Peter Fisher’s Podcast: productivity tips for a MIT physics professor in audio form

October 4th, 2007 by jose

NOTE: Thanks Terri Yu (Yale) for submitting this resource to

UPDATE: Terri has posted on her blog a collection of notes on the Fisher Files, sequence II. This is a fantastic resource overall, more so if you prefer reading over listening.

The Fisher files is a weekly podcast that focclipboard10_4_2007 _ 18_48_28uses on being ‘thoughtful’ -call it strategy- by connecting small actions with larger aims. In the words of the author:

In a single day, we perform over two hundred small tasks: dial a phone, sharpen a pencil, open the computer, begin to type a paragraph. How do we connect all those small task to the larger aims of our lives? Are we even aware of what the larger aims of our lives are?

I have thought more and more about making and maintaining the connections between the large and small. Sometimes, these connections just fall apart for me and I find myself doing useless and irrelevant things. Other times, some connections are there and strong and I have an almost spiritual sense of mindfulness. The way the connections help me translate large aims to small tasks is not so much about productivity as they are about relevance.

Peter is a GTD practitioner, although not all the techniques described in the GTD book were useful for him -and I suspect not all are applicable to academics.

His second series is what I consider his best work; he presents tips to give good talks (use images instead of text when possible; always keep a hard copy of the talk), reduce the amount of time wasted in trips (what is the purpose of this trip? Would it be more beneficial than staying home and spending the equivalent time writing up?), etc.

But what I consider most valuable is the ‘insider info’ exposed in his podcasts about being a postdoc, a junior faculty and getting tenure. These things are important but rarely spoken. Young academics ‘get a clue’ by watching alpha academics… but nobody seemed to have bothered to verbalize these or teach them formally before.

I think it’s very generous of Peter’s part to have taken the time to record these valuable podcasts, instead of holding it from a general audience.

Advice like his should be easy to find from any accomplished professor; however, they are not necessarily willing to talk about this stuff, unless you happen to be in their close circle.

On top of that, peter uses plain language and humor; some podcasts could have been recordings of typical cafeteria talks. I liked how he mentions that his Molenskine notebook is butt-shaped by now :) .

Peter records these podcasts from different locations, for example while watching his children match; this is interesting in itself. Simply using an Ipod and microphone, Peter has managed to publish consistently every week. This is time management at its best.

Now, what happens if you find an interesting podcast and want to grab all the old issues? I tried to do this with standard programs (Itunes, WMP) and it wasn’t easy or maybe possible.

I have to admit that I had to ‘fish’ (pun intended) the Fisher files one by one ‘by hand’; a superb waste of time.

So I went on a search for podcast software, and I found one that is a jewel in usability and features: Ziepod (free).

The nice thing about ziepod is that it can stream the podcasts, so can start listening as soon as you click on them, without having to wait for the file to download. It also offer you the entire podcast history, so you can mass-download the old issues.

The same company offers an RSS reader; I’m happy with greatNews, but will give it a try since ziepod was spectacularly good.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you !

10 Responses to “Peter Fisher’s Podcast: productivity tips for a MIT physics professor in audio form”

  1. Matthew CornellNo Gravatar Says:

    I’d like to listen to this, but I can’t find the link. Since you did the work to find it, would you please share it? Apologies if I missed it!

  2. Matthew CornellNo Gravatar Says:

    Oops: I meant the GTD casts…

  3. tempNo Gravatar Says:

    There’s no easy way for me to locate where he talks specifically about GTD… but pretty much in every single show he mentions something that he does GTD-ish. Collection buckets, moleskine, email, etc… all by-the-book :)

  4. johnNo Gravatar Says:

    thanks jose

  5. fizikNo Gravatar Says:

    thanks. has-been verygood a article.

  6. BouNo Gravatar Says:

    I should have known about Ziepod for a variety of reasons but somehow didn’t — until I read your article. I will now probably buy the Aggregator option. Thank you for that.


  7. dino delellisNo Gravatar Says:

    Very nice article . I know what you mean , some days I feel a strong sense or purpose , everything seems clear and to focused and I’m so psyched up and ready to face the world.

    But there are also days that you feel so lost and that all the tasks you do seems so fractured and meaningless and that you just want to sit back and assess your current course.

  8. Play FishdomNo Gravatar Says:

    Great article. Interesting read. But yeh would love to hear this too. And I agree with Dino. Even I have the same feelings at times. Anyway, nice post. Thanks

  9. Orion StarblastNo Gravatar Says:

    It was nice to find this article. Very interesting and helpful. Ziepod is really high quality. Thanks

  10. club penguinNo Gravatar Says:

    I can’t find the link. Since you did the work to find it, would you please share it? Apologies if I missed it!

Leave a Reply