Over the past year, I’ve received support from an academic coach who has helped me to become better at carving out time to work on focused writing on papers, book chapters, and grant proposals. I highly recommend her if you’re feeling overwhelmed with your academic work, are constantly working on other people’s agendas, and are looking to make lasting improvements to your academic quality of life! You can reach her at Scholars & Writers consulting (not sponsored :)).

Yesterday, I was asking her for advice on how to better fight the constant urge to check the news, social media, my phone, and whatever else digital interruption I am craving in these wonderful pandemic times. In addition to other advice, such as making a list of three to five things I would rather be doing than that, she asked me the following: do I want to produce or consume? This sounds simple enough, but is very powerful. For social media, do you want to consume whatever the latest and greatest engagement-optimizing algorithm decides is worth your attention or rather engage in activities that are adding value, either to your own life or that of others? For checking the news, is it helpful to constantly check in on ongoing events and worrying about their outcomes?

What would I rather do instead? I have many hobbies that are in many countries considered for grannies, such as crochet, knitting, sewing, where I could actually be making stuff for myself or to gift to others. In addition, I love to play story-driven videogames, enjoying beautiful graphics, worlds, and rich stories. Though games are arguably more on the consuming side of things, it inspires me more than doomscrolling does. Finally, I remembered that I actually enjoy writing a lot. Not only professionally, but also on this very blog that I began while I was still a PhD. So here we are, with a short blog post after a century of blogging hiatus. My hopes and dreams for this blog are to produce content that has the potential to be helpful to others. To produce more and consume less.

One of the things I produced recently, Raven Queen Mitts. Pattern by Jacquline Rivera

I will wrap up this post with some more recommendations of things I enjoyed not too long ago, so that the title hopefully makes sense 🙂

I’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments (hopes and dreams), but that might be too big of an ask 🙂 Whether you comment or not, I wish you a wonderful productive day!

FacebookFree – On quitting Facebook for a week

Last week I ran a little personal experiment of quitting Facebook for a week. As a PhD student who is behind a computer all day, it is alI too easy to ctrl+t when the going gets tough or when the going gets really boring. The goal of this post is not to come off as a holier than thou person who judges others for what they do on Facebook, but to self-reflect and hopefully learn from the process. I would like to summarize some personal experiences and things I learnt here.

Remote Desktop Tutorial – TU Delft edition

Earlier this week I discovered the magic of having access to my work pc from home by remote desktop wizardry. I’ve known for some time that it is possible, in a theoretical sense, but I always assumed there would be too much hassle involved. Now, thanks to the help my co-workers Francois and Ruud, I know better! And you can too 🙂

This is me doing a VMTK levelset segmentation at my TU Delft pc... On a Sunday morning from home!
This is me doing a VMTK levelset segmentation at my TU Delft pc… On a Sunday morning from home!

I will show you how to do this yourself (if you have a TU Delft desktop computer there too 😉 ) in a brief remote desktop tutorial after the jump:

My all time favorite task management system has a 24 hour sale (over 50% off) on their premium year  subscription. If you are already a premium user they’ll extend your subscription for a year ^^

Three tasks a day keeps the procrastination away

These last few months I have adopted an amazingly low-tech morning routine to start my workday consisting of selecting the three tasks I want to get done today. Sometimes our task managers can get flooded with an overload of tasks and this overload can make it hard to focus. This feeling of being overwhelmed can quickly turn into procrastination if you let it. For me it helps to pick three things that I at least want to get done that day as the first thing I do when I get to work. I am of course not the first person to think of something like this, but I just want to share this as a simple tip.

My desk setup
My desk setup with the three tasks system in the upper left (and lots of cable clutter I’m not too proud of)


By far the most popular post ever to grace this blog is the Comparison of Task Managers: Remember the Milk vs. Astrid vs. Wunderlist. Since I sneakily switched to Todoist three months ago, I now updated the blogpost to include that in the comparison. That post shallt henceforth be  known as: ‘Comparison of Task Managers: Remember the Milk vs. Astrid vs. Wunderlist vs. Todoist! To make this current post not entirely devoid of content, here’s a screenshot of my Todoist set-up:

Note the pretty project colors, my busy day, Karma stats in the top right and overall awesome design of Todoist ^^

Using Evernote to organize your PhD

Ideas, meeting minutes, lab journal notes, paper summaries, travel information, graduate school homework and project notes. During your life as a PhD you generate, process and receive so much information that organizing all of this can be a daunting task. Luckily there is great software that can help you get organized by making it easy to collect and find information across your devices. For me personally, Evernote is the best fit, so in this post I’ll show you how I use Evernote to organize my PhD.

Comparison of Task Managers: Remember the Milk vs. Astrid vs. Wunderlist vs. Todoist

A blog post topic that has been ironically lingering on my To-do list for some time is a comparison of task managers I’ve been using over the years: Remember the Milk (RTM), Astrid, Wunderlist and Todoist. If there’s anything I love doing, it’s making To-do lists and if there’s another thing I really love it’s finding cool apps that help me get stuff done. I’m by no means a GTD-fan, but I do enjoy a good AutoFocus FV session (I’ll write a blog on that technique next) and lists in general. So let’s get started with the list comparison (lol). I’ll summarize my love, feelings of meh and other assorted ramblings for Remember the Milk, Astrid and Wunderlist and Todoist below.

HabitRPG Review – Achievement Unlocked: Gamification Done Right!

I’ve been playing around with HabitRPG for a little over a month now, so as promised: my HabitRPG review! My initial impressions and description can be found in my previous post, but this post is a more in-depth review after a month of use. I backed the Kickstarter shortly after trying it out for a while and there have been a lot of updates since (not only due to my contribution, I’m sure 😉 ). The creator, Tyler Renelle, is obviously very passionate about HabitRPG and it really shows. Here’s my rundown of the things I love and the things I’m not too happy with. Let’s start with a short visual tour and after that I’ll get on with the review:

Inbox Zero Redux: reduce e-mail overload like a boss

I thought it would be nice to discuss one of the ‘golden oldies’ of e-mail overload countering here: Inbox Zero and my modifications to Inbox Zero Redux. It’s been a while since this approach was introduced by Merlin Mann (an e-mail wizard name if I’ve ever heard one), 7 years already, but I still try to get my inbox to zero e-mails daily. And actually succeed most of the times. It might be a different story if suddenly start receiving hundreds of e-mails every day, but for now, this is working well for me.