tomato time-management

Some time ago I learned about the Pomodoro Technique.  It’s a simple time-management tool.  You work for 25 minutes on a project, then take a five minute break.  Every four rounds, you take a longer break.

It’s simple, but it seems to work well for me.  A lot of times I can’t seem to get started.  But if I know I only have to work for 25 minutes, I don’t dread starting.  And once I’ve started, I’m good to go.

I recently upgraded my old netbook to a new MacBook Pro.  I was browsing the App Store (sidenote: it took me a while to realize that not all Mac apps are in the App store—a lot are still downloaded from websites), looking for a Pomodoro timer app.  I have a nice one on my iPod Touch, which keeps track of how many Pomodoros I complete each day.  I couldn’t find the equivalent for my Mac, which bummed me out at first.

But then I stumbled upon the Pomodoro app, by Udo Landini.  Things I like about this app:

1. It puts a timer in the toolbar

2. You can change the time for both the Pomodoros (working) and the break.  At first I thought that you could only choose 25, 30, or 35 minute Pomodoros.  But then I realized that you can use your mouse to select the time and type in whatever you want.  Sometimes when I’m working on law assignments, I switch it to 50 minutes.  25 minutes just isn’t enough time to get anything done.

3. **my favorite feature** You can sync the Pomodoro app with iCal.  After you complete a Pomodoro, it appears in iCal.  It’s titled the same as the Pomodoro.  I find it very motivating to look back on a work-day and see how much of the time I was working.

Of course, you can use the Pomodoro technique with a clock.  You don’t need an app.  But if your situation is close to mine, I recommend the Pomodoro app.

What about you?  How do you manage your time and keep yourself motivated?




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Advent Conspiracy

“Just 1% of the annual Christmas spending in the US could mean 1 million rescue operations with the potential to free millions and put slave owners out of business for good.”




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I have two email addresses.  One is for school and friends (important things).  The other is the one I use when I buy stuff.  Any mail trying to sell me stuff ends up there.  Sometimes I use my important stuff email for a charitable donation, and then get sort of annoyed when they send me emails that seem like they’re trying to sell me stuff.  But for the most part it works.

The split email system allowed me to keep my important email inbox clean, but for a while it wasn’t saving me any money.  My purchases email account is a hotmail account, and I used to click through every message before filing it away in a folder.  I had a bunch of folders: bank, Groupon, etc.  I’d click on the message so it marked as read, and then move it to a folder.  And even though I was just clicking through to avoid having a billion unread emails in my folder, I’d still be swayed by the advertisements.  I spent way too much money at Lands End, since it seemed like they were always having a sale.  (If they were always having a sale, you’d think I would figure out that I didn’t need to buy something this week, because they’d have a sale next week.  Nope.)

Side note: I love a clean email inbox.  I stare, rudely, at people with a huge number of unread email messages.  How can you function with 1,189 unread messages?  How do you ever find what you need?  I only keep emails in my inbox that are still actionable—things I’m waiting on (i.e., confirmation numbers for deliveries), and things I still need to do.  Everything else is filed away, where I can find it with a simple search.

Back to my purchases email account: It was a good day for my bank account when I discovered the “mark as read” function in hotmail.  Now I simply select all of the messages, unclick the ones that I might want to read—that tell me an online bill is due, or have tracking numbers for a package—and click the “mark as read” button.  Boom, no unread messages.  Then I click “move to Archive,” the single folder that I created.  I replaced all of my particular folders with one big folder.  It’s easy enough to search for “Groupon.”  I was wasting a bunch of time filing messages in particular folders.  The unwanted messages are moved to my Archive folder, and I just read the two or three interesting emails.

But this morning, I decided to go one step further.  I’m just going to unsubscribe from most of the emails I get.  I get emails from Toys’R’Us because I bought something off a baby registry, from because I bought Alan underwear online once, and from all sorts of fancy websites that I would never buy anything from.  I’ll keep a few clothing stores for their occasional coupon codes.  Hopefully this will simplify things.  And in a few years, when I’m (hopefully!) gainfully employed, maybe I’ll re-sign up.  Or not.  I hate junk mail.



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I listen to a lot of radio.  It’s 2.5 hours round trip to get to school everyday (only three days this semester!  But it will be four next semester…).  It’s not a bad commute, per se.  I don’t have to fight much traffic.  I spend almost no time waiting at red lights.  A good 60 miles of my 72 mile commute is on the highway.  Once I get to the highway, put the cruise on, and turn on NPR, it’s actually kind of relaxing.

But sometimes I get tired of the radio.  It’s so much of the same.  And if I’m driving in the midday, the public radio offerings are hit and miss.  Also, if it’s late (past dark), I don’t always find the radio to be enough to keep me as alert as I’d like.  It’s in these situations that I mix it up with Podcasts.

