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10 Most Viewed Posts From 2011

10 Most Viewed Posts In 2011

This is me in Koh Chang (Thailand) during Xmas 2011 holidays

Dear readers, thanks for coming to my site. These are the 10 most viewed posts in my blog during 2011. I started to blog seriously from September 2011 and I am quite happy with the amount of readers I got in 3 months.


How To Identify A Social Media Douchebag

Most of those social media gurus/experts are in fact social media douchebags. Learn how to spot them and stay away from them.

The 4 Hour Workweek Guide To PhD Motivation

Boost your PhD motivation using the learnings from The 4 Hour Workweek. Finish your PhD faster. Increase the quality of your research.

Top 7 Things You Need To Know Before You Start a PhD

7 things you are not told before starting a PhD. Ignore them at your peril, you future PhD student.

Motivation Letter Example For PhD And Graduate Jobs

PhD motivation letter sample that you can use for PhD jobs. Use this cover letter for graduate school when applying for a graduate degree.

5 Phases of PhD Motivation Explained: The Roller Coaster Curve

During a PhD, graduate students go through 5 phases of motivation, here is how they work.

Free Template: Cover Letter Template For Scientific Journal Submission

Useful template for when you are submitting a scientific article and the journal requires a cover letter.

Top 42 Books For PhD And Graduate Students

From writing papers, to giving presentations, to grad school humor. The top 42 books for PhD and graduate students. Read them to survive grad school.

3 Websites For Alternative Income Generation As A Scientist

Generate alternative income as a scientist in your free time. Do freelance work using your expertise.

How To Use The Oxford Comma

How to use correctly the Oxford Comma when enumerating items in English.

Kill Procrastination Guilt With The Pomodoro Technique

Beat procrastination guilt and determine when a day was productive enough with the pomodoro technique. You might be more productive than you think.

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The Warren Buffett Way To Improve Yourself

Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students...

Image via Wikipedia

We all want to be somebody different. We all look up to someone we would like to imitate. There is so many people, me included, that feel inadequate, not good enough.

All what we want is to be better, improve ourselves. No wonder why self-help books abound in the New York Times’ list of Best Sellers.

The truth is that very few of us do something about it.

But what could be do? Can we just change ourselves automagically?

Well you can improve yourself if you want it really badly, if you feel enough pain.

It all starts by knowing what we want to change, what is it that we want to improve. There are lots of personality traits to work on and we need to focus. Focus. Focus. Focus.

It is not precise enough to say I want to acquire more good qualities and get rid of my imperfection. The key is to know what we want to acquire.

You need to define good and bad personality traits. And Warren Buffett has a great and simple (I love simple solutions) way of figuring out who you want to be.

As an example imagine you want to be more likable. This is, that people want to be around you, that they talk positively about you when you are not there. You want other to associate with you. This is to be a likable person.

Take 5 of your friends or people you deeply admire and describe what is the most prominent personality trait that you like about them. Is it that they listen well? Maybe they think first how to help you instead of their self interest? Are they positive in most situations? Why is it that you feel good when you are close to these people?

Write down their qualities of the people you like. This is what you want to acquire to be more likable.

Now take people you dislike, those that you have a bad gut feeling, those that you don’t want to hang out or make business with. Why is it that you don’t like this people? They don’t keep their promises? Do they look down on others? Are they energy suckers? Do they never speak up their mind? are they trying to be friends with everybody, thus making you not to feel special?

Write down the traits of those you dislike. This is what you want to get rid of to be more likable.

 It’s like switching your to-do and not-to-do lists, for a to-be and not-to-be list.

If you exercise enough the good personality traits, and remove the negative ones, you will turn into a much more likable person. 



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Kill Procrastination Guilt With The Pomodoro Technique

Italiano: Autore: Francesco Cirillo rilasciata...

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Being quite a procrastinator and a time wasting guy is not easy. Many times I feel guilty for wasting my time and my employers money. At least it looks to me I am wasting them. This procrastination guilt kept piling up day after day and the feeling was not a nice one.

When the end of the working days arrives, everything left is a bitter taste in my mouth that reminds me “I didn’t do enough today”. But even having so many unproductive days my bosses think I am still being productive.

