one of my favorite academic blogs, The Thesis Whisperer, I posted the following response to the blog author’s latest entry about the power in having a New Year’s theme versus a New Year’s resolution:

. . . I’m thus now updating my theme: This year’s theme is “instrumental.” In goal form, this would be: “I maintain an 85-to-15 . . . or better . . . instrumental-to-expressive SPLIT of my thesising activity!”

I choose this theme because it’s most pressing for me as a grad student at this juncture. Here is a quote to explain what these terms mean:“Instrumental behaviour consists of actions leading toward a stated goal; for instance, the goal of learning to drive a car might involve the instrumental behaviours of booking driving lessons, buying a copy of the Highway Code etc. Measured against this criterion, the de Leonists’ behaviour appeared senseless. Expressive behaviour, on the other hand, consists of actions demonstrating to other people what sort of person you are; for instance, sitting in the front of a lecture theatre and taking copious notes in a very visible manner to show that you take your studies very seriously.” Source: Petre, Marian; Rugg, Gordon (2011-03-28). The Unwritten Rules of PhD Research (Open Up Study Skills) (Kindle Locations 366-370). McGraw Hill International. Kindle Edition.

THAT all said, “instrumental” may suffice to capture my theme for the year. “Is what I’m about to do INSTRUMENTAL?” would be my litmus test question. 

What about you? What would be your theme and corresponding litmus test question?


Reflections after One Month of Using Moovia: It’s a Keeper!!!

Update May 15, 2014: Below I review Moovia, which is a neat app. However, as of now I have moved on from Moovia: I use Liquid Planner (free, educational-use application) to maintain a dynamic reverse calendar for my thesis project, and I use Watership Planner (Windows PC; reduced, educational pricing) for my general task, process, and schedule management. Liquid Planner now allows for a Kanban board view, so it may “subsume” Moovia now, to a large extent. Still, check out Moovia if interested. It has nice features, as I discuss below. 🙂


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The app I review in this post is called “Moovia.” It’s super, super fluid and easy as alllllllll get out.

Here’s the link:

It’s a time saver and reclaimer for sure. Here’s why: The learning curve is ALMOST non-existent. It’s intuitive. You need only type in a handful of tasks at a time to get a lot out of it. And it creates momentum, gets you organized, and keeps you clear about your project. This saves time and reclaims time.

I UNDERSTAND APP-FATIGUE and OTHER CONCERNS: If you’re worried about using it to procrastinate and avoid work, well, this is a VERY IMPORTANT concern: You want to get done, and you know you best: Perhaps avoid Moovia and any new apps if you tend to do more work in the apps than on your project. For me, because my due date is fast approaching, project management is just that for me: it allows me to manage WORKING. And I work better and more as a result. If that’s not the case for you and apps are like fun but distracting playgrounds or toys . . . self-care and avoid! 🙂

So here’s a screen capture of mine from within Moovia a few weeks ago (if you click on it, you can enlarge it):


Here’s what I like and/or do with it:

  • It’s basically a private Facebook where you are the only person in it, but it is ALL ABOUT SIMPLE, SIMPLE, CLEAN PROJECT MANAGEMENT.
  • You can invite people in if you want, but I wouldn’t.
  • MOST HELPFUL: I have a reverse calendar on paper, and I just take a handful of those tasks at a time and put them into my Kanban board (i.e. a board where you put tasks into to-do, doing, done, issues columns). With one click, turn your Kanban board into a simple, sequenced TO-DO LIST. With another click, turn the list BACK INTO A KANBAN BOARD. Yay!
  • You can create as many WORKSPACES as you like. And you name each WORKSPACE.
  • For each WORKSPACE, you have a WALL, an IDEAS page, an EVENTS page, a DOCUMENTS page, a TASKS page (with the Kanban board that you can turn into a list and back into a Kanban board whenever you want), etc.
  • I use each WORKSPACE’S WALL to function the way a researcher’s journal would. It’s kind of like where I stash my reflections, changes in lines of thoughts, people’s useful tips, celebrations, victories, high’s, low’s, etc., etc. Of course, I still have a REAL, physical notebook that is my actual researcher’s journal.
  • When you create a new WORKSPACE, you get to decide whether your project has MILESTONES, or TASKS, or LIST ITEMS, or PHASES, or STORIES (a product development type project management thing), CYCLES, etc.
  • You can link in documents from your Google Drive.
  • The IDEAS page (one for each WORKSPACE) is GREAT!!! Here’s how it works: Add an idea. Click in the appropriate column to give the idea a name or description. Click in the appropriate column to can RANK the idea, identify how EFFORTFUL an idea it is or would be, etc. You can add a brainstorm page to the idea, you can click a button to turn the idea into a TASK (it simply goes directly into your Kanban board if you click that button).
  • If you need a Gantt chart, just click one button! If you need a burndown chart, just click one button!

NOTE: I hardly use the Documents page. I have a Google Drive in my Gmail account that’s organized: That suffices for me. I don’t see the point in linking those docs into Moovia. On the other hand, if my Google Drive was messy and unorganized and I couldn’t find stuff in it, then linking a Google Drive document to the appropriate Moovia WORSKPACE document page would have a use.


Of course, you don’t have to restrict the WORKSPACES to academics: I have one WORKSPACE for a book I’m trying to write. When I randomly get ideas for it, I just stash it there at the Wall or Ideas page for the  book’s WORSKPACE. I also have a PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT workspace and a DISSERTATION IDEAS workspace. This one is important, and I link documents, websites, and the like to it.


Best and cleanest task and project manager app I’ve ever seen.

Aside: Regarding time management in Moovia: You can record due dates, estimated time required, time invested. I only record due dates and skip the rest (don’t have the time! :P). I’ve requested integration of a Pomodoro app. The developers think it’s a great idea. Don’t know what that means as far as getting one.

The various ways I use it save me so much time and keep me so motivated . . . the efficiency and momentum more than make up for any time spent adding a task or idea. And after a while, I found myself putting less into Moovia and more scrolling pointedly for reminders, tasks, ideas that I’d already written so I could jump back to working.

It’s the most motivating (momentum-creating) thing in the world: I open it each morning to get started. I read my Wall page because there is where yesterday I wrote a note to myself about what to focus on tomorrow!

Speaking of the Wall: The Wall turns out to be more useful than I thought it would be:

  • For example, a PhinisheD member posted a tip about how to create great outlines. I copied and pasted it to my Moovia Wall. I had forgotten about. But when I scrolled through my Wall the other day, there it was! “Doi!” I thought. “Almost forgot!”
  • Another example: I have pasted PhinisheD people’s encouragement to my Wall. When I get down or lost, I scroll through my Moovia Wall, reading and nodding and shoring back up.

Well, I could go on and on and on but I’ve said enough. As I mentioned above, it’s super, super fluid and easy as alllllllll get out. Just wanted to share because using it has calmed my project management worries completely.

Conclusion: If you have a hard time “seeing and collecting it all in one big picture,” then a high-level outline + reverse calendar + thesis binder to hold completed drafts and such + Moovia is a pretty good combo, methinks!