[Photo Spread] Book Annotating That’s Better over the Long Haul; Overcoming Distraction

Greetings!

I hope this post finds you well!

Below I share a photo spread. If you click on a picture, it will display the large photo viewer where you can see more details.

About the photos: The book annotation techniques on display in the photos have saved me SO MUCH time and helped me get the most out of my books and my reading. The photos depict how I take notes in books such that not only are the notes useful soon after they are taken (while still in the memory a bit), but they are useful months and years later.

The annotations are made and placed in such a way that I might not even have to open the book to know if it contains annotations leading to content that I need. And if I do determine to open the book, I can know to a high degree of certainty after skimming the Table of Contents or going to a select number of TABBED pages whether to keep with the book for my present needs or look elsewhere.

To close the post, below the photo spread I list four INCREDIBLY helpful (to me) links that lead to really great (to me) material that I’ve encountered over the past week or so. It didn’t feel right to “sit on them” without sharing. 😉 I hope you find something useful in one if not most of them. Please add your comments.

Well, back to thesising I go! Wishing you joy, clarity, and any breakthroughs you desire as you continue to squash effective tomatoes and cross off tasks toward reaching your milestones and crossing that finished line.Quote_DecideThatYouWantItMoreThanYouAreAfraidOfItWe’re going to get there! We are closer today than we were yesterday. Let’s do this! Solidarity vibes. 🙂

Please enjoy the photo gallery and links below.

Blessings,

Mickey

 

Some Reads Perhaps Very Worth Your Time

  1. Distractions and Solutions posted at the (research) supervisor’s friend
  2. The Different Stages of the Writing Process posted at the Research Voodoo blog NOTE: The author recently enjoyed having one of her posts Freshly Pressed!
  3. Using English for Academic Purposes (a webguide for students in higher education) by Andy Gillett: This is a clear, illuminating, easy-and-even-fun-to-navigate website all about academic writing at higher levels. It’s the simplicity and CLARITY of the explanations, married with the diagrams, that strike me about this content. I’ll be back lots, I think.
  4. 6 Easy-to-Steal Rituals of Extremely Successful People posted at the Marc and Angel Hack Life blog

Good Point!: Breathe OUT Sometimes

Status

Today I seem to be receiving the same message again and again, via various platforms:

  1. First, this link popped up in my twitter feed: http://researchvoodoo.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/the-perfect-sentence-vortex-and-how-to-escape-it/.
  2. It mentioned this excellent article, which changed my whole outlook on thesising for today: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/06/magazine/be-wrong-as-fast-as-you-can.html
  3. Then this blog post arrived in my email inbox, referring me to this excellent read: http://sivers.org/io.

These all spoke the same thing to me: “Z, get some things down, quick, and take a look at them!”

I must have been listening, subconsciously, because for the past hour I’ve been zooming along, capturing in text and with picture ways to maximize the research benefits of my current study. Consequently at the moment I’m feeling GREAT about my project, and if you are a student scholar especially, you know how significant it is to experience genuinely good feelings about your project, your work (both yield and process), and your sense of making progress.

RSM_UsingColoredPencilsToColorCodeCMOCsAndEvidence

At the moment I am inspired!: “breathing out” instead of always “breathing in.” My creative juices are flowing, and I see a clear connection between this work and the eventual write-up! Yes! I’m taking a Tiger Woods “knee to the ground while pumping the fist!” 🙂

What encourages you, academically-speaking and research or writing -wise? What inspires you? Have you connected with it today? As the links above advise, try “breathing out,” keeping in mind the wisdom of “being wrong as fast as you can.”

Godspeed with today’s endeavors,

Mickey (Z)

[Downloadable] OneNote Binder Tailored for Academic Researchers and Writers

Featured

Link to the binder: http://tinyurl.com/zcqvu95 or https://app.box.com/OneNoteBinderForResearchers.

NOTE: I’ve made this post a sticky: That means it stays at the top of the blog. Newer blog posts show up below it.

[ADDITION] OneNote PRINTING HELP: To the end of this post I’ve added instructions on how to PRINT OneNote items from OneNote 2010 (other versions may differ).


MAIN POST CONTENT

OneNote is now available for Windows, Apple, and Android devices.

I have created a OneNote binder tailored for academic researchers and writers. The video below previews it. Once downloaded, you can customize and tweak it as you wish.

