When we first discussed the idea of academic productivity blog, our first thoughts were about the irony of it – how would writing a blog about productivity increase my productivity? And we were blogging about productivity rather than working, surely we wouldn’t be best placed person to give productivity advice? If you really want to be productive, you should stop reading this and do some work. But if you are reading this, then it suggests that you want to be more productive. Being more productive is what this is site is about. Both for you and for us.
The creators of this site have several things in common. We are all academics close to the start of our career (post docs and grad students). We are cognitive scientists. We are geeks. And we want to be more productive.
Being academics delimits what we want this site to be about. It should be of interest to non academics who want to be more productive, particularly those who work with knowledge, but we will try to keep our focus on those topics which are directly relevant to academic life.
Being cognitive scientists means we are particularly interested in how humans deal with knowledge; how we learn, solve problems, and make decisions. This means the topics of knowledge management and productivity are intrinsically interesting to us.
Being geeks (in the nicest possible meaning of the word) gives us a disposition to the use of technology in our working lives. We all follow the inspiration behind lifehacker.com – finding tricks and tips to make life easier and make us work smarter.
And we all want to be more productive. Near the start of our academic careers, we want to be successful. But we are confronted with a problem. Academic life is hard. Being a successful academic involves employing a wide variety of skills, and presents many problems, yet there is no clear guide out there for what academic best practice is.
The primary role of an academic is to create knowledge. To do this means we have to acquire knowledge, store and use that knowledge, create new knowledge and then disseminate that through papers, books, talks and lectures. And then we have to balance those activities with managing grad students, writing grants, teaching and administration. Unsurprisingly, academics work long hours. There is recognition that to reach the top in your field involves making sacrifices, as there is only so much time for your family when you are working a 100 hour week.
Amongst other topics, we will discuss how technology can help us work more efficiently. Academia has undergone a revolution with the advent of the internet. Whereas in the past academics worked from books and journals, today’s academic lives on the internet, with PDF’s the medium of choice. In our department archives of journals from retiring professors do not find a new home, as online journals take up much less shelf space. Dealing with this wealth of easily accessible knowledge presents a challenge. Technology is not the panacea to our problems. Too much knowledge is not always a good thing. The internet can be a distracting place, and brings with it with the influx of emails that plague our inboxes.
Shining a light for us to show us the way, we will carry interviews from top academics, “productivity monsters”, and hope they can help share the secrets of their success. We would also like to enlist your help. This blog welcomes all comments, so please let us know if you have any of your own contributions to make or topics you would live us to blog about. Through our own contributions we will communicate what we have learnt so far and share our best practices and tips. And become more productive.