Why podcasts increase my productivity

A lot of the tasks on my to-do lists are tedious and repetitive. Housework for example. But I actually look forward to doing a lot of these boring jobs. Why? I listen to podcasts while I work. There a thousands of podcasts available on iTunes and they seem to be on just about any subject you could think of. And most of them are free – big bonus. I get through quite a lot, as I listen to them when I’m walking the dog, gardening and doing housework and ironing. It makes the time pass more quickly and I often look forward to doing something that might be tedious, like ironing, if I’ve downloaded something interesting to listen to.

Some of the podcasts I listen to are short snippets, such as the Today programme from BBC Radio 4. Each one is maybe only 5 minutes. What has been really annoying me is that when I’m listening to them on my iPhone they won’t play continuously. When each podcast ends it I have to manually select the next one. This is particularly annoying when I’m out walking the dog as every five minutes I have to stop, take off my gloves so I can use the touch screen, and switch to the next podcast. But no more – yesterday I discovered how to play continuous podcasts on an iPhone. Use the On-The-Go playlist. For some reason podcasts added to the On-The-Go playlist will play continuously but they won’t from the podcast menu. I’m sure the dog enjoyed his walk much more this morning without me stopping every few minutes. Mind you, he still kept stopping, to sniff everything in sight…

Here’s a selection of what I’m listening to at the moment from BBC Radio 4: Read the rest of this entry »


Will I get fit with Wii Fit?

Finally, months after I pre-ordered it from Amazon, my Wii Fit has arrived. And it more than surpasses my expectations.

It can be played with in a number of ways. There are over 40 activities with four basic areas – yoga, balance games, aerobic exercises and muscle workouts. And many of the activities have different levels of difficulty. This means just about anybody can find something that suits them.

I initially ordered Wii Fit as I wanted to use it for exercise. However, once it arrived and the children had a shot I realised what a good family game it is. All three of my children (ages 4, 6 and 9) have had enormous fun with it. Some of the balance games are really too difficult for the littlest one. And none of them are all that interested in yoga or the muscle training. But they love the jogging and hoola hoop games. The balance and aerobic games particularly appeal to the children as they get to use their Miis. (Actually, I think Nintendo have greatly underutilised Miis. It’s so much fun playing with a cartoon version of yourself I can’t think why they haven’t brought out more games with them.)

The first time you use Wii Fit it asks for your height and then weighs you to calculate your body mass index. You are then given the option of setting yourself a goal. My BMI is good at 23 but my trousers have been getting a bit tight around my middle recently – so I’ve set a goal of 4lb loss over 4 weeks. Shouldn’t be too hard. Famous last words… Read the rest of this entry »

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Having fun with Twitter

TwitterI first read about Twitter a few month ago but didn’t really see the point and I didn’t know anyone else who used it. Then gradually I noticed more and more of the blogs I regularly read had Twitter links. And it’s mentioned almost every week on MacBreak Weekly. The Cranking Widgets Blog had a link last month to a fantastic Paperworks video, Twitter in Plain English. It looked fun so I thought I’d give it a shot.

I tried to get friends and family to sign up too. I liked the idea of just knowing what everyone is up to, even if wasn’t exciting stuff. But no one went for it. They’re more into Facebook which I just can’t get on with. At 34 I think I’m too old for it. So nothing much happened with me and Twitter for a while as I had no one to play with.

I have come to realise though that Twitter isn’t just for following friends and family – people that you know. It’s great for looking into the lives of people you don’t actually know but feel you have something in common with. I’m now following some people from blogs I read and podcasts I listen to – Mac and productivity folk. It’s a lot of fun seeing what people are doing or reading their general comments. I suppose Twitter is really mini-blogging rather than social networking.

I quickly discovered Twitter can be quite a distraction – frequently clicking refresh to see if anyone has anything new to say. However I’m now using Twitterific which pops up new tweets as they happen which is great as I no longer need to manually check.

I thought it would be fun to add my tweets to the blog – but it turns out Twitter doesn’t work too well with WordPress. It can’t be added as an HTML widget, only via RSS. I did finally get it to work (although it doesn’t look as nice as I’d like) but I just about killed the blog in the process. Hopefully WordPress will sort this out – after all, it’s easy to add del.icio.us or Flickr widgets. It would also be good to see a decent Twitter app for the iPhone. (There was a detailed look at iPhone Twitter apps earlier this week on Daring Fireball. Conclusion – they’re either good for reading or good for posting but not both.)

