I will admit that I sometimes play around with systems of doing things instead of doing things. I’ve spent a bunch of time this afternoon working on setting up a system to use Textmate for posting blog entries instead of, you know, actually writing anything. Of course, I generally have a reason to fool around with my systems (be they filing, or writing, or research). Certainly, I will often use this as a procrastination tool. However, as I look to start a PhD program in just a few months from now, there are certain processes that I know I want to experiment with now in order to find the smoothest and time-savingest ways of doing things. There are several broad areas that I feel I need to streamline before school starts, or at least have a system in place by then, even if I have to change it. These are:
- Project/Time management
- Research/Information Management
In this entry I’m going to outline what areas I already have solutions for and what areas I want to develop further over the next several months. I will follow that with separate and more in depth entries for each area over the next couple of months.
For now, I’m fairly happy with my system of project management with uses a combination of the task management program Things in conjunction with BusyCal. Additionally, I have a timer program, Minco that I am not using much now, but may start in the future to help track the time I spend on discreet activities. Granted, under grad school conditions I may find I need to augment or adjust my current ways practices. Until then, however, I think I’ve got time management under control.
Before returning to school, I want to establish a system for conducting and keeping track of my research. Certainly having a robust citation manager will be useful, but citations are only part of the equation and I also want to think about portability and how I might use such a system with my iPhone when I am away from my computer. Currently I don’t have anything in place for this, though I have started using Notational Velocity for maintaining short notes and do have Yojimbo for storing other kinds of information. Neither of those, however, will suffice when it comes to archiving and managing the kinds and complexities of research I will need to handle in working toward my dissertation.
Scrivener has me covered for all my first draft needs, even though the program was designed for fiction writing and not academic writing. One of the aspects of this program that some people have trouble getting used to is the fact that Scrivener is not about creating a document, but rather about writing a story/essay/novel. By separating the creation from the presentation, Scrivener can be more tailored to the process of writing than regular word processors. I plan to combine Scrivener with MultiMarkdown and LaTeX in the future to help me create works than can then be easily translated into different document forms (html, pdf, txt, rtf, etc.). More on that and the process of learning MultiMarkdown and LaTeX soon. In addition, I plan on developing a schedule and/or word count goal to be met daily for creative writing, blogging, and scholarship.
In the past, I have primarily used a program called Ecto for doing my off-line blogging entries. However, there are only a few things that Ecto can offer as a program that I can’t do in Textmate and Textmate will save each entry as an individual text file, meaning that I can save those files to my Simpletext folder and have access to drafts on my iPhone through Writeroom.
Thus, I can move easily between composing entries on my computer to working on my phone (as I have just done). Since I hope to maintain this blog regularly, having the ability to switch platforms will be a big help and will let me proof-read or edit entries while on the bus or anywhere else I might be and have a few minutes of time. This is made easier by my adoption of Markdown in the drafting of posts and using the Markdown Plugin for WordPress.
(switching back to the computer …)
I will definitely continue to do the audio production for PodCastle while I am at school, and hope to continue hosting and producing Perishable Theatre Presents as well, though I may split those duties with someone else. Overall, I have a decent system in place for both of these podcasts, and use a combination of Amadeus Pro (for individual file edits) and Logic Express 8 (for assembling the shows, fixing sound issues, and mixing everything down). However, I need to look into a few more ways that I can automate some of this process so I take less time dealing with files and some sound issues.
Honestly, this is the area I need to develop a system of behaviors and actions the most simply because, other than trying to walk to work at my last temp job and attempting, with no rubric of success or failure, to not eat too much or too poorly, I have no plan or process or way to measure progress. This must become a priority. Not simply because I am getting older and heavier and have a history of heart attacks in my family, but because getting a PhD is hard and I need to make sure that my mind is not fighting against a sluggish body while attempting to learn and attempting to think critically about theatre, performance, pedagogy, and how cognitive sciences can help us understand performance in new and exciting ways. Poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle, so easily assumed in grad school, will not help me achieve the level of scholarship I want.
All of these new systems and practices will require an initial commitment to complexity of action that may very well, in the initial stages, slow me down in my processes or require that I learn new skills or form new habits of being and working. What I hope to accomplish eventually, however, is a simplicity of action that aids me in my academic, creative, and personal goals.