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Academic productivity tools

Updated: Apr 16, 2023

How to finish your academic work on time.

During our last workshop, one participant mentioned the word "efficiency trap" to capture the shared experience that sometimes, when we face complex scientific problems, we fall back towards completing easier tasks that give us instant feedback and a sense of completion but still do not address the real issue.

So to avoid this efficiency trap, one might take the following steps:

1. Distinguish between efficiency and effectiveness

Efficiency is doing things in the right way, i.e., in the most economical manner possible, no matter whether or not they are important.

Effectiveness is doing the right things, i.e., the things that move you closer to your goals.

2. Effectiveness is far more important than efficiency

Decide to spend one hour daily on important but not urgent things such as long-term planning, evaluating the work, going for a walk, and thinking about the scientific problem you are facing.

"First things first"

- Stephen Covey

3. Set a limited number of goals every semester

Recently, I was faced with an enormous amount of emails due to helping to arrange a conference. My immediate reaction was to jump right into the inbox and start replying. I then recalled the three goals (and only three) that I set every semester. I pulled out this paper and started the day by doing one thing that moved each goal slightly forward. Only after that did I begin to address the inbox.

Focus on being effective.

What are your three goals for this semester?


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