To-Do lists and timers

Maybe I’m late to this party, but a I’ve tried to get more done in my days, I’ve learned to really appreciate the value of a good to-do list and timers on my phone. In fact, they may be the thing I use my phone for most — after photos, perhaps.

Concentration is a mixed blessing

I like to think that I’ve been blessed with pretty good concentration. I can focus on something longer, I think, than most and actually enjoy blocking most of the world out.

When I’m supposed to be doing things in parallel, though, that’s not always a blessing. Food that was boiling on the stove may be burning by the time I remember to check it. A kid who was told “twenty more minutes of Minecraft” may easily get forty minutes if I’m distracted somewhere else. (Though, really, shouldn’t the kid monitor the time on his own?)

I’ve found that, for these situations, teaching myself to set a timer on my phone every time I think “I’ll check that in ten minutes” — and then teaching myself not to turn the phone off until I’m on the way to check — has really made me more effective.

Sticking to something

Similarly, when I realize action isn’t required of me for another week or so… well, a timer won’t work. For that, I’ve found an app that will give me notifications that can’t be brushed away without being marked done or ‘snoozed.’ (It’s called “Tasks: Astrid To-Do list clone“)

Again, it’s been a question of teaching myself to realize “this is something I’ll forget, I’d better add it to my to-do list,” but it’s meant that I get a lot more done… and on time.

Even more, things I want to do often — liking writing postcards once a month the family — can be entered as recurring tasks. Maybe other people just think “hey, I haven’t written a postcard in a while” or “I just did my monthly invoice, that’s a reminder I should write some postcards,” but that doesn’t seem to work for me.

My recurring reminders include fitness, and cleaning the balcony. (I feed birds on the balcony, and don’t want a certain wife I know to think it’s too poop-encrusted.) Every three days, I even get a to-do notification that I should check my calendar for the next three days, so that I don’t get any surprises.

Some things — mostly coding — I keep track of on paper. When it’s time for me to code, I get out the paper I was using to take notes and keep track of things to do and look where I left off. For everything else, though, there’s a timer or a to-do list.

Call me childish

I get that “I only get done what my phone tells me to do” seems a bit childish. Or, maybe, millennial. But, I’m focussed on getting more done with lest frustration and, for now, I’m happy to have found something that works for me.

What do you do? How do you maximize your time?

The Translating Life

So, I’ve gone incognito for a while. And, while I have invested what feels like an entire weekend trying to set up a Virtual Machine for my python programming. (I’ll write about that when I’m finished being frustrated by it.)

The reason I’ve been out of touch is part of the reality of translating. Last week I had the opportunity to earn in a week translating what I normally earn in a month teaching. (Of course, I’ll still get paid for my teaching, so I just doubled this month’s income.)

So, I spent the last week basically hunkered over my computer translating a contract. It was interesting, and I got compliments on it when I was finished, but I’m still in recovery from the week spent hunkered down.

You know, one of the first things I saw when I first came to Germany was a forum conversation where someone was looking to house sit in different european capitals. The forum poster said she made her money translating and wasn’t attached to any one particular location. From that moment, I wanted to translate.

It turns out that translating, now that I’ve fallen into it as a second line of income, I appreciate the extra money. But, yeah, I miss my life whenever I get a contract. Now I’ve got to pick up a bunch of projects that have been dormant for a week.

That’s translating for you.