I spend a lot of time online. A lot. And I’m beginning to realise that a lot of that time is spent bouncing around between applications, windows, tabs, etc, just checking up on things. When I get notified that new mail has arrived I have to check it, even though I know that I’ll probably just delete it, file it, or mark if for “Action”…later. A few months ago I wrote about how I was going to try and read less but with more intent. I began by culling some of the accounts I follow on Twitter, deleted some of those RSS feeds that I never read and unsubscribed from a bunch of mailing lists. It has worked to some extent, and I find myself feeling less pressured to scan everything coming through my filters.
More recently, I started using another strategy to try and do fewer things more effectively. Quite simply, I maximised every window that was open and put each one in it’s own Workspace. I’ve found that when all I can see is my browser, I tend not to think about email (although I still haven’t managed to ignore the “New mail” notification). When I’m working in Mendeley, my eye isn’t drawn to other open applications in the taskbar.
I find that I’m more able to focus on the task at hand and spend less time moving between applications. When I do change focus, it’s to accomplish something related to the task and I come right back to it. You might argue that there really isn’t anything wrong with the old system, other than my lack of self-control. However, I have been able to do a lot more work lately and I believe that this is at least partly because the maximised windows mean that I literally can’t see anything else. Out of sight, out of mind.
Just thought I’d share after reading this post on Presentation Zen, about “the intentional selection of less”. I was particularly interested to read, “Does this focus on the consumption of more and more ephemeral tools lead to a great distraction in many cases?” In my case, I’d have to say that yes, it did.
I gave my first conference presentation in June, 2008 and thought that it was terribly boring. I presented the results of my Masters thesis and since I’m quite new to the whole “being an academic” thing, I did it the same way that everyone else was doing it. In other words, I fired up OpenOffice and began adding bullet points. I knew that I wasn’t happy with it, and I knew that there must be a better way of presenting my work, but didn’t really know how.
Since then I’ve learned a little more about giving effective presentations (although I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination, a good presenter), and with each subsequent one I’ve given I’ve gained the confidence to try something different. I’ll always try something to break the tedium of merely summarising my results into bullet points, and along the way I’ve learned a few useful thing. Here are some sources of inspiration for me.
- All of the presentations given at the TED conference, as well as these “rules” for presenting at TED.
- Presentation Zen. I’ve selected a few posts that I really enjoyed: “No excuse for tedium“, “The power of story“, “Naked presentations” and “Rule of thirds” (Note: I’ve modified the titles for the sake of brevity)
- “The machine is (us)ing us“, and “Did you know 3.0“, on YouTube
- Garr Reynolds’ Top 10 Slide Tips
- These presentations by Lawrence Lessig on Free Culture, and by Dick Hardt on Identity 2.0 (the intro is the best part)
- “Let there be stoning“, a great essay on the dangers of giving poor scientific / academic presentations.
- “Death by Powerpoint“. It’s a little dated but still relevant.
Finally, I try to remember that my goal in giving a presentation should be to entertain, not just to inform. On a related topic, read this post by Seth Godin on why most academic conferences are…typical.