OneNote is a powerful, robust tool because OneNote mirrors the layout of a physical binder of notebooks, syncs across computers via SkyDrive/OneDrive, and allows for such features as:

  1. Automatic versioning of OneNote pages
  2. Tagging of content in OneNote (including creation of custom tags) and searching by tags
  3. Password protecting of tabs and sections
  4. Dragging-and-dropping into OneNote
  5. Adding screen clippings to OneNote
  6. Printing to OneNote via the OneNote printer
  7. OCR
  8. Deep searching across notebooks, in one notebook, or in one section (including Boolean searching and use of quotation marks to search for exact wording)
  9. Searching for words in audio and video notes/content
  10. Inking (handwriting)
  11. Handwriting to text conversion
  12. Nesting of notebook sections groups
  13. Nesting of subpages under pages, with the ability to collapse and expand subpages
  14. Notebook sharing and real-time collaboration with others
  15. File attachment
  16. Page templates
  17. Docking to desktop
  18. And more . . .

The learning curve is not bad, and OneNote can become even more powerful for users who read about how to use OneNote, view video tutorials, learn keyboard shortcuts, and add in OneNote add-ins of choice.

One of the best introductory videos about OneNote that I’ve encountered is the YouTube video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuTBdonbYZo. If you already know the basics of OneNote, you might advance to about time stamp 17:44 of the YouTube video for some of the more advanced features and tips.

I’m pairing OneNote with my Livescribe Pulse pen (see this video to get the gist), my Windows laptop (see this video to see OneNote paired with a tablet), and my Windows Nokia Lumia 1020 smart phone to work smart, especially in terms of going “analog” more often when it’s more prudent to hand-write than to work on the computer. See this post and this video and even parts of this wonderful book for more about the importance of balancing analog versus digital working modes for learning and creative/academic work.

OneNote is an application to consider among options such as EverNote and Devonthink. Some people use OneNote in conjunction with EverNote or Devonthink, while others replace EverNote or Devonthink with OneNote. It is helpful to search the internet and read blogs and comments about the differences between OneNote and other similar programs and about different ways of using OneNote in conjunction with other programs.

Trying to figure out how to print an entire section or particular pages in a section from OneNote 2010?

Directions:

  1. Click on the desired section tab. Look at the list of pages down the right-hand column.
  2. Select the pages you want to print, while holding down the
    1. the CONTROL KEY to select individual pages one at a time or
    2. the SHIFT KEY to select the first and last page you want . . .which will THEN result in selecting the first page you clicked, the last page your clicked, and all pages in between.
  3. Click on “File” at the very top of the OneNote program. Then click on “Print.”
  4. Click on “Print Preview” to format things or scroll through what will be printed . . . and/or click “Print” to print.
  5. IMPORTANT: If you need a PDF printer, install the free program CutePDF Writer onto your computer, and you will now have a PDF printer installed as an option for printing any time you print any document.

I hope that helps!

Mickey

Dealing with Writer’s Block Part 3 of 4: What I’ve Learned and Generated in Response Over the Past 5 Years

(. . . discussion is continued from the previous post)

[4] Generative Writing or Freewriting? (NOTE: For Me the Former BLOCKS Writer’s Block and the Latter Just EXACERBATES Writer’s Block. You?)

Freewriting helps a lot of people.

I am not one of those people.

However, I tried it because I was “blocked” and people swore by freewriting and told me I was the blame for still being blocked since I refused to freewrite.

I have since learned that it is not for lack of freewriting but for lack of prewriting that I get blocked. I mean, if all it took was freewriting . . . Heck! I’d NEVER be blocked! Ever! Give me a topic and oh, I can frewrite about it! LOL! That’s not the solution for me.

But, even though I knew very clearly and viscerally from experience that freewriting harms more than helps me, I tried it for a major deadline. Because of what people said: “Z, you WANT to be stuck since you refuse to freewrite your way out of this.” This “guilted” me. So I freewrote. And freewrote more when that didn’t resolve things. And freewrote some more in efforts to keep trying and “stay the course.”

Argh. Why did I go against my own mind?!?!! Isn’t the saying “To thine own self be true”? What a mess for me. I ended up with random, unclear smatterings and smatterings of writing. Hidden somewhere within some of these freewriting documents were really, good, needed paragraphs (although needed precisely for WHAT and precisely WHERE in the draft I couldn’t say) amid mostly un-usable paragraphs. These good paragraphs were nested somewhere within 10 to 20 different Word files or Scrivener text files (within one Scrivener file).

