#100Days Pharmacy Student 💊 | Productivity | Studying | PKM | Life
6737 words

We're not 'too busy' to do something

Reading time: 1 min

Following the same philosophy of using a particular set of vocabulary to define my mindset, I avoid saying "I'm too busy to do something". I think that's a poor mindset to hold. Rather, I'd say "I chose to do something else".

I find this to be generally true for many situations: It's not that I'm in a situation that makes it truly impossible to do or attend something. I can go, as long as I sacrifice the time I could have spent on something else. Rather, I am unwilling to sacrifice that something else. It happens to be more important or urgent for me, at that particular time point in my life.

I reckon this way of framing 'busyness' can help reinforce that we're in control and that we are doing things with intention, rather than letting life crash down on us and flooding us down its unknown path.

The title certainly holds true in this sense (~10% of my time is unproductive consuming time), too.

Time Tracking - 10% of my time is unproductive consuming time

Reading time: 1 min

I keep a fairly detailed record of how I use time through BlockyTime (not sponsored).

Before I sleep, I record my approximation of what type of activity I did, and at what time I did it.

Activities include: Sleep, Transit, Cleaning, Outings, Chatting, Writing, Study, Assignments, Work, Gaming, Watching Videos, Reading, etc.

I've been keeping this up for over a year now, although my categories have changed since (adding more to more precisely track the type of activity).

I think this is a pretty good way of telling how much free time you actually have, how much time you spent working, and how much time you chose to spend on things that improved your life (e.g. side projects).

Using an average from my data set post-category changes, I can conclude that for the past 7 months, I used approximately 10% of my time, 2.4 hrs (2 hr 24 min) a day on things such as watching videos, browsing the internet, reading up on news, idle time and playing games.

Obviously, an average number from this large date range covers both my study times, work times, and my holidays. I'm more busy sometimes, I'm less busy sometimes.

Is that a lot? I don't know.
I'd like to think that it's time I earned by being efficient throughout my day.

Do I want to reduce it? I can't say. Any less and I think my happiness will seriously decline.

Write down what you consume, or lose it

Reading time: 2 min

Everything we consume is lost to time if we don't write it down. Humans readily forget.

Every book, article and paper you've read.
Every video and documentary you've watched.
Your memories from interactions with other people and your life happenings.

To me, these are precious things my current save can save for my future self.

By capturing these in my combined notes system, they enter a box of ideas I can reach into. My written memories and thoughts can then be re-discovered and reused by my future self.

Over these past two years, I really got into thinking about how much knowledge I've consumed over the course of my lifetime, and how I've forgotten most of it.

Only in the past two and a half years did I pick up regular journalling (or rather just 'daily notes') as an effortless rolling habit throughout my day. Since Standard Notes (SN) is so easily accessible across so many platforms, using SN to do primary capturing is frictionless.

Only then did I really start capturing my rolling thoughts and memories as well as noteworthy media and resources I go through.

Back to the main point. Capturing stuff you consumed in the form of notes. How much you should write for each source could probably become a field of study in itself.

I tend to write out of my immediate thoughts and interests on a subject. I tend to put enough detail and context for myself to understand in the future. Obviously, this does increase the length of each note and time I have to spend, but this is the trade off to make it possible to interpret by my future self, after I forgot the context and details. (Tiago Forte, the person behind Building A Second Brain covers this problem of compression vs context quite well in this post.)

Stroke and Time

Offbeat topic. Reading time: 1 min

Interesting stuff I want to share

I was digging through my combined notes system to find ideas on what to write about and I came across something I noted down some months ago, out of interest and surprise:

Every time a person suffers from a stroke, they

  1. lose 1.2 billion neurons (for reference, our forebrains will more or less have 22 billion neurons)
  2. undergo accelerated ageing by 36 years.

For every second a stroke is untreated, they

  1. lose 32,000 neurons
  2. undergo accelerated ageing by 8.7 hours.

Source: Time is brain--quantified. Stroke. 2006 Jan;37(1):263-6.

Therefore, when someone suffers from a stroke, they have to get treatment IMMEDIATELY. Although treatment within 3 hours drastically improves chances of recovery with little or no disability, every second still counts.