How can this be? Are they using a different measurement?

Maybe just quantifying the amount of guilt I had after a day was not a good way to assessing my productivity. Since I tend to be quite hard with myself, perhaps I was doing a bit better than I thought.

Then it came to me, I should have my own way of measuring what a satisfactory day was. I didn’t want to lie to myself and not to base my satisfaction on other people’s opinion.

Basically I wanted two know:

I needed a way to answer two questions:

Has my day been productive enough? 

  • So I don’t need to feel guilty.

Have I been so far today productive enough?

  • So I can go home or start wasting my time guilt free.

And I found the pomodoro technique.

The Pomodoro Technique

  • Work uninterruptedly and hyper focused for chunks of 25 minutes (pomodoros). If somebody/something interrupts restart the pomodoro,
  • Take 5 minutes breaks between pomodoros and a 25 minute break after 4 pomodoros.

My goal was not to do a lot of pomodoros, but just to do enough pomodoros to be satisfied.

How To Get Rid Of Procrastination Guilt

  • Spend 2 or 3 days using the pomodoro technique and working hard.
  • Count the number (P) of pomodoros of each satisfactory day.
  • Try every day to finish P pomodoros, at least.

In my case 6 pomodoros is the minimum to not call it a wasted day. On the upper side, 8 or 9 pomodoros equate to a satisfactory day. 10 or more is a ballpark day. What is your ideal number of pomodoros?

Now when I start late my working day I know how many pomodoros I need to compensate in order to be happy.

The pomodoro technique is also useful if I want to spend part of my time on side projects, I make sure I have finished 6 or 7 pomodoros before hand. Then I can move onto something else guilt-free. It is that simple.

Now I cannot fool or punish myself anymore. And sometimes I surprise myself being more productive than expected.

Parkinson’s Law and Project Management: Quick and Dirty

Parkinson's Law and Project Management: Quick and Dirty

(Photo: koalazymonkey)

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

This is Parkinson’s Law, one of the mental models used by Charles Munger and others. It comes to say: the amount of time you have to finish a task, is the amount of time you will use. So what is so special about it? Well, a consequence of this law is that if you would have less time to complete the task, you would manage to finish it in less time. The stress of the last minute would stimulate your creativity and you would wade through non-essential work, focusing on what really matters to get your task done. Jackpot!! Now we have a tool to speed up our projects:

Set tight deadlines, you will figure out ways to get the tasks done in time.

So we have in place the Quick part, what about the Dirty you must be wondering? For this part I would like to make use of the knowledge accumulated by a software company, yes, a software company, what were you think of?

Enter 37 Signals

What they do is development of web apps that make project management less painful. They have quite a peculiar approach to software development, it is more like a philosophy, and since they are nice guys (all programmers are nice guys, aren’t they?), they shared their knowledge on the amazing books, Getting Real (Paperback) | Getting Real (Kindle) and more recently Rework (Paperback) | Rework (Kindle).

From the tons of ideas they bring on the table, I would select:

  • Don’t aim for perfect, aim for good enough.
  • Simplify your projects (web apps), reduce the number of features.
  • Produce a prototype fast,  get feedback, improve prototype, get feedback, …

You can ask yourself the following question if you want to implement these ideas:

  • Can I remove this task without my project loosing its essence?
  • Can somebody already use this prototype to give me feedback?
Since they are a software company they get bitchy about features or functionalities of their software. Like Steve Jobs said about iTunes
“We don’t want a thousand features. That would be ugly. Innovation is not about saying yes to everything. It’s about saying NO to all but the most crucial features.
Quite zen, isn’t it?

Good enough, dirty enough

Why good enough if I am a perfectionist? If you don’t believe that it can save some time, think that it can save your life. I would like to finish this post with an example of how life can put you on a really tight deadline and how aiming at good enough can save your ass. The people of Disruptive Thinking give us an extreme situation when quick and dirty is vital, building a CO2 filter during the Apollo 13 Mission.

Try it for 2 weeks, A, set tight deadlines for your projects and B, determine which essential things you should accomplish so what you deliver is good enough. Get your tasks done faster and move on the next thing.