Ultimately, my trying to parse through it all, relocate the good paragraphs, and then put it together in some kind of coherent way became a huge, distracting task. I majored in freewrite reading and copying and pasting and minored in draft production. 😦 Boo!

Instead of freewriting, what works for me is sketch writing, and if need be generative writing. You can read about sketch writing here. Generative writing is a mode of writing which I view as similar to freewriting but more targeted. Boice here writes about generative writing and spontaneous writing. I share the gist of how I do generative writing in this post. It’s my own tweak of my merge of different generative writing strategies.

[5] The Role of Prewriting (for Me)

I can’t do academic writing if I haven’t

  1. read (physical copies/books or in digital copies in Mendeley or Citavi),
  2. taken notes (perhaps a tiny amount of preliminary note taking in Mendeley, but otherwise in a toggle-able Docear mind map at early stages and at later stages in Citavi all the way . . . because it affords every step of Dr. Single’s method as explained in the video and book linked below),
  3. annotated PDFs and books (early stages in Mendeley and later stages in Citavi. . . might copy and paste from Citavi into Docear if I need to back up and restructure and rethink),
  4. excerpted quotes from PDFs and books (Citavi),
  5. began to group my notes, quotes, annotations, etc. into topics and subjects, etc. (Citavi, Docear)
  6. Created an outline that does not function like a prison guard (i.e., that I view somewhat flexibly): Docear mind map which exports to MS Word, Scrivener, Citavi, PDF, etc.

NOTE 1: In part 4 of this post series, I include links to my videos or posts about some of these resources.

NOTE 2: This book of Single’s is just about worth its weight in gold regarding how helpful it is in informing academic writers on how to do prewriting that leads to WRITING. Dr. Single shares much helpful advice here: http://www.insidehighered.com/users/peg-boyle-single. The video below gives you a glimpse of what Dr. Single’s book covers. The book is SO clarifying and will have you on your merry, productive, thesis-writing way!

(discussion is continued in the next post . . .)

Dealing with Writer’s Block Part 2 of 4: What I’ve Learned and Generated in Response Over the Past 5 Years

(. . . discussion is continued from the previous post)

Aside: Another Possible Factor: Writing Time Management

There is one other trigger of writer’s block that comes to mind: purposely trying to write too much in what is too small a span of time. Jame Hayton has an EXCELLENT webinar that discusses the given of slow academic writing at times and how to incorporate this inevitability and make good progress anyway.

The problem of sometimes needing to write too much in too small a span of time can seem unavoidable given all that today’s graduate student is juggling in his or her schedule. This is EXACERBATED, from my experience, when an individual doesn’t know how to capitalize on the 10 minutes here and there that arise throughout the day between activities, (e.g. when in a long line, when some sort of stall occurs and leaves the person waiting, or when one is just sitting and waiting for the next activity or appointment or event to begin, etc.).

To deal in general with pacing myself during a writing session, I sometimes do what I call S.M.A.R.T. tomatoes or pomodoros (this is a pomodoro technique move). To equip myself to be able to write throughout the day in the 10 minutes that pop up here and there, I carry (1) a Livescribe pen and notebook (please see my warning note about Livescribe in Part 4 of this series) and/or (2) a zip lock bag of color-schemed note cards to hold outlines and first drafts of paragraphs.

From physical to digital: Once I get the chance, I sync my Livescribe notebook with my computer. Regarding the handwriting on physical note cards, immediately after drafting on a note card, I snap a photo of the note card with my Smartphone and save it to the cloud. This way it matters not if I lose the note cards or someone takes my bag, note cards inside! I am later able to embed the photo of the note cards in my Scrivener, MS Word, or MS OneNote file and type from it right below the photo. Then I can delete the image from the file.

[2] Have a Helpful, ACTIONABLE Definition of “Writing”

James Hayton delivers a very good webinar entitled “Becoming a Better Academic Writer.” I love the definition of writing that he provides in the webinar:

Using very informative slides that he sends to you after the webinar, James explains how academic writing works (it’s different from creative writing and James Hayton brings helpful awareness about this), and this webinar along with a few others of his, in my opinion, go far in arming the writer AGAINST writer’s block.

