Let me wrap up this series of posts by suggesting that the most important aspect of the method is to practice what is called kaizen in Japanese: make continuous small improvements. Part of this is simply a willingness to keep tweaking something even while it is working. The other part is an ability to measure the effects of the changes that you do make. When I started looking at the word counts for my writing from day-to-day, I realized that the kind of music that I was listening to made a difference. So I started systematically buying songs at iTunes and seeing what kind of impact they had. When I found something that increased my productivity, I used the ‘Genius’ feature to find related songs and added them to my playlist. (iTunes: “Want to tell your friends about this? Connect with them on Ping.” Me: “Are you crazy? My friends would mock me until I cried. I can barely admit to myself that I spent 99 cents on that song.”) But if listening to terrible music allows me to write 14% more each day, I have one extra day each week to work on something else.
Programmers use the verb refactor to describe the process of taking apart something that is working, optimizing the pieces, and putting it back together. For a while I used DevonThink to organize all of my notes, but I realized that the features that made it work so well for a focused research project also made it too cumbersome to handle the minutiae of day-to-day life. So I’m now using OmniFocus (and Getting Things Done) to keep track of the things that I have to do, and using Evernote to collect random notes on everything that is not part of an existing research project or course that I’m teaching. ProfHacker has a number of good posts about things that you can do with Evernote (1, 2, 3). For me, the main advantages are that it is lightweight, cloud-based and accessible from almost every computing device I own.