Bye Bye Procrastination, Hello Productivity! Part 3: Focus for 25 Minutes with BreakTime

Bye Bye Procrastination!

The Pomodoro Technique® is something familiar for those of us who want to improve productivity, and we have a wide range of options and apps that allows us to implement this technique.

My personal favourite is BreakTime app on Mac. It lets you set how long you want to focus on an activity and how long a break you want to take between activities. You can see the detailed settings below:

BreakTime screenshotThe screenshot of the Preferences window

What I really like about this app is that it forces me to take a break from the computer. Unless you choose to “enforce break” in the Preferences, you can always finish a break by clicking “Done” or go back to an activities for 1, 5, or 15 minutes as you can see in the following screenshot:

BreakTime screenshot 2

I find this app particularly useful when I am making notes from readings. After reading a book or an article, I annotate quotations in Scrivener and this process takes me quite a lot of time. This process is usually exhausting but taking five-minute breaks in every 25 minutes seems to make it less wearing.

You can try BreakTime for free, so I highly recommend you to try it out!

Bye Bye Procrastination, Hello Productivity! Part 2: Internet Diet with WasteNoTime

Bye Bye Procrastination!

While the Internet, including social media, is a useful tool to find various types of information as well as to communicate with people, it can easily distract us from focusing on tasks that we are trying to achieve and reduce overall productivity.

If you use Mac, you may want to try WasteNoTime, which is a browser extension available for Safari and Chrome.

WasteNoTime Screenshot 1
WastNoTime from the Safari toolbar

Here is the description of WasteNoTime from its website:

WasteNoTime is a browser extension which is designed to help you manage your time spent on the Internet more efficiently.

Time Tracker feature gives you reports on what web sites you spent most of your time. Instant Lockdown feature allows you to focus on your work for a period of time with limited Internet access. Time Quota feature automatically blocks selected web sites when you have spent a preset amount of time on them each day.

Time Tracker shows top 5, 10, or 20 sites that you access for the day, the past 7 days, and the past 30 days. In its setting, you can specify sites to exclude from being tracked.

In Block List, you can not only add sites that you want to block but also set how you want to block them—”global time quota,” “custom time quota,” and “always block.”  The time quotas are particularly useful when you want to block some sites that you want to access for limited time or you do not want to access for a specific time of day. Similarly, Allow List lets you indicate which sites to be allowed.

You can set global time quote under Time Allowed. You can see its options in the below screenshot:

WasteNoTime Screenshot 2

You can further tweak the settings under Advanced Settings, make it difficult for you to change the settings through the Challenge setting, and even import or export all the settings under Import/Export.

If you are struggling to deal with distractions from the Internet to be more productive, you definitely want to give a shot at WasteNoTime! The less time on the Internet, the more time for research!

If you do not like WasteNoTime or use Safari, you can try either StayFocusd for Chrome or LeechBlock for Firefox.

What I Learned at the SCMS 2014: Conference Report Part II

This is the second part of my conference report from the Society of Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) 2014 conference in Seattle. Here are the other panel presentations that I found intriguing!

“Andy Warhol’s Stitches” by Ryan Conrath

Conrath pointed out that Warhol used a sewing machine to stitch together four to eight often identical photographs in Stitched Works and I found that this mechanical, repetitive action and the tactility of stitches were contradictory but could lead us to consider the nature of pop art, consumerism, and postmodernism in society.

During the discussion that took place after his presentation, Conrath pointed out that Warhol told his model not to blink in Screen Tests. I wonder if Warhol’s Screen Tests series had any relevance to tableaux vivants.