[3] Resources, Links, etc. That Have Helped Me Most to Understand and Avoid/Prevent/Surmount Writer’s Block

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Following the last point made above, I’ll go ahead and list some of the resources that rise to the top among all the resources I’ve sought, tried, read, used, etc. to help me avoid, deactivate, and/or overcome writer’s block. These in my opinion EQUIP, EQUIP, EQUIP (and encountering the items in bullet point 6A turned things around 180!) :

  1. This document from which I learned how to make a road map for my writing based on the POINT of academic writing (advice therein resonates strongly with this book and with the content in bullet point 6A below)
  2. This short document, for having a VISION and understanding of what an academic paragraph is (made of)
  3. James Hayton’s blog and webinars, especially this one that touches upon both  psychological flow and writing flow
  4. This book for understanding the definition of a paragraph and how (your) reader’s experience (your) paragraphs
  5. This YouTube channel, especially this video and this video
  6. These books to give me a sense of what an academic paper or dissertation IS and the process of building it, from idea to final draft:
    1. this book of Single’s, the content of which is discussed in this video
    2. this book of Murray’s
    3. this book of Foss and Waters’s
    4. this book of Maxwell’s if the study is qualitative
    5. this book and/or this book of Creswell’s, depending on one’s needs and research design, and
  7. Other resources, many of the most helpful which I’ve collected in my blog’s blogroll links (please see the left column of the home page) or at this tumblr of mine

(discussion is continued in the next post . . .)

Dealing with Writer’s Block Part 1 of 4: What I’ve Learned and Generated in Response Over the Past 5 Years

Greetings! I hope this post finds you well.

The topic of today’s PhDchat (on Twitter at 17:30 GMT, #phdchat) is writer’s block. Accordingly, in this post I reflect on how I’ve tried to deal with what is commonly referred to as writer’s block. I discuss the definition, concepts, resources, approach, links, etc. that have helped me most to deal with, deactivate, or overcome writer’s block.

I have divided this post into the following topics:

  1. Have a Helpful, ACTIONABLE Definition of “Writer’s Block”
  2. Have a Helpful, ACTIONABLE Definition of “Writing”
  3. Resources, Links, etc. That Have Helped Me Most to Understand and Avoid/Prevent/Surmount Writer’s Block
  4. Generative Writing or Freewriting? (NOTE: For Me the Former BLOCKS Writer’s Block and the Latter Just EXACERBATES Writer’s Block. You?)
  5. The Role of Prewriting (for Me)
  6. The Urgent, Important Priority of Maintaining Mental, Digital, and Physical Organization (Because for Me Even the Slightest Bit of Chaos Can Induce Writer’s Block!)
  7. CONCLUSION: My Methodology, Physical and Digital Tools, and Workflow

I’d love to hear of what works for you to help enable you to deal with, deactivate, or overcome writer’s block. Please share your knowledge, comments, or questions in the comments section, and as always, happy writing!

Alrighty, then!

On to the post . . .

[1] Have a Helpful, ACTIONABLE Definition of “Writer’s Block”

Here is my personal definition of writer’s block:

Writer’s block is the lack of writing generation that results when a person attempts to write or force writing when either (1) he or she has not done sufficient prewriting, (2) he or she cannot focus on the ONE sentence or paragraph or section that can be written, or when (3) he or she has yet to consciously or subconsciously fully buy in to the idea that NOW is the time to get the writing down.

This is a helpful definition for me: It identifies the sources/causes, and it is actionable. It does not leave me helpless. The implications:

