How a Walk in the Park can Make You More Productive and Boost Your Immune System

How a Walk in the Park can Make You More Productive and Improve Your Health

Boost your immune system, combat depression and be more productive by taking a walk in nature. 

Have you ever wanted to throw your computer out of the window, or in the absence of a window, the nearest irritating person?

When it comes to the crunch, literally, would this solve any of your problems? You might feel a buzz for a brief moment, before realising that you’ve destroyed your most precious possession. But the answer is simpler than you think. Getting out into nature can improve your mood, boost your immune system and help you fight off infections. The effects can also last for up to a month.

Your Mental Health and Coping with Deadline Pressure

There are days when the pressure gets to you, especially when you’re pushing to reach a deadline and putting everything into responding to every inconceivable bleat of a demanding client. When your email inbox is buckling under the weight of repetitive deadline reminders, whilst you’re trying to capture the essence of a business into a catchy strapline that will magnetise customers, the last thing on your mind is taking time off to commune with nature.

But what would happen if you did the unthinkable and close you computer for an hour and go native, heading out into the wilderness? Will the world stop spinning? The emails will still be there, but it could be beneficial for your health and also for your productivity. It can also help improve communication with your colleagues and clients.

two people walking along a path through a green forest to promote boost your immune system with nature

Boosting Your Immune System with Nature

Recent scientific discoveries have shown that natural environments have chemical and biological agents that improve health. Many plants contain phytoncides, which are antimicrobial volatile organic compounds that protect the plant from being eaten or decaying. These compounds have been found to reduce blood pressure, alter autonomic activity and boost immune functioning (Komori et al., 1995; Dayawansa et al., 2003; Li et al., 2006, 2009). Instead of shrivelling away in a darkened corner, talking to yourself and pouring over your precious computer, actually stepping out into the world can actually prevent you from rotting away.

Walking Can Help with Depression and Immune Response

Finding your way out into natural sunlight can also help with your mood and combat depression, as forests, mountainous areas or moving water have higher concentrations of negative air ions (Li et al., 2010; Terman et al., 1998; Goel et al., 2005). These environments also contain mycobacterium vaccae, a microorganism that appears to boost immune functioning (Lowry et al., 2007). Not only will you be less pasty, you’ll also feel better about yourself and your clients, helping you respond in a more positive way.

Shinrinyoku: Japanese Forest Bathing

The Japanese have got this sussed, and have for some time. Forest bathing in Japan has been recognised as a valid form of relaxation and therapy, with robust studies on the wide-ranging benefits of the natural environment. Research on twenty-five men and women was conducted on the effects of forest bathing, with blood and urine samples taken before and after a three-day trip. Natural killer (NK) activity, which provides rapid responses to virus-infected cells, was measured and was found to be significantly higher following the trip.

These findings indicate that forest bathing trips increase NK activity, which was mediated by increases in the number of NK cells and the levels of intracellular anti-cancer proteins. Phytoncides released from trees and the decreased production of stress hormones may partially contribute to the increased NK activity (Qing, 2010).

This was after only three days and two nights in the forest. They also took further measurements of the participants and found that the effects of being in nature lasted for up to thirty days. This mean that you don’t have to run out every day to find a few trees. Regular jaunts into the wilds can have lasting and powerful effects on your mind and body.

Taking all these beneficial factors into account, isn’t it worth taking a break and getting out into nature? Wouldn’t it be better to work with a strong immune system whilst feeling less depressed and a reduced risk of heart problems? So put the computer down, step away from the computer and get your walking boots on.

Dr John Rowe is an experienced copywriter, empowering health and wellbeing businesses to increase visibility, attract clients and save time by creating exciting targeted content. For more information on  copywriting, content marketing and social media, email or call 0800 852 7258

How to Write SEO-Friendly Blog Posts

How to Write SEO-Friendly Blog Posts

Supercharge your blog posts and get them seen with these simple, but highly-effective tips 

You don’t have to be an amazing writer to create SEO-friendly blog posts, nor do you need to be genius coder, but you do need to follow a few basic rules to increase your chances of getting hits. Here are my top tips for getting visible and increasing your blog traffic.

