Allen J. Hall

Materials Science & Engineering, Productivity, and Life

Some thoughts on Productivity: my history and interests…

I find myself in the strange position of starting a new blog on a new site.  More professionally focused, less fluff if possible, to the point, more easily read; all these things come to mind when I think about what I’m wanting to do here.  Ultimately, it’s all about content and helping others with similar interests find possible solutions to what they are working through.  Having already discussed many items regarding productivity in the past, I’m finding I may be covering old ground anew.  But, I finally have a home here, and so I have to sweep away the cobwebs, polish the floor, find my furniture, and get things started.  This, an opportunity to start fresh, and tell you my thoughts on productivity approaches, and what has worked for me, and how I (like everyone) struggle with various aspects of pushing myself to success. (Read about the two books that have influenced my thoughts on productivity the most after the jump…)

I’ll be mentioning/reviewing a few books and products from time to time that I have personally read or worked with.  With each product will likely be a product link for Amazon.  If you find the blog helpful, or are interested in the products, by purchasing through my links (at the same prices that are available on Amazon), I receive a very small proceed to help support the domain name for this server.  Just between you and me, I very much doubt any proceeds will even meet the meager amount of the domain cost (which is small), but if it does, I’ll be more than happy.  :),204,203,200_PIsitb-dp-500-arrow,TopRight,45,-64_OU01_AA240_SH20_.jpg

7-Habits Where did my interest in productivity and personal motivation start?  Likely it started the same place as many of you… with Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  [I think I heard a few of you say: "Ugh..."]  Yes, well, I will be discussing many things on this blog, time allowing, and one of them will be Covey’s work.  It changed an industry.  Unfortunately, when things become very big and influential, they’re often forced upon us. All the well-meaning managers out there (or business course writers) may have done us a disservice by making mission statements and worksheets on Covey’s work a requirement. When our interest in personal productivity is internally motivated, we’re able to achieve much much more than if we are told externally that this or that is a good thing, or a must read. [It also doesn't help to have a chapter like Chapter 1 make "paradigm" almost a brain-numbing word for the rest of your life.] Luckily, I read 7Habits on my own interest/motivation. Covey pointed out to me how I could alter my own actions to effect outcomes in my work and play.  Many of his ideas are concepts that still influence me today.  But, for the nuts and bolts of every day productivity, I now march to a different beat…,204,203,200_PIsitb-dp-500-arrow,TopRight,45,-64_OU01_AA240_SH20_.jpg
GTD The beat of David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD).  As with all productivity books, D. Allen’s work often comes under criticism for being common sense.  My only reply to that is a simple question: “If it was simple common sense… why haven’t you been achieving as much as you hoped you would be, and why are you still disorganized?”  Sometimes shedding a light into a dark corner, previously believed to be well-known, will highlight areas of importance and allow for improvement.  I found that to be extremely true for me with D. Allen’s work.  What he explained was simple enough, and yet, I wasn’t doing it.  Primarily because I didn’t understand the influence it could have on my own achievement.

Finally, the work of the life-hacking and online crowd (who I found through their own interest in GTD) has also influenced how I think about daily tasks.  Everything from how to manage my time in ways that trick me into productive work to how I think about where I put down my mail and keys at home comes from this extra-curricular reading.  Interestingly, my interests have often spilled over to my co-workers or co-researchers.  It doesn’t always influence them, but once in a while I catch a glimpse of an influence that makes me smile.

Ultimately, I dig into productivity literature in order to aid my own work, to explore why I am or am not achieving the tasks I have set before myself, and in an effort to positively influence my own work.  If by example, anything influences others, or I get a chance to introduce others to concepts that influence their own work, I am just that much more happy.

Thanks for dropping in, and I hope to have some excellent discussions about many interests with you in the near future.

Don’t forget to add my RSS feed to your favorite reader, or bookmark me in some way so you can find your way back.


  1. Dan
    Posted July 4, 2008 at 3:35 am | Permalink

    For implementing GTD along with ideas from Stephen Covey you might try out this web-based application:

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A mobile version is available too.

    With the new added iCal feed, now you can subscribe to Gtdagenda with third party services like Google Calendar or Apple iCal, and stay up-to-date with your Gtdagenda tasks.

    Hope you like it.

  2. Posted July 4, 2008 at 3:41 am | Permalink

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for coming by.

    I have to admit I really don’t like one system alone for my GTD approaches. I’ll be discussing some of my thoughts on all this in the coming months on this blog. For my GTD work, I generally work in OmniFocus when I’m in computer-only mode. Omnifocus (see sidebar in mainpage) has it’s own problems (will be discussing these as well), but I find it to be the most helpful right now for me in my workflow.

    Of course GTD is not a specific system based productivity approach, so to my readers, I offer: “Use what you like, and like what you use.” I’m positive my readers will not agree on all marks with my thoughts as well.


    Again, thanks for dropping in, and thanks for your suggestions!

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A Quick Introduction...

I'm a graduate student (PhD Candidate) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

I've studied and researched in two fields of Materials Science and Engineering (Polymers and Semiconductors). My interests are as diverse as my musical tastes and I usually have my hand in some crazy project during my free time.

I'm available for consulting and have access to a world-renown materials research user-facility supported by the D.O.E. If you would like to know more, please contact me.

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