  1. If I am trying to hack through writing something and I haven’t done sufficient prewriting activities (reading, note-taking, annotating, quote-extraction, semi-flexible outlining, etc.), then I stop and prewrite and then commence writing FROM my prewriting resources.
  2. If my mind is buzzing with all sorts of thoughts such that I cannot focus on the one thing I’m trying to put down (e.g., I’m thinking about what could go into a another section so much that I can’t write about this section), then I go VOCAL (and capture my think-aloud) because what is happening at the moment is that the sequential writing medium is not “fast enough for me” because I have too much in the mind. Ways I go vocal:
    1. Put my outline into XMind, place my prewriting materials (notes, outlines, quotes,excepts, images, etc.) in front of me, and create audio note think-alouds that are 1-minute MAX IN LENGTH. I name them briefly right then if I have the time or otherwise name them later. When I replay the think-aloud audio notes, I type as I listen to them. I often do this typing RIGHT THERE in each audio note’s space for TEXT NOTES. The text notes are all exportable together to one MS Word file, PDF, etc.Before exporting, I usually don’t further organize the audio notes beyond their initial location on my XMind mind map “outline,” but if did need to further organize them, this would just consist of dragging and dropping them onto parent category nodes that collect them into topics/subjects.IMPORTANT: Any audio note over 1 minute in length is in danger of becoming a time sink/sucker. I’d rather have ten 1-minute audio notes than two 5-minute audio notes.Reflection: Doing this on a mind map is good if you are still sort of designing the structure or coming up with ideas. Alternatively . . .
    2. Perhaps more easily and quickly done, you can just copy your outline into MS One Note and attach audio notes besides each element in your outline.
  3. If I have donesufficientprewriting and if my brain is NOT racing with ideas — i.e., attempting to write too many sections at once — then something else is wrong. Typically, the problem is insufficient focus which typically for me is a function of either willpower or motivation.
    1. According to the authors of this book, studies have shown that what you eat can affect your level of will power. This is because willpower is related to your physical state and is a resource like gasoline that can run out and therefore must be repeatedly replenished. So if I need to get some sleep and come back to writing, then it is what it is. Sometimes it’s just like that.It helps me to know to think of will power as functioning like fuel instead of 100% being my moral ability to commandeer myself to do what’s best. Of course on some level deep down I want to do what’s best. However, I need to be in the right physical and mental state to allow will power to work. There are different levels of tired and different types of mental/emotional fatigue, and some levels disrupt will power. At those times, I must rest or eat or do recreational activities to replenish.
    2. I define motivation as “having fully decided and bought into the idea that something is to be done, and now.” If I don’t have motivation, I have to get some somehow IF the writing is to happen. Simple as that. For me, if I work around others who are making GREAT progress and are ON IT, that usually suffices. If I write for someone (meaning they are going to receive WHATEVER I have at a given time, regardless of how complete, and what they say matters to me), that tends to work, especially if the trajectory of my project might change based on what the readers think of what I’ve written. That is typically the case for me. True deadline + knowledge that I am a slow writer = motivation for me.One of these days I hope to evolve beyond being a deadline-driven writer. I am making a little headway: I now want to write so that I can be finished and move on to the next stages in store. Still, deadlines drive!

For a in-depth look at writer’s block — along with some very practical and distinct strategies for surmounting writer’s block — please see this book extract (at The Guardian) of one of Rowena Murray’s most excellent books on writing.

(discussion is continued in the next post . . .)

Working Well To Get Things Done: The documentation manual at this site is a strange . . . find! WELL worth a read even if you ignore the expensive product, IMO.

Greetings!

The above link (to a subpage of a product’s documentation manual) is surprisingly one of the most educational sites I’ve read about this topic since . . . EVER, personally. How random and strange: It was an off-topic item that showed up in my google search for something else entirely.In my opinion, the site’s content is really, really worth a read if you want to evaluate or think a little more deeply about how you operate to stay on a path you want and how you get things done. Goes from discussing the mechanism of having valued goals all the way down to the details of how to design and work through the process a goal requires. Insightfully, insightfully done, IMO.Here’s a link to the documentation manual’s home page: http://www.watership-planner.com/documentation.html. NOTE: I was tempted to skip over reading the Table of Contents item 2 (on how the product works), but it’s really insightful in general about this topic.

Anyway, I’ve done pretty well at resisting posting (I’m on a hiatus from too much blogging so that I can concentrate on finishing my thesis), but I truly felt that this information is so germane to the MA, MS, PhD, etc. journey and I’m getting an education from the material! So strange.  (It’s a product documentation manual)! Somewhat of a hard link to “sit on” if it will help anyone.  But I’ve done well and “sat on” many others, such as this one http://thesiswhisperer.com/2013/11/0…hd-research-2/   The author has some downloads at her own web site that are PHENOMENAL, though. (Really. 🙂 )

Do you have insightful resources to share about self leadership, how to operate to get things done, etc.?
Alright! Blessings, all. Be encouraged, journeyers (smile). Back to hiatus I go. 
Mickey

Developing an Addiction to Academic Writing via S.M.A.R.T. Pomodoro Tomato Squashing Challenges? Hmm!

Greetings!

I just submitted 105 pages and received the comment “excellent scholarship.” Yay!

    

Before diving back into thesising, I thought I’d take 15 minutes to come here to WordPress, choose one of the draft blog posts that I never published, edit it, and publish it.

Below are the results of that endeavor. I hope it inspires reflection or helps in some way.

