A Case For Not Checking

I remember a few years ago, when the general concept of “social media” was synonymous with “Facebook”. At that point, Twitter hadn’t blown up yet, and there was no Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp or what have you.

Those were simpler times…. 🙂

Nowadays, we constantly need to keep up with an ocean of apps, where friends can reach us, news can be delivered to us and stock portfolios can be checked.

In reality, this means you can always feel certain, that somewhere on your smartphone, there is a bit of information that was just updated and that it still hasn’t reached your eyeballs yet.

This further means, that there is always a new little reward/dopamine/adrenaline rush to be had, every time you want it. You just need to check for it.

Now, is there anything wrong with this? Little rewards here and there throughout the day sounds lovely, doesn’t it? WRONG!

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this stuff recently, and come to the conclusion, that it both kills our productivity and happiness in the long run. And let me explain why.

 

Checking kills your productivity

Remember in school, when you had a report due the next day, how suddenly you felt the urge to clean your room? Obviously, this was just basic procrastination, but what it specifically did, was give you an easy feeling of accomplishment, instead of going through the drudgery of actually completing the report.

Later on, you found yourself writing the report at 3 AM, when the time pressure had become so immense, that you no longer had a choice but to write.

The final result would be stress, lower quality of work and a longer time to finish.

Today, instead of cleaning your room, you can just choose to manically check stuff on your computer or smartphone, whenever you want to procrastinate and feel rewarded.

This gives you a falls sense of accomplishment by completing something, that was totally unimportant.  As a result, the big and meaningful rewards will only be delayed due to the many premature rewards.

 

Kills your happiness

The second part of my argument is just an extension of the first.

I believe, that true happiness in life is partially comprised of some sense of meaningful accomplishment.

That means, if all you aim for, is the small and meaningless rewards, like checking your Facebook account, you won’t improve your long-term quality of life, compared to finishing bigger and tougher projects.

 

How to?

I have now made the case, that we should try and stop checking our smartphones several times a day, because it distracts us from the truly important. This will also enable us to stay more present throughout the day.

But how? Below, I suggest a few tips on how to start making this change. It is a tough habit to cultivate in the beginning, just like anything else, and it won’t come overnight. But the following tips have worked for me so far:

 

Be mindful. Try and see, if you can notice the urge to check, before you actually do it. Most times, it is totally automatic, so it would be best to stop yourself and ask, why you need to check whatever you want to check.

Are you sure, that it cannot wait? I’m sure that it can.

Delete non-essential apps from your phone. This point is self-explanatory, but decide what is non-essential, and what is necessary for your day to day life. Also, think about what can be checked on the computer instead, with lesser frequency.

Decrease the number of platforms for communication. As I said earlier, people can reach each other in too many ways nowadays. Which ones do you use (email, SMS, Facebook, Slack, Snapchat, iMessage)? Are there any of them, you can opt out of, in order to simplify your life, and maintain focus?

Set fixed times for checking. Of course, some things do need to be checked sometimes. Therefore, it can be useful to create artificial boundaries, to keep the checking under control. For instance, tell yourself, that you can check X every morning, and then that’s it for the day.

 

That’s it guys, I hope you liked the post, and that it will help you staying more focused in your day to day life.

 

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For further readings on the idea of staying more focused, check out:

–        The One Thing

–        The Power of Less

–        Essentialism

Quality As a Way of Life

Recently I have gotten immensely fascinated with a guy named Josh Waitzkin. He is the author of The Art of Learning, world champion in chess and tai chi and a high level Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner.

He has been on two episodes of the Tim Ferriss podcast now, so check those out, if you want to learn more about him.

One of the things he talks a lot about is a concept called “quality as a way of life”. What I personally translate this into is: the pursuit of perfection in everything that you do.

Obviously, it is impossible to do everything in life perfectly, but it is never too late to try and reach for this impossible goal.

This is not about making perfection the criteria for contentment, or even the criteria for anything actually. It is just about having an internal compass, and a healthy set of habits, that will guide you onto the right path at all times.

I love this idea, and I will start incorporating into my life today.

 

If you also want to try this, it will imply two things for you:

You must be mindful. You cannot rush perfection. You cannot fake quality. You must be fully present at all times, and completely aware of what you are doing right now. This makes the concept very closely related to mindfulness.

You must be an essentialist. You cannot take on too many projects or obligations. You must stay focused on only a few things, otherwise, you risk spreading yourself too thin, and you cannot do anything perfectly this way. (Read the book Essentialism for more)  

So to live the life of quality, you must combine mindfulness and essentialism/minimalism – it is no wonder I feel intrigued!