Think About Your Audience

Think about how your reader is going to find your blog. What will they put into a Google search to find your content? There are loads of tools out there to give you a helping hand such as Google Trends or putting ideas into a Google search to find alternative suggestions. This is even more effective when using Keywords Everywhere browser addon to find the search volume and competition for each phrase. These are free to use and will give you an idea of what people are searching for and the popularity of your topic. It can also give you associated search terms to widen your scope. You could also take a peek at what your competitors are doing with SEMRush and get ideas for alternative keywords and how much traffic they’re getting and from where.

Write the blog post so it’s clear what you’re trying to say from the headlines alone. This draws in your reader and will pique their interest to read more.

Make Your Headlines Count

An important factor to consider is that individual keywords in themselves are highly competitive. People don’t put in single words into a Google search, they put in a string of words, for example, ‘how do I write blog posts for SEO’. This is called a longtail and can give you far better results because you’re focussing in on what your potential customer is going to search for.

Headlines are for Longtails and Keywords

Make your blog post crystal clear with headlines and subheadlines that echo your longtails and keywords. Each article should have one main headline, and one only. This is called your H1 and it holds more weight when it comes to assessing how your post ranks. Your supplementary headlines should be H2s, H3s, etc.Write the blog post so it’s clear what you’re trying to say from the headlines alone. This will draw in your reader and will pique their interest to read more.


Optimise Your Images for Keyword Search

A blog post with captivating images looks amazing and can encourage people to read your post, but they can also enhance your posts ranking. Google is great at reading text, but it can’t read photos. Adding alt texts to your images can help you get found on image searches and it will add to the overall focus of your blog.

Internal and External Links

There is an opportunity with every blog post to advertise other pages on your site. But this needs to be done subtly and sparingly. Hyperlinking every other word, not only looks spammy, but will get you penalised for… being spammy. Two or three natural links to appropriate pages will be enough to give the search bots an idea of what your site looks like and also will get people to click onto other pages.

Linking to other sites is also a great way to give your reader more information, but make sure that you only link to relevant pages that add value to your post.

Following these simple steps every time you post will get you increased online visibility and help increase traffic to your website.

If you’ve enjoyed reading about SEO-friendly blog posts, don’t forget to subscribe for more top copywriting and content creating tips.


Doctor John Writing Services offers SEO copywriting for businesses, a transcription services and high-quality proofreading services for students, specialising in PhD thesis editing. For more information on PhD help, proofreading, content marketing and social media email or ring on 0800 852 7258

Achieve Business Success: 4 Practical Tips to Realise Your Business Goals

Achieve Business Success

 4 Practical Tips to Realise Your Business Goals

The turkey’s finished, the decorations are down and the trees are bare, ready for collection. The holiday’s over and the resolutions for the new year swirl in the back of your mind. Resolutions are great motivation to start with a new sense of purpose and energy to achieve business success and realise all those goals and dreams; creating new habits, breaking old patterns and establishing a strong, fulfilling and productive routine. However, these ideals and brilliant plans can fall on stony ground without practical plans to nurture and help them propagate.

Setting out a new working routine or making simple changes can seem trivial, but they can make the difference between achieving your goals or letting them fall by the wayside. The following tips are designed to get you on track and to fulfil those intentions.

Plan your Working Day

Particularly if you’re working for yourself, without anybody looking over your shoulder and breathing down your neck, monitoring your output and whether you’re achieving targets is an arduous task. Without any external influence or encouragement, the onus falls on you to be self-disciplined and to find the inner resolve to just sit down and engage with what you need to do. From bitter experience, I’ve found that just starting the day without any sort of plan usually ends in disaster. Yes, the washing gets done, the kitchen’s cleaned and you’ve reached your highest score on Tetris, but as far as achieving your work objectives, you might as well have stayed in bed. Planning your day can focus the mind and help you monitor your progress. Doing this the evening before can allow you to programme you mind to wake with the right intentions.

Planning your day can focus the mind and help you monitor your progress. Doing this the evening before can allow you to programme you mind to wake with the right intentions.

