May 31, 2017
How Prof. Phillip Levin Works
Phillip Levin, Professor of Practice
Department/program: School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
Research focus: Conservation
Phillip Levin is one of only two Professors of Practice at the UW, straddling the academic and professional worlds to maximize impact in both. As the lead scientist at the Nature Conservancy–Seattle, he said in 2016 he hopes to “be a voice of science, to highlight where science can provide answers to our most pressing conservation issues and to act as a scientific adviser.” Levin joined the UW in 2016 after working for 17 years for the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration–Fisheries, where he received the Department of Commerce Silver Award and NOAA’s Bronze Medal for his work on marine ecosystems. His research into Puget Sound’s sixgill sharks was featured on KCTS-9’s award-winning documentary, Wildlife Detectives: Mystery Sharks of Seattle, in 2016.
Give us a one-word description of how you work:
How do you manage your to-dos?
I’ve tried various apps that sync across devices, but right now my favorite is Google Keep. It’s great for making lists as well as taking short notes.
What are your essential apps, software or tools?
I depend a great deal on my calendar (I use Apple’s calendar to combine my personal and work calendars). I am using Notability on my iPad now as a note taking tool. So far it’s great, and syncs over to my phone and computer. I have also found collaboration tools like Asana to be useful for group projects, but typically only during the start-up phase when there are a lot of moving parts. After that, use by everyone seems to decline.
Where do you most often work?
Right now, because I’m in a new position that requires lots of interaction, I am working quite a bit at our office site. Typically, when I write, I prefer to be in a place where I can experience long stretches without interruption. Often this is at home or on airplanes.
How do you manage your time?
Not very well. I never seem to have enough!
What is your best time-saving shortcut?
I prioritize and spend very little time on low priority items.
What are some of your productivity strategies you’ve honed over your years in academia?
Often I am most productive when I step away from a problem and let my mind wonder. So, when writing or trying to figure out a problem, a long bike ride or walk or gardening will help me. Most of my “writing” is done in my head away from the computer. When I do sit down to actually write, it’s more about organizing my thoughts and trying to express them coherently.
What mundane thing are you really exceptional at?
I’m not sure anything is really mundane. I’m really good at doing nothing, but even then (especially then) the gears in my brain are turning.
What are you currently reading for pleasure?
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger
What’s the last thing that made you laugh?
I laugh at everything.
How do you recharge?
What’s your sleep routine like?
Listening to podcasts takes my mind away from the day. When I do so, I typically fall asleep within minutes.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
When my paper or grant proposal is rejected it’s MY fault, not the reviewers. Sure, the reviewer missed the point, or is just plain wrong, but then I need to better express my point. This attitude has always helped me improve my products and reminds me that no matter how right I may think I am, other perspectives are important.
Who’s your support system?
What pitfall do you consistently see students falling into?
Failing to consider the larger picture. Why should someone outside your immediate field care about what you do? And letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.
What do your most successful students do?
They persevere in the face of many obstacles. Persistence pays off.
How UW Works was inspired by LifeHacker’s How I Work.
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