Do-Everything Day

One of the secrets to my success at work is the Do-Everything Day. On a Do-Everything Day you do everything, for at least five minutes. I make a list of any project I have that has outstanding tasks. Being a lawyer, I have some projects where I’m just waiting on a decision from court, or on a call back from a client, so there are no outstanding tasks. The rest of the projects get written down.

Then I set a timer for five minutes, and start on the first project.  Once the timer goes off, I move to the next project.  After I’ve finished five minutes of each project, I take a break, and then go for 10 minutes of each project, then 15, then 20. Some projects drop off the list as all outstanding tasks are completed. The list gets shorter as the day goes on.

It’s always amazing how tasks I’d been avoiding turn out to be much less scary than I thought. It’s a great anti-procrastination tool. So much of my procrastination is fear of getting started. Knowing that I only have to do five minutes of work reduces a lot of that fear, and once I’ve started on the project, I’m much less likely to procrastinate.

It’s also amazing how many tasks can be FINISHED in five or ten minutes! After a Do-Everything Day, my list of projects with outstanding tasks usually is reduced in half. I’m left with big, long-term projects, which I can tackle in subsequent days knowing that no small tasks are overdue.  I usually have one project as “organize office” or something, so I can take some time to sort emails, clear my outbox, and organize files for the week.

I try to have a Do-Everything Day once a week, but it doesn’t always happen. I haven’t had one in a while, and I got quite overwhelmed today. I had a bunch of urgent things to do in the morning, and then after lunch I started a Do-Everything Afternoon. I completed some quick tasks, got started on some things I’d been avoiding, and made sure that I touched every project I have and moved it along.

I highly recommend the Do-Everything Day.

Productivity for nurturers: my [so far, so good] system for overcoming procrastination

I wasn’t always such a procrastinator.

Sure, I’d put off school projects from time to time, but I got enough pleasure out of doing a really good job that I’d usually get to work on them right away.  I liked having time to revise things.  I liked working hard.  It seemed worth it.

I dealt with the usual senior-itis, in both high school and college.  And then I worked a couple of assistant-level jobs where I, for the first time in my life, didn’t feel like the hard work was worth it.  Part of the problem was that I didn’t mesh well with some of my supervisors.  My go-get-’em approach, combined with a few errors of the “you don’t know what you don’t know” variety, made me gun shy.  I didn’t want to try and be wrong and get yelled at, again.  So I started putting things off.  It was extremely stressful.  Not only did I have to deal with the stress of being undertrained or having a boss with unrealistic expectations, I had to deal with the stress of procrastinating.  But, like most issues that involve feeling hurt, it wasn’t a rational decision.

I brought that baggage with me to law school.  I was very much “once bitten, twice shy.”   The instant I felt like I wasn’t understanding a topic as quickly as my peers, I resigned myself to being a second-rate student.  If I didn’t try my hardest, the [relative] failure felt easier to bear.  Don’t get me wrong, I graduated with honors.  I was in Law Review, and the Editor-in-Chief of a specialty journal.  I competed in moot courts.  I did well.  But I think I could have done better, if I had more confidence.

I graduated from Law School nearly two years ago.  Sheesh, that’s a long time ago.  Due to a variety of circumstances, I’m still not working.  I finished the second part of my dual degree (a Master’s in Urban Planning), I studied for and passed the New York Bar.  I waited for Alan to finish his Ph.D., and then moved with him to Connecticut, where I would need to take another bar exam.  That exam is in 10 days, and if/when I pass, I will finally be able to work as a lawyer!

And just this week, I seem to have found a work-around for my now-chronic procrastination.  The only way I can reliably get my house clean is to go on vacation.  I will work and work and work to have the house clean when I return.  I want to come home to a clean kitchen, an empty sink, a freshly made bed with clean sheets, swept floors–the works.  Inviting people over will motivate me somewhat, but going away will make the house sparkle.

Earlier this week Alan came down with a cold.  He almost certainly caught it when he was flying back from spending a week in San Francisco for a conference.  I felt the beginning of the sickness, and decided to take care of future me.  I did all the laundry and put it away, cleaned the kitchen, cleaned out the fridge, made sure I had some prepared food ready to go, gathered the appropriate over-the-counter medications, and filled the electric tea kettle.  I did this for the first time last year, when a similar pattern befell our home: Alan got sick, gave me the cold, but that time he had to leave for the long weekend to go on a job interview.  I knew I’d be home alone, and I wanted to make sure I was taken care of the only way I could: the just-coming-down-with-a-cold me took care of the full-blown-sick-me, through some ordinary time travel.

As I marveled on my ability to get the house so clean, even as I was feeling ill, I saw the connection between my pre-vacation and pre-illness behaviors.  Taking care of myself in the future prevents procrastination!

I also observed this, to a smaller extent, in a few habits I’ve recently developed.  I’ve been setting out outfits the night before, making it a no-brainer to get dressed for the gym, or for the day.  I’ve also become a devoted fan of mise en place, the practice of preparing and measuring out all the ingredients for a recipe before starting any cooking.  Both of these habits make it nicer for future-Eliza to do something easily.

So here I am, 10 days before the bar exam.  And I’ve decided to think of poor Eliza, on Tuesday, one week before the bar exam.  She’ll be stressed and tired.  What can I do for her?  I can review all the outlines in my bar preparation materials, take notes, and transfer them to one 4″x6″ card per subject.  She can carry them around for quick review.  I can read and review all the exam procedures, print off maps to the venue, and get that all set, so she doesn’t have to worry about last minute stressors.  I can also write out a flexible review schedule for the last week of studying.  In addition, I can look over some meal plans, and sign up for some classes at the gym.

