Tips for Writing, Staying Productive, and Life

Many of us are a little intimidated by the prospects of writing a dissertation. The research and the actual process of sitting down for hours on end to write a long manuscript can be daunting. In this sit-down interview with New York Times best-selling authors, Tim Ferriss and Neil Strauss, they share their own experiences about writing books and staying productive. Some of the habits can seem OCD at times but I think their all worth investigating.

Tim Ferriss and Neil Strauss Talk Writing, Creativity on creativeLIVE

Some of the highlights include:

  • Write 2 pages/day
  • Don’t check your email in the morning
  • Use the letters “tk” when you’re writing and need to come back to a section to fill in later.
  • The art of writing isn’t necessarily about writing as much as it is about proofreading and editing. Get your words on paper first.
  • @ 35:00 Ferriss provides a breakdown of the computer software he uses to write and conduct research.

Best in Class


Field season is upon us. Some of us are exploring new and exciting places while others are bunkered down in our labs/libraries running experiments and crunching data. Whatever you find yourself doing this summer, it’s always good to make sure you have the right equipment. Thanks to the creation of a recent website, The Wirecutter, from Brian Lam, one of the brains behind Gizmodo, there is now a website to find the best in class gear for all your lifestyle needs. The website covers just about everything you could possibly need from the best quality cheap rain jacket to keep you dry when doing archaeology in the rainforest, to the best rechargeable batteries to keep your bluetooth keyboard from dying on you in the office. The Wirecutter stands out from other review websites by offering in-depth reviews of products that are actually tested by quality reviewers. They even list the products that fall short. So wherever you find yourself doing this summer, check out the website before you fork over the cash for some new gear.

Recommendations: Business Cards

Alright everyone I need some advice. I’m working on updating my business cards and have a couple options. Let me know which one of the four you like and why/improvements to be made. The final card will have rounded edges and be high resolution. You can leave a comment in the “Leave a Reply” section.

Thanks in advance.

Free Magazines


In my last post I had you fork out $5 for an app, so in this post I’m going to tell you a way to save some cash. If you’re like me, summer usually means time for leisure reading, creating new (better) habits, and trying to get in shape. To encompass all of these goals I contemplated getting a subscription to Men’s Health but was quickly deterred with the annual subscription fee. So I turned to the one place that has never tried to charge me for knowledge – the Alachua County Public Library.

Like many other public libraries, Alachua County Public Library is going digital which means you can get thousands of ebooks and several magazines digitally free of charge. Just log onto the Alachua County Digital Library, follow a few simple steps and you have monthly access to the latest magazine titles. Download Zinio’s Desktop, iPad or Kindle App and you can read them on your tablet or PC. Right now my digital library includes:

Men’s Health
Men’s Fitness
Vegetarian Times
The Economist
Smithsonian Magazine
SPIN Magazine

Faster Data Entry: Atext


So just thought I’d share a time saving app that has helped me with a number of tasks including data entry. For work I’m currently in the process of entering our 300+ interviews into Refworks so they can be easily referenced and searchable for researchers. Sound like a long and monotonous task? Well it is. It involves typing in a lot of the same data into a lot of black spaces. Luckily I got a hold of the right app at the right time. 

Atext is a cheap text expansion app that gets the job done. I have to enter in common phrases like “University of Florida” and “Oral History Interview” for each interview and where I would have had to toggle back and forth between copying and pasting, I now type “/uf” and “/o” and the text fills in automatically. The app is easily customizable, syncs with dropbox, and you can even insert images and formatted text. I strongly recommend investing in a text expansion app for anyone doing data entry, at $5 it’s more than I wanted to spend but saves me a lot time and has proven to be well worth the price. You can test it out for 15 days free of charge. Windows users have other options as well.

Organizing Qualitative Data

Many of you all are probably starting to collect qualitative data if you haven’t already. One of the biggest problems we face, whether it’s in anthropology, psychology, or any other social science, is how to organize, code, and database all of that information. Today, Austin Kocher, a PhD student in Geography at The Ohio State University,  offers his method of qualitative data organization:

“I used Filemaker Pro to build a simple database that met the research demands. Filemaker Pro was a good fit because it has a low learning curve and can handle multiple file formats, including Word documents, PDFs, and audio files. As a result, I could track everything I needed for each research participant on one screen.”

The software and others like it, such as DevonThink Pro, allow him to create a database of all his contacts and the relevant information collected from interviews.


“I began by creating a database, which is like filing cabinet for everything associated with my project. Next, I created tables, which are like hanging file folders: they hold similar types of information in a standard format … I created fields for each kind of information I needed from organizations – name, address, phone number, etc. – and created a layout. Finally, I created a new record for each organization as needed.”

For the full article, complete with helpful screenshots, check out the post on the Prof Hacker Blog.

Goals to Live By


Summer is here and it’s time to do everything you said you were going to do last semester but didn’t get to (not really). While you probably won’t get to half the stuff you wanted to do last semester, it’s a good idea to write out your goals for this summer so you can at least measure your progress. I’ve included a list of my goals for summer which will probably inform my future blog posts.

1. Increase productivity – download and test out new software like mind mapping, text expansion, RefWorks, DevonTHINK, Wunderlist

2. Set up a blog – already done. check it out!

3. Prepare a paper for publication

4. Design a course: Anthropology of Slavery

5. Study Amharic – my main goal this summer

6. Finally establish a gym/workout routine (or at least learn more about what I should be doing).

7. Start writing the dissertation

8. Learn basic statistics 

9. Learn basic coding – check out

Post your goals in the Comments!