Write a To Do List for Business Success

Writing a list of tasks the previous day or before starting work will help you assess and prioritise the important tasks, rather than avoiding them and letting the low-level stress build. Focusing on the most urgent tasks first can reduce your stress levels and release endorphins, making you feel better about your work. However, some tasks can seem insurmountable, which brings us to the next point.

Break Down Business Projects into Achievable Tasks

Breaking down large projects, that can seem abstract and ungraspable, into manageable concrete actions and tasks can make the amorphous monster of a mountain not as imposing as first thought. A project with multiple parts that can take weeks, months or even years to complete can always be reduced to a series of daily tasks that will get you one step closer to completion. This can also be broken down further into chunks of thirty minutes. Using techniques such as the Pomodoro Technique are incredibly useful for this and also for ways to avoid both internal and external distractions.

Find a Business Support Network

As a proofreader for PhD students and copywriter for businesses, I spend most of my time alone, with only my laptop for company, which can lead to a lonely and isolating existence. With no colleagues or co-workers to banter with or share ideas, maintaining focus and motivation is a continual struggle. Working in cafes can help with this. Having a change of scene prevents you going stir crazy and having an interesting and comfortable environment can be an inspiration to work. Support networks can also help. Finding other lonely souls who are also working alone and need inspiration and encouragement can help tremendously. Finding or creating local silent coexistence groups is an opportunity to connect with others, where you all meet in a cafe or suitable location and work together on your own project silently. Having somebody work alongside you can give you focus and there’s always cake to share if the going gets tough.

These are just a handful of practical tips to help you be more productive and to achieve business success. They might seem simple and obvious, but putting them into practice can mean the difference between success and failure so why not give them a try and see for yourself.

Doctor John offers high quality proofreading services for students and businesses, specialising in PhD thesis editing. For more information on PhD help, proofreading, content marketing and social media email or ring on 0800 852 7258

PhD Help: Advice for Doctoral Students

PhD help

PhD Help: Advice to Doctoral Students

5 tips to help you survive a PhD and maintain your sanity. 

PhD help can come in a variety of forms. After starting Doctor John Proofreading after finishing my PhD, I focused on helping other doctoral candidates survive the ordeal. A PhD thesis can take years of study, determination, guts and heartache, which can take its toll on your health, relationships, bank balance and mental state.

PhD Pressures, Depression and Anxiety

I hear, time and time again, of enthusiastic students bursting with energy and dynamism, dropping out or turning to anti-depressants to help with the pressure of struggling to achieve the seemingly impossible. When I started out on my own PhD journey, I threw myself into it wholeheartedly. I worked in the research room, helped build a vibrant research community, set up a reading group, became student rep, attended conferences, etc. I thought I had plenty of time. The excitement of working on something I loved was exhilarating. It was great opportunity to develop different skills and to put all of these extra-curricular activities on my CV, but, in retrospect, I should have been strategic in how much time I was dedicating to my research and prioritised my time more effectively. When I reached my third year, I realised how much work I had to do. I received some negative feedback that floored me. I hit a wall and struggled to get past this seemingly insurmountable obstacle. I couldn’t face reading about my subject, picking up the threads of arguments or anything to do with it. I was stuck, depressed and debilitated, with the mounting pressure to succeed.

I was no longer a multi-faceted human being capable of a myriad of thoughts and emotions. I was the PhD. If I failed to write the PhD, I would fail as a human being.

Second Year Dip

This happens in most courses. You start off with enthusiasm and excitement at starting something new and fascinating, then, as the novelty wears off the drive gradually peters out and you end up forcing yourself to even look at a book associated with your topic. Then the final push where you realise you haven’t done enough and you just have to get something in.

Everybody that I met asked me one question. The question that I dreaded and deflected. The question that defined who I was. ‘How’s the PhD?’ I was no longer a multi-faceted human being capable of a myriad of thoughts and emotions. I was the PhD. If I failed to write the PhD, I would fail as a human being. I deflected the question with sarcasm, monosyllables and various diversionary tactics to steer the conversation on to something else. 