For reference, 'FAST':

  • Face drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulty
  • = Time to call emergency, because those are signs of a stroke.

Choose to do things - Wording

Reading time: 1 min

Wording is important in establishing your mindset on things. On this blog, in most cases, I choose to use a 'self-deterministic' choice of words: I choose to do something; I don't have to do something.

It's a simple difference of 'choosing' to work vs 'having' to work.

I think this has several important benefits for well-being:

  • It affirms that you are in control (even if you think you are not; helps convince yourself)
  • It encourages gratitude for the opportunities you are given and choosing to take, rather than experiences you are forced to suffer through
  • These two combined likely decrease stress and increases your happiness
  • This encourages intrinsic motivation
  • This positive wording will make you dread tasks less, decreasing likelihood of procrastination

Block out your time to increase productivity

Reading time: 1 min

When I’m seriously time crunched and asking myself how I can possibly finish everything in time, I start blocking out my time. I cram an optimistic completion time estimate for each task into a list, note what time I will start each task at, then try to follow it.

The goal is to minimise the time I spend on each task, for work tends to fill the time allocated (see Parkinson’s law).

However, humans tend to far overestimate how quickly they can finish things- even our worse estimates are optimistic.

Therefore, between each work block, I leave a buffer time. I can then pressure myself to work quickly to finish my work in the optimistically allocated time, then comfortably use my buffer time to either finish up if I hadn’t already, or take a break before the next task time block comes up.

I currently use Sorted3 (not sponsored lol) as my app to automate scheduling and time blocking:

  1. Add list of tasks to complete today
  2. Set a time duration for each tasks
  3. Set a start time and a buffer time between each task

And it’ll schedule your day for you, avoiding items on your calendar.

Exactly what I need right now to counter ‘TooManyCommits’.

Modify your environment to modify your behaviour

Reading time: 1-2 min

Your environment plays a significant role in determining your behaviour.

Cues in your environment can encourage or inhibit actions. For example, if you want to eat less junk food, place them out of sight, in a cabinet far from the position you typically stay at. This increases the friction to getting the item and eating it. As a result, you'd only open the cabinet to get it only if you really wanted to eat junk food. It’d be out of sight otherwise and you won’t have enough ‘activation energy’ or motivation to want go get to it.

Instead of relying on willpower to keep yourself from eating junk food, just make it non-immediately accessible. No discipline required.

Same applies for apps on your phone. ‘Time waster’ and endless-scroll-tendency apps should go inside a folder, on the second or third page from the main. This massively increases friction to get to those. Your home page could be filled with productivity apps, minimising the friction to open them.

Same applies for my mouse, where the USB plug stopped working and the lack of a functional mouse next to me acted as a massive deterrent against me spending time playing video games as playing without a mouse either makes playing certain 'high commitment' games difficult or less enjoyable.

This removes the need for 'discipline' or 'willpower' to achieve something or to avoid doing something.

This is highlighted in several books, including 'Atomic Habits' and 'The Sleep Solution'.

Your environment modifies your behaviour. Therefore, modify your environment to modify your behaviour.

Search your desktop, don't dig through folders

Reading time: 1 min

Name your files properly and use search.

It's much faster to open a file through opening search with a keyboard shortcut followed by typing in a file name, rather than clicking through folders to find files with random or insufficiently descriptive names.

(Provided that you type quickly.)

I organise my files on my desktop with a naming system, allowing the above quick-search method to work for me. I know exactly what things are called, or rather I can guess intuitively such that a search will find it for me within the top few results.

Tools such as 'Wox' combined with 'Everything' allows this kind of workflow on Windows. 'Alfred' or native 'Spotlight' works on Mac.

I do use folders, but not with excessive nesting. I rarely have to dig through folders to find items. I find that to be a general waste of time (and these second-long interactions build up over time).

The Cross Section of Purpose - Finding Ikigai

Reading time: 1 min

Finding something you love and can be paid for is a gold standard to achieve in life.

Ikigai is broad concept of purpose; why we do what we do.

