Projects & Folders for Academics

Hi all,

I’m curious what project structures are being used for those of you managing academic research projects and teaching.

I’m basically organizing with the “Research, Teaching, and Service” model and using emoji to indicate which projects are grouped together (📕is dissertation, 📗a research project, 📘a class I’m teaching, and so on). I’m also tracking “leads” in terms of research, funding, productivity pr0n, etc.

Curious to know what others have found that works for them.

I do this …


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@DrJJWMac are your Research: Projects in folders below with OF projects? What’s the scope of a project for you re: research?

I scope my research within folders. I start with academic year (AY) designations such as AY18-19 or semester designations such as F19. By example …

  • AY18-19 RIF – a research infrastructure project for the 18-19 academic year
  • S18 Coatings – a research project on coatings over spring 18

I set up OmniFocus projects within the sub-folders.


Hi Beck, I do Research, Teaching, and Service, like you. For Service, I have one large project to which I add various tasks. I also have a Miscellanious project where I put things that don’t quite fit anywhere, and an Ideas project folder where I put ideas to explore. I find it useful to parse my weekly time during the week into Research, Teaching, and Service/Misc., and I flag all of my goals for the week (I could use a tag too, but just haven’t gotten around to it).

Also, every week I write down a tentative schedule in Evernote, after I’ve done my weekly review in Omnifocus. I’ve found this helps me be more aware of appointments and days when the kids have evening activities. For what it’s worth, I find Robert Talbert’s GTD posts quite useful:, although his responsibilities as a faculty member are fairly different from my own.

Hi great question,

this is mine, but not sure it’s the best I can do. I put writing up top to remind me that’s what I am supposed to focus on - I’m also using Devonthink to manage research - but haven’t quite worked out how best to use that and omnifocus together (though devonthink links can be used in omnifocus). You’ll need to click on the picture to show properly.

Please oh please tell us what the grandma test is.

Also, can you say more about your workflow w/Devonthink and how you’d like to integrate it with OF?

I’m considering a misc project as well. I haven’t found the right flag/tag/due/defer approach yet.

Great find, thank you!

Dear academics, as student I would be highly interested in your contexts and Perspectives as well!

Hi Beck.

thanks for the interest.

I was chair of human ethics committee at my Uni. I tried to get around as many post grad intakes as possible from departments that would need their projects reviewed; and sometimes it was hard to convey the importance of ethics, without sounding like a gatekeeper (I’m in NZ, so we can focus for the most part on research ethics, not the research governance model typical of the USA)

I’m not sure I invented it, but Grandma test was the best way I found to get them to think about how to approach human ethics review. The test is ‘imagine a stranger is doing your research, and your beloved grandma/aunt/elder (etc) is the participant - what would you want them to know before agreeing to participate, and how would you want the stranger to behave, use the data etc’. I like it because it stops the applicant personalising the research with their own ethical ideals (which then means they find any review an attack on their own ethical stance) , and forces them to consider others, and to consider them with empathy - that is to think through the necessary ethical behaviour of a professional researcher. It provides a distance between their professional behaviour and their personal ethics that I think is very necessary for them to properly consider how their research will appear to others, and most importantly, to hear comments on their ethical approach, while remaining in an empathetic stance toward the participant.

You will see I am still working out how to describe properly, but hopefully I have conveyed some of its usefulness. If you want, I can flick you my paper on ethics in Christchurch earthquake which was my first published piece on it.

I’ll get back to you on devonthink in a couple of hours, as I haven’t systematically thought about exactly what I would like, nor the various and diverse things I have tried so far.

Meri Kirihimete (Merry Christmas in Māori),

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Mine are

Writing (for future projects / stuff without deadlines)
Outcomes (for writing projects with an end in sight)

I got through grad school, postdoc and six or so years of teaching just using a smattering of TaskPaper files but once I got tenure the service load bumped way up, with a lot of hard deadlines, which drove me to a more structured system in OF.

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