Tag Archives: productivity

Essential work tools

I tweeted today that IT at MPOW are having some trouble figuring out why dropbox won’t install on my work PC. Some background is needed. As I’ve recently changed teams I have been the lucky recipient of a long overdue new computer and I’m one of a handful of staff testing the Windows 7 environment that is to be rolled out as standard… er, soonish.

Dropbox installed fine on the old machine but something in the new configuration is stopping it. IT were able to get endnote to load and to get the system to allow me to designate Chrome as my default browser but dropbox is being problematic.

This led me to think about the tools I take for granted in my workday – dropbox definitely being one of them. Some are tech based, others not.

I use my (personal) iPad nearly every day at work, to take notes, monitor twitter via hootsuite, draw mindmaps using popplet, refer to annotated PDF documents, write meeting minutes or quickly look something up on the fly. From being initially very sceptical about the uses for the iPad I’ve become quite a convert!


I’ve just acquired the document holder you can see between keyboard & monitor in the photo & after a week I already cannot imagine how I got on without it.

I can’t imagine not having a couple of notebooks on the go at any one time. I love the iPad but sometimes I find there’s no substitute for physically writing it down. That said, I can never find a pen & have taken to haunting the stationery cupboard this week in anticipation of the monthly order delivery in case there’s new pens….

The new PC has come with OneNote loaded and I’m currently exploring its usefulness & capabilities – I’ll let you know if it becomes indispensable!

What tools do you rely on at work?

Another day in the life

Today was the kind of day that would have been perfect for the library ‘day in the life’ project – it was a really interesting day at work and a great example of why I love working in a large academic library. Of course, I can just write about it anyway…

First up was an interview with the first of a small group of  international students as part of a research project gathering information about the students’ experiences following a research skills workshop we ran for them. I’m not part of the project at all, but the interviews are to be done by someone who had no involvement with delivering the workshop sessions, so that’s where I came in. We had to record audio of the interview – I discovered there’s no native voice recorder on the iPad (who knew?) so ended up setting up Evernote to record the interview. This actually worked out quite well as exporting the recording to the research team using the web client was simplicity. I haven’t actually used Evernote very much so this has been a good learning experience for me.

Next up was being a play tester for a third year game design class from the Media school. They are using the concept of plagiarism as the basis for designing a Serious Game so the library has been involved from the beginning – providing a design brief as the ‘client’ then acting as play testers for the students over the next few weeks. It was lots of fun and great to interact with students at such a detailed level. There are some seriously creative and clever young men and women out there!

After lunch I survived my 6 monthly performance review. We don’t actually call it a performance review at MPOW but whatever it’s called, it was an opportunity to sit down with my team leader to review my achievements to date and make a few suggestions for some professional development opportunities and goals for the next 6 months.

There was also everyday routine stuff of course. I replied to some emails, liaised with some faculty co-ordinators about the planning for the library’s involvement in a program for indigenous high school students that will be run in the mid year break, did some trouble shooting for an academic and had a discussion with a colleague who is working on a collection project that I’m co-ordinating.

During the afternoon I proof-read another colleague’s draft conference paper and provided some feedback, followed by a phone conversation with an ALIA staff member in my role as co-ordinator of the ALIA New Generation Advisory Committee.  Somewhere during the day I also took the time to do some reading on the digital humanities and digital libraries as I have to present back to staff about the conference I attended a few weeks back and I’m still trying to get my head around the concepts I heard about, let alone explain it to others.

It was a busy, productive day – without being overwhelming. I had spaces between my meetings and that doesn’t always happen. The last few months have thrown up many days like this – a variety of interesting projects and things to do that don’t always seem to be related to my job description. If only I could move the university to a more convenient location…..

New shiny in the workplace

iCat not included with purchase of iPad from icanhazcheezeburger.com

We haz an iPad in our team and we are downloading your apps…

The Outreach teams at MPOW have been given an iPad to use in our work.  We have to share it, but it’s a pretty damn exciting piece of equipment to be allowed to play with, particularly as buying my own is not about to happen anytime soon.  It’s early days, no one has taken it out of the cupboard (except I suspect the team leaders have possibly been playing with it – just a bit) and while I’d love to make full use of it, I want my time with it to be productive and useful.

I can think of a dozen things straight away that I could use an iPad for in the workplace – but they mostly relate to the way I organise my day, do my job and communicate with people rather than the way the team might use it. The thing with an iPad or other mobile device is that they are designed to be personal – to provide you with access to the functionality you need to get on with the things you do. Figuring out how to share it and still have it be a productive and useful tool is important.

So, library peeps, I am crowdsourcing. Are you in an outreach/liaison position? It could be any type of library – doesn’t have to be an academic focus. Do you use an iPad as part of your work day? What apps do you find useful, what functionality is important, HOW do you use it in your work day?  Remembering that we can’t use it to keep track of email, tweet on the run or check the time of the next bus because we’re sharing it, what CAN we use it for?

