Zara’s Space on the Web – Musings

December 22, 2009

Getting organised

Filed under: Personal — zarazilla @ 9:57 pm

I have 2 New Years Resolutions for 2010. I’m really already working on both of them, but I’d like to hit the ground running with them in January and for them to be fully implemented by the time 2011 rolls around.

The first one is to work on my posture. My mother has been nagging me about it for the past 22 years or so and while I’ve accepted that I have bad posture, it’s only over the past year I’ve come to agree with her that I should probably put some effort into fixing it, both to stave off potential long-term health issues and also for the puposes of how people see me, as someone who now has her foot on the first rung of the career ladder.

My second New years resolution is to get organised. Recently I’ve been finding myself rushing from one thing to the next and finding little satisfaction in doing things because I’m always thinking several steps ahead about other things I need to do, and just about making it through in a general disorganised mess. Oh, and my RSS feed? At the moment I’m standing at 423 unread articles.

Part of the problem I think is that I’m spending far too much time at work. Just last week, even though I got Friday off, I had already worked 40 hours from Monday to Thursday. But, as my friend Cate (who is also attempting to manage her time better) likes to say, I’m probably not working effectively. Which I agree with. Lately, it feels like for 95% of the time I spend at work all the internal mechanisms of my brain are submerged in molasses. I very much hope this is merely due to burn-out and that after 2 weeks of holiday I’ll return to work much refreshed and ready to work. Otherwise, there’s not really much to work around it. For me, work, at least at the moment, is the number one priority. If I have to stay until late o’clock to get things finished, so be it. But I’d rather have a life outside of work as well.

Which brings me to the next point. Lately I’ve been having a much better social life. I won’t lie to you, it is great. I enjoy hanging out with people, but I probably also need to learn to say no. I was very good at this at university, completely shutting down my social life in order to churn out masses of coursework, train 8 hours a week (which comes out to about 12 hours a week once you factor in travelling and changing time) and serve as secretary and captain/president of the karate club. While it was not completely healthy, it was okay, because I still got to see my friends while I was doing these activities, and catching up during meals at whatever odd hours we managed to remember to eat.

Work life/social life balance is slightly different. While the people I work with are fantastic people and I really like them, I’d still like to see other people. But I need to somehow ensure that I don’t go overboard so that my sleeping hours are cut short and I become highly ineffective at work, therefore having to work longer hours. This, I guess, will merely take some practice, but is something I will keep in mind.

My new social life has completely cut into my ‘self improvement’ time – the time I spend working on something. Even before the social life exploded though, I was spending this time very ineffectively. You remember that RSS feed I mentioned before? I spent about 2 hours a day catching up on the posts from Freakonomics, Environmental Economics, Core Economics, EcoGeek, RealClimate, ClimateIntel, etc. My most frightening feed is Climate ChangeS, which posts about 10 full-length reports every week. I used to force myself to read every single article in full and digest and understand each thing, but since my social life took off I really have just been ignoring my RSS feed. This is a Bad Thing, and I have set myself priorities. This is how it looks like now.

You can see the three folders near the bottom. They are read in the following order:
1) Friends
2) Must reads
3) Economics

Everything else are things I would still like to read, but are kind of ‘luxury’ items. If I have time, or I feel like I should be reading some feeds but don’t feel up to a full page of highly scary intellectualness, I’ll hit “All items” and go through them (CuteOverload posts are always fun defusers of intellecutalness).

It’s interesting that I would never have thought of prioritising my feeds the way I have until I had to; I would have stubbornly continued wasting my life away attempting to read through them all. Thanks, social life. ;)

There are a few things I would like to do which are kind of one-off things, such as learning a scripting language (this will cut down on the time I spend programming at work) and re-reading some economics texts; hopefully the next two things I will talk about will help me do them.

At heart, I’m still a computer scientist and a big gadget freak. While these are not physical gadgets, they are gadgets in that I veiw them as toys even though they are immensely helpful.

At Cate’s urging, I’ve also signed up for RememberTheMilk. I’ve only had it for a couple of weeks but in those weeks I’ve found it incredibly useful in planning and executing a turducken party (difficult to shop for when you’ve not got a car and exotic ingredients are needed) whilst things at work have gone a little crazy. Not only do I find it immensely satisfying to tick things off and hit the ‘completed’ button when they’re done, I find it also helps to have things written down. It takes some stress away to see things that you have to do written down with a time estimate rather than have them floating around in your mind and knowing you have ‘a lot’ to do. It does take some practice to realise that you can write certain things down, for instance I haven’t yet written down ‘Learn scripting language’ and ‘Read xxx’, but it’s definitely nice to know it’s written down somewhere and will not be lost to the ether.

The second gadget I like is Google Calendar. With it can write down my social and work engagements, and, with it’s ‘sharing’ feature I can see what other people are up to and more effectively plan my social life better.

Better still, Rememberthemilk has a widget that displays my todo list whenever I load Google Calendar. Excellent.

So, to summarise, here are the steps I’m going to take to get myself organised in 2010:
1) Work more effectively at work. In order to do this, I must (probably eat better and)
2) Not go overboard on the socialising. 8 hours of sleep should become a norm for me, not a freakish luxury.
3) Prioritise my RSS feed. I have already done this. :)
4) Make copious use of Rememberthemilk and Google Calendar

I’m not going to pretend that getting organised is going to be easy. I have, ever since I was a child, been a complete mess of an organiser, and only started taking on organising social activities (rather than just attending them) halfway through university. But 2010 will be the year of organisation and my life definitely needs it. Bring it on!

(If anybody has any tips on how to work on the posture, they will be very much appreciated. I have no idea how to get started there apart from straightening up everytime I remember to)


  1. Posture – invest in some MBT’s. I love mine, but you can only wear them in Canada about 2 months a year because of ice and excessive heat. Wear them every day, and you’ll start to see the difference.

    Comment by Cate — December 23, 2009 @ 4:36 pm | Reply

  2. 423 unread RSS articles is nothing; once you get to a 1000 Google Reader just gives up counting and says “1000+” :). I certainly sympathise with all your other point about not being organised enough. I often feel like I’m fluttering from one thing to another and never really achieving anything anything meaningful. But then maybe I’m overthinking!

    Anyway, hope all is well with you, Zara. Sorry I didn’t catch you when I was down in London the other month. Will hopefully see you new year… if I can get myself organised!

    Comment by Chris Paton — December 24, 2009 @ 11:01 pm | Reply

  3. Cate, not sure MBTs alone can correct my horrific posture! But I may give it a try and I was wondering if you wear your insoles in them?

    Thanks for your comments Chris, maybe you may want to try prioritising your RSS feeds too. We should definitely meet up if you’re around in Edinburgh over new years! :)

    Comment by zarazilla — December 25, 2009 @ 1:11 pm | Reply

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