Achieving the digital detox.

Over the past few months, during my interaction with various people on Twitter and offline, I have been hearing about the information deluge that makes it impossible for them to acquire new skills. We indeed have limited 24 hours!

I wouldn’t be able to give a blow by blow account of how I manage things, but I have had to stick to certain good habits that have made things more comfortable for me. I will mention a few services below that make it incredibly easy to flow past the flood of distractions.

1) Mobile phone:

This is the biggest annoyance! I am off the social networks on the device barring Telegram. More on that later.

Twitter is accessed only on the browser. No dedicated applications exist. All notifications on the device are blocked except for text messages.

Telegram helps me to mute all conversations except people whom I deem essential. I have a lot of channels where I consume content passively. No mainstream social networks like Facebook or Instagram for me. They are antiquated because I cannot control them.

I also don’t have a fear of missing out. My associates either call me or text me if needed. Android has become better to manage notifications in recent times. I don’t have any experience with iOS, but I remain convinced that Apple iPhones are merely iPods with a calling facility.

2) Email.

I had mentioned this earlier too. I use Fastmail because I find there is inherent value in paying up for the email. I use a lot of aliases whenever I sign up for the service. It helps to signup with a unique email address. For example, for Dropbox, my alias will be dropbox (at) FastMail dot com (it is a hypothetical- just for illustration). Therefore, if any spam flows into my inbox, I know where is the leak from. All I have to do is to delete the alias.

This simple hack has served me well over six years, and I am happy to stay with this service. Mainstream email applications like Gmail or Yahoo are useless.

I have also created extensive rules which directs the email in the trash. It helps to clean up the clutter at the server itself without manual intervention. For example, all newsletters go to trash directly. Some of them are automatically marked as read and stay in the inbox- I scan through them when I get time. When they are marked as read, I don’t get a notification. Therefore, can easily stay focused on my work without being distracted by the flow in the inbox.

3) Password Manager

1Password is the password manager that is my life saver. It generates unique passwords for all the websites. It is a paid service, but good cloud sync helps me to sync it with my Android device as well. It eliminates the need to remember unique passwords.

4) The use of Telegram chat app

Telegram remains the only way to stay connected with any semblance of “social network”. I use a combination of groups and channels to stay informed. Channels work as public broadcasts. Any specific information I need is transmitted to it. I use bots (both paid and free) to achieve the effect.

For example, I use the IFTTT bot to work with the RSS feeds to populate the channels with the Pubmed content. If I need to track, say the latest publications in the development of MR-LINAC, I don’t have to visit the website manually. By use of booleans, I can filter the content, generate the specific RSS feeds which pipes it elegantly in the channel via IFTTT bot. Likewise, I use junction-connection bot and Feed-Reader bot for different purposes. I pool in information from all specific channels I need to follow into one omnibus channel so that I don’t have to deal with a multitude of channels. I do this by using junction-bot on Telegram.

Feed-Reader bot helps me to tap into various other social networks. For example, I have a specific channel devoted to cycling. All posts from multiple Instagram accounts flow in the channel. It helps me to keep track of the sectoral development. Likewise, I developed a channel for journalists on Telegram to keep track of telecom sector and clean energy. I also have a dedicated art channel that I helped to make for a friend. That collects all impressionist art, beautiful nature pictures and graffiti! None of the posts is done manually.

Focused groups require extensive group management. I recommend using Combot because it comes with a beautiful web-interface. Although the community bot management has introduced a paid plan, it is free for groups that have up to 100 members. The bot deletes specific stop words automatically along with other nifty features like muting users. The bot also keeps groups free of spam messages. Therefore, the groups stay efficient, productive and on course. It is unlike WhatsApp where users start spamming others without any rhyme or reason.

This above may sound onerous, but it helps to maximise the efficiency gains. As long as you are not distracted, it helps to keep focused on work.

In the busy schedules that we keep, always find time for solitude. That is the most critical period to stop and reflect on your goals.

Digital tools need a constant refinement. Hopefully, I will update this in the future.

(Images are for representational purpose only. This blog post is not intended for any commercial purpose).

How to deliver a scientific talk: Or not kill your audience

 

I stumbled on this gem from Twitter! I am sharing this in entirety because I feel that it needs to be shared to a wider audience.

I am not having any claim to fame as far as the public speaking is concerned but I have had my fair share of run ins. The author is right about being able to engage the mental attention and it is a difficult task. Nevertheless, there are some common sensical pointers here that I’d like to share from the embedded document (please feel free to download and share) Thats one reason I usually dread going to the conferences. Its only because of the boring presentations (and sometimes tasteless food).

Be visual!

I prefer to have the pictures do the talking but if they are done to death, it makes for a disaster.

The goal is to have a visually streamlined talk where the audience is so engaged with your presentation that they forget you’re standing in front of them speaking.

Highlight the points and learn to do it!

The bulleted points! They should be banned.

Kill clutter. Remove text. Complete sentences are to be banished from your talk.

Be nice to your audience!

Many times I have seen the speaker pointing the laser as if to highlight the importance of a bullet. The pointer goes up and down and this makes for a perfect recipe for disaster because subconsciously, the audience is following the pointer.

Try not to use a laser pointer. They’re a crutch for you and are distracting to your audience. More to the point, there’s no need for one if your slides are properly designed (uncrowded).

No suspense! This is self explanatory

People really don’t like suspense if they’re not already invested in your talk, and they have bad memories. So tell them the main answer before going into the details. Rather than try to figure out where you’re going, they’ll be able to concentrate on the finer details of your talk.

Keep it brief!

Really! This helps.

Keep methods brief. Most don’t care about methods, it’s a distraction from the story. Provide enough detail that they know what you did and have some confidence that you know what you are doing.

Finally; last but not the least!

Knowing your audience is the most important thing. You need to be able to tailor your talk depending on who is going to listen to what.

Know your audience. Present something that they will enjoy, for scientists this usually means tailoring the level of technical detail (and amount of introductory material) to your audience.

I hope this little list helps!