Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Essential Tools for my daily routine - The Pomodoro Techique



I've found myself tweeting three times this week about my love of the Pomodoro technique, so I thought it would be a good time to finally write a blog post about it. This has been on my list for a while as part of my "Essential tools for my daily routine" series.

I think a lot of us struggle with concentration when working from home (or in general at the moment!). While I absolutely love working from home, the distractions are different to those in the office. This is where I think the Pomodoro technique fits in.

I can't remember when I first heard of it but I remember someone having bought me my own little Tomato timer (Pomodoro is Spanish for tomato!) when I was studying for my marketing diploma in 2016/7 so I reckon I've been using it at least 5 years!

The Pomodoro technique is a super simple but really effective productivity tool. It was invented by Francesco Cirillo in the 80s, and there's loads you can read about it online, but it basically boils down to this - you set a timer for 25 minutes, work solidly without distractions for that time, then after 25 minutes you get a 5 minute break.

Sounds too simple to work, right?

But it totally does!

You won't believe how much you can get done in 25 minutes, and if you're struggling a break is never too far away. A five minute break gives you some time to check your emails, walk around, make a drink, check your phone. 

And then you get straight back to it.

I use it every single day of working from home (and I've done it in the office before, though it's hard to avoid some distractions in the office completely!). I use tomato-timer.com as my timer, plus as website blocker app which also has a Pomodoro version (it's called Block Site for Chrome). 

If I want to super focus I close my email and Slack too for the 25 minutes, and I always work with my phone in another room. (If your phone is an issue, I highly recommend downloaded Forest App - another app I need to write about!)

After 25 minutes I can go pet my dog, make a drink, say Hi to Phil, check the news, have a little break. Then I can jump straight back in! 

I have to be honest, I don't use it religiously for every single minute of my working day, especially as sometimes you need to be available on email or Slack, especially working from home. Purists would restart a timer as soon as they got distracted, and make a note of every single Pomodoro they completed, or ensure they are straight back to work after 5 minutes (to be honest my kettle is pretty slow!) but hey, times are hard so do what you can!

Some days I only manage a couple of Pomodoros a day, other days, especially if I have big projects to work on, I can resurface, blinking into the sun, after hours of Pomodoro-ing!

It doesn't have to be for work either. While I was furloughed I did loads of online courses and I used it for that, but it could also work for tasks like cleaning and tidying when you're finding it hard to get motivated!

I hope this was helpful and please let me know if you try it!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 3 January 2021

December Life Lately

Happy 2021! It feels a bit weird looking back on December after my last few posts looking back on the whole of 2020, but here's what I did in the last month of the year...

What I did




I wore 25 different lipsticks throughout December. I blogged about them here.

I also completed my second full month of daily yoga with Adriene's Honor calendar. I've loved doing yoga every day! I always forget how much I love it and how much it chills me out, and of course the more I do it the better I become and the more I enjoy it! I was originally planning to keep going with the January 30 days which I normally do every year, but I've decided to try something new for January. I've just started using a new fitness app, Fiton, which is free, and I really like it so far, but I've heard great things about the Peloton app too.



Phil and I got really into cocktails in December, thanks to two things. One was I did a zoom cocktail making class with one of our suppliers at work, and not only was it amazing fun, but they also provided us with an excellent cocktail shaker, as well as all the drinks we needed for mixing. Then, after months of trying to find the perfect one, Phil found a drinks trolley he liked, so of course we had to fill it! Our drinks trolley so far is nearly entirely gin and whisky, so I've been learning about gin-based cocktails and had so much fun making them. My favourite at the moment is a Gimlet.



I've mentioned before the work we've been doing on the house, and in December we finally finished the hall. We added a radiator cabinet, a lovely new mirror and we got some shoe racks from Etsy which I painted white to match the walls and floor. 



I was gutted to find out a few weeks about that one of my favourite podcasts, The High Low, was finishing after four years. I was super late to The High Low and only discovered it last year (soooo much back catalogue to work through - the best!) so I was particularly gutted to find out it was finishing. However they did one last High Low episode in December - a live episode for charity. It was so lovely and I got Phil (and Bob) to watch it with me. It was the perfect ending.



Christmas was obviously a little bit different this year. I was so gutted we couldn't do Christmas Day parkrun this time and I really loved hosting Christmas Dinner here last year (even though cooking for 9 people was super stressful!). This year we had a lovely time taking Bob for a Christmas Day walk, saw my parents and video called Phil's family and had a really lovely day. I got loads of jumpers, socks, pyjamas and slippers, plus a few games and lots of other lovely things. It wasn't quite the Christmas we wanted but we had a lovely day.



