Weekly Head Voices #208: Stilbaai

Welcome back folks!

Although my weeks have been quite full, this post is short.

It covers a few noteworthy (to me) events and observations from the period Monday October 12 to Sunday November 1, 2020.

Figure 1: Skulpiesbaai, taken from the halfway-point of a coastal run in Stilbaai.

Figure 1: Skulpiesbaai, taken from the halfway-point of a coastal run in Stilbaai.

Running and reading

I am super chuffed that on Sunday October 18, 2020, GOU #1 (14) completed her first (virtual) 10km race.

Her journey started when a friend from school invited her to join the race, at which point GOU #1 suddenly became much more enthusiastic about running regularly with her old dad. (that’s me)

There is something pretty primal about running with your offspring, an observation that I might have mentioned before on these pages.

Anyways, after her race she was visibly happy, and also relieved that, in her words, “she didn’t die”.

What I’m perhaps even more happy about than the preparatory runs together, and her completing the race, is that since the race we’ve been out together for a run or three.

(Running and reading are two of the most important low-level habits I would like to try and get my offspring hooked on.)


At the start of October, I had a great experience virtually attending the VCBM 2020 conference.

As if that was not enough grade A1 10/10 conferencing for one year, my other favourite conference, IEEE VIS (for visualization) was also fully virtual this year in the week of October 26, so again I dove into YouTube streams and well-organised discord rooms, and again this experience was highly edifying and enjoyable.

Somehow, it was even more fun than my already optimistic expectations to run into friends at the conference.

I would like to transfer this one piece of sage advice given by the amazing Prof. Jarke van Wijk during the panel on “Why should I stay in academia” when the discussion treated the issue of dealing with rejection, something that is unfortunately a regular part of most academic careers.

At this point, he was referring specifically to accepted papers and proposals, but the advice should really be applied to any victory, large or small, in all walks of life:

Celebrate your victories.


You will of course remember that we were fortunate enough to spend our last few days of freedom in Stilbaai, as autumn was arriving, and more acutely right before the first lockdown started on March 26,

It was really great going back to the exact same house (thanks kind host!), after months of various levels of lockdown, this time just as spring was really getting off the ground.

I did take work with me for the long weekend, but this time, and quite unexpectedly, the important disconnect happened quite quickly without too much conscious effort from my side.

If I had to put my finger on it, I would say that getting everyone to go outside as often as possible on little adventures of various sizes was the catalyst.

Back to reality: An 18-minute plan for managing your day

I could not imagine a more sudden transition from the long weekend zen above than this jump to Peter Bregman’s 18 minute plan for planning your work day.


Sometimes, fortunately mostly later in the afternoon, I wonder why my systems have failed in helping me to keep my eye on that ball for longer. (See my slippery eel for more struggles.)

That’s when I procrastinate quasi-productively by searching online for any new self-optimisation tricks that I might have missed, and which might constitute that Last Piece of The Puzzle that will fix this once and for all.

This time, to my great surprise, I did actually run into something 1. that was written aaaaaall the way back in 2009 and 2. that contained something new that I had not run into before, namely the “refocus” reminder.

The refocus reminder is literally an alarm that goes off every hour on the hour, at which point you explicitly take a step back for a whole minute to review the past hour, and, if required (most probably the case the later it is in the day), to re-commit to the following hour.

This reminded me specifically about mindfulness’s “Each breath a new beginning; each out-breath a letting go”, and more generally about life as eternal practice.

You can use any sort of timer to do this, but this seemed like a great feature for the little Lazar Focus app, so I implemented it along with a nice mindfulness bell sound to add some gravitas to the moment.

If you like, you can read the short summary I wrote about the 18-minute plan and refocus reminders over on the LazarFocused blog. There are some other more widely known but great tips for running your work days more efficiently.

Kind regards

Folks, thank you very much for joining me here.

The comments section below is ready for your thoughts, if you would like to externalise them.

I look forward to our next meeting.