Some of my ideas so far:

  • I do library tours with groups of international students – would be handy to have the iPad with me so I can also follow along with the virtual tour at the same time – point out that they can book rooms then show them immediately on the library website where they can book rooms
  • Collaborative work with another team member creating a document on the run in a meeting room or other space that is not our desktop
  • Note taking in a meeting with a School or academic
  • Access to cloud services such as dropbox when away from my desk
I’m sure there are lots of other things we could be doing with it – so far my list isn’t really anything I couldn’t do with a laptop – although taking a laptop on a library tour would be a bit tricky.
Any ideas shared in the comments would be gratefully accepted 🙂

Degrees of significance

Bowling Alley Score Sheet by Steve Snodgrass via flickr CC

I’ve mentioned before that my book club uses a rating system on books – we put a score out of 5 against our name on a card in the back of the book and then everyone else knows who enjoyed it, who couldn’t finish it and so on.  This is really useful in a group where everyone’s reading preferences are different – you can work out who else likes the same books you do and pick those up to read.

The rating system over the years has been controversial.  At the very first meeting more than 10 years ago we decided on a scale of 1-5 where 1 = couldn’t finish it and 5 = couldn’t put it down wish I could read it again tomorrow.  We have never allowed half points – preferring to make people commit one way or the other.  Some of us love the no half points, others hate it and it comes up for discussion at least a couple of times a year.

I was thinking about this system in relation to some quantitative outcome measurement we do at MPOW.  One of the measurements we use is ‘significant’ – in the context of has this resulted in significant change from the way things were before.  I had a meeting on Thursday that I think had ‘very significant’ outcomes – but just like my book club, there are no degrees of significance in the system so we can’t sit on the fence, and I don’t think it merits the next measurement up in the scale, so significant it shall stay.

In which I make a confession….

With apologies to those of you who have to actually work with me, I admit to spectacular lapses of my personal organisation and time management from time to time.

The most recent example is that I thought yesterday (31 May) was actually today (1 June) and posted my first #blogjune entry – a day early.

I may have got this right by the end of the month. In the meantime, I now submit to you this feeble effort at a blog post as the substitute.

Stuck in the middle

This week at MPOW I’ve found myself inadvertently in the middle of a drama between 2 members of staff, neither of whom I work directly with.

The drama involves me only as a side issue, there was an email about me (incorrect as it turns out) that has provided the catalyst for ‘final straw’ type action.  It’s caused quite a sensation, I’m still not sure quite how I got involved but there you are.

This got me thinking about the issue of office politics in general.  Technically I work by myself here at MPOW.  I’m the only library staff member, I theoretically report direct to the College principal or the provost and I don’t supervise any staff.  A small organisation being what it is however and as I’ve blogged about before, I am involved in much more than just library stuff.  When I started here, one of my colleagues said to me “it’s a nice place and there really isn’t any office politics”.  While that’s not quite true, it’s pretty close and on the whole this workplace is free from many of the petty concerns and trivialities of other places I’ve worked (and even many of the real concerns and non-trivialities).

My last job was working on my own as well – I was literally the only person in the office there, although there was constant phone and email contact with committee members, former committee members and even former staff (the CBCA is the kind of place that gets into your blood, once you’ve been involved you’re sort of always involved, nearly 12 months after leaving I still speak to my replacement there about once a month). It’s been so long since I’ve had to negotiate outcomes, or space, or project time or budget allowances with anyone other than my teenagers that sometimes I wonder if I can still do it.

We teach management, organisation theory, organisation behaviour, human resource management and negotiation/conflict resolution skills here in our various programs and I studied those subjects in various forms as part of my management major in my degree. However, there’s nothing quite like being in the workplace to really teach you how to get along with others.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to gently work my way back into the world of office politics – maybe this current ruckus is a development opportunity?

image: scream and shout by mdanys via flickr

Organising my life – Part 2

During #blogeverydayinjune I blogged about organiser and productivity apps and software for my iPhone and the desktop situation. I tweeted over the weekend that

All the time spent trying todo list apps paid off today, went errand-ing and didn’t forget anything! #appjunkie

which prompted this response from @fionareadersrr

@newgradlib Oooh – I need a to do list app! What do you suggest?

When I went back to my original blog post I realised how woefully thin on details it was (I’m putting this down to the production pressure of #blogeverydayinjune!).  The world is swamped with to-do list and productivity apps but here’s what it’s come down to for me:

  • On the iPhone I use the calendar function as it gives me alerts for events, appointments and other things I don’t want to forget.  Having just bought my first MacBook I’m hoping this will pay off with syncs to iCal as well.  There’s a lot of things I don’t like about this calendar but it does send alerts and sometimes (mostly?) that’s useful.
  • I also use an app called ShopListFree which is a handy little shopping list that includes a satisfying ‘tick the box’ when you’ve put the item in the trolley.  It also remembers your items once you’ve entered them so the more I use it the more useful it is as I have to do less and less typing each time.  When you close the app, it shows a little red number representing the number of things on your list that haven’t been ticked.  My breakthrough on the weekend was to use this shopping list to keep track of all the errands I had to run, rather than just the things I had to get in the supermarket.  While it doesn’t send reminders, I do look at my iPhone often enough to notice that there are things ‘unchecked’.  All in all, very useful for the price!  Here is a comparison between my app and one called Grocery List.

