Category Archives: Productivity

The Podcast Post

“Sounds boring.”
“Like the news?”
“I’ll just listen to music.”

These are just a few of the responses that I’ve gotten when I’ve mentioned that I listen to podcasts, or encouraged others to do so. For those of you out of the loop, a podcast by definition is “a multimedia digital file made available on the Internet for downloading to a portable media player, computer, etc..” Perhaps this boring definition is the very reason people avoid them. Among non-listeners, I’ve noticed some pretty major misconceptions about these audio gems! For one, they don’t have to be boring. There are so many different types of podcasts that I’m confident every single person could find one that engages and interests them. They are also not all news-related (though of course, some are). I actually do get most of my news fix from my podcasts, but they certainly don’t have to serve that purpose for everyone. I usually listen to my podcasts when I’m in the car or walking for a while (time that would otherwise be totally unproductive), and they’re perfect for just that. Think about all of the time you spend in your car each week. If you were enjoying a podcast or listening to an audiobook, think of how much more you could take away from that experience. I look forward to my commute every day because of the way I spend it. I’ve heard some of the most thought-provoking stories of my life on “This American Life,” laughed with “Wait… Wait… Don’t Tell Me,” and learned to understand the global economic crisis (in a fun way) with “NPR’s Planet Money.”  I highly recommend to any non-listeners, take a moment and think about when you are on the move and least productive, perhaps even bored. Now fill that time with one of the following podcasts (all available on iTunes) that I highly recommend. You’ll never look at travel time the same way again.

 

This American Life
Genre: Radio journalism.
Quote from website:
“So usually we just say what we’re not. We’re not a news show or a talk show or a call-in show. We’re not really formatted like other radio shows at all. Instead, we do these stories that are like movies for radio. There are people in dramatic situations. Things happen to them. There are funny moments and emotional moments and—hopefully—moments where the people in the story say interesting, surprising things about it all. It has to be surprising. It has to be fun.”
Why I listen: I’ve shared many moments with this show over the past three years, during which I’ve been a devout listener. I’ve learned a surprising amount of useful information, heard countless tales and true stories that have taught me lessons and some that have changed my perspective. This is my favorite podcast by far and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.

The Moth
Genre: True Stories Told Live
Quote from website:
“Moth shows are renowned for the great range of human experience they showcase. Each show starts with a theme, and the storytellers explore it, often in unexpected ways. Since each story is true and every voice authentic, the shows dance between documentary and theater, creating a unique, intimate, and often enlightening experience for the audience.”
Why I listen: People have amazing stories tell. Period. If you don’t have the courage to make conversation with others about their lives, attend a Moth event or listen to the podcast, it may inspire you to start doing just that.

Stuff You Should Know
Genre: Informational
Quote from Wikipedia:
“The podcast, released every Tuesday and Thursday, educates listeners on a wide variety of topics, often using popular culture as a reference giving the podcast comedic value … The podcast covers a variety of odd questions and topics, like How Twinkies Work, Do Zombies Exist?, How Tickling works, and How Albert Einstein’s Brain Worked.”
Why I listen: Josh and Chuck are the funniest pair in the podcast world, as far as I’m concerned. They take you through the most mundane and obscure parts of our world, and make you laugh along the way. Before long you’ll find yourself pulling out random facts about everything mid-conversation.

NPR: Planet Money
Genre: Economics (it’s interesting and fun, I promise!)
Quote from website:
“Money makes the world go around, faster and faster every day. On NPR’s Planet Money, you’ll meet high rollers, brainy economists and regular folks — all trying to make sense of our rapidly changing global economy.”
Why I listen: The broadcasters that record and put together this show do a fantastic job at taking a topic that many assume is boring (economics) and making it extremely interesting and relevant to your immediate world and mine. Recent episode topic: Did Katy Perry’s record label make money off of her last year? The answer may surprise you.

Motley Fool Money
Genre: Investing & Finance
Quote from website:
“Discussions of topics related to recent news from Wall Street and Washington, DC that affects investors.”
Why I listen: Though I don’t have an exorbitant amount of money to invest, I like to listen to this podcast because they talk a lot about big corporations and tech companies. Listening has educated me on how good companies run, which ones are good and bad bets, and the way the business world functions.

So… which one will you listen to first?

Advertisements

New Year, New List!


Last year I posted about tools and web-apps that I use to stay productive. Among the list was 101in365.com, which has since changed its name to Accompl.sh and has established itself among the ranks of simple yet popular goal-tracking tools. While I appreciated the prior restriction of 101 goals (no more, no less), the limit has been taken away, leaving hordes of short lists with less creative or inspiring goals. When the rule of 101 was in place, I felt the site really challenged the list-maker to think about and rank the value of their goals, both big and small. The beauty of being forced to create such a long list is that you could set a long-term goal (“pay off student loans”) or a less significant but still important goal (“change my own oil”). Regardless, the website serves whatever purpose the user wants to make of it. My 2011-2012 list expired today (Day 365), and I have just locked my 2012-2013 list. My new list has 101 goals in spirit of the early incarnation of Accompl.sh and consists of goals I did not cross of my last list as well as new ones. Some of the goals I look forward to completing include…

 

14. Reach the 150 mark of IMDb’s Top 250
26. Go to The Moth
37. Finish reading the Millenium Trilogy (shout out to Teacher Girl)
60. Perfect the moonwalk
83. Vote in the 2012 General Election
98. Gain 100 Twitter followers (@eknud, help me get there!)
99. Write at least 24 blog posts

