November, 2010

Nov 10

Efficiency Tracking

My efficiency interest is still going strong.

A month ago, I wrote about how I stopped reading my RSS feeds. At the bottom of the post, I mentioned that I wanted to track the time that I spent being productive.

A few weeks went by, and I had forgotten about the tracking idea. Then, about two weeks ago, I was sitting in traffic. (I seem to talk about traffic often.) And I was angry at the fact that I just stare at the road for over 45 minutes, twice a day, five days a week. It seemed like a huge waste of time.

But how do I know that traffic is a waste of time compared to other hour long periods of my day? What is the difference between sitting in traffic and me browsing the web mindlessly for an hour and a half? Probably not that much.

If I am going to be angry towards traffic because it causes me to be inefficient, I need to know how inefficient I am during that time compared to the other times in my life.

So, I started logging everything that I did, every day. And I have been doing it for the past two weeks. As I have said previously, knowing that I am tracking something changes how I actually do that action. And the change has been great.

I have been more productive these past two weeks than I have been in a long while. There is a great feedback loop with tracking and productivity. When I am not being productive, I remember that I need to write down what I am doing. Once I log it, I feel like being productive. Once I am done being productive, I feel like it is my reward to log my accomplishments. And once I log, I feel like being productive again.

Tracking gets me in the habit of creating things.

Nov 10

The Wandering Mind

AnchorThe New York Times has an article covering the results of the track your happiness experiment that more than 2200 people took part in. I have been taking the survey for the past year.

As you can tell by the title, the findings align with the content of this blog.

When your mind wanders, or when it is not focused on the task at hand or when you are not being mindful of your immediate environment, you are more likely to be unhappy.

Completely stopping your mind from wandering is not the ultimate goal. I have come up with many great ideas while daydreaming. And I love to think. I could not imagine taking away that enjoyment.

The wandering mind needs to be balanced.  It drifts. You steer it back.  You can do this with mindfulness.  You can do this with writing. Sometimes, you can do it with both.

Both bring you back to reality. Both anchor your mind.

Photo courtesy of david.nikonvscanon 

Nov 10


The ratio of the output to the input of a system.

Something with high efficiency is something that produces a large amount of output given a small amount of input.

How much do I produce? How much do I consume?

Production and consumption both depend on the context.

Production can come in the form of many things: lines of code tested, paragraphs written, blades of grass mowed, puzzle pieces placed, achievements earned, mechanical work produced, ideas formed, etc.

Consumption can be food intake, of course. But it also can be related to how much information you take in, or how much time you spent on something, or how many goods you purchased.

High efficiency reminds me of Occam’s Razor: “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.”

Or in other words, if you can produce the same result with less “entities”, you should.

Be highly efficient.

Nov 10

Richard Feynman on Different Ways of Thinking

Nov 10

Information Cleanse Followup

It has been a week after my information cleanse, and I have noticed many changes. All of them are good.

As I said in the previous post, I used to mindlessly open up my web browser, check my email, then click on the Google Reader link. Now, I sit down in front of my computer, and I have no reason to click the link. There is nothing there.

Instead of clicking that link, I ask myself: “What can I do, right now, that is productive?” Which has been great because I end up creating things more often than I did before the cleanse.

I still get that urge to consume. But I focus that urge on reading longer articles and books that I have been avoiding because they were previously too long for my short attention span.

For instance, I finally picked up The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. I have been meaning to read it in order to find some time saving tips. And I like seeing what successful bloggers do when moving from the internet to bookstores.

I am a hundred pages into the book, so I can not say anything definitive about it just yet. But from what I have read so far, I do not recommend it. The majority of what he is saying is either trite (use the Pareto principle and watch out for Parkinson’s Law) or morally questionable (he exploited a technicality to win a national Chinese kickboxing tournament and suggests that you use similar techniques). However, he does have a chapter about going on a low-information diet. And he says to start off cold turkey.

I couldn’t agree more. And he is right when he says that I won’t miss it.

I know that there are a lot of things happening in the world that I am missing. But if something happens that is important enough, I will hear about it. And if there is information I need from the blogs that I used to follow, I will get it. But I will go to those blogs with a purpose. And it won’t be to just mindlessly consume information.