Jul 11

Two Paths to Simplicity

I had an interesting discussion with a friend over the weekend.

I was trying to solve a problem with some software I was writing. I explained to him how I was attempting to do it.

He laughed.

He thought the way I was trying to solve the problem was way too complicated. He said that I should do it in a different way.

After about 15 minutes of debate, we came to the realization that both ways were legitimate ways to solve the problem. Both had positive and negative attributes.

The debate boiled down to a universal dichotomy in the path towards simplicity:

1. Start with something. Start taking away the unnecessary parts. Reach simplicity.

2. Start with nothing. Start adding only what is necessary. Reach simplicity.

My buddy was favoring number 1. I was favoring number 2.

To his point: I had almost all of the software written already. I could leverage that to solve my issue.

Towards my point: if I did things his way, I would not be able to know all the possible ways to solve the issue. I was trying to come up with the ultimate solution.

As it turns out, I came up with the algorithm to solve the issue using technique number 2, but it took way too long to run. So, I went with a solution based on number 1. And it seems to be working great.

When the rubber hit the road, number 1 won out over number 2. Is it always like that? Can you ever really start with nothing then only add the necessary parts?

It all depends on the situation. I think there are cases when you have a fresh start, a clean slate. And there are cases when you don’t have that luxury.

The point is to recognize when you are going down path number 1 or path number 2. Recognize when one path is not working. Understand that there are other options.

The choice to switch paths will always be up to you.

Jun 11

Ending Meditation

I have stopped meditating after three months of daily sessions.

I meditated for 5 minutes each day during the first two weeks. I increased the time to 10 minutes and I kept that up for a month and a half. Then, I tried to increase the time to 20 minutes, but that did not last long. After about 4 days, I went down to 15 minutes and stayed that way until I stopped meditating altogether.

For the past two weeks, I was just not feeling it. The log I was keeping showed that too.

I rated each session with a number 0 through 5. 0 meant that the session was awful. 5 meant that the session was excellent. I based my rating simply on the feeling that I had about it a few minutes afterwards.

The first two months, I had a weekly average of 1.43 or higher. That means that my sessions, on average, were decent to good. Sometimes I had an excellent feeling about meditating that day. Some days I felt like the session was awful. But on average, they were all pretty good.

But in the last month, the average dropped down to 1.29, 1.00, 0.71 and finally 0.43. They were trending towards awful.

I believe that the routine of doing it everyday for a set time made meditating boring. I was too consistent. So, I stopped.

My overall goal was to remove as much delusion as I could by studying my mental activities. I did not remove any delusion, but I definitely studied my mental activities.

I came up with a list of guidelines for myself while meditating that have carried over to my normal life. With the most enlightening rule being “Don’t reject anything”.

I reject a countless number of thoughts. I was very surprised to realize that. And I am still surprised at times when I realize that I am immediately rejecting some other new thought.

I would say that realization falls under the “insight” category. I definitely felt that sense of distance that I mentioned in my “attitude” goal. Unfortunately, I did not improve my “attention” very much.

I learned a lot. Meditating really gave me a different perspective on everything.

I am going to try to continue to recognize thoughts that I reject. I am going to try to continue to feel that sense of space between thoughts.

And I suspect that this will not be the last time I meditate.

Apr 11

Consistent Frameworks of Thought

I try to base my decisions on consistent frameworks of thought.

In other words, when I am faced with a choice, I immediately try to find similarities between my current situation and previous situations. Then, I try to recall if there were rules that governed my choices in the previous situations. If there were, I try to apply the same rules to the current situation. I make my choice based off the outcome of those rules.

But this methodology fails quite often. Various reasons apply:

  • I completely forget to use the method.
  • I forget about situations that are similar to the one that I am in.
  • I misinterpret rules I previously used.
  • I apply rules to the current situation differently than when I applied them previously.

Continue reading →

Mar 11

Quantifying Mindfulness Redux

I have been meditating for 5 minutes a day for the past 7 days.

I sit in a private location. My eyes are closed. I have a 5 minute countdown timer set on my phone.

I attempt to think about what I am experiencing through my senses.

After the 5 minutes are up, my timer goes off and write down what I thought about and how I am feeling after the meditation session.

The main purpose of these sessions has been to practice mindfulness. Nothing else. Keeping track of the thoughts that I had during the process is a completely peripheral goal.

Continue reading →

Mar 11

The Pomodoro Technique


It has been three weeks since I quit tracking everything I did.

At the end of that post, I mentioned that I would try out a few methods of tracking the hours that I work.

I did. And the one that has been working really well is called The Pomodoro Technique (copyright, trademark, etc.).

