Productivity hacks for scientists
Ok Sci Fam, you asked and I delivered.
Maybe its lazy, maybe its smart. But I’m always looking for ways to get more done in the less time. Cause work smart, not hard. Work to live, not live to work. Etc. etc. etc.
I have a few couple to share with you.
- Abstract extraction
- Inbox zero
So without further adieu, let’s get into it.
A few days ago I had an 11 hour flight from London to San Diego. And I had a BUCKETLOAD of stuff to get done. One of these included writing a review.
I had a lightbulb moment. I’d do my literature search and save all the citations in Endnote in one foul swoop and also download all the abstracts. Then i could write uninhibited (well, except for follow up searches and further reading).
I usually use Scopus to do my literature searches with my university login. I dedicated 5 minutes to see if I could also do it with Google Scholar but failed. If you figure it out feel free to share below. I’m sure you could probably also do this with PubMed.
Nonetheless I’ll tell you about my Scopus experience (which was everything i could have dreamed of tbh). Easy peasy.
- Sign into Scopus using your credentials.
- Type in your keywords to do your search.
- Select all the articles by clicking the “all” box (use the drop down if you need)
- Now click on “Export”
- Select all the things you would like to download. I downloaded all citation info, bibliographic info, and the abstracts/keywords.
- I downloaded the information both in RIS format so i could import it into Endnote, and also in CSV so that I had all the info extracted into an Excel file.
- The excel file looked like this so then I rearranged for my aesthetic needs (e.g. abstracts to the front, text wrap, etc). Voila, ready for writing fun.
I’m sure there’s a way to also make this even more productive within Endnote but I am a little oldschool and quite happy with the excel version which i highlighted and made notes on.
Inbox zero has revolutionised my life.
Inbox zero is an organisational tool where you triage your emails as soon as you get them. The idea is to keep your inbox with zero emails (or close to zero) because they are all dealt with and organised into appropriate folders.
You can read about it here.
There’s a number of ways you can use the concept to suit you. The way that I’ve been doing it, is I created an archive folder. When i receive an email, I decide to either delete, act, or archive.
Spam and pointless/irrelevant emails go in the trash. Some emails are just information which require no action, and i put those in the archives. And then there are the emails that require action. I either do it straight away and then archive the email, or i flag it for later. I usually have 4-5 flagged emails in my inbox. I refer to the flagged emails like a to-do list.
Another thing you can do is create folders for the days of the weeks that you intend to do the tasks. You can move them into those days and then address them on the day they are scheduled for addressing.
Downside is when you want to search for an email, at least in Outlook, you have to go to the archive folder as it only searches by folder, not by all. Personally, I think this has been only a small issue.
Also the new Outlook also has this archive button, so if you use that, it would likely make all your emails searchable at once. TBC.
Its nice not to have things I’ve already dealt with in my face. As Rafiki says, it doesn’t matter, its in the past.