I subscribe to a handful of podcasts that I recommend.  They’re like listening to a CD instead of listening to Top 40 radio, except with words.  Here are my favorites:

1. Radiolab.  Radiolab is sciency with a dash of philosophy.  It asks great questions, interviews interesting people, and makes use of cool sound-effects.  The one-hour episodes keep me entertained for nearly my whole trip.  And the shorter “podcast” episodes are fun mini-episodes.  Recent episodes: Games, Detective Stories, Mapping the Tic-Tac-Toe-dom

2. Stuff Mom Never Told You.   This comes from How Stuff Works, which has a bunch of podcasts.  Stuff You Should Know is a sort of general, catch-all podcast of interesting things.  I used to listen to Stuff You Missed in History Class, because, well, I missed a LOT in history class.  But it turns out I still don’t really enjoy history…  I’ve settled on just the Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast.  I enjoy the focus on women’s issues, and get lots of interesting dinner table conversation from things I learned.  Recent episodes: Women’s Intuition: Myth or Reality?, Male Birth Control, Are Rebound Relationships Unhealthy?

3. Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!  Alan and I used to catch the end of Wait Wait after church on Sundays.  We’d usually get lightning fill-in-the-blank, and if we were lucky, we heard the listener limericks.  But then Browncroft added an 8:15 service, and we started attending it.  So now I download the podcast.  I don’t listen to it religiously.  It’s mostly there if I need a big pick-me-up.  It’s entertaining and able to distract me from a boring car ride, or some other chore.

4. Car Talk.  See #3 above.  I play this one for Alan when we work outside together.

5. The Dinner Party Download.  I just found out about this one today, so I can’t say whether or not I recommend it.  But I do think that I heard it live on public radio once when I was waiting at the U of R to pick up Alan on a Friday afternoon.  A few journalists give short anecdotes from the week’s news so you have something interesting to talk about a weekend dinner party.  The subtitle on the website is “The Show that Helps You Win the Dinner Party.”  Awesome.  I love making things like dinner party conversations (secretly) competitive.  Recent episodes: Chuck Klosterman, Diabolical Hawkes, and Zagats in the Zeitgeist; Antonio Banderas, Old-School Candy, and Music from a Non-belieber

6. Spilled Milk.  This comes from Molly Weizenberg of Orangette, whose blog I have been reading for years.  She and Matthew Amster-Burton live in Seattle and talk about food.  I love food and cooking, and really enjoy this podcast.  Each week is a type of food: rice, butter, meat sticks, junk food.  They talk about the food, giving you some background you might not have had before, and discuss a recipe or two that use the food.  I learned how to make rice balls on the rice podcast, and now frequently make rice balls with tuna inside for a I-don’t-want-to-cook dinner.  Recent episodes: Peanut Butter, Thai Salads, Dorm Food

7. The Joy the Baker Podcast.  This is another blog turned podcast deal.  I figured it would be food related, but it’s totally not.  It’s two ladies (Joy of Joy the Baker, and Tracy of just chatting.  They chat on a topic—road trips, red flags—but that’s it.  Sometimes they mention food, but only when it’s germane to the topic.  At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to listen to two ladies talking, but I’ve realized how much I miss just chatting.  Alan’s not a big talker, and conversations with my girlfriends tend to be about law school or church.  Listening to Joy and Tracy chat reminds me of my friends in college.  Plus it’s an awesome way to make the hour fly.  Recent episodes: Modern Day Etiquette, 20 Questions, Halloweenie

Pocasts that are great, but I just can’t get into:

1. The Moth.  This is people (regular people) telling true stories.  They’re recordings from story slams that the Moth has around the country.  It’s great.  But for some reason I never choose it when I’m browsing podcasts.  I think they’re a little too short for my current situation.  I’d have to listen to like seven to fill up my whole commute, and that’s a lot of stories to listen to.  But you should check it out.  Maybe you’ll love it.

2. This American Life.  Same problem as the Moth, just a whole hour long.  TAL is awesome, and I love it, but it’s just not right for my commute.  It’s cerebral without being as entertaining as Radiolab.  Or something.  And the rest of my day is too busy to spend an hour listening to an episode.  Maybe if I started taking long walks…  This would be perfect for long walks.

What about you?  Have you heard any of these podcasts?  Do you have any podcast recommendations?




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From the Archives: Sofia

Here’s another overdue post!

Sofia, Bulgaria was my final trip of the summer.  I went there on the UNMIK bus, as usual.  That particular weekend was a three-day weekend, since Monday marked the start of Ramadan.

Below are photos from the day I walked around the city by myself, and from a English-language walking tour I took.  The tour was called the Free Sofia Tour, which I think sounds like some sort of political statement.  But actually it just means that the tour is free.  The tour is highly recommended on tourist websites, and I really enjoyed it.  So if you find yourself in Sofia, check it out!



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This week at church the Pastor asked us to memorize, meditate on, and otherwise pay attention to Isaiah 58:5-10.  The church is focusing on not just transforming the lives of individual church members, but on transforming the community and the world around us.  This is one of my favorite passages in the whole Bible, so I’m pretty excited.

The context is that this is in the Old Testament, and the Israelites aren’t following God’s commands.  Their life is pretty messed up, but they keep thinking that if they just do the “stuff”—if the just fast and pray—then God will restore them.  Here is God’s reply:

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?

Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice 
   and untie the cords of the yoke, 
to set the oppressed free 
   and break every yoke? 
Is it not to share your food with the hungry 
   and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— 
when you see the naked, to clothe them, 
   and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

If you do away with the yoke of oppression, 
   with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry 
   and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, 
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

Isaiah 58:5-10




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