I have been more productive today than I’ve been in years with this realization.  I’m definitely in the beginning stages of figuring this all out.  Perhaps I’ll take some time every week to ask myself: what can I do this week to make things easier/better for me, one week from now?  It’s not that different than deciding what I’d like to get done in the following week, in theory.  But in practice, personalizing it, empathizing with who I will be ____________ [when I get back from vacation, when I am in the throes of this cold, when I am a week out from the bar exam, when I’m looking back on this week] makes all the difference.



useful web tools

Every so often I come across a tool that makes my life significantly easier.  Here are a few tools I use when browsing the web that I love.

{click on any picture in the post for a larger view} {}

You’re trying to check gmail.  It doesn’t seem to be loading.  Is it just you?  Or is Gmail down?  Go to this website, type in the URL, and let it check for you.  It’s better than asking a friend on Facebook or Twitter whether they can access their Gmail. {}

Can’t find your cell phone and don’t have a landline?  Type your phone number into this website, and it will call your phone for you.  I use this one more than I should–any time I use my cell phone on the couch, I invariably drop it down in the cushions.



control+shift+T {PC} | command+shift+T {Mac}

Did you just close a tab that you wish you hadn’t?  You could go to your history and open it back up, or you can click command+shift+T.  It opens up the most recently closed tab.  You can open the last ten closed tabs. It’s just like opening a new tab, but you also hold shift down at the same time.

If you close a whole window of tabs Chrome (but not Firefox), you can control+shift+T and get the whole window back.  If you have to force quit your computer, and had a bunch of tabs open in Chrome, you can get them back when your computer starts up again.  Just open Chrome, and click command+shift+T.  It’s magic.  I love it.


Google Reader is going away in July 2013.  I’m still working on finding a replacement I like as well.  I’ll update this when I do!

Google Reader {}

I read a lot of blogs: at least a hundred.  I used to bookmark blogs in categories (home, recipes, crafts, organizing, etc.), and open them all every couple of days.  It was less than efficient.

Now, I use Google Reader to organize my blogs.  If you have a Google account (Gmail, etc.), you can easily set up a Google Reader account.

Just go to, and click “SUBSCRIBE.”

Type in the name of the blog you want to follow, for example:,, or, then click “ADD.”


You should get a yellow bar at the top that tells you you have been subscribed to the blog.

If it didn’t work, you’ll have to go through the website itself.

If you get this message

 go to the blog you’re trying to follow.  Look for an RSS link or button, or maybe a +Google button.

If they have a +Google button, click on it, and then choose “Add to Google Reader”

If they have an RSS, click on that button


Then choose “Subscribe with Google.”  You may have to click on the +Google button first.

Now.  Now! Here’s the best part.  Go to your Google Reader Settings

And click on “Goodies.”  Click on the yellow “Next” button and drag it to your bookmarks bar.

Now!  Open a new tab, and click the new “Next” bookmark.  It will bring you to the newest (or oldest–change it in the settings) blog post from any of the blogs you read.  With one click, you can read your blogs, without tons of bookmarks, or typing in URLs.

I set Google Reader as my home page, though I almost never go to it.  When I open a new tab in Chrome, it gives me the new tab form, not my home page.  But, when I come across a blog I think might be interesting, I copy the URL, click the home button, and subscribe to the blog right away in Google Reader.  I do accumulate quite a few blogs this way, but I’m equally unsentimental about unsubscribing from a blog.  If I click the “Next” button and come to a blog post that is boring or irrelevant to me, I do a quick mental scan to see if this blog has been boring or irrelevant for a while.  If so, I click on the home button, find the blog in my Google Reader, and unsubscribe.


That’s it for now.  Those are the tools I use most often and find to be the most helpful in my day-to-day online life.

What are your tips and tricks for navigating online?  I’m always looking for cool new tools!


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Advice from Bertrand Russell

  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
  2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
  3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
  9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

via Brain Picker


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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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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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work day

Today is a work day for me (Eliza).  I’m at Starbucks, and I have to get through the following today:

50 pages of Corporations

5 library assignments

3 chapters of Natural Law, Natural Rights for Philosophy

Skim/review Research Methods materials, midterm coming up

Work on annotated outline for my independent study

Journal work—clear inbox, recruit helpers for upcoming cite-checking workshop

But the good news is that once this (excluding journal work) is done, I’m set for the week.  Since I only have classes Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, I do best when I finish all my school work before classes start Tuesday.

Here we go!




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I got to school at 7:15 today.  Which means I left home at 6ish.

Early mornings are so peaceful, and I get so much work done.  I think I’ll become a morning person.

need to do/want to do (updated)

Things I should do today:

Go grocery shopping

Go to church

Put away the groceries (with help from Alan)

Read for Public Int’l Law (about half done)

Read for Conflict of Laws (about half done)

Work on my Country Report (two more counties?) (found sources for all five countries)

Work on my Cite Pack (25 cites?) (postponed to later in the week when I have more time)

Read through my Law Review Comment and formulate ways to edit it

Clean out the fridge

Clean out the freezer

Cook a turkey breast for Alan’s sandwiches

Cook soup for this week

Prepare Alan’s lunches
Things I want to do today:

Take a nap



Did you find a typo in the post?  Let me know here.