It was only when my Director of Studies told me that I had to finish by the following Christmas that I started to knuckle down. That realisation that I had to produce something and the fear of failure was the driving force that got me sat down and studying again. I worked solidly through Christmas and new year and finally submitted it. There were no trumpets, no fanfares, no ticker tape parade, just exhaustion and the need for sleep. From this ordeal I have gone on to offer PhD help, supporting countless doctoral students struggling with their PhD theses.

Start Writing as Soon as Possible

I spent a great amount of time reading as much as possible on my subject. There seemed to be no end to the amount or books, articles and sites dedicated to what I was researching. I thought that I hadn’t read enough to start writing. Looking back, I wish I’d have started writing earlier. Only when I started to write did I understand the gaps in my knowledge and where to place what I was reading into the framework of my research. 

Make Notes of References

When you come to the end of your thesis, the last thing you want to do is to try to remember the reference you found two, three or four years ago. Using Endnote can help with this. It might seem a lot to learn and get used to, but it will help tremendously in the long term. 

Mock Vivas

Vivas can be daunting. Having to sit in a room and defend your thesis, something that’s so close to your heart and personal can be a terrifying experience. The one thing that helped me was having mock vivas. Two of my supervisors separately conducted practice vivas the week before the real thing. It helped in a number of ways. First, it helped me familiarise myself with being in the physical space of the viva situation. Second, it allowed me to articulate my ideas coherently. It is one thing to read and reread your PhD thesis, it’s another thing to express the intricate points verbally. Third, it highlighted questions that I hadn’t thought about and where the potential sticking points were.

Manage Your Time Effectively

Set yourself targets and get into a good routine. It took me a while to realise that, without these two key factors, the day and my working time shrunk to nothing. Whether this means working in the research room with other doctoral students or just making sure you’re at your desk at a certain time, as long as you get into a productive working pattern, that’s all that matters.


Working with Others

PhD help also takes other people into account. Working on a PhD can be a very lonely and isolating experience with periods of inactivity and self doubt. It can feel that you’re on your own and that nobody understands what you’re going through. This is why working with others can help provide the support you need and the motivation to engage with your work. This doesn’t mean having to hire an office or work in a stuffy research room; working in a cafe is just as effective, as long as they have the three essentials: plug sockets, wifi and good coffee. It doesn’t mean that you have to be working on similar things either, the fact that you’re alongside someone who is engaging with work is a powerful motivator.

Doctor John offers high quality proofreading services for students and businesses, specialising in PhD thesis editing. For more information on PhD help, proofreading, content marketing and social media email or ring on 0800 852 7258

7 High Value Sites to Improve Your Website Ranking

Website ranking

7 High Value Sites to Improve Your Website Ranking

Finding Interesting and Engaging Content for Website Ranking

Improving your website ranking is a challenge. With so much information, it’s easy to get saturated and overwhelmed. The invasion of the cute cats and insanely grotesque images of the world of the strange and vaguely interesting pull you further away from what you want to achieve: finding and posting interesting and engaging content that potential visitors will want to read, engage with and return for more. There’s so much guff and distracting content blinding you to the important gems to help you find something to talk about, tweet, comment on, retweet, post, etc.

the objective is not to “make your link appear natural”; the objective is your links are natural.

Matt Cutts

Make Your Site Visible

Having a website or blog amidst the clamour of competing content and trying to improve your website ranking can feel pointless, leaving you thinking how people are going to experience your drop in the cyber ocean. But there are ways to improve your visibility and get your voice to sing above the caterwauling. Posting links to your site can funnel visitors to your content and can improve your ratings, which means better Google rankings.

Here are just a few gems that are worth signing up to. You don’t have to spend hours on them; signing up and linking your website or blog is good enough in most cases,


Stumbleupon is a website and app that provides user-generated content from a wide variety of sources categorised into interests. Browse through content with one touch and give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down, then post to social media to share the joy. This is a very popular site and offers the opportunity to upload your own website, blog, etc., which provides a powerful backlink to your site.


This is highly popular site that is useful for searching for infographics, content and links to fascinating websites and posts. Post an image or video from your website or blog and create powerful links to specific pages and reach a far wider audience.


Reddit’s popularity is mainly found in the US and provides user-generated content that can be upvoted or downvoted. Links can be uploaded, targeted at specific communities and can provide a powerful backlink.

