Dec 10

Judgment and Objectivity

GavelRecently, I have been talking about analysis quite frequently.

I enjoy the topic. But I find that if I do not keep myself in check, I can get carried away with the collecting, analyzing and peripheral activities that come along with it.

Judging is one of those peripheral activities.

Since I have a better understanding of how I spend my time, I feel as if I have more control over how I spend it. And if I have the ability to choose how I spend my time, I automatically judge if one way of spending my time is better than another.

This goes against a fundamental principle found in both science and mindfulness: objectivity.

We are trying to understand the world in a way that is independent of the observer. These biases, judgments and opinions can get in the way of fully understanding what we are observing.

I mentioned this common trait in a post I wrote over a year ago: Universal Loving Kindness.

Mindfulness wants to let you see the world as it truly is, regardless of how you think the world should be. Science is exactly the same.

I recognize the need to make judgments. There is no way to get away from them. They guide me in the direction I want to take in life.

However, there must be a clear separation between the observation and judgment. And I must be mindful of which one I am practicing at all times.

Photo courtesy of bloomsberries 

Dec 10

Some Interesting Numbers

The benefit of logging your hours is not just in the process of writing the information down, it also comes from analyzing the data.

Given three weeks of data, I have found some surprising facts.

I sleep more on weeknights than on weekends. Monday through Thursday, I average 7.36 hours of sleep. Friday through Sunday, I average 6.56 hours. A difference of 0.8 hours. Whenever I thought that I was not getting enough sleep, I always used to blame it on not going to bed early enough on weeknights.

Now I know that the weekends are the times when I don’t get enough sleep. I was biased. I wanted to blame work for my lack of sleep. But I can’t now. The numbers are keeping me objective.

I commute 1.56 hours a day, on an average workday.

I work, on average, 7.18 hours during workdays and 4.29 hours on the weekends.

And if you add the hours I sleep, commute and work on workdays, you get 16.1 hours. There are 7.9 hours left unaccounted for.

Most of that time is spent with family. But a good amount is spent on activities that I thought took minimal amount of time in my life.

One of those activities was watching TV. There were days where I did not watch any TV. But then there were days when I watched TV for over two hours. This is more than the average 1.56 hours of commuting. As I suspected, there are times that I choose to be as unproductive as I am while commuting.

Of course, I will need to continue to log data for a much longer period of time to get a better idea of how my time is spent. There has been a number of events during these past three weeks that may skew the data one way or another.

But the findings are very interesting, so far.

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.

Oct 10

Information Cleanse


I have a number of ways that I put things off, but the main way is reading my news feeds.

So, I just unsubscribed from all 18 of them.

Most of the time, I did not even know that I was putting anything off. It just became a habit to get home, spend time with the family, and when free time came up, open up the laptop and pull up Google Reader. I could have chosen to do something productive when the free time came up. But, out of habit, I went to the news feed.

Reading the news (especially the kind that is customized to your interests) is a very difficult addiction to break. Keeping up to date on the latest happenings seems like a productive thing to do. Everyday I found out information that could have influenced the path I chose to take on projects at home or work. There were a ton of articles that I read that dove deep into technical subjects, listed out anti-akrasia techniques, analyzed world events, reviewed movies, linked to random, hilarious pictures, or consumed my time in any number of other interesting ways.

Continue reading →

Oct 10


Remember that post back in September about Clarity Breakers?

One of the three types of breakers that I listed was the mind. In particular: thought loops.

These are the thoughts that get stuck in my head for long periods of time. They steal away focus from things that I would prefer to be thinking about.

Sometimes these thought loops manifest themselves in the form of rumination.

Rumination is when you think about something in the past that may have caused you harm. You focus on how it happened or how you could have prevented it from happening. You try to figure out why it happened to you.

And the worst part of rumination is that when you are doing it, you continue doing it because you think it will help in some way.

But it almost never does.

I have found that for most of my rumination sessions, if I actually figure something out through rationality, I do it almost immediately. But then 20 minutes later, I realize that I am still thinking about it for no good reason. I know it is time to move on.

But I find myself back in that loop, again. Unfortunately, the thought control that rationality provides me is not enough in these cases.

The way out is mindfulness.

Sep 10

Project Dagaz

Beer van Geer – Project Dagaz from Quantified Self Amsterdam on Vimeo.

This video excites me. It is from a Quantified Self talk (I have mentioned that group before).  And the guy is using technology to measure meditation.  Right up my alley. Within the first two minutes of the video, Beer van Geer asks the same question that I had mentioned in my previous post.

Where is the open culture of meditation in western societies?  How will meditation manifest itself in the west?  He seems to think that it will be through technology (which I agree with).

He is using a NeuroSky mindset device to track brain waves while meditating.  The hardware seems pretty non-intrusive. Especially compared to emotiv’s headset. Could you imagine someone walking around with one of emotiv’s headsets attached to their head? Any hardware like this has to be designed with the minimal amount of weirdness in mind. Otherwise, this type of device will forever remain a toy.

And even if a user takes the leap and puts on the NeuroSky headset, the specific application that van Geer built is still too esoteric. He has every right to maintain a spiritual theme within his application, but displaying mandalas and playing odd music in the background will not help bring meditation to the masses.

But this is a step in the right direction. This is the future.