 

In the past 365 days I completed 68/101 goals and had 6 in progress when the list’s period ended today. I feel I accomplished a lot, but I moved all of my uncompleted goals to my new list because they are not to be forgotten! No goal will leave any of my lists until it is completed, no matter how many lists it takes. My goal this year is to complete at least 80 of the 101 goals. I believe this is realistic because in the process of reviewing my first list and making my second, I noticed which goals I tended to overlook. Primarily, I noticed goals which were not as easily defined, measured, or maintained were less likely to be crossed off. For example a goal like “floss every day” is technically a lost cause if I’m rigidly following the list (if I miss one day, I’ll have failed at it). However, if I establish clear minimums, I’m more likely to achieve my goals. For example, writing “Attend church 24 times” instead of “twice a month” allows for more flexibility; if there’s a month I only attend it once, I can make up for it in later months and still complete the goal. Through this and some other realizations, I feel I’ve made a much better list this year than last!

I listed just a few goals above, but there are many more! Check out my full list here. Then make your own and join the Accompl.sh revolution in 2012. Perhaps you’ll actually remember what you want to accomplish (pun intended) this year.


How I Stay Productive (while failing to blog)

About a month ago, in light of the recent rise of the popular GTD (Getting Things Done) movement, I carried out a massive overhaul of how I “get things done.” I’ve been pretty intrigued by the idea of becoming a more productive person ever since I knew I wanted to be in graduate school. I had, over time, become fully-aware that the habits that allowed me to coast as an undergraduate would just cause me to sink in grad school (e.g. cramming, partying, slacking, and the list goes on). I also didn’t want to wait until Day 1 of my program to decide to make changes to my work/play ethics (the balance is important)! I subscribed to and began reading productivity blogs like Zen Habits and LifeHack.org and learned of lots of ways to save time, money, and attention (not only in my work, but other ways as well). The following are a few techniques I’ve used or still do use to spare myself a life of procrastination and poor effort.

Pomodoro Technique – This time-management strategy involves working (really working) in 25-minute increments (called “pomodoros”), with 5-minute breaks after each pomodoro. After 4 pomodoros, you take a longer break (~20 minutes). I’ve found that this has really worked best with projects that I know will take several hours (a long paper, for example). Instead of writing a bit, pacing around, and writing a bit more, this technique adds structure to work. With a schedule like this, I’m more committed to do some hardcore work during those 25 minutes, using each 5-minute break as a motivator. There are several free web apps that are designed to time the various phases of the Pomodoro Technique, my favorite is Tomatoi.st.

To-Do List – I always keep 2 To-Do lists (hey, I never said I was a minimalist). I make the 1st list at the end of every day. Before I head to bed, I write down (on a Post-It note) the three most important things that need to be completed the following day. I carry it with me, and until these three things are done, I don’t even look at my 2nd list. The second list contains tasks that are less urgent or need to be completed over a period of time, and it’s constantly changing . Because it’s always being added to or crossed off, I find that online task managers work best for this type of list (GTasks, Remember the Milk, etc). I make the two lists because it highlights my priorities a bit better; rather than picking out three important things among a list of 15 tasks, the three important ones are the only ones I see until they’re complete. When working on multiple big projects, I find that it helps to use a more versatile task list, like Nirvana.

Long-term Goal Tracking -Every now and then I read or hear of something, and I think “I’d really like to do that one day.” A week later, the thought is lost in the abyss that is my memory (no, seriously, my memory is awful). Luckily, goal-tracking tools like 43things.com allow you to record these goals as you think of them, and you can look back on them to remind yourself of the trip to New Zealand you’re working so hard for, or the skydiving outing. Though I’ve used 43things, I find that because there’s no pressure to complete the goals, I do less to move towards them. For 2011, I made the switch to 101in365.com, which forces you to list 101 goals (however small or large) and gives you 365 days to complete them. Some examples from my list include memorizing a poem, paying off one of my student loans, and changing my own oil (you can see the rest of my list here). The time constraint makes me more excited about pursuing and completing these goals. Number 101 on my list? “Make another 101in365 list.”

Saving Money – While these do not quite help me pay off my loans, every little bit helps.

  • Pay for gas in cash. Gas stations, unless explicitly stating otherwise, often tack several cents onto the price of gas for credit card charges. Around me, the average is +10 cents, but I’ve seen as high as +12-15 cents. So when you complain about gas being $4.20 a gallon as you swipe your credit card, you could actually be paying between $4.30 and $4.35 per gallon. That certainly adds up over time! And don’t be fooled by rewards points, those 50 or so rewards points per tank amount to literally just $0.50 in most rewards programs (even 1% cashback doesn’t balance out the extra that you pay).
  • Use coupons. But only for things you needed anyway. I’ve saved a load of money using coupons properly (for example stacking manufacturer and store coupons). Research some serious coupon strategies (it may be worth it for you). If you’d rather watch couponing in action, turn the TV to TLC, they made a show out of it (“Extreme Couponing”).
  • Downgrade to a cheaper cable package. Nowadays, an internet-enabled computer can get virtually any TV show or movie, and with the right hook-up it can be connected directly to your TV. You’ll have all you need to see your shows, and you’ll never miss the channels you never watched anyway. Additionally, if it results in less TV-watching, well, I don’t need to explain how that’ll help your productivity and save you money.
How do you stay productive?