Also, I wanted to leave a message of encouragement that someone from an online forum shared with me to help you know that you can do whatever research/writing task that is before you (click on the image to enlarge it, for better viewing, in a new browser window):

TrustInYourelfAndTheQualityOfYourIdeas

Please enjoy the blog post below!

Blessings,

Mickey

——————-

Post Content

A few months ago I realized something about my work habits: Instead of instigating writing addiction (see Bolker), in contrast the way I was working was instigating/reinforcing writing aversion. Well, on second thought perhaps that wording is inaccurate: If this makes any sense, It’s prewriting and revising that I was averse to, and not writing per se.

Anyhoo 😉 . . . I had an epiphany one day about a likely, contributing explanation for why I was inadvertently hurting myself with my own work habits with the result of fostering writing aversion within myself: I’d been doing pomodoros (wisely, I felt, because it’s physically and mentally healthier than just working hour after hour after hour, and it gives you sometimes much-needed, true feedback about your rate of progress or lack thereof). However, I realized, I hadn’t been doing smart pomodoros, as in, literally, S.M.A.R.T. pomodoros.

Pomodoro technique + S.M.A.R.T. task methodology. That should work and be good, right?!??

The “T” (Time-bound) and the “A” (Attainable)

Here were my initial thoughts on blending the pomodoro technique with the S.M.A.R.T. task methodology: What if you let the “T” in the S.M.A.R.T. methodology be 25 minutes (since it’s a pomodoro task and pomodoros are typically 25-minutes in length). And for the “A” in S.M.A.R.T.: what if you were to break down all of your larger goals into specific tasks such that every task you list could be completed in 25 minutes? You could maybe even challenge yourself by attempting 35 minutes worth of work per pomodoro: If you did THAT, perhaps then you  would create inspiring challenges and create the experiencing of victory all along the way (instead of that constant “I’m-still-not-done-yet-with-my-big-overarching-goal” sensation of dread). On top of that, another benefit to this is that you would more reside in a state of (psychological) flow during writing, as discussed incredibly helpfully in the “How To Stay Focused and Get Things Done” video presentation. For me, that would be HUGE: Experiencing flow while writing would be SO MUCH OF AN IMPROVEMENT over writing in such a way as to instigate/reinforce prewriting and revising aversion.

So much for the “T” and “A.” I spent a few more moments thinking this through–what a S.M.A.R.T. pomodoro technique might look like. Then I gave it a go. Below are my reflections.

The “R” (Relevant), the “M” (Measurable), and the “S” (Specific)

It turns out that the “R” and “M” in S.M.A.R.T.-goal setting are really important. For me, “R” (relevant) would mean that a task is very clearly a strong link in the chain of getting me done with the writing. “M” and “S” would mean that I list the DELIVERABLE along with the quite specific description of the task. A deliverable could be an outline, a sketch (i.e., a writing sketch of a paragraph), a paragraph in a revised state . . . what have you. But there needs to be some REAL, TANGIBLE measure indicating success. It can’t just be “I focused the whole time during the pomodoro tomato.” Focus is good. Focus + result is better. All this to say that I planned to measure my progress by whether a  tomato yielded a highly relevant (useful and germane for my project) deliverable (something concrete) each 25 minutes.

Trial Run #1

I tested this out. 🙂

First I did a little investigation during which I discovered that in my http://orkanizer.com list of pomodoro tasks, each task was huge! HUMONGOUS! I wasn’t completely doing this on purpose: I really thought I could get many of those tasks done in, like, 4 pomodoro tomatoes (i.e. 2 hours). But I was underestimating many of these. And that was adding to the sense of dread, I realized upon reflection: Always being WAY OVER your number of previsioned pomodoro techniques can really start to consciously or subconsciously feel bad–even if it was a setup to begin with and you’re the author of it all!

Oh, boy: Every task in the list was at least a 5-tomato task or 6-tomato task and most often a 10-tomato task, not including interruptions and errors. My goodness!

The way I was configuring my pomodoro tasks and task list in Orkanizer, it would take a loooooong time for me to EVER feel a sense of getting anything done. That can get demoralizing and become a downer REAL FAST when doing the isolating work that thesising often can be.

So I changed things: I broke my tasks down into subtasks that could be done in 1 pomodoro tomato, “for reals” as my students would say. In that way, every 30 minutes instead of thinking . . .

“I’m stiiiiiiiiiiillllllll working at the task of ____. I haven’t achieved it yet, O. M. G., and it’s been so-and-so many hours of work. O. M. G! I’m so ______ (fill int the blank.)”