When you have a lot of work to get through, navigating through social media content can absorb you for hours. Cut through this and find the content that your viewers will want to consume and keep consuming.


This is a colourful canvas to share social media posts for a far wider audience. This is yet another strong link to direct to your website or blog.


This is a fascinating site with talks and discussions on a wide range of topics. Definitely a place to go to feel inspired and invigorated and it can also give you a powerful backlink.

7. Google Plus

If you want to improve your rankings and visibility of Google, one of the best ways to do that is to use Google. Keywords and phrases from posts rank highly and your Google Plus page can even rank higher than your main website.

But as Matt Cutts from Google says,

the objective is not to “make your link appear natural”; the objective is your links are natural.

Engage with these communities and talk to people. Get involved with discussions on your topic and become a source in knowledge and information.

Doctor John offers high quality copywriting and proofreading services for students and businesses, specialising in website content, blog posts and PhD thesis editing. For more information on proofreading, content marketing and social media email or ring on 0800 852 7258


Writing tips for improving your essays

5 Simple Writing Hacks

Writing Tips for Improving your Essays and Getting Better Grades.

Writing tips can be found all over the internet and you can easily get bogged down with too much information. So here are five simple writing tips to simplify things. Reading countless essays and proofreading students’ work can be stimulating and rewarding with the chance to read about interesting ideas with a fresh look on the world, but it can also be frustrating, with the same mistakes appearing again and again. In order to stop your lecturers banging their heads against the wall, here are some top writing tips for writing essays and getting better grades:

 1. Read your Essay Through

As writing tips go, this may seem like a simple thing, but you’ll be surprised at how many people don’t do this simple task. Reading your essay once you’ve finished writing it can help prevent many errors and can make a lot of difference. This could mean the difference between a 2:2 and a 2:1 or even a 2:1 and a first. It shows that you’ve taken care. It also highlights where you’ve repeated yourself and where a section just doesn’t make sense. There’s nothing like sloppy work to make a well-produced essay lose marks. 

Reading your essay once you’ve finished writing it can help prevent many errors and can make a lot of difference. This could mean the difference between a 2:2 and a 2:1 or even a 2:1 and a first.

2. Be Consistent

If you decide on using a particular referencing style or font, or anything in an essay, the rule is: be consistent. For example, decide on whether you are going to use single or double quote marks. However, this depends on the referencing style you have to use. There are over 3,000 referencing styles, so check which one you’re expected to use and stick to it.

3. Answer the Essay Question

A captivating, witty, erudite essay that shows the reader a depth of knowledge and a clear understanding of the topic is worthless, unless the question is answered. It’s no use waxing lyrical about the industrial revolution and the impact of the cotton industry just because you know about it, when the question asks about social media. It is also a good idea to read the marking criteria so you know what you’re going to be marked on.

4. Structure your Essay

It’s so easy to just start writing without thinking about where you’re going. This is like driving down a random road till you run out of fuel and end up completely lost with no time left to do anything about it. Structure your essay before you start and get feedback from your tutor or lecturer. The basic structure should have an introduction, the main body of the essay and a conclusion. The general rule for this is that the introduction should say what you’re going to say, the main body of the essay says what you want to say and the conclusion says what you’ve just said.

5. Use your Own Words in Essays

You need to use quotes in your essay to back up your argument, but don’t rely on them too heavily. Use quotes to back up your argument and explain what the quote means in your own words. If you don’t know what a quote means, you shouldn’t be using it. This also means that you shouldn’t start or end a paragraph with a quote. Quotes shouldn’t take the place of your argument, they should back up what you want to say.

These five tips are simple and straightforward, but putting them into practice can dramatically improve your grades and will help you present your work in the best possible way.

Doctor John offers high quality proofreading services for students and businesses, specialising in PhD thesis editing. For more information on PhD help, proofreading, content marketing and social media email or ring on 0800 852 7258


It costs an arm and a leg

It costs an arm and a leg

This week’s idiom is ‘It costs an arm and a leg’.