“The Memory of Where the Dance Has Been: Quantum Physics, Affective Ecologies, and the Architectural Body in Daniel A. Belton’s Dance Films” by Livia Monnet

Time Dance: An Algebra of Movement (Daniel Alexander Belton, 2012)

If I remember correctly, she did not greatly engage with the necessity of quantum physics, but the use of scientific knowledge or research in humanities (and social science) often becomes troublesome: scholars in humanities and social science tend to use only particular aspects of a specific scientific research that validates their research. Regardless of this, Monnet’s research has the potential for further exploring the nature of affect and screen through dance films or screendance. The moving image that strongly integrates the physical capacity of dancers into itself can trigger viewers’ proprioceptive sensation and will allow us to examine the affective process of experience.

“Refiguring Excorporations: New Ecologies of Screendance” by Alanna Thain

Kiss & Cry (NanoDanses) (Michèle Anne De Mey and Jaco Van Dormael)

Thain’s examination can open up an inquiry into an integration of theatrical dance and screen media. During the discussion after her presentation, Thain pointed out that works like Kiss & Cry needs a better term to examine this emerging field of integrated dance and screen media and that “expanded cinema” does not necessarily provide a productive framework because of its genealogy.  Maybe, “intermedia,” which emerged around the same time as expanded cinema, can equally treat all of the elements of dance, theatrical space, and screen.


Next year’s SCMS conference takes place in Montreal and I am very excited about it!

What I Learned at the SCMS 2014: Conference Report Part I

This pas week, I attended the Society of Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) 2014 conference in Seattle. Compared to the Film Studies Association of Canada (FSAC) Annual Conference, the SCMS conference is longer and larger: it runs from Wednesday until Sunday and has up to 26 co-current panels. I have no idea how people still have some energy left after all the sessions each day (and to go out for a drink or attend events), but the SCMS conference is a great place to explore expanding fields of cinema and media studies. Here are some panel presentations that I found intriguing.

“Experimental Cinema Enters the Worlds of Gaming: Considering Phil Solomon’s Recent Works” by Hava Aldouby

Still Raining, Still Dreaming (Phil Solomon. 2008)

She underscores Solomon’s phenomenological performance in the process of making his works like Still Raining, Still Dreaming (2008) and Empire (2008-2012). I found these works by Solomon particularly interesting as they can potentially indicate a gap between watching the moving image and playing a game.

“An Architecture of Phantasms: Screen, Space, Play” by Swagato Chakravorty
“Space and Spectatorship in Immersive-participatory Cinema” by Ian Robinson

Secret Cinema: Blade Runner (2010)

Charkravorty discussed the embodied experience of phantasmagoria in relation to spatiality and screen while Robinson explored the interactive and participatory experience of Secret Cinema (2007-). While phantasmagoria and Secret Cinema are not exactly the same, they both can encourage us to examine the relationship between the spatiality and the mobility of viewers/participants and the screen. Especially within the domain of cinema and media studies, expanded cinema and intermedia would be useful to consider this thread of inquiry.

“Goodbye Cinema, Hello Moving Images!; or, Is Planet ‘Cinema’ Spinning out of Control?” by Andre Gaudreault

Although I do not agree with his overall discussion, I praise his attempt to re-construct the genealogy of the moving image. He explored the use of the term, the moving image, in French and English, and his translingual approach could potentially disclose the most common factor of the moving image that exists across different cultures. Gaudreault used “Videocinema” as the term for the third birth of film in 1955, but it neglects the institutional development of cinema or video.  Or it is rather heavily laden with the connotations of both video and cinema, and it does not allow us to engage in a full exploration of the complexity or commonality of the moving image.

To be continued to Part II…

Using Twitter Timelines to See the Trends on Your Research Topics

I don’t know how long Twitter Timelines have been available to regular users, but it is a simple way to see what people are talking about on your research topics. Major news outlets like CBC News, The Toronto Star, and The Globe and Mail are using Storify, which is a useful website to create and share your own “stories” through various social media. If you want to develop some kind of narrative, Storify would be a great tool for you; if you just want to see the trends on your research topics, Twitter Timeline may be a better option for you.

