5 Computer based tools no Chinese medicine student should be without

chinese medicine computer toolsWhile I’ve been working on my January Year of Sagely Living goal, I’ve really had to increase my efficiency in a number of respects. I’m doing a fairly good job keeping to my basic commitment, but I’ve had to spend an unusual amount of time finding the holes in my various systems.

It’s an interesting by-product of the whole thing, that while the focus of this month is scholarship, it has changed me in ways that will ultimately be beneficial for more than just my study of Chinese medicine. I think, in a way, that’s the point of the whole Year of Sagely Living. To show that the principles of Chinese medicine, when instantiated in daily life, have benefits far beyond what would initially seem likely.

I thought I’d just mention some of the tools that have come out on top as I’ve refined my system. I’ve mentioned a couple of these before, but it might be nice to have them all in one place. All of these tools are worth the time it takes to learn them.

1. Rootdown.us : When it comes to quickly accessing basic Chinese medicine information, no sites are easier to use and easier to trust than these. Rootdown includes the “community editing” features that make sites like Wikipedia so popular.  There are other Chinese medicine websites, but they are mostly badly designed and/or too infrequently updated to be of any real use.

2. Google Book search and Google Blog search : With these two tools, you can find pretty obscure information that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to find. The book search does full text searching of a number of books, with some having many pages available online. Even if you can’t read all of the information you desire, you have at least a better idea of where to look for the info you’re after. Blog search is an easy way to look across the blogosphere quickly and efficiently to see what “real people” are saying about a given topic.

3. PubMed, Blue Poppy’s article search, your school library’s databases : I like to cover all my bases. In finding information on Chinese medicine, you have a lot of resources at your disposal. Your books, lecture notes, professors and peers, nature herself, patients, the websites I listed above… it’s incredible, really. Here are three more tools to help round out your personal Chinese medicine info warehouse.

PubMed is a huge clearinghouse for information in nearly all of the major journals of all kinds of medicine, including Chinese medicine. Some of the journals even have full text available for free. If you’re looking for any published research studies on Chinese medicine topics, this is probably the first place to start. Blue Poppy recently opened their article database for free use – an event I enthusiastically blogged about a while ago. It’s a great resource of first-rate information on a variety of Chinese medicine topics. Finally, don’t neglect the databases your library provides as well as – of course – the library itself! I’m always shocked to find how few folks actually use their libraries as they are intended to be used – freely!

4. Omnifocus for the Mac / Omnifocus for iPhone / Omnifocus for iPad : To use these tools effectively, you need to have read David Allen’s Getting Things Done and be on the road to GTD Mastery. If you’re not in that place – well… get there. I’ve talked about GTD a few times. I won’t go into detail here. But, I will say that I’ve tried every system (including no system) imaginable to manage my areas of responsibility and interest. GTD stands out in its ability to set me free by taking all the “stuff” I have to do off of my mind and into a system I can trust. You have nothing to lose by trying it out.

These electronic tools are elegant and powerful ways to implement the core processes of GTD, but they would probably also be useful for anyone trying to get a better handle on the projects they are working on. Total, it has probably taken me about 48 hours to fully understand and implement GTD and Omnifocus. 48 hours well spent.

I’ve probably saved that much time and frustration since getting to full implementation. Now that it’s set up, it only requires about two hours a week to keep in perfect working condition. I rarely forget an appointment or deadline, I’m often prepared well in advance of exams and I find myself with plenty of time and energy to work on “side projects” like this website.

5. Bookburro, a Firefox extension : Now, obviously, this requires that you’re using Firefox. I can’t imagine a single reason NOT to use Firefox. Please, just go get it. You can import all of your bookmarks from IE or whatever other web browser you’re using. It won’t hurt, really. Then go look at all the awesome add-ons you can hook on to expand Firefox’s functionality.

I only use a few, but my beloved is Book Burro. In short, this extension helps you to find the book you want at the cheapest price possible. With just a few clicks, you can configure it to search all of the book selling websites, PLUS all the public and big college libraries in your area. It will give you a list of all the book websites and their best price for the book, as well any relatively nearby libraries that carry the book and their distance from your location. I’ve saved around $500 over my Chinese medicine school career because of this little program. It’s incredible, seriously.

Taken together, these five tools probably compose only 40% of my on-computer time, but probably account for 75% of the eventual results! I hope you will find similar successes using them.

About Eric Grey

Hi - I'm the founder of this site and the primary master of all functions here. When I'm not writing, you can find me reaching out to the Chinese Medicine community across the web and in my own backyard. I currently teach Chinese herbs at my alma mater, the National College of Natural Medicine. Additionally, I'm the founder of Watershed Wellness, a thriving local clinic in Southeast Portland in Oregon. No matter where I'm working, you'll find my focus on the Classical approach to Chinese medicine laced throughout everything I do.

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