Friday, 2 January 2015

Working Smarter: Efficiency Tips For Busy Academics

Take time to plan
If you’ve ever sat through an endless meeting with no agenda then you know how much time can be wasted by lack of direction. Plans help you to identify your priorities and strategize your workflow.

For example, once you know how important it is to have good research summaries you can ensure that you devote time to active note-taking from the start, aware that this initial delay can save weeks of your time down the track.

Use portable technologies to make use of dead time
This way transit time and those short breaks between meetings becomes reading (bus), or even writing time (on a train). If you’re driving you can also play previously downloaded podcasts.

Learn how to say no.
Service offers its own rewards nevertheless when people ask you to do something stall your answer. You can make your interest clear, but express a need to check your calendar first. Give yourself time to think whether you really need to do this. Contribution is no doubt essential to your success on many levels, but also consider whether poorly achieved multi-tasking, or a more focused effort will make you more promotable in the long run?

Automate repetitive tasks and don’t waste your valuable time doing something that others can do better, or cheaper. Virtual assistants are plentiful, efficient and relatively cheap. It might well be worth your while to hire one for research, or email correspondence. Consider outsourcing marking and where possible work with colleagues to multi-author more publications per annum.

Use tools to help manage your priorities
Emails can seem urgent. Engaging with them can offer a quick sense of achievement, or completion. This is a low-priority achievement however that can also compromise your ability to achieve more important long-term goals like research and publication. Find tools like to-do lists, calendar reminders, academic support forums to help highlight the priority of those less immediate, but often more important rewards.

Centralize all your information and make sure you have a backup.
Cloud technologies now make this possible so that you don’t have to waste time losing files and searching between devices. Using them, like any upgrade to more efficient, quicker technologies, is highly recommended. Similar tools, such as the laboratory information management system (LIMS) can streamline project data storage for a whole team.

Procrastinate productively
Have three tasks on hand for those days when your to-do list makes you anxious, such as the task of starting a new journal article. If you find yourself procrastinating aim for just 10 minutes on the article, then work on the other tasks so that your time is productive nevertheless. Also be aware that aiming to write anything and improving your ideas over time is more productive than aiming to create perfection from scratch.

Source: enago

How to Write Up Your Research Plan?

Lots of people seek research funds. Why is your project important, even for those who are more interested in other projects?

- Your ideas must be your own and they must have substance.
- To be convincing you need to tell a specific, detailed and authoritative story. Don’t just say you want to eradicate world hunger, for example, but identify a particular focus such as the development of non-toxic pest and disease management strategies in order to encourage local, organic farming. Provide evidence to remind your reader why this issue is important for everybody, not just academics, and why it needs attention now.

What you want to inspire is a solid, believable vision of the wide-reaching impact of your research. Be careful however, as unsubstantiated hype will damage your credibility. Write well, but rely on the persuasive power of logic and evidence.

- Include a clear and concise overview summary at the start to help orientate your reader.
- Focus on the project rather than yourself
- If you can’t write well get an editor.
- You must avoid obvious mistakes like typing errors.
- Your layout must be clear and include appealing images.

- Gain feedback from colleagues to ensure that both your goals and your methodology are achievable.
- Your ability to achieve these goals will be more convincing if you can also show that you already have some authority in the field. Beyond publications and some independence in your research track record this includes knowledge of the current state of the field and the inclusion of preliminary data that supports your thesis.
- Show that you have all bases covered by including alternative, back up approaches that you can call upon if your research fails to achieve the results that you expect.

Your plan will need to be at least 3 pages long, including references. Some disciplines recommend longer, up to 12 pages if you include related sub-proposals for alternate research strategies. Research your disciplinary requirements and tailor your proposal accordingly.

Source: enago