 

The exercise is, to constantly stop in whatever you do, and remind yourself about doing it with quality, until it becomes a habit.

Take your time, take your breaks, think about what it is you are doing right now – how can you do it better? Do you even have to do the thing you are doing?

If something is worth doing, do it with quality.

Be selective and be critical.

 

Breathe with quality.

Talk to your partner with quality.

Work with quality.

Walk with quality.

Read your book with quality.

 

I have always been a quantity over quality kind of guy.

My mantra has been “if it is good enough, I am done”.

Now, I am striving towards a new mantra, that will flip this on its head: “I am not done until its perfect”.

But I am also not going to focus on anything unimportant from now on – I won’t have time for that.

 

What do you guys think?

Would you join me in living this life of quality?

 

Further reading recommendations about the subject:

–        The Power of Less

–        The One Thing

The Easy Way of Engineering a New Good Habits

If a friend was to ask me: how do I create a new good habit?

This is the link I would send to him.

 

Great blogs and good books have been written on the subject of habits. And it is not a mystery why, because if you control your habits, you control the trajectory of your life.

This is a quick how-to guide that will get you started. Later on, you might want to read more on the subject, if you find it necessary.

 

Find a fixture point

If you had to hang a painting on a wall, you would begin by looking for a nail in the wall to hang it on to.

If your day is the blank wall, the nail is an existing habit.

Find an existing habit in your daily routine, to hang your new habit on to.

 

If you want to do 10 push-ups a day, do it before you brush your teeth, right after you get out bed or right before dinner.

Instead of starting completely from scratch, you can build on existing habits this way.

 

Start small

Always set the bar for success as low as possible.

If you want to start meditating – start with 1 minute at a time.

If you want to start running – start with 1 kilometer at a time.

If you want to start eating healthy– start with breakfast.

 

You can always scale up later on, and on most days, you’ll end up doing more than you planned to anyway.

This makes it real easy to succeed and stick to it.

 

Make it easy – remove the obstacles

Pack your gym bag a day in advance.

Plan your week of eating healthy.

Ask your roommate to distribute a daily cigarette allowance to you.

Make it easy to win when the willpower meter is low.

 

Decide your reward

I always have a glass of wine in the evening on training days. This is reward works as very basic programming of my brain – like dog training.

How will you treat yourself if you stick to your goal?

Of course, don’t be stupid about it. Don’t reward yourself with a cheeseburger for every jumping jack you do.

 

Stay with it for 1 month

It takes a little time before the new programming starts to work.

Some science says it takes 21 days to create a new habit. Others believe it takes 66 days.

Either way, if you just stick to something for at least 1 month, you will have a pretty good idea if it is worth it to you or not.

 

Move on to the next one

Once the new habit feels automatic to you, you can move on to the next thing.

Do you want to do more of the same thing, or do you want a new habit?

It’s all up to you. Just make sure not to rush it. You can’t move on to the next thing too quickly. The first habit reeeeally needs to be on autopilot before you move on.

 

Happy selfprogramming!

I am trying to do more audio to spare my eyes

As you may know, I read a lot . It is my favorite thing to do.

However,  with all the reading I enjoy, combined with the job that I have, where I have to look at a computer screen, makes me feel like I strain my eyes too much every day.

Even when I take a break at work, I go to my Feedly reader, to check out some posts from my favorite blogs, to do even more reading. And I sometimes end my day with a headache because of the many hours of screen time.

So now, I have decided to try and consume more of my daily information auditorily instead – whenever possible. In this post, I will share with you some the strategies I am using now to make this change.

The big advantage of audio, of course, is that it doesn’t strain the eyes and that you can multitask while you consume it. While you listen, you can take walks, look outside the window and even drive your car.

I once used to believe that reading information, compared to consuming it auditorily, would make you smarter, but I don’t hold that belief any longer. I just think that the best information is often compressed into well-curated books, which can also be listened to in audio format.

Anyway, below follows the strategies I have employed to spare my eyes:

 

Podcasts

Podcasts have been a big part of my life for years now. But I have always preferred reading to listening whenever possible. Now, I plan to dedicate more time to podcasts going forward. It’s free, simple and very entertaining.

Here are some shows that I currently like:

  • The Joe Rogan Experience
  • The Less Doing Podcast
  • The Tim Ferriss Show
  • The Minimalists
  • History On Fire

And others.

 

Blog Posts (Narro)

I also found a great app called Narro, that creates a real podcast for you, with a dictated version of the articles you send to it. It is a robot that reads the articles, but it sound pretty real.