Here are two sample Twitter timelines that I made:

Twitter Timeline for the search term “affect theory”

Titter Timeline for the search term “deleuze cinema”

You just need to go to Settings > Widgets (on the side menu) > Create new. If you are an average user, you have four options here: user timeline, favourites, list, and search.

  • The user timeline option allows you to create a timeline based on a username, which could be your own or someone else’s.
  • The favourites option shows the tweets that the username of your choice has marked as favourite.
  • The list option creates a timetable based on your own or subscribed lists.
  • The search option generates a timetable based on your search query.

If you use TweetDeck, you can use the last option: custom timeline.

To find the tweets that include specific keyboards or your research topics, you may want to tweak your search query. Twitter seems to use the same kinds of basic search operators as Google. For example, if you want to find an exact phrase, you search it by adding double quotation marks at the beginning and end of the phrase like “exact phrase.” If you want to exclude tweets with specific words, you just add a minus mark in front of them like “-word 1 -word2 -word3.”

If you are not familiar with these special operators, you can just use Twitter’s Advanced Search. Just fill the search form, hit the search button, and copy the search term that appears right next to “Results for” at the top. For example, if I wanted to find the tweets that include “affect theory” in the exact phrasing but does not contain “emotion,” I would get ““affect theory” -emotion.”

(If you want to know about search operators, you can check this page from Google Help!)

Of course, we can always use more authentic online platforms for academic work, Google Scholar and JSTOR, but following the tweets relevant to your research topics may lead you to recognize a developing trend from there! Since I am interested in the nature of becoming, emergence, and affect through screen media, this may be one way to contemplate my research topic.

Bye Bye Procrastination, Hello Productivity! Part 1: Tracking Weekly Progress on an Ol’ Good Whiteboard

Bye Bye Procrastination!

Since I finished the coursework for my PhD degree requirement, I’ve been slowly and persistently developing and going through my comprehensive exam reading lists. If everything had gone as I planned, I should have finished much more readings than I have actually finished so far, but hey that’s life. The obvious reason why I’m not making as much  progress as I want is procrastination. I may be googling something continuously, checking books and some other interesting items on amazon, or watching some cooking shows on the Food Network website. Moderate procrastination may be a good way to relax during short breaks, but I definitely need a means to control the amount of procrastination.

Then, I thought that I need to have a system that makes me accountable for my (lack of) progress in the reading lists. I can do this by making to-do lists on a sheet or paper, or using to-do apps, but I wanted to have something visible but unobtrusive all the time for this.

I was initially searching for a regular whiteboard that I can hang on the wall, but then I eventually found Wall Pops! White Dry-Erase Board. It is basically a sheet of film that you can stick to (and peel off from) almost any surfaces, and you can write on it as you do on a regular whiteboard. (I bought mine at a local Home Depot store but you can easily buy one online as well.) As some of the online reviews were pointing out, it was not easy to stick the film on the wall nicely; after several tries, I gave it up and ended up putting in the side of my bookshelf. 

And, this is how I’m using it right now:2014 Week 1

Several Positive Outcomes from Tracking Weekly Progress

Since I was little, I always loved making daily, weekly, and monthly plans, but I barely stuck to them—I just felt I had accomplished a lot just by making such plans. For the past few years, I still plan my study in my head but have stopped writing/typing down the actual plans. After I started tracking my weekly progress, I’ve re-realized that what I need to do for these plans is to keep tracking the progress of my work and re-evaluate my working patterns and habits. I have noticed some positive outcomes from tracking weekly progress so far:

  1. The visible indicator of progress encourages me to keep working.
  2. This allows me to see how much work I can usually handle in a week.
  3. Lack of progress on a specific day makes me really accountable for that.
  4. It reminds me that I am making progress!

I think that the last point is particularly encouraging and crucial for PhD students since we often feel that we are not making enough progress at all.

On the top of this weekly progress section, I’ve written major deadlines such as an upcoming conference and conference abstracts, but I still need to add a section for monthly goals. I do not have much extra space on this whiteboard, so I may need to write my monthly goals somewhere else, like in my lovely Moleskine. I hope that this way of tracking progress will encourage me to work more and make me forget to procrastinate!