I recently came across this concept again and feel like it should be shared:

By Mark Winn in Toronto Star
By Mark Winn in Toronto Star

We should pursue to find something that fulfills all 4, possibly in this order:

  • What the world needs
  • What you are good at
  • What you love
  • What you can be paid for

Idealistic, but isn't that what visions are? By doing something that fulfills all 4, our needs can be fulfilled, we can be happy doing it, we are making efficient use of our time by using our strengths, and fulfilling something the world needs.

Isn't it funny, my description follows the reverse order of my list.

By the way, that is not a Venn diagram. It doesn't have an option for both dimensions on opposite sides.

These are both variants of true 4 dimension Venn diagrams:

By Kopophex, released into public domain
By Kopophex, released into public domain

By RupertMillard, released under a Creative Commons license
By RupertMillard, released under a Creative Commons license

(They go much more extreme the more you increase the number of dimensions.)

I sincerely apologize if any sources are incorrectly attributed. I tried very hard to find the original illustrators.

Say No Unless Certain Yes

Reading time: 1-2 min

If overwhelmed, say no unless you are certain yes.

I happen to be slightly overwhelmed with the amount of studying I push myself to do, the number of assignments I have, the number of side projects and work/volunteering roles I took up, and with maintaining my relationships. I am borderline overcommitting.

I've now found my true limit in how many responsibilities I can take up at the same time. I'm at a point in time where I have to say no to new commitments as a default, rather than yes.

I find that many people around me, myself included, say yes to tasks and responsibilities as a default. There's nothing wrong with that per se as we can view everything as a learning experience; something to enrich our lives and gain experience from. This can even increase our 'luck'.

However, there comes a time when we become overburdened. Finding our limit to how many responsibilities we can take up is essential to prevent unnecessary stress and strain on our body and mental state.

At such a point, we should say no as the default to new events and responsibilities, even if they open up new opportunities. In fact, even before reaching this limit, this should our standard attitude: saying no unless we are certain yes.

This allows us to consider whether the opportunity is worth our time, increase our tendancy towards intentional living, and reduce stress for ourselves.

I snoozed 3 emails containing events and opportunities yesterday for future consideration.

I opened them today with a clear mind. I declined all but one of them because that one was effectively mandatory.

Spending time with my family and partner - Is that procrastination?

Reading time: 1-2 min

I chose to spend my past 2 nights barely sleeping to rush some important presentations and papers (with a pressing deadline). I spent a few days in the past week or two spending time with my family and with my partner. And a day playing video games and watching videos; traditionally 'unproductive' happenings.

Obviously, pulling out a couple of days for the sole purpose of not working or studying would have its consequences on my task and project queue in the following week. I crafted my own fate there. Would this be considered procrastination?

Or can I consider it a productive advancement in spending time with my family and partner? A period of productive resting? (A period of achieving video game goals?)

Perhaps it’s even productive use of my time, given that near deadlines, we finish our work extremely quickly?

Although I temporarily felt tired and awful those two days, maybe the net happiness gained was positive.

A few things comes to mind (for reference by my future self, for possible expansion):

  • You are in control
  • It's okay to procrastinate (see Henri Poincaré)
  • You're just resting your mind and body for those few days
  • Your ability to produce high quality work extremely efficiently skyrockets near deadlines
  • Parkinson's law (work fills the time alloted)
  • Spending time with people is good; if anything it's more important than work
  • There IS a deadline for spending time with people (their current selves mentally and biologically only stay their current saves in the current time; to experience their current selves, you have to spend time with their current saves, not their future selves, assuming they're still around)
  • How do we measure productivity?


  • Seriously avoid meetings if at all possible; they're a waste of your time and other people's time

Why do students still have to memorise for exams?

Offbeat topic. Reading time: 2-3 min

Why do educators still expect students to memorise and regurgitate information in exams?

We’re at a period in time where information can be widely accessed, and most information can be found either online or offline.

Even in professional practice, we keep our reference books and online guideline databases close at hand—at our fingertips even, thanks to our mobile devices—for reference to confirm our judgement, do things based on evidence and minimise human error.

Given this, why are many exams based on the groundwork of testing memory?

Asking students to recall something does not help with their learning given that most students choose to use their short term memory for exams and forget everything immediately after, rather than committing information to their long-term memory (which admittedly takes much more effort due to the need for regular recall and review).