I know you’ve all been chomping at the bit, waiting for the second installment of An Idiom Abroad, well, your wait is finally over and this week the idiom is: ‘it costs an arm and a leg’. This is a very common phrase in English, but if you’ve never heard it before, it could sound like you would have to part with more than your hard-earned cash to acquire the object. However, the phrase ‘it costs an arm and a leg’ means very expensive.

So where does ‘it costs an arm and a leg’ come from?

Many seem to think that ‘it costs an arm and a leg’ comes from the pre-photographic era where painters would charge more depending on the size of the portrait. A head and shoulder portrait would be the cheapest option, followed by one that comes down to the waist, including the arms, with the most expensive option being a full-length portrait that also included the legs. This seems plausible as larger canvases would cost more, however, it is unlikely that the phrase originated from this practice because there were no recorded uses of the phrase before the twentieth century.

It costs an arm and a leg
George Washington portrait by Gilbert Stuart

One of the first uses of ‘it costs an arm and a leg’ was in the longbeach Independent in December 1949: ‘Food Editor Beulah Karney has more than 10 ideas for the homemaker who wants to say “Merry Christmas” and not have it cost her an arm and a leg.’ This comes shortly after WWII where the reality of war where many servicemen lost limbs was fresh in people’s minds.

Another explanation is that the phrase ‘it costs an arm and a leg’ comes from two separate phrases that were combined, ‘give his right arm for’, and ‘takes a leg’. The earliest example was in the 1849 edition of Sharpe’s London Journal:

He felt as if he could gladly give his right arm to be cut off if it would make him, at once, old enough to go and earn money instead of Lizzy.

The second phrase was in 1875 in the Burlington Daily Hawk-Eye:

A man who owes five years subscription to the Gazette is trying to stop his paper without paying up, and the editor is going to grab that back pay if it takes a leg.

So the phrase might be a mixture of the two phrases to make ‘it costs an arm and a leg’.

Some would say that ‘it costs an arm and a leg’ isn’t technically an idiom. It’s a metaphor. However, I don’t think this matters for the purposes of this blog which attempts to familiarise students whose first language is not English with the peculiarities of the language

In costs an arm and a leg in context:

Nigel needed a new suit. The old one was falling to pieces so he called his friend Gary and went to his local tailors on the high street. “I bet this is going to cost you an arm and a leg.” Gary remarked as they looked at all the suits available, Nigel wasn’t paying attention, “I don’t just want an arm and a leg, I want the whole suit.” Gary rolled his eyes and sighed.


Some interesting links:

Like this post? Don’t forget to subscribe. You can also follow us:

Twitter: @drjohnsupport




An Idiom Abroad

Idiom: Raining cats and dogs

An idiom is: ‘A group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words’. OED.

English can be challenging at the best of times with pronunciation, unusual spellings and grammar rules that even a seasoned English user can sometimes make mistakes with. Then there are idioms. Unless you’ve heard an idiom before, you could easily think that the people using it are talking in some sort of code. ‘It costs an arm and a leg’ doesn’t involve any sort of surgery and ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’ can easily be interpreted as a fluffy, heavenly onslaught of teeth and claws.

To help with this and to inject some humour into what can be a fairly boring subject, we will be bringing you an idiom a week. We will attempt to explain and put into context an idiom that is used in common English speech.

This week’s idiom is: It’s raining cats and dogs

Idiom: Raining cats and dogs
Raining Cats and dogs

This simply means that it’s raining heavily.

The phrase in context.

Toby was walking along the road minding his own business when the rain started pouring down. Fortunately he was just passing the house of Matha, a friendly, warm-hearted woman who he knew wouldn’t mind giving him shelter. He knocked on the door and Martha answered as the storm took hold, the rain lashing down as thunder rolled in. Martha ushered him into the house out of the rain. “It’s raining cats and dogs out there,” Toby said as the water dripped off his nose. Martha was surprised at this, not because it was raining cats and dogs, but because she didn’t know dogs could speak.

But where does this phrase come from?

It was first used in 1651 by Henry Vaughan in his Olor Iscanus, where he refers to a roof where ‘dogs and cats rained in shower,’ and a year later, the English playwright Richard Brome wrote in his comedy City Witt, ‘it shall rain dogs and polecats.’ However, the popularity of the phrase resulted from its use by Jonathan Swift.