Which 2020 Olympic Games Promotional Candidate Video Would Win Your Vote?

I wasn’t really paying attention to the bidding for the host city for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games until the voting date. After finding out that Tokyo was among the shortlisted candidate cities, I started following the voting process on Twitter and other websites and ended up watching the webcast of the second round voting result/the announcement of the host city for the 2020 Olympic Games. That’s when I had a chance to watch the promotional candidate videos, and they caught my attention. Here are three 2020 Olympic Games promotional candidate videos for the shortlisted cities, Istanbul, Tokyo, and Madrid:

Olympic Games Promotional Candidate Video for Istanbul

Olympic Games Promotional Candidate Video for Tokyo

Olympic Games Promotional Candidate Video for Madrid

Istanbul’s video highlights its geographic trait as a port city while mingling the city’s traditional elements and modern essence. As a tourism promotional video, it would likely stimulate viewers’ curiosity about the city, but the video completely failed to make any connection to athleticism and sports. It shows a jogger early in the video and people playing basketball later, but does not effectively involve them in its narrative development. Besides, why did they use Rhianna’s “Diamond” as the background music? It was a little mystery. Instead of promoting the elegant lifestyle possibilities in the port city, Istanbul could, for example, emphasize its geographic location as a bridge between Asia and Europe and an ideal place for uniting all nations through the Olympics.

Compared to Istanbul’s “tourism promotion” style video, Tokyo’s promotional video focuses on the moment of excitement in sports: spectators cheering for athletes, athletes preparing for their matches, at the moment of performing their plays, and winning their games, and kids enjoying sports. The crescendo of its instrumental music toward the middle of the video also simulates such excitement. The video does show some of the tourist spots in Tokyo, but it mainly directs our attention to the players’ and spectators’ excitement built around the Olympic Games. The colourfully animated heart shapes that appear throughout the video not only provide a sense of national unity but also convey a message that Tokyo is the place to unite all nations through the Olympics Games. Showing children playing sports with a catch phrase, “Discover Tomorrow,” ends this video with the hope of bright future that comes through the Olympics in Tokyo. Although I have found the two shots of high school girl standing in the middle of Shibuya‘s scramble crossing a little odd, these two shots may be visually indicating accelerating heartbeats.

High School Girl at Shibuya Scramble Crossing 1 High School Girl at Shibuya Scramble Crossing 2

If Istanbul’s video focuses on tourism and Tokyo’s on athleticism, Madrid’s promotional video goes halfway between them, although it gives much more weight to tourism promotion. Three differently coloured light streams (yellow, pink, and blue) link various spots in the city by travelling through it, and also pass by a woman playing golf, a stadium, skateboarders, recreational cyclists and basketball players. While showing the scenes from San Silvestre Vallecana, a 10 km road race in Madrid, toward the end was effective, why did it not further build up the momentum of excitement coming from sports here? A few scenes of nightlife in Madrid completely flatten the sense of this excitement and closes the video like a tourism promotional video, mirroring that of Istanbul. The three light streams do illuminate various spots in Madrid, but does not clearly “Illuminate the future” as the video’s slogan goes.

San Silvestre Vallecana

Knowing the result of the host city election (and I may have a bias), but the promotional video produced by the Japanese Olympic Committee seems to reflect the spirit of sports and the Olympics most extensively and succeeds in evoking the sense of excitement of having the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan.

I’m not sure if any of the major Japanese electronics companies, like Panasonic, Sanyo, Sharp, and Sony, will be able to manufacture the futuristic handheld gadget that appears in the Tokyo’s promotional video, but I hope that we have better technology that allows us to experience the atmosphere of game sites more viscerally and to share our affective reaction to each moment of spectatorship.

Handheld Gadget 1 Handheld Gadget 2