by Giles Strong

“What free time I have, I prefer not to waste” – These words have appeared in various forms in my CV over the past few years, and the reasoning behind them is not just out of wishing to avoid laziness and procrastination, but also because life is short and I want to make the most of mine.

During a typical week I will work, present summaries of my work, write these blog posts, attend physics lectures, take Portuguese lessons, practise my martial art, and practise my guitar and bass playing. Soon I will be extending this list with attending various seminars, schools, and secondments, and possibly helping to supervise undergraduate students on their summer internships here at LIP.

All these activities mean that I have to be very efficient with my time, and am constantly looking for ways to help with that. Since my last two posts were fairly physics-heavy I thought I’d take a step back and share with you some of the things that I’ve found to be helpful in managing myself and my time:

Trello

I was introduced to this by a friend who was using it to help organise the development of a software project he works on. In essence it’s an online pin-board which can be accessed via a browser or through mobile apps. One can create ‘boards’ and add lists, notes, checklists, links, and comments.

Its true power comes from the fact that one can create teams of people and add them to the boards, with any changes they make being listed in a live feed. Essentially allowing a team to always know where they stand on a project without frequent meetings or time-consuming summary emails.

A ‘To Do’ list

Quite simply, a list of things one needs to accomplish; something I’m sure many of you already have. One of my uses for Trello is as a to-do list, which means no more losing notes, items being scribbled down unintelligibly, forgetting what an item actually entails, and I can access the same list regardless of where I am and make changes there and then.

Online calendars

Again, something I’m sure many of you already use, but I was late to the smartphone game, so it’s still a novelty for me. Whilst there’s something nice about a physical diary, it suffers the same problems as my analogue to-do lists, and won’t notify me that a meeting is about to start.

Personally I use Outlook calendar, since my primary email is with Microsoft and it syncs well with my Windows phone, but Google and Apple each provide their own calendars.

Cooking

Not just a necessity, but a fun and relaxing activity. My extra-arbeit activities mean that I only have time to cook three nights a week, but rather than suffer the cost and disappointment of ready-meals, I simply make sure that there’s enough to last a few days. Even when I am less busy, I find that bulk cooking can still help with saving both time and money.

As I write, I am in the process of cooking one of my favourite meals, red dragon pie, (and enjoying a tasty beer, cheers!)

Breakfast

On the subject of food, a decent breakfast goes a long way to help with getting through the day.

Meditation

… no, seriously! I was introduced to this through Shorinji Kempo, my aforementioned martial art, where it is practised every lesson, and following the advice of my teacher I began practising it daily. After a few weeks I had worked my way up to 15 minutes and was certainly feeling the benefits; I was able to think more clearly, was less anxious and more relaxed, and generally felt happier and more confident.

Essentially it involves sitting and breathing; sounds simple, and it is, but it takes practice. For those interested, I’d suggest reading this.

Hopefully some of these may be useful to you. If you have any helpful tips, tricks, or ideas of your own, please feel free to share them in the comments. ‘til next time!