. . . instead, the precise same rate of progress could mean accomplishment and thus encouragement and joy. Posthaste I configured my tasks in the Orkanizer pomodoro manager to be finishable in 25 minutes and set my number of previsioned tomatoes to 1. (And from hereon out, all prevision numbers would be set to 1, right? 🙂 )

Results

Did this matter? Did this work?

It worked for 2 tomatoes in a row that first attempt (and this now meant 2 tasks and 2 deliverables!). And it was indeed true: Over time (with more and more use of this strategy), I began to feel very different about the same progress that otherwise would have seemed like “Yeah, I guess that was one more step, but I’m still not done with the task I’m working on. Just 7 tomatoes to go, and then victory. Hoorah?”

And I was SO proud of myself because I had set each pomodoro goal a little high (about 35 minutes of work for the 25 minute). That gave me a different type of challenge and motivation in addition to just needing/wanting to be done with the thesis. It activated curiosity and challenge and my schoolgirl’s “winner” mentality: “I betcha I get this 35-minute-long task done in 25. Betcha. Oh, watch me. Bet!”

Aside: I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve read about how graduate work is a different animal than secondary or college work, and thus typical high-achievers might find graduate work especially challenging, psychologically-speaking, when they hit walls they must overcome. Being un-used to encountering walls, and all. Nowadays, as a novice researcher/writer, more often than not I’m in a psychological state of “This-is-another-new-thing-or-skill . . . am-I-actually-doing-this?” So with the slightly-overestimated pomodoro goal, it was a little nice getting to use my schoolgirl “I can do it, just watch” mentality a little. 🙂

Anyhoo: That first attempt at the strategy, I was working so hard for that deliverable and the reward I’d set up for myself that in the middle of the first pomodoro tomato I developed a technique for speeding things up! (I was also trying to avoid reinforcement of writing aversion at all costs, because I can’t afford it!). And, the rewards kind of matter (i.e., make a difference): I was surprised by that! I’ve tended to have the mentality that just getting done is reward and motivation enough. But these small rewards added something to it all: Instigation/reinforcement of writing affinity. INTERESTING!

I’ve tried this again and again since that first attempt, and I can honestly say that when I’ve “needed” it, it’s transformed things for me. I don’t have to work this way ALL the time, but when I look around and notice that I’m close to HATING the writing process, I realize: Uh oh: I’ve been stressing myself out with these huge, global, globs of writing goals. Time to work smartly.

S.M.A.R.T. pomodoros may not work for everyone. For me, the afforded change lies mainly in my attitude towards prewriting and revising. I think the big take-away for me is not that people’s pomodoros should necessarily be S.M.A.R.T. pomodoros, but that the way one works should work FOR oneself.

A Final Thought: The Writing Reward System and Its Nature MATTERS!

Working on Developing My Writing AddictionAs I alluded to above, if you reward EVERY achieved pomodoro challenge, it can instigate and reinforce writing affinity. My rewards (of course earned every 25 minutes unless the timer runs out on me) include things like my favorite-est, most-est delicious-est tea, hearing favorite and nostalgic songs on Spotify (see the image above), stretching or doing a few crunches to get a little exercise in (makes me feel good to take care of myself), etc.

Question:

Are you a writing addict? How do you ensure that you are developing writing addiction or writing affinity? Does the writing deadline suffice for you so that the ideas of writing aversion, the pomodoro technique, S.M.A.R.T. pomodoros, etc. all seem like time-wasting hogwash? It’s fine if it does: Someone told me as much! Please post your comments! They will help, and we’d love to hear from you.

Well, as always, many blessings and happy writing. Take care!

[Revising Strategy] Two ways to reverse outline and revise

Greetings!

When revising a draft, sometimes it helps to make a reverse outline: To take your draft and generate an outline of what it says. Then you can look at the outline to see if it flows. You may be able to detect where a point is missing or out of order, or where a point needs to be added.

Two Strategies

1. There’s this free program called Docear that allows you to make an outline with a mind mapping tool. Then you can toggle back-and-forth between an outline view and a concept map view. For some reason, that has made a difference for me. And you can develop a point into a rough draft paragraph by creating the paragraph as the CHILD node of the point’s node. The nice thing is you can hide or display child nodes so that paragraphs show or don’t.

Aside: The Thesis Whisper Blackline Masters can help you with developing points into paragraphs. Also, Dr. Carlis’s one-draft dissertation document can help you with (more) purposeful outlining and the ins-and-outs of paragraph-sequencing.

