My phone (probably) isn’t eating my brain

I made a video about this!

How bad are our cell phones for our brains, our attention, our creativity? It feels like common sense to say that smartphones are a mixed benefit. OK sure, common sense and Bo Burnham agree, but how do we measure that?

I need focus to study, write, experiment, do something fun and creative, or just keep my mind on listening to a conversation. Making someone feel like I’m paying attention not just waiting for my turn to talk. And when I am focused, my phone going off is a frustrating distraction. And my phone is always with me. How badly does that affect my cognitive abilities?

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Overcaffeinated safety weasel

TL/DR; just the tip: Drink coffee, but drink it carefully.

I love coffee. Coffee is often served hotter than I would like. I don’t want anything hotter than 150 ℉ (65 ℃). The hotter the beverage, the higher the possibility for scalds. My wife and I were on a road trip, and this conversation happened pretty much verbatim. She was kind enough to get me a cup of coffee while I filled the gas tank. The coffee arrived at a superheated temperature. I was afraid a harsh vibration would cause the whole cup to vaporize. Continue reading “Overcaffeinated safety weasel”

Meditation and pleasure reading help me stop procrastination

I try to take 15 minutes to meditate every morning. The old proverb goes: “If you have enough time, you should meditate 15 minutes each day. If you don’t have enough time, then meditate for 30 minutes.” I laughed the first time I heard that, but I think it’s 100% true. The days I don’t meditate or the days I’m most distracted and most prone to procrastinate. The days I’m most stressed and anxious, the days I feel like I have the least time are also the days when I am most prone to procrastinate. Coincidence? I think not. Meditation helps. The more overwhelmed I feel, the more important it is to take the 15 minutes. Or even 10 (like this youtube video). I used the Headspace program for a year and I do recommend it, but once I had it down it was not much harder to do with a free app like the Insight Timer.

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What Drawing for Fun Taught me about Daily Practice

I drew something almost every day for three months. It was a bit of an experiment on how to learn effectively. Learning a new skill is intrinsically rewarding. I wanted to see if I could learn to draw. I also wanted to see what kinds of practice work for me. Ultimately, it turns out that making time for practice every day was the most important thing.

At first, I started by following along with youtube videos. I followed along on videos by Christopher Hart. His videos are fun and he has some nice books, too. My versions of his drawings were… somewhat demented.

2015-12-05 11_13_11-draw blog - Google Docs

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Meditation is helping me not procrastinate

If you want your mind to be less distracted, you have to practice the skill of un-distracting yourself.

That is meditation. It is a technique for training the mind to return from distraction easily. That is different from trying to focus. Trying hard does not work very well to increase attention span. It sort of backfires. Meditation is more like accepting a certain amount of distraction, but practicing bringing the attention back. The mind inevitably becomes distracted and it takes a lot of practice to sense that when that is happening and gently correct it.

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Study Tip – Go Home When You Are Done

Work somewhere quiet and do not go home until the job is done.

In my later undergraduate days, I realized that I needed a place to study that was separate from my home. I was lucky enough to work in a university research lab that gave me some space to study. If I hadn’t had that, I would have found a quiet library nook to work in on a regular basis. One of my biggest advantages in finding a place to study on campus was that I could study until my day’s work was done.

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Procrastination is more about emotions than time management

Procrastination is a constant struggle.

I struggled with procrastination as a student. I think most students do. Learning not to procrastinate is very difficult. Negative emotions associated with the consequences of procrastination should teach us not to procrastinate. Unfortunately, the same negative emotions are what inspire us to put off the task at hand.

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I’ve taken a media vacation this week and it was great

I have taken a week off from the news and Reddit and really enjoyed myself.

Strongly consider taking a media vacation, especially if you are stressed out. Watching the evening news or reading the morning paper can make an informed citizen, but the internet lets us get way too much news. The Internet allows us to check the news every 15 minutes. This uses up our mental bandwidth, distracts us from tasks at hand, and makes us feel powerless.

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Allergies make me feel tired

If you are experiencing fatigue, look into allergies

I thought something was really wrong with me when I moved to Texas. I felt unbelievably tired all of the time. I read up on all kinds of maladies and syndromes. Nothing fit very well. A good summary of the conventional approach to unexpected fatigue is at webmd

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Doing the First Thing – Browser add-ons to help avoid distraction and procrastination

Browser addons can help avoid distractions

I find that I am easily distracted with semi-productive sites on the Internet. I like Reddit for lots of reasons, but one of my favorites is that I can restrict the subreddits that get displayed to me. I have subreddits like /r/hardscience and /r/chemistry on my front page. While this is great, it tends to lead to my reading Reddit when I have other priorities that I know are higher. I found that the firefox add-on called Leechblock helps me focus. There are more, similar plugins for other browsers.

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