With an IFTTT automation, I have set it up so, every time I save an article for later in Feedly, it gets emailed to my Narro account. Super easy and quick to use. So now I listen to most of the blog posts, I want to read.

 

Audiobooks

Listening to audiobooks, is an obvious solution to my problem. They are super dense with information, and you can consume them while you are on the go. So I will do more in this domain from now on.

Next, I am listening to the book The Organized Mind , which seems interesting.

 

Dictation

This is a whole new world that I haven’t explored yet. I recently heard a pretty interesting episode of The Ben Greenfield Podcast , where an author talked about how she wrote most of her books with dictation. It is really something I want to dive into one day, because  the idea of being able to walk around and be an author, is fascinating to me. But you need to spend some money on the dictation software , and a microphone to get started, so I might have to wait a little.

Although, I did try dictating some of this blog post on my iPhone – right into the headset, which worked pretty good. At least, it was better than typing on the phone keyboard. So I’ll probably do more of that in the future when I am on the go.

 

For now, thanks for reading guys!

 

 

How to Stay Productive With ADD

I have to start this article by saying, that I have never officially been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.

All I can tell you, is that I wasn’t very good at sitting still in school as a kid. And still, to this day, I have trouble focusing on anything for more than 10 minutes at time, unless it is something that really interests me.

I think that with my symptoms, I could easily get diagnosed with a mild degree of ADD these days, and if you are anything like me, I have a tip for you that might help a little.

It is about how I work every day, and get all of my stuff done, even though I lack the ability to focus.

I first discovered the solution to my attention problem in high school, when I had to do some very boring reading as homework. It was virtually impossible for me to focus on it for more than 5 minutes at a time. So I didn’t. I just took A LOT of breaks, and told myself that it was okay.

I would read one page in my text book. Then watch one section of Two And A Half Men – commercial to commercial (approx. 8 minutes), and then go back to reading one page again.

I know, this seems ridiculous, but it was really the only way I could get it done, and it was actually pretty enjoyable for me.

Nowadays, I have changed my work routine slightly, to make it a little more productive. The way I have updated it, is by swapping out the TV break with some other productive thing, that doesn’t require my mental focus.

Now, I will for example read 4 pages in a book, then go do something practical (like doing some of the dishes), then write a few lines for a blog post, and then finally do a few push-ups. After the cycle is done, I repeat it all over again and again, until I have accomplished my goal. In this case, the goal might be to finish a blog post.

To most people, this seems like something only a mad man would do. And I am sure that they’d feel like they wouldn’t get to focus on anything at all.

But to me, this is the only way to work. Without the ungodly amount of breaks and rewards, I would never finish anything.

The trick is to set up a cycle of tasks that are all productive. That way, you aren’t really taking a break from productivity. You are just switching a lot, and completing several goals at a time.

I think that, in our society, we admire people who are able to sit down and focus on the same task for hours one end. However, this just doesn’t work for everybody. And for those it doesn’t work for – they should embrace who they are, and find their optimal way to work and stay productive.

This is a Test of a New Automation

This a test of a new automation I have made.

Here is the problem I am solving: I cannot post new blog post on my blog, while I am on the Wi-Fi at my job, due to our security system – I cannot upload to any foreign sites.

So this is what I have done:

I have made an IFTTT trigger that goes off every time I make a new note in Evernote with the tag “Post”. When this goes off, a new blog post is being created on this WordPress blog.

This means I can send an email to my Evernote inbox with the hashtag #Post at the end of the subject line, and the email gets posted on my blog.

Super convenient for
a
little thought bubble posts like this one.

You gotta love IFTTT and Evernote!

Have a nice day

December 22, 2015 at 12:02PM via a beatiful automation with Evernote

How To Build An Archive of Interesting Studies

If you are a guy or gal like me, who’s passion it is, to gather interesting information, synthesize it and talk/write about it later on, you know how valuable it is, to have your most important information accessible and right at hand at any moment.

Talking about and referencing information from multiple places such as books, blogs and studies can be difficult to organize and manage efficiently, so I have tried to come up with a solution for that. Læs mere How To Build An Archive of Interesting Studies

Are You Taking Too Much In?

This article is supposed to work as a good tip for you, if you are anything like me, and just as well as a reminder for myself.

I love to consume a lot of different information: blog posts, podcasts, books and documentaries. I tell myself, it’s good for my brain and for my future to be wiser. My biggest problem is, that I honestly enjoy it more, to put information into my head, than I do to put something out. Most of the time, I rather just read books all day, and never talk to anyone about it. I guess you could call me introvert.

Læs mere Are You Taking Too Much In?