Tips for work efficiency

I too often find myself giving random people recommendations of software that I am enthusiastic about. I dedicate this post to software that helps me in my work flow and increase efficiency, and I hope that there’s something useful for in it for you.

Recommendation 1: Digitalise your tasks and lists

If you are like me, you like lists and the ability to keep a lot of information on an accessible place. I used to keep lists of items on various places like calendars, documents, note pads or post-it notes, but, nowadays, I keep it all in one digitalized place in Evernote. My notes (e.g. to-do lists, groceries) are stored in different notebooks (e.g. work, hobby) and they are saved with tags that help searching through them. Being able to access them from various platforms at any time comes in handy many times a day, including when visiting a conference or attending a meeting. Up until now, I’ve only had one issue with the service, which regards formatting issues when pasting to and from the android app. You can share notebooks and notes with other users, but if you want to organise a project, I’d recommend more project-oriented software instead, which was designed for that purpose (e.g. Trello).

Rec 2: Start using an app launcher

An application launcher is a light application that launches with a simple key combination and executes what you type into it. For example, type ‘word’ to launch Word, ‘firefox’ to launch Firefox, or ‘terminal’ to launch a terminal window. Some application launchers have a powerful search function, that will search your local machine or the internet for files, folders, maps or media (e.g. YouTube). This eliminates the need to start up some applications (e.g. your browser if you’d like to search online) and speeds up switching between applications. Try Alfred on Mac (or spotlight), or Executer on Win PC.

Rec 3: Have automatic updates on journals and authors…

If you want to stay up to date with literature you can subscribe to an e-mail list to receive updates of your favourite journal (e.g. table of contents – TOC). Unfortunately, this method will clutter your inbox if you follow many journals. A solution for this is to switch to RSS feeds: a type of website that shows updates to a certain medium (e.g. newspaper and blog) and that will not flood your inbox. Many journals have their own RSS feed, for example, see Nature and Science. If they do not have their own feed, you can make one yourself by saving a search query in e.g. PubMed (just hit that orange button). This method comes in handy if you want to subscribe to publications of authors or to a specific search query.

Rec 5: … And present these automatic updates in an accessible format

Once you have your feeds accumulated, you can use a reader to present them to you in an orderly fashion. There are loads of different readers on the web these days, but I can recommend Feedly due to its easy access and functionality (e.g. search function). Divide your feeds into Journal, Blog, and Author sections and browse through these once a week.

Rec 6: Better than a subscription: have tailored recommendations on new papers

RSS feeds are cool, but having customised advice is priceless. New services on the web let you upload your library or save search functions, and they will give you recommendations on what newly published articles to read. I’ve decided to make a separate blog on this, comparing services as PubChase, Sciencescape, find it here.

Rec 7: Organize your papers

Use Mendeley to store papers that you find online and use it to speed up referencing in your documents (don’t forget the word plugin). Currently, it is the only service that works on multiple platforms, which is why I like it. Let it sync your papers to a dedicated folder that you synchronize with Dropbox so you can access your papers with annotations from anywhere. On a side note: if you’re using an android tablet, use the app ezPDF to make annotations in pdfs loaded from Dropbox. These annotations will show in your Mendeley window when you open them there. Give the alternative, open-source Docear a chance if you like to combine the library and citation functionality of Mendeley with mind mapping. This may prove handy in the beginning of a project, but also in the beginning of a writing phase, as it will provide an overview of your literature together with citations.

A 2019 insight: news has spread that Mendeley will have an encryption running on the files stored on your hard disk drive - I'm not sure if you'd want that!

Rec 8: Switching from Windows to Mac?

Two small tools that have helped me easing into a Mac environment: – Install ubar to see a task bar in the bottom of your screen; – Install BetterTouchTool to customise gestures on the mouse pad or magic mouse; – Install BetterSNAPTool to have the functionality of window snapping available.

Rec 9: Use a decent calendar app

I myself have been an avid user of the app BusinessCalendar for years. It’s light, fast, handy, easy to understand and easy to set to your preferences – much better than any of the standard apps on any mobile platform that I’ve seen thus far.

Do you use any app that you think is handy for me to use? Do let me know – I’m eager to try new software / applications that’ll save me some time.

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