Book Review: The Year of Less

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The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

Rating: ★★★★☆

This book convinced me to stop buying sh*t. That in and of itself is an accomplishment. Really. If you don’t believe me, you should see my amazon account … Yikes.

Anyways, I really enjoyed this book. One, I *love* memoirs that are narrated by the author. It just feel that authors know exactly where to put the emphasis and it just works. Ya know? I’m a big fan.

Since lockdown, I’ve been doing a lot more chores. Normally, during the school year, I barely have time to sleep, so my parents are pretty lax about my not doing chores. In lockdown, my parents have tasked me with doing the dishes most nights after dinner considering my school basically gave up on remote learning. I used to HATE doing the dishes, but oddly enough, now, I kinda like it when I’m listening to a good audiobook. Sometimes I also listen to more narrative based podcasts like Lore or This American Life. So far, I’ve listened to Make Trouble by Cecile Richards, The Year of Less by Cait Flanders, and now Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Anyways, this book actually made me kinda look forward to doing the dishes. Crazy! I know, but let that show as a testament to how good this book is.

Anyway, moving on from my tangent, I just found this book to have some, dare I say, profound insights. One of my favorite ideas Flanders talks about is asking yourself “Am I buying this for the person I am or the person I want to be?” After listening to this, I didn’t think much of it, but now I realize – this is such an important idea. I can’t tell you how many shirts, pens, and books I’ve bought thinking to myself “this is what ideal me would wear/use/read”. Like do I really want to read Pride and Prejudice? No, not really.

Here’s a tidbit of information from The Year of Less I want to share with you all: a shopping ban is more like a browsing ban. Think about all the notifications you receive from your favorite stores. I get an email at least twice a week from LL Bean. I almost always scroll through it, imagining myself as a savvy outdoors-woman. It made me all the more inclined to purchase whatever they were advertising. The solution: stop browsing, stop window shopping (IRL and online), unsubscribe, and unfollow.

Cait totally convinced me to try a shopping ban. I’ll be writing more about that here. She also encouraged me to start decluttering. I will be headed off to college in the fall of 2021, so I want to gradually start decluttering to avoid the massive pain of rapid decluttering.

Lastly, Cait really made me think critically about myself and my finances. Like I said earlier, I’m about to go to college. That means for the most part, I’m going to be responsible for my own finances. My parents have agreed to give me a small monthly stipend for expenses when I’m away, but I still have to be a fiscally responsible *gasp* adult. Because of this honestly scary revelation, I have started tracking all of my purchases whether I spend my own money on it or not. I’m planning to do another post about this. Ultimately, my goal is to be more conscious and mindful about what I’m spending and why.

“The ban uncovered the truth, which was that when you decide to want less, you can buy less and, ultimately, need less money.”

– Cait Flanders, The Year of Less

Honestly, everyone needs to read this book. I think “seeing” someone else do it helps you feel like you can do it – you can want less, buy less, and save more.

I’m beginning a 3 month long shopping ban. I’m hoping to extend it to 12 months, but I’m starting small!

Wish me luck!

Sincerely,

Marie

the year of less

Book Review: The Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo

Amazon.com: The Pomodoro Technique: The Acclaimed Time-Management System  That Has Transformed How We Work eBook: Cirillo, Francesco: Kindle Store

The Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Francesco Cirillo reminds me of a really strict teacher. He has a very particular, inflexible way of doing things and expects everyone to follow. In essence, my way or the highway.

I never really liked teachers like that, so I wasn’t crazy about this book. But, I do like the Pomodoro Technique as a method for time management. FYI: One Pomodoro is equal to 25 minutes of work and a 2-3 minute break afterwards.

I didn’t like that Cirillo had so many strict rules. For example,

A Pomodoro is indivisible. If a Pomodoro is interrupted by someone or something, that Pomodoro should be considered void, as if it had never been set; then you should make a fresh start with a new Pomodoro.

If I desperately need to get a drink of water or use the bathroom quickly, I think I should be able to do so quickly then resume my Pomodoro when I get back to my desk. On the other hand, I also recognize that a Pomodoro is supposed to be deep work with deep focus, and if you interrupt said focus – then the whole thing is moot. However, Cirillo dictates that you should make note of how many Pomodoros it takes to complete a task, but if you’re constantly voiding Pomodoros then that direction doesn’t really work anymore.

With all that being said, I do think some of the rules in the book are useful. For example, the “If it takes more than five to seven Pomodoros, break it down” rule is quite helpful. An application of this is writing an essay for example. Chances are writing a proper 5 page essay will take you longer than 2 hours. For me, it tends to take a cumulative 4 hours. This definitely exceeds the 5-7 Pomodoros. Cirillo would advise you to break writing an essay into subtasks

      1. find sources
      2. make notecards
      3. make an outline
      4. write body paragraphs
      5. write introduction and conclusion

Another tip I liked was about dealing with distractions. Cirillo suggested that when a thought pops into your mind or someone asks you to do something in the middle of your Pomodoro, you should write down that task if it isn’t urgent and decide when your Pomodoro is complete how and when you’ll approach that task. If the task is urgent, then deal with it immediately.

Overall, I feel like the advice given in this book is pretty rudimentary. It’s just feels like common sense. Here’s what you need to know:

  • A Pomodoro is a 25 minute time block followed by a 2-5 minute break.

  • After 4 Pomodoros, you take an extended break for 10-25 minutes.

  • 4 Pomodoros is called a cycle.

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I think this sums up the system pretty well.

Lastly, the book tackles how to use Pomodoro Technique in a workplace environment. This is the part of the book I felt the most skeptical about. First, some background: I don’t think of the Pomodoro Technique everyone needs to use. I think it’s the most helpful for people who procrastinate or need to find a way to think about and manage their time. Pomodoros are great for that. If you don’t fall into one of those broad categories, then I think the Pomodoro Technique won’t really make your life materially much better. In groups, I think it’s impossible and unnecessary to implement the Pomodoro system. In the book, Cirillo suggests in groups of 2, people in that group should work on the exact same Pomodoro – starting and ending at the same time. If you’re ever had the unique displeasure of working on a group project, you can recognize just how terrible this idea is.

The Final Verdict

Please don’t waste your money on this book it is truly not worth it. Everything said that is worthwhile in this book is summarized here. If you must read this book, rent it from your library. It certainly isn’t worth the $18 Barnes and Noble is charging for it.

Good luck managing your time! (Lord knows I need it.)

Sincerely,
Marie