The second part of my earlier post about this was my dilemma with cloud based ‘favourites’ tools, such as zotero and diigo.  I’m still dilemma-ing and agree with Miss Sophie Mac’s comment to that post and wish I could combine parts of all of the ones I’ve tried.  Since the time of writing, I have flicked zotero, mainly because it’s usefulness is limited if you don’t use Firefox (it’s a firefox plugin) and have recently begun using springpadit.  I haven’t entirely given up on diigo…

A bevy of browsers

My browser of choice, both at work and at home is Google Chrome.  It’s fast, light, has some nifty features and I LOVE that the URL address line is also the search box – that still thrills me every time I use it, it’s so sensible!

Of course, I can’t use it for everything can I? Log into my Centrelink account? Not on Chrome.  Use Zotero? Um, no, that’s a Firefox plug-in.  Fill in PD points on the ALIA website? Ah.. no, you’ll need Firefox for that too.  Work on the Moodle lessons for Academic Skills? Nope, that works best in IE, although if you want to use Firefox you can. I only discovered the Moodle problem today – it was just not behaving normally and I thought I’d somehow changed the settings within the program and couldn’t change them back and was tearing my hair out – bless our IT guy’s little cotton socks….

So, of necessity here at MPOW, I have 3 browsers installed and have to use them interchangeably, depending on what I am doing that day.  I don’t like Firefox (too sloooooow), so I am hoping the new ALIA PD scheme page won’t be so dependent on it and I have found acceptable alternatives to Zotero so I can probably ditch Firefox completely.  Windows 7 has restored some of my faith in Microsoft, but I’d still rather not use IE.

Not being an IT person myself, I don’t get it – I’m sure there are explanations, but they won’t help, I still won’t really get it.  I just want to be able to get on with my job.

image: 763 – Computer Packet Pattern by Patrick Hoesly via flickr

Organising my life

I was pleased to read that Miss Sophie Mac is a ‘to do list’ tester and yet to find the one she likes the best – I thought it was only me.  I am obsessed with ‘to do’ apps for my iPhone and have installed more than I care to remember in my search for the perfect one.  I will confess that I have not given Evernote a proper trial but may well do so following Sophie’s comments about it.

I have used Remember the Milk on my desktop and once I got used to it I loved the way it ‘thinks’, but on principle won’t pay the annual (not once off) app fee for the iPhone version.  It could be that this is the well known principle of cutting-my-nose-off-to-spite-my-face but there it is.

The reminder/alert function of the basic iPhone calendar app appeals to me and I keep coming back to it but as I am not a Mac user, I have no ‘other’ calendar for it to sync with and it doesn’t give me the visual picture of my tasks and events that RTM does.

I have blogged previously about my dilemma of choosing diigo or zotero to track my bookmarks and keep my ‘one day I will read this’ list, or using both.  I do feel that using both is probably unproductive but am procrastinating about making a decision until I have been floating around in the cloud environment a bit longer.

It does occur to me that I could spend so long entering stuff into a to-do list or calendar or other organisation type app that I run out of time to actually just get on and do it.

image: To-do list book by koalazymonkey via flickr

The wired-less challenge

A thought provoking post from Prof Hacker today, asks the questionof us

How wired are you? How do you manage to multitask? How distracted are you by email, Twitter, IM, Facebook, Foursquare, RSS, and YouTube?  Could you quit, cold turkey, for a day?…This is your challenge, should you choose to accept it: Go offline for 36 hours. Then come back and tell us about it in the comments.

My first reaction was to laugh, mainly because of @jobeaz’s increasingly desperate tweets about the lack of internet access at their new house and the entire family wandering aimlessly around the house being forced to talk to each other instead…

Now, #blogeverydayofjune notwithstanding, I would find it impossible to do my job without online access (as I suspect most of us would), but it does raise the question of distraction vs productivity.  I am particularly distracted by the blog challenge, as I love to read all the new ones and find myself justifying putting aside the other tasks I could be doing to check my RSS feeds, or Katie’s excellent netvibes page for the latest instalments from my fellow bloggers, in the interests of professional development and networking opportunities that I am sure will somehow benefit my employer in some way…  However, I find that even perfectly ‘legitimate’ work related emails distract me as they come in and that rather than leaving my emails for a certain period in the day, I have a peek every time a new one comes in, regardless of what I am in the middle of at the time.  There are dozens of blog posts around about improving productivity, increasing your efficiency, de-cluttering your electronic presence etc etc (none of which I can find because I clearly haven’t paid enough attention to actually implement any of the suggestions) but the overall message is that staying focussed can be difficult – whether at home or at work.

I suppose I could go cold turkey for 36 hours….. but not until the end of June, surely!

image: freedom by abnelphoto.com via flickr