In 1710, Swift published ‘A Description of a City Shower’ in Tatler magazine where he describes the filthy streets of 17th/18th century England, where heavy rain would wash debris through the streets, including dead cats and dogs. But the first proper use of the phrase as we have it now comes from the publication of Swift’s Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation, in 1738, a satire on the conversations of the upper classes: ‘I know Sir John will go, though he was sure it would rain cats and dogs.’

It is not known for certain where the phrase comes from etymologically, however, some theories have been advanced:

  • Odin, the Norse god of storms, was often pictured with dogs and wolves, which were symbols of wind. Witches, who supposedly rode their brooms during storms, were often pictured with black cats, which became signs of heavy rain for sailors.  Therefore, ‘raining cats and dogs’ may refer to a storm with wind (dogs) and heavy rain (cats).
  • ‘Cats and dogs’ may come from the Greek expression cata doxa, which means ‘contrary to experience or belief.’ If it is raining cats and dogs, it is raining unusually or unbelievably hard.
  • ‘Cats and dogs’ may be a perversion of the now obsolete word catadupe.  In old English, catadupe meant a cataract or waterfall.  A version of catadupe existed in many old languages. In Latin, for example, catadupa. was borrowed from the classical Greek κατάδουποι, which referred to  the cataracts of the Nile River.  So, to say it’s raining ‘cats and dogs’ might be to say it’s raining waterfalls.
  • A false theory stated that cats and dogs used to cuddle into thatch roofs during storms and then be washed out during heavy rains. However, a properly maintained thatch roof is naturally water resistant and slanted to allow water to run off.  In order to slip off the roof, the animals would have to be lying on the outside—an unlikely place for an animal to seek shelter during a storm.

If  you have any more information on this phrase please feel free to leave a comment and don’t forget to follow this blog for your weekly idiomatic dose.

For more information on the idiom, ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’:

Liked this post? Subscribe and get loads more!



Derrida On The “Truly Exceptional Moment” When Writing “Of Grammatology”

Derrida on Of Grammatology

Derrida describes the unique experience of writing the first two parts of ‘Of Grammatology’. He describes the responsibility and irresponsibility of writing the text as if the work was transcribed to him, without ascribing a religious sensibility. Derrida describes ‘Of Gramatology’ as ‘a truly exceptional moment in my work’.

PhD Time Management and the Pomodoro Technique: How to Take Control of Your Time

Time management

PhD Time Management and the Pomodoro Technique

How to Take Control of Your Time

Remember, time is a greedy player who wins without cheating, every round!


Getting PhD Work Done… or Cleaning the Kitchen

I felt elated when I won funding to spend three years focusing on a PhD on something I love. What could go wrong? I’ve got plenty of time. This is going to be a walk in the park, or so I thought. The reality was that it was one of the most challenging things I have done. The constant uphill struggle of sitting down at my desk or in a cafe with my computer seemed such an abhorrent thought. Suddenly the kitchen needed cleaning, washing needed to be put in the machine, clothes needed hanging, the cat needed shampooing, anything other than having to look at my work. It was only when I had mounting pressure that I sat down to write, reluctantly. The perfectionist in me spent hours revising the same paragraph or sentence and feeling a sense of achievement when at the end of a productive day, I ended up with three hundred words.

What helped me with writing and studying was how to manage my time and seeing the thesis as nothing more than a very long essay. I remember attending my first post-graduate meeting, when we were all enthusiastically unphased and being told nuggets of wisdom. “Don’t be so precious”, Kate McGowan, the head of the Graduate School told us as we looked up at her with wonderment and innocence, “this isn’t your magnum opus, good enough is fine”. This made sense, but it was only three years in did it start to mean anything.

Taking Control of Your Time

Time management techniques were also important. They helped me be far more productive than just sitting down for hours on end and coming up for air, exhausted and wanting to die, resulting in the rest of the day in the recovery position or face down in a darkened room. Instead, I broke my hour up into 45 minute sessions with a 15 minute break with longer for lunch. I wrote down the start and finish times for each session and could manage to complete seven or eight sessions per day. This worked well for me and I found I could get more done in a day and I had a sense of achievement after ticking off each successful session.