I understand that having everything committed to memory is important for fast decision making, and this could be a good reason for exams to test your memory on a topic.

However, I would argue that close-book examinations to test your memory of a subject is not the way forward. I am a proponent of long essay paper-style assessments and open book exams.

Rather than wasting time trying to memorise the knowledge delivered to you, writing a self-initiated research paper or using given information to complete an evaluation and analysis paper encourages and develops application and synthesis-based thinking. This requires understanding rather than raw memorisation and further develops important skills in our current era:

  • Proper identification of useful, relevant and reliable information and sources in a tsunami of information available
  • Reviewing different information sources and evaluating what should be the optimal action
  • Synthesis of your own knowledge given information you learned
  • Applying such knowledge to solve various problems

Through completing these tasks, students will naturally filter out what knowledge important and relevant to them and via their acquired understanding of a topic, they will naturally remember information that comes up frequently (and is therefore information important for them to remember).

Students will also have something to take out of it, such as a piece of writing for reference by their future selves, evidence of how far they have come in terms of knowledge manipulation, and potentially new knowledge that can be shared with others, rather than a soon-useless marked exam paper or a grade that rapidly voided.

Testing via memory recall, however, is still the most effective way for students to learn via memorisation, or so evidence suggests.

Then what’s wrong with memory based tests and exams?
If our goal is to develop humans to be biological hard drives, void of any skills in data and information interpretation, idea generation, and effective application of knowledge, then it’s the perfect method of education.


Perhaps someone else can offer a different perspective.

It's okay to procrastinate and not work sometimes

Reading time: 1 min

When you're not working or procrastinating and a voice at the back of your head is bugging you, say to yourself: "It's okay to not work sometimes. It's okay to take a break."

This means you are resting intentionally. You're actively using this time to rest your mind and body to prepare for your next productive session. To maximise the use of this time, we should let go of anything bugging us. Write it down in a trusted system and empty it from your mind. After all, how can you rest if it's bugging you?

Procrastination does have its benefits. Your work and thoughts are still cooking subconsciously in your mind- your subconscious mind will solve problems and come up with ideas for you. (More on this in the future).

Taking a brief break can also help restore productivity. Our focus and productivity tends to declines over the course of around 20-30 minutes. Taking a moment to break can restore this focus.


Although, you shouldn't procrastinate too much...

Spending your time with all the time in the world

Offbeat topic. Reading time: 1 min

How would you spend your time if you had all the time in the world, given that you are able to remain at your current age?

I would like to think that I would take better care of myself. Spend more time doing healthy things to ensure my body can stays functional and can keep my life going, even if the damages that cause ageing or the damages ageing causes cease.

Would you work harder? Doing more in something like receiving education would provide more long-term benefit for yourself.

Working less on the other hand would give yourself more time to relax overall, allowing you to enjoy your life more.

Would you treasure your time more? Would you treasure your time doing fun things, socialising and exploring more? Would you treasure your health more?

This is something I think about regularly and I would love to know what other people think. This is one of the times where I wish Listed allowed more interactivity. In the Guestbook, perhaps. Do reference the post title if you plan to share how you think!

February 17, 2021: Found you @Cubes

Write down what you want to accomplish each day for better productivity and focus

Reading time: 1-2 min

I find that a good practice to increase productivity and work towards ‘intentional living’ is to write down somewhere up to 3 things I want to complete each day.

Those few things should have the type of nature that if you complete them, it wouldn’t matter if you do nothing else that day because you already did the most important thing in your mind.

The benefit of doing this is that you set good, clear goals and tasks to work towards soon after you wake up, and your mind can focus on them for the rest of the day. I find this a good way of knocking out big, daunting but important or pressing tasks.

I set 3 as a limit for myself as this prevents focus splitting and getting overwhelmed. This decreases context switching for greater productivity and makes it easier to get started.

It also sets a clear end point for the day for when you can reward yourself for your efforts, and anything else you accomplish are accomplishments on top of your primary achievement. I find this to be a nice time to do something that will benefit my future self such as learning something or working on a side project. Or simply chill and consume some entertainment. Without incomplete tasks bugging me and guilt free.

Doing this exercise in a daily journal can help you keep track of what you’ve accomplished each day and see far you’ve come in the future.