I was hoping to get out for lots of walks between Christmas and New Year, but due to lots of snow it wasn't quite possible! I did manage a doorstep present exchange with my friend Riven who made me the most incredible tote bag and kindle case in the most beautiful book fabric.

I've never been super bothered about New Year's Eve, so staying in with my boys was absolutely fine by me! We had lots of party food and a bottle of fizz, and we watched Hamilton to keep me awake til midnight!

What I loved

I'm currently obsessed with Uniqlo heattech thermals. Our house is freezing, and I'm also really tight, so to keep our bills down I've started wearing a thermal top under my jumper for work. I was about to place an order for more when I asked on Twitter what else I should get from Uniqlo, and my friend Sarah recommended the fleeces. I got a fleece jacket and it's the warmest, cosiest item of clothing I have. I've already ordered a second one from Depop!

I love scouring through end-of-year lists to find the best podcasts of the year, and that's how I discovered the 2020 podcast. It looks back on 00s pop culture with 20 years of hindsight. Episodes I've listened to so far include reality TV, Destiny's Child and Craig David.

Over the summer when I was furloughed I got really really into cross stitch, but as soon as I started working again I completely got out of the habit. I picked up my most recent piece a few weeks ago and I'm really enjoying getting back into it again. I'm working on a super detailed llama cushion and there's so much to do but it's definitely keeping me busy!

What I read

I finished 2020 having doubled my Goodreads goal and hitting 142 books read. This was definitely helped by reading 10 books in December.

Here's everything I read in December:
  • The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell
  • Ironopolis by Glen James Brown
  • The Imposter by Anna Wharton
  • Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
  • Long Bright River by Liz Moore
  • Deity by Matt Wesolowski
  • Actress by Anne Enright
  • The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly
  • The Comeback by Ella Berman
  • The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans

I was also helped by my local library being open again! I managed to pick up 3 books I've had reserved since March - Hot Milk, Long Bright River and Actress. I particularly loved Long Bright River which I read in about a day.

I had a couple of advanced proofs this month - forever grateful to Netgalley for this! I read the new Laura Purcell, The Shape of Darkness, plus The Imposter, and my favourite book this month, The Office of Historical Corrections.

I also particularly loved The Comeback and Ironopolis.

What I watched

I went hard on the festive content this year. We had a list of all the Christmas films and TV shows we wanted to watch, and due to a lack of Christmas parties and other festivities we managed to watch them all!

Here are our festive film watches:
  • Gremlins
  • Muppet Christmas Carol
  • Home Alone 2
  • Klaus
  • Die Hard
  • It's a Wonderful Life
  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles

New-to-me non-festive watches in December were Mank and Soul and we also revisited Zootropolis and Hamilton, and after a bottle of champagne to celebrate 3 years since we got engaged on Boxing Day, I finally got Phil to watch Cats!

We also love the Vicar of Dibley specials. The Vicar of Dibley is one of my all-time favourite TV programmes and always reminds me of my parents so I loved the new short episodes that came out this year.

What I read online

Writing Between Pauses - How to set goals for 2021
Alice Slater - #CookJan in 2021

Hope your 2021 is going well so far!

Charlotte x

Friday, 1 January 2021

2020 Favourites




I wrote my review of 2020 here, but I really enjoy writing a separate post on my favourite books, films, podcasts and other things I enjoy each year.

Most of these are not new, but new-to-me. 

Here's what I loved in 2020:

Books

I finished 2020 having read 142 books - a few more than my original goal of 70 books!

Thanks, Global Pandemic!

I am hugely grateful that in 2020 I signed up, and was approved for, NetGalley, which means I'm fortunate enough to receive free advanced copy for some books that I request in exchange for an honest review. It's been an absolute gamechanger for me over the months that libraries have been closed!

It's been both really hard and really easy to pick my favourite books of 2020. When asked, my top 3 were for sure In The Dream House, Boy Parts and My Dark Vanessa, with special mentions to Scabby Queen and The Most Fun We Ever Had.

If I had to pick one single book of 2020, it would undoubtedly be Boy Parts. You know my love of American Psycho (I wrote my undergrad American Studies dissertation about it) and Boy Parts is like a modern, feminist, subversive and horrific American Psycho. I want to buy a copy for everyone I know.