Feel free to follow me on Twitter. I’m on the look out for some more people to follow too.

UPDATE: Just found this interesting blog post on Twitter by Rory Cellan-Jones



5 life-changing productivity tips

It’s amazing how sometimes a very simple change of behaviour can have a large overall life-changing effect. The following tips have greatly increased my productivity and have ultimately improved my life.

1. If it can be done in under 2 minutes, do it now

This of course is a GTD tip – when processing tasks, if it’s a quick one, do it straight away rather than leaving it for later. I started applying this to housework as well. If I see something that needs tidied and it can be done quickly I don’t put it off. An example – say I’ve been shopping and I’ve unpacked a load of stuff that needs to go upstairs to the bathroom (toilet rolls, shampoo, etc.). I used to leave a pile at the bottom of the stairs ready to take with me next time I was going up. Now I just do it straight away. What is the point in delaying? It creates clutter and it’s only going to take 30 seconds to put away anyway. And the exercise running up the stairs is good for me!

2. Reduce the frequency of checking your email and RSS feeds

I used to have my email refreshing every 5 minutes. And every time I heard the “purr” and saw the red circle on the Mail icon I just couldn’t resist having a look. It’s incredibly distracting. It now only checks for email every hour and I don’t let myself manually refresh.

Reading my feeds in NetNewsWire was even worse. I had it set to refresh every half hour. This is even more distracting than email because once I started reading I could be there for ages. Now I have it set to refresh every 4 hours and I find I’m looking at feeds about three times a day. Of course, I’m spending the same amount of time reading than I was before. But I’m doing it in chunks rather than let it repeatedly interrupt what I was already doing.

3. Keep your “hotspots” tidy

This one’s from the FlyLady. A hotspot is an area of your house that tends to get cluttered. We all have them – the place you tend to dump your post once you’ve opened it, your desk, the coffee table. Clutter breeds clutter and before you know it there’s a big pile of stuff needing tidied. Twice a day I clear my hotspots. In other words, I don’t let the clutter build up. You wouldn’t believe what a difference this has made to my house. I only have 5 hotspots that I keep an eye on so it really isn’t time consuming to keep them clear. And it’s worn off on the rest of the family – even the children understand where the hotspots are and that they should try to not mess them up. Read the rest of this entry »

Forming new habits one at a time

There have been a couple of good posts in the blogosphere this week about forming habits. Organize IT gives advice on developing healthy eating habits but the advice could apply to any life change. Zen Habits gives thirteen tips on what to avoid when trying to develop a new habit.

I have always had a tendency to want to make lots of life changes all at once. I suppose this is what most people try and do. Usually when I’m having a bit of an exercise drive I’ll also be trying to improve my eating habits. Previously, when trying to get the house tidy I would attempt to clear the whole house in one go. My attempts invariably failed.

The FlyLady introduced my to the concept of only trying to develop one habit at a time. She suggests very slowly introducing new habits (over a period of a month) in “babysteps”. I followed the advice on the website and four months later the habits are still sticking – my kitchen sink is clean and the house is presentable.

I have since applied the principle of slowly adding one habit at a time to other areas of my life. Each month I try developing another habit. Once I got the house sorted I decided to try early rising. Over a period of seven weeks I gradually got up earlier and earlier. I now get up at 6.15 (6.45 on a weekend). By doing it slowly I didn’t find it difficult at all and I now find it easy to get up early.

I’m currently trying to get into a simple exercise routine. I’ve suffered with mild back pain for years and have finally decided to sort it out. The best treatment is daily exercise – and it doesn’t have to be too strenuous. I’m doing simple back stretching exercises and the plan is to do it every day or I’m not going to get the full benefit. I find the best time of day is when I first get up and by doing them at the same time every day it’s easier to remember. I’ve also added “do back exercises” as a daily repeating task to Things – that way I won’t forget and it’s a good incentive to make sure I actually do them as I love ticking the box when a task is completed!

My pre-ordered Wii Fit arrives in two weeks which I’m really excited about. I’m also interested to see how it will fit in with back exercises. I’ll do an update next month.