Episode 6: How to be more productive with Olga Degtyareva

Olga is amazing! If you don’t believe me just check out her about page. She has done and continues to do so much with her limited time, I knew I had to talk to her about how she does it.

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Olga Degtyareva.com

Olga has an amazing website full of very useful productivity tips. She also sends a weekly “Productivity Insights” email newsletter. I’m a subscriber and an avid reader of everything she writes…

…and then there are the videos!

Olga is prolific. She’s all over YouTube and her videos are so useful and delivered in her unmistakable friendly style. Here’s a selection from one of her playlists.



Take your time over them and watch your productivity increase!

It’s official…

Mortarboard

Last Tuesday I finally graduated from University. Although I passed my viva last December, and I’ve been working as a Post Doc (and as a writer here) ever since, on Tuesday it was made official.


It’s strange. I vividly remember the graduation ceremonies last year. I was in the thick of the writing process and I never thought that my turn would come. I mean never. I could not contemplate one second of my life after having finished my thesis. I was totally consumed. Finishing it seemed like an impossibility.


But finish it I did. It wasn’t an impossibility, I worked hard and ultimately it happend. I used to hate it when people would say, “don’t worry, you’ll get through it”. That usually made things worse. I always thought “yes, you made it, but what if I don’t?”. I’m obviously not going to do that to you now but it seems fitting to give you SOMETHING on my graduation week.

Big projects are coming this way

I’ve been working simultaneously on a few big projects to add significantly to the blog. I’ll be sharing more details soon, and I always give out the info a little earlier to the people signed up to my email list.


So what have I got for you today. Well it’s a free eBook and you don’t even have to sign up to get it. It’s a collection of posts that I wrote mostly as I was going through the process of writing up. It’s called “How to improve your writing” because these tips actually helped me as I went through the writing process. This was inspired by a Tweet by @DrAlJasem who asked if I had such a resource. I realised that I did but it wasn’t all in one place. I decided that the best thing was to put them all into a book that could be downloaded and shared easily. This won’t be the first of these resources either. There will be more in the coming months.


So without further a do, here’s the book and if you like it, and you would like to hear more about the new projects (and potentially get to test them out before anyone else) then please sign up to my email list below. You’ll also get access to the literature review toolbox.

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Literature review taking over your life? Here are 8 tips to take it back

party on!

Literature review writing can take ages. It’s one of the many things we have to do that seems to just expand until it occupies every moment that we are awake… and lets face it, most of us have probably dreamt about it as well! We suffer for this. We miss out. Our friends and family miss out when we’re not there at gatherings and special occasions. We get tired and frustrated so quickly because we can’t escape.

Ironic?

It’s ironic that we do all this to spend more time in front of our keyboard and our literature review also suffers as a result. As tiredness and fatigue quickly set in we lose our ability to write and think properly. We know this, but it’s so difficult to actually put down our writing tools and take the precious time that we need to recuperate.

It’s time to take a stand

We shouldn’t have to choose between having a life and writing Tweet This


here are a few ways to take back your life

Schedule your down time



Make plans. Plan to relax. Plan to see friends and family. Plan to take holidays. This gives you something to look forward to and to aim for. Have you ever noticed you get more stuff done the day before you go on holiday? Make a plan and get more done

Don’t give yourself a choice



Plan to do things that you enjoy and that are difficult to get out of. For me, family stuff is always the best. Birthdays, weddings etc. Once you say you’ll go, you have to go.

Focus



Being able to keep your free time free means you have to focus while your at work. You cannot afford to spend time doing unimportant tasks.

Don’t waste your down time



You may have more down time than you actually realize. The problem is, if you waste it, you might not even know that you’re not working. If every time you finish writing you just slump in front of the T.V. or do other menial tasks you will never feel like you’re taking a break even if you’re not working. Try to spend your free time doing things that you genuinely enjoy.

Don’t waste your work time



When you’re working be working. These last two points really follow the principle of: Be present in whatever you are doing – Tweet This. Don’t waste time taking extended lunches or checking Facebook every 5 minutes. Sit down to work, and work!

Prioritise



This goes with the above points to help you focus and not waste your work time. When you prioritise you have to think and give the most important tasks precedence over less important ones. This obviously means that more important tasks get done first. Important tasks tend to be those that will contribute the most to you moving forward with your overall writing goal. By starting them first, you can get them out of the way and afford yourself some time off.

Commit



Commit to your free time. Commit even if it is just to yourself. If you said that your going to watch that movie tonight, then don’t work so late that you don’t have time to enjoy it. When the time comes, switch off the computer and go and take your well earned free time.

Get mobile



Try to organise your files so that you can work from a laptop or a tablet. This gives you much more flexibility to work and will give you more opportunities to take free time. Often we feel guilty when relaxing instead of working, even though it is an important part of keeping our minds refreshed. By having the ability to take work with us wherever we go, we can normally artificially remove that sense of guilt. Be careful though, this is artificial and doesn’t contribute anything to your writing. However, if it contributes to you having some good relaxation then I don’t see too much harm in it.


We shouldn’t have to give up our lives to do a literature review right? If you agree please leave a comment.

A piece of literature review wisdom I learned the hard way

Woman searching for reference with binocularsThis may very well seem obvious. It does to me. Well it does now at least. To be honest, it’s been so long since I made this mistake that I can’t believe I ever did it. However I did do it, and not just the once. The problem is for most people, they also learn it the hard way. You see it goes a little something like this;


You read an interesting idea from your notes to use in your literature review.


You read a little further to see what other information you have written.


You paraphrase your notes in your literature review.


You go to put the reference in and… where is it? Where is the reference. I must have written it down. Did I write it down?

Where the *insert obscenity here* did I get this from syndrome

Do not mistake the above sentence for a flippant remark. It is far from flippant. It’s deadly serious. I have shouted these words in desperation, followed by the needless sacrifice of a beautiful idea for the lack of a reference that I knew existed…somewhere.


There is an obvious moral to this story which is to always record your references, whenever you make a note. Please, if you have never made the mistake before, believe me when I say that it is painful and it is to be avoided at all costs.


I would strongly advise you to record your references in a reference manager as you go along, and format the references as you go. This allows you to write references in your notes, and more importantly locate the reference sources very easily.


However, I totally empathise that is is not always convenient, especially in the heat of battle when you submerged in papers and getting into a good reading and writing rhythm. However, even if it not convenient to stop writing to save a reference in a reference manager, you can still write it down in your notes. The key is that you can locate the reference when you come to re-read your notes. Most of the time, just a surname and a year will be enough to find your paper again.

A word of caution

Although I know it’s not always convenient to save your references at the very moment you make notes, you MUST save them soon after. In other words, at the end on a reading or writing session. Take 15 or 30 minutes to save all of your references in your reference manager and download them in pdf format. This will save you time. A whole lot of time. However, better than that, it will save you the pain of having to format your references all in one go. And believe me this is a pain. I did half of my references all in one go because I was disorganised. The second half of my references, I formatted and organised as I went along. Believe me when I say, there is no substitute for saving references as you go along.

The moral of the story

Always write down where you got your ideas from. If you don’t, you will frustrated at best, and accused of plagiarism at worst. It’s not worth the risk.


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