Looking back on September

September review

September brought its usual changes in the form of cold mornings and colourful leaves. It was also a big transition for me: I’ve started a PhD! Read on for other changes and constants; please share what September meant to you in the comments!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I only recommend products that I like and either currently use or would use. If you make a purchase, you support this blog: I earn a commission at no cost to you.

As I said in the intro, I’ve officially started my PhD at the University of Reading since the middle of the month. It all seems very new, I’m slowly exploring the campus and I’ve only just got a desk to work there. My research will be exploring citizen science and urban agriculture in Rio de Janeiro’s informal settlements (favelas). I can’t say much more than that at this point, as it’s very early days.

I haven’t completely given up my job as a research assistant at the Open University however, as I am now giving talks on Saturdays at Tree Warden forums. This presents its own set of logistical challenges – such as getting home at midnight after a seven hour trip from Cockfield (!) via rainy London.

But it has also been an enriching experience, as I work on my public speaking skills and fine tune what I say to the audience in front of me. On that note, I’m thinking of reading Talk Like TED. If you’ve already read it, please tell me what you thought in the comments below!

On the 29th The Boyfriend and I celebrated our two year anniversary. We had a “breakfast party” as I had to disappear off to aforementioned Cockfield. However we are planning on going camping this weekend to extend the celebrations and spend some more time together.

I also rediscovered an old love this month… Rollercoaster Tycoon! It’s the game that started my love of computer games when I was only six or seven years old. I don’t even want to think about the number of hours I spend playing computer games these past two decades, but hey everyone needs some kind of escape! What I need to look out for now is not staying up late playing and thus effectively sabotaging any attempt at productivity the next day…

A step in a different direction this month was experimenting with times on Todoist. If you’re not familiar with it, Todoist is my favourite task-management app/website. It’s free (with a premium option available) and it’s where I download my brain. I have 30 different projects and a gazillion individual and recurring tasks recorded on it. You can assign dates to your tasks, which I’ve been doing since the start. But another useful feature that I’ve started to play with is giving tasks an actual time during the day.

In August I had a minor breakdown which led me to deleting a lot of the daily events I scheduled in my Google calendar. It was feeling rigid and overwhelming, but since then I have been yearning to give a little more structure to my days. Assigning time-deadlines to my tasks has been that happy medium for me. I get notifications for things due in a couple hours – which keeps me more on track than the “I’ll do this whenever” approach. How do you organise what you have to do? Do you think I’m crazy? Share in the comments below!

This past month also marks the start of me being an “exemplary” cyclist – wearing a helmet for the first time in years. The reason for this is to a) protect my brain box (though the jury is still out on this one); b) be in the right should any conflict arise with a driver. I’ve been cycling to Radley station on my way to London – for Treezilla work with the Tree Council – and to Reading for my PhD.

It’s only the start of autumn and my fingers have already been suffering from the cold on the way to the station! I will buy warmer gloves, but has anyone else experienced pain from cold fingers (when it’s not even ridiculously cold yet)? If you have a solution, I would be very grateful if you shared it in the comments below!

What I’ve been listening to

I love love love this take on a Shania Twain classic. If you don’t I’m not sure we can be friends!


I’ve also been digging Gusttavo Lima’s new song – try not to dance, I challenge you!


I’ve been binging on two new-to-me podcasts during my runs and commutes: Creative Pep Talk and Goal Digger. Give them a listen for actionable strategies to help you build your best life.

What I read

This month I finished the rather long (but worth it!) History of Ancient Greece, as well as Starting your PhD (self-explanatory) and The $100 Startup. I had started the latter a while ago, so I’ve read some bits several times, but I think it will be worth going back to. For instance I really like the author’s advice about creating momentum around launches.

#books #blanket #autumniscoming

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Wins & accomplishments

  • Nice transition from working at The Open University: my manager organised a lunch and a coffee break with cakes, job-sharing with the person replacing me is going well
  • Being active: running while listening to podcasts, learning to use ReadyBikes and find my way in Reading
  • Gente start to PhD: taking the time to figure out admin and subtopics


  • Not publishing enough blogposts
  • Not accomplishing enough of the tasks planned
  • Not going to everything I planned on attending, due to late starts to the day


  • Creating Todoist tasks related to my editorial calendar, rather than generic recurring blogging tasks
  • Following timing of Todoist tasks (then relaxing)
  • Waking up at a regular time

Some of the things I’m grateful for

Every day (or almost) I write down three things I am grateful for ahead of doing my “morning pages”. Here are some examples, try it out for yourself. No matter what life throws at you, there’s always at least three things to be grateful for!

  • Cycling to Radley: exercise and fresh air!
  • Choosing the slower train: more space and no need to change trains
  • Re-framing my miracle morning practice so that I don’t delay the important tasks
  • Going outside despite the rain
  • Having fruit and veg in the flat
  • Having a slow start to my PhD
  • Listening to Benny Hsu’s podcast on becoming better and happier, rather than expecting instant results
  • Having a citizen science team lunch at the Open University
  • New music on my iPod
  • Having the time to sit and read all wrapped up on the sofa
  • Committing to running like I used to in Rio
  • Going back to school!
  • Reflecting on the past month and publishing a blog post about it
  • Being more proactive with my reading (now reading Development Theory and Practice)
  • The lovely meal The Boyfriend made yesterday (risotto!)
  • Typing up a blog post
  • Gaining awareness of my unhealthy (scrolling through Pinterest, not getting enough sleep)
  • Decluttering Todoist for the upcoming week
  • Having a lot of reading to do
  • Prioritising my plans (Made in Abingdon walk and Flower Festival during the Heritage Open Days)
  • Dressing up a bit for my “last” day at the Open University campus
  • Taking my helmet with me: a little push to cycle to work
  • “Letting go” yesterday: relaxing about not accomplishing everything
  • Pleasant commute: cycling to Radley and reading on the train
  • Getting organised for the start of my PhD
  • The support I’m getting from academics
  • Learning about postcolonial feminism in relation to “development” and knowledge production
  • Wearing “autumnal” things such as my vintage blazer
  • Organising my Open University work so that there isn’t any last minute rush
  • Sunny day outside
  • Giving myself some grace to figure out my routines and schedules
  • Getting enough sleep
  • My first Tree Warden forum going well – good questions
  • Having a short journey to and from the event
  • People being happy with my talk
  • Buying felt-tip pens
  • Going for a pleasant walk
  • Taking things slowly and enjoying life
  • Being intentional with my finances
  • Generally feeling inspired
  • Playing Rollercoaster Tycoon yesterday (even if it was too late)
  • Going to campus today
  • Supervision meeting and postgraduate reception going well
  • Starting to figure out the different areas I’m going to read about
  • Having a day at home
  • The anniversary “breakfast party” going well


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Action points

  1. Celebrate a milestone! It doesn’t have to be linked to a relationship, it could be your half-birthday or a distance you’ve run for the first time. Give yourself a big pat on the back and throw a little party (for one, two or more).
  2. If you don’t already have a task management system (paper lists that you keep losing don’t count) – give Todoist a go! Try scheduling tasks and report back if it works for you.
  3. Start a gratitude list and tell me about your early autumn wins in the comments below!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I only recommend products that I like and either currently use or would use. If you make a purchase, you support this blog: I earn a commission at no cost to you.


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