Once when I was stuck, I inched along like that.

2. HERE’S A PERHAPS FASTER STRATEGY: You can save your draft as a PDF, and then open it up in Adobe. To reverse outline, use the “comments” feature. Same thing to add points and paragraphs: Use the “comments” and annotation features. In the latest version of Adobe, you can even add audio notes. But . . . be careful: You don’t want to record very long notes that it takes a whole bunch of time to go back and hear!

This might go without saying, but if you already have a method that’s working for you, don’t waste the time on the Docear or the Adobe strategy. Keep what’s working for you!

What about you? Do you benefit much from reverse outlining? Do you have another way of doing so, or a completely different method of revising that you feel is effective? We’d love to hear from you! Take care!

A Probable Academic Writing Workflow, Given What’s Available as of January 10, 2014

PDF: A Probable Academic Writing Workflow, Given What’s Available as of April 16, 2014

Two to three years ago I was exploring academic writing software such as Qiqqa and Docear. Since then, their developers have made impressive improvements and additions to them, and there’s been a FLOOD of new academic software into the mix. I’ve somewhat had my nose to the grindstone and have missed some of the new software, such as PaperPile. In light of these recent changes, I have decided to maintain a record of my latest estimation of the best personal academic writing workflow that would work for me. This doesn’t mean I’m going to make tweaks now: I’m submitting soon and want to focus there. As has been said by many folks, everyone’s BEST academic writing workflow will necessarily be very individual, to accommodate preferences and needs. For instance, I can’t handle wondering about whether everything that was supposed to be cited has a citation, and whether every citation has an entry in my works cited. Therefore I don’t anticipate removing Citavi from my workflow ANY time soon. Citavi gives me great clarity and confidence in that area. Others trial Citavi and am glad I like it but keep EndNote (or their reference manager of choice). But ask them to let go off Scrivener, and you might have a fight on your hands!

The Process of My Decision Making

Instead of aiming to have the lowest possible number of apps in my workflow, I aimed for

  • Sustainability: Will this product remain available for a while and are any costs affordable?
  • Program and work data stability and data protection
  • Psychology and nature of academic writing
  • And utility: Is what I do or make with this program actually important for my writing? After controlling for sustainability and stability factors, does this program do/enable this thing I need in the way best for me? And . . . OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE: Can I move or use what I produce or do in this program out to the next place it needs to be to ultimately result in finished, not-too-hard-to-then-format, sharable writing?

In the end, there’s much overlap among the programs I included (every developer is trying to be comprehensive), not every program is “perfect” (whatever that means!), but what each program does well can be accomplished with no other software (or not well) and helps me finish up writing.

A key take-away I had from completing this exercise was to understand the overlap among academic programs I use and to NOT do double work: Choose which program does the overlapped task best, and work efficiently by using THAT program ONLY for the task.

Here are my preliminary thoughts, then, captured on a PDF and prioritizing what might enable me to write best and most “safely.” Please click on the following link to enlarge the PDF (which contains hyperlinks to the software mentioned in the workflow diagram). The “scary” thought I’m having right now is that if Qiqqa developers were to add the functions of outlining, quote-attaching to outlines, and citation-attaching to quotes, I’d be all messed up! (What to do then, what to do then, what to do, then!) It’s crazy. That’s why I’m taking a step back and just writing down my thoughts on tweaks and keeping with what I’ve got that’s working for me. PDF: A Probable Academic Writing Workflow, Given What’s Available as of January 10, 2014 UPDATE: Now that I’m sitting down to draft, I’m remembering Idea Mason as an amazing outline, sketch-write, and zeroeth draft environment. I have to add it to the mix!: PDF: A Probable Academic Writing Workflow, Given What’s Available as of April 16, 2014

Closing

There’s just too much out there now! I feel it’s good and it’s not. On the one hand, you can spend a lot of time doing work and putting resources into a program that makes it hard to then use the work and resources.So you’d better trial software and plan and choose carefully. On the other hand, there can be no end to exploring these apps and thinking through workflow. Rule I’m imposing on myself: If the workflow you’ve got is working, there needs to be a mighty good reason to make tweaks. I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. How often do you tweak your workflow? What would you hate to do without in your workflow? Is there too much of all this “stuff” out there now, such that it’s getting confusing? Or is all this influx of choice good? Click the bubble to comment! 🙂 Take care! Mickey