This worked well for me and I found I could get more done in a day and I had a sense of achievement after ticking off each successful session.

Pomodoro, the Helpful Tomato

This is similar to the Pomodoro Technique, pioneered by Francesco Cirillo and first published in 1992. The time management technique takes its name from the tomato-shaped kitchen timer used by Cirillo when he was a student. It is simple and effective and I wish I had known about it when I was studying. It can help you to become far more productive than sitting down and punishing yourself by not having adequate breaks. Each working session is broken up into 25 minute sessions or a pomodoro, followed by a 3-5 minute break. After four pomodoros a longer break is taken, from 15-30 minutes.

6 Basic Steps to Time Management

There are six basic steps to implementing the technique:

  1. Find out how much effort an activity requires.
  2. Protect your pomodoro from internal and external interruptions
  3. Make an accurate estimation on how many pomodoros you need for a specific task
  4. Use the technique not just to work on your task, but also to recap and review
  5. Set your timetable according to your tasks and the time you have available
  6. Find your own personal objectives

Sticking to the rules can be challenging at first, but I’ve found it’s worth persevering with. The first pomodoro should be organisational and the last one reviewing what you have achieved. This means setting out an ‘activity sheet’, a ‘to do today sheet’ and a ‘records sheet’. All the activities you need to do are written in the activity sheet with the number of pomodoros estimated to complete the task and then transferred to the to do today sheet and marked with an X after each pomodoro is completed. The rule is that a pomodoro in indivisible and if a task takes longer than 5-7 pomodoros, it needs to be broken down into smaller achievable tasks. The rules seem rather strict. If a pomodoro is unavoidably broken and you are interrupted, that pomodoro is void and cannot be ticked off, whereas if an activity is finished before the pomodoro rings then there is time to recap and review what you have been doing until the end of the session.

Internal and External Interruptions

Internal and external interruptions are also accounted for by the inform, negotiate and call strategy. This inverts the dependency on internal interruptions and makes the interruptions depend on the pomodoros they are slotted into. If you’re in the middle of a pomodoro and you suddenly remember you have to do something, make a quick note and add it to the list of things to do (most things can wait for 25 minutes) and if someone rings or interrupts a pomodoro, simply inform them that you’re working, negotiate a time to call back or speak to that person and make sure you call. As Cirillo writes, ‘we’re no longer dependent on interruptions, interruptions depend on us’. A pomodoro is set aside to respond to calls and deal with unforseen situations.


The Rules of Time Management

The following is taken from Cirillo’s book The Pomodoro Technique. The rules are as follows:

  • A pomodoro consists of 25 minutes plus a 5 minute break.
  • After every four pomodoros comes a 15-30 minute break.
  • The pomodoro is indivisible. There are no half or quarter pomodoros.
  • If a pomodoro begins, it has to ring:
    • If a pomodoro is interrupted definitively – i.e. the interruption isn’t handled – it’s considered void, never begun, and it can’t be recorded with an X
    • If an activity is completed once a pomodoro has already begun, continue reviewing
      the same activity until the pomodoro rings
  • Protect the pomodoro. Inform effectively, negotiate quickly to reschedule the interruption, call back the person who interrupted you as agreed.
  • If it lasts more than 5-7 pomodoros, break it down. Complex activities should be divided into several activities.
  • If it lasts less than one pomodoro, add it up. Simple tasks can be combined.
  • Results are achieved pomodoro after pomodoro.
  • The next pomodoro will go better.

This is merely an quick overview of one time management system. Far more information and detail can be found in Cirillo’s short book, which goes into much more depth and explains the reasons for using this technique as he writes,

A timetable delineates the separation between work time and free time; the latter is best defined as time set aside for non-goal oriented or unplanned activities. This leisure time is fuel for our minds. Without it, creativity, interest, and curiosity are lost, and we run ourselves down until our energy is depleted. Without gas, the engine won’t run.

So give it a go. You never know, you might be more productive and have more free time.

This blog post was created using the pomodoro technique.

For more information on time management and the Pomodoro Technique try the following links.

Liked this post? Subscribe and get loads more!