Continue reading →

Mar 11

Wonder, Wobbles and Water

water faucetHow about that for a title?

Mr. Salamander’s latest comment describes wonder in a way that is much more eloquent than my brief anecdotes about it.

And very serendipitously, I read his comment and not but a day afterwards I came across a excerpt from Richard Feynman’s “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” that directly relates to what Salamander was talking about.

“I had nothing to do, so I start to figure out the motion of the rotating plate.”

He saw a plate wobbling in the air and decided that he wanted to figure out how that worked. He wanted to have fun by letting his interests take him where they wanted to go. Then he got a Nobel Prize for that work.

Continue reading →

Feb 11

Efficiency Tracking – 3 Month Review

I started logging everything I did on 11/16/10. I did not miss logging an hour of activity for three consecutive months.

I created my last entry on 02/16/11 at 23:30:00 hours. I am finished with the exercise.

93 days covered. 1545 entries total. I learned a lot during the process. And I have to tell you, it is a relief for it to be over.

Continue reading →

Feb 11

Your Own Pace

TunnelI would like to make a conjecture: everyone has their own pace.

In other words, each individual prefers to take action at a rate of speed that is independent to all others’ preferred rates of speed.

Since everyone has their own unique series of experiences in their life, they have their own unique expectation of how future experiences will play out. These expectations include the rate in which actions occur.

I know I move slower than most people. I tend to think a lot before doing something. Which could be seen as a bad thing. But put in a different way, it sounds a whole lot better. I could say that: I try to act only when I understand what I am doing. (I may still be uncertain, but I want to know how uncertain I am.)

I know people that move much quicker than others. They are constantly on the go. Always looking for something to do and then moving onto the next thing. Walking fast. Eating fast. Typing, talking, etc. Always: go, go, go. Some people may judge them negatively because they believe that they are not thinking everything through. But who is to say that they are not? (After all, the best way to learn is to act.)

Either way allows for mindfulness, rationality or any other quality you may be looking for. It all depends on what pace that person is comfortable with.

I rarely remind myself of this. When I read anecdotes about how someone got this one goal accomplished in under a month or was able to complete this task in 15 minutes, I usually ask myself if I could do it that quickly. Or, I look at my logging and wonder what someone else’s logs would look like and how would they compare to mine?

This line of thinking is useless.┬áRather than focusing on other people’s rate of speed, I should be figuring out what speed I am comfortable at.

There are so many questions that need answers:

How can I get into flow more often? How does my environment effect the pace that I work at? Do I get more things done when there are due dates? When I tell people that I will get something done, does that pressure help or harm my ability to finish it? Or …

What pace do I like to work at?

Photo courtesy of themonnie 

Jan 11

The Best Way to Learn is to Act

Some points that I attempt to make within this blog may get lost within its anecdotal entries. This post is an attempt to extract one key point that I wanted to emphasize.

The best way to learn is to act.

And by ‘act’ I mean to take action. To do. Initiate. etc.

When the pieces of that gate clicked into place, I knew that the model that I had in my head was correct. I had come to an understanding of the gate, its instructions and the process of putting it together.

So many times, my anticipations are incorrect. It takes action to put them to the test.

Yet, I find myself avoiding action. There are a number of reasons why. Over-thinking, perfectionism, uncertainty.

But as I wrote in Action with Uncertainty, I should not let uncertainty stop me from gaining more certainty.

So, how does one get oneself to act?

Here are a few rules. Many of them match up with what I found in Getting Things Done.

And if you keep the complexity down but keep the challenge high enough, you can achieve a state of flow.

Where you will be fluidly moving from one action to another. All the time, learning along the way.

Jan 11

Visualizing Productive Hours


Analysis is not only crunching numbers. Insight comes from visualizing your data also.

Two ideas popped into my mind once I looked at the chart above:

  1. In general, I am less productive than I expected.
  2. Regardless of the number of hours I work in a week, there is always one day where I don’t do much work at all.

With regards to number 1, I am going to try to avoid being judgmental. Maybe my productivity was low because of the holidays. As a matter of fact, I removed two weeks of data because they were during the holidays and were not indicative of my regular work patterns. Or maybe it is because the projects at work are not that interesting to me right now. Who knows? I don’t think this data is going to give me that answer. I will have to look elsewhere for why that is.

The second observation was much more interesting. Every week, there was always one day where I did less than 2 hours worth of work. I would have never figured that out if I was just looking at the raw data. Visualizing the data gave me that insight.

Given this knowledge, I have new expectations. 3 to 5 hours of work done per day. 1 day per week where I am not productive at all.

I am fine with the 1 day break every week. I think that is acceptable.

I am going to find out more about the average number of hours of work per day.