Here are my top books I read in 2020:
  • In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
  • Boy Parts by Eliza Clark
  • My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russel
  • Scabby Queen by Kirstin Innes
  • The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
  • How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell
  • How do we know we're doing it right? by Pandora Sykes
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Benett
  • Why I'm no longer talking to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • Deity by Matt Wesolowski
  • So you want to talk about race? by Ijeoma Oluo
  • The Choice Factory by Richard Shotton (this was work-related but it still makes my list for being brilliant!)

Audiobooks

I've split audiobooks out from my reading list, though they count towards my reading goal, as I consume them differently and I have a very different approach to what I want to listen to compared to what I want to read with my eyes. 

I only read non-fiction on audio, and to be honest I got back super into podcasts in 2020, so I listened to a lot fewer audiobooks than I had done previous (I also no longer had to drive to work from March, which was when I would often listen to audiobooks). However, I still listened to some fantastic books - these were my favourites:
  • Alchemy by Rory Sutherland
  • Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch
  • Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper
  • Dopesick by Beth Macy
  • The Woman who Fooled the World by Beau Donelly

Films

I watched A LOT more films in 2020 than I would do in a normal year. I'm not a bit rewatcher normally because we usually only watch one film a week on a Sunday night, so I like to watch something new, but that went out of the window in 2020 (I think we watched Game Night twice over about 6 weeks).

This list, however, is all films I watched for the first time in 2020. These were my favourites:

  • Host 
  • Searching
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire
  • Klaus
  • The Invisible Man
  • Soul
  • Carrie
  • Hamilton
  • 13th
  • Your Name
  • Tenet
  • The Farewell
  • Hoop Dreams
  • Before Sunrise
  • The Lighthouse
  • Uncut Gems
  • Parasite
  • 1917
  • The Talented Mr Ripley

And TV shows that I loved in 2020
  • The Americans
  • I'll be Gone in the Dark
  • The Last Dance
  • Cook Eat Repeat

Podcasts

I feel like you're either a podcast person or you are not a podcast person. And if you are not a podcast person you don't get it, and if you are a podcast person you don't know how anyone could go through their life without podcasts. I am the latter.

I listened to sooooo many podcasts in 2020. I have a weird system for my podcasts too - some are for running, some are for while I'm working, some are for day-to-day, some I save for "special occasions". 

These were my favourite listens in 2020:
  • You're Wrong About
  • The High Low
  • What Page are you On?
  • You Must Remember This - Six Degrees of Song of the South
  • Twenty Twenty
  • Brought to you by
  • Decoder Ring
  • The Missing Crypto Queen
  • The Butterfly Effect
  • Maintenance Phase
  • Nice White Parents
  • Uncover: Satanic Panic

Cookbooks

Like with everything else on this list, I did soooooo much cooking in 2020.

And I even eventually got SO SICK OF IT OMG LET'S JUST HAVE TOASTIES FOR TEA.

However, I have used some excellent books in 2020. I've kept this to new releases, but I've also loved cooking from some of my old favourites, like my Anna Jones books and The Roasting Tin books (I wrote about my favourite Roasting Tin recipes here, and my favourite vegetarian recipe books here). 

Here's what I loved to cook from in 2020:

  • Flavour by Yottam Ottolenghi (review here and here)
  • The Roasting Tin Around the World by Rukmini Iyer (review here)
  • Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley
  • Jerusalem by Yottam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
  • Start Simple by Lukas Volger (review here)
  • Charred by Genevieve Taylor (review coming!)
  • One Tin Bakes by Edd Kimber (review coming!)
  • All of the Roasting Tin books

Blog posts I wrote

I wrote 50% more blog posts in 2020 than I wrote in 2019. Admittedly, there wasn't a lot else to do! But I am so glad to have got a bit of my blogging mojo back in 2020. I have a 20 point lists of blog post ideas, and in 2021 I want to keep trying to write short, quick blog posts rather than these 1000+ word posts (like this one...). 

But I am really proud of a few blog posts I wrote this year (of course, the really long ones...) if you don't mind me indulging in a little self promotion...
Here are some other miscellaneous things that I loved in 2020:
  • Uniqlo thermal jackets
  • Uniqlo thermals
  • Bamboo socks
  • Headspace App
  • Yoga with Adriene
  • Monopoly Deal card game
  • Cross stitch kits from Plastic Little Covers
  • Sugarhill Boutique jumpers
  • Blockbuster board game
  • Coffee and Kin recyclable Nespresso pods
  • Buying all my clothes off Depop
  • HappyFeed app

I'm excited for more reading, more writing, more films and more podcasts in 2021!

Charlotte x