16568 words

Meta Questions - 45

Maybe getting things organized how I want them is simply a matter of asking and answering the right questions. Complex systems evolve from simple ones that work, and what's simpler than answering a question?

Here are the questions that make up most of the stuff I'm trying to organize:

How will I ___ (effectively)?

  • Decide what tasks to do
  • Distribute my time
  • Organize my calendar
  • Ensure that my bedroom is orderly
  • Ensure that my phone doesnt get cluttered
  • Secure and protect my data
  • Organize and retain my knowledge/notes
  • Keep learning
  • Organize my writing
  • Make sure I use 'shower thoughts'
  • Enable myself to get back on track if my schedule is derailed
  • Make sure I don't have too much screen time
  • Still have fun
  • Have review sessions make sure I’m reaching my goals
  • Plan long-term
  • Plan events

This is a good list. I've torn down my organization system already; if I can just work on answering these questions this week and get through half of them I'll be much better off than I started. This is a novel yet intuitive approach to things that I hadn't considered before.


Grown Out - 44

As I've aged, I’ve constantly gone through community after community. Each time I 'grow into' a new place and leave behind the one before, I look back on myself and the people in that community and wonder how I was ever a part of it. In my mind, I've matured; now, that old community is for immature people (like my younger self).

Take for example /r/PCMasterRace (and the whole of Reddit, I guess, but that's for another time). I went through a period about a year ago in which I thought myself more intelligent than others - actually part of a master race - because I understood how to 'build my own computer' and that 'building a pc is way better than any alternative in all cases and you're stupid if you think otherwise.' (In quotes because I didn't and because I was wrong, respectively). Naturally, these ideas did not hold up for very long. You had me for a few months there, /r/PCMasterRace. I've escaped your clutches.

The thing is, I am constantly doing this, months at a time, and the communities that I leave don't just die after I depart. Those people on /r/PCMasterRace are still there. Moderators, active users, lurkers - a large portion of the community that existed when I was obsessed still exists and is still just as obsessed as I was. People are out there preaching the gospel of the Nvidia 3090 to people that just want to buy a fucking laptop.

There is a larger question to answer here: Is it all just a matter of perspective? Though in this case the answer is obvious, it may be that I am not growing out of those communities but rather away from them. It could be that my growth is nonlinear and I’m simply jumping from community to community rather than climbing up a ladder (as I have always envisioned it). I feel as though it would be... conceited of me to assume that every community that I leave is simply lacking in maturity compared to myself.

I guess there are a few possibilities here:

  • Communities that I join when I am younger are appealing to my immature self; the people in those communities are less mature than I am and I am maturing
  • The above is true, but almost everyone is constantly doing the same thing and the only reason that these communities are still 'growing' is because new people are joining and inactive ones aren't leaving. The law of the small minority (or whatever it's called) - that most of the content in a field is created by a small portion of the total people involved - could be at work here. People could be constantly coming and going, and there be just a mostly-stagnant group in the middle that stays where they are. *(does this make sense?)
  • I am jumping from community to community and my interests are simply changing; I'm not leaving exclusively because I mature, but due to various factors (one of which could be maturity, it just doesn't have to be the root cause in all situations).

Which one it is, I can't say. Maybe there's a fourth or fifth option that I'm not taking into account. This is interesting to think about, and I'll keep it in mind going forward to see if I notice anything further.


Value in Conversation - 43

Staying up late talking with my friends makes me realize how much I value conversation with them. I constantly forget what a toll the coronavirus has taken on me socially, and reconnecting - even virtually - reminds me, every time; I usually end up talking for 5+ hours in the meeting.

It's a refreshing feeling, even though my eyes can end up dry.


Indexed - 42

It's an extremely weird feeling to see my content indexed, to have it show up in search results.

My personal blog is the second result for my name on DuckDuckGo. On Google, it's very different - results are almost entirely profiles for high school sports players in the midwest - but one day I think it'll get there.

The same thing goes for this blog, though it needs more specific search terms; it's a lot less likely to be found by accident. I am currently the second and fifth results on DDG and google respectively for @branches.

I think that the reason this is so strange for me is that I've always thought of the internet, of the search results section, as 'someone else's territory'. I never imagined something that I've built would there when I search for it; it always seemed to stay too far on the fringe. (I don't promote my site, nor do I promote this blog.)

I don't know, but it's probably something I'll have to get used to (wink wink).


Daily Accomplishments - 41.5

I'm thinking about starting a daily work section of the blog. Other people on this site have done this (you'll notice it if you look around listed.to, there are some great blogs here) and I think it is a pretty good idea. I think it would look something like this:

What I did today

Worked on $project

  • project task one
  • project task two

Spent time learning $thing

  • time spent/resources used

Uncategorized goals/tasks

  • spent x minutes on community building during quarantine

Other activities of note

  • practiced $sport for x minutes
  • spent time with family

As I begin to allot time for seriously working on personal projects, I think this would be a nice addition to my daily writing.

I do have some reservations, though:

  • I might end up taking away from my writing
  • It might become burdensome/time-consuming
  • It might be too personally identifiable

These three things will need to be addressed before I can implement any of this. Hopefully I'll be able to find an elegant solution.

Until tomorrow.


Focus Mode - 41

It turns out that I can work significantly faster than I realized.

Work that would have taken me potentially four hours under normal circumstances took me two earlier today, and all I needed to do was focus. Putting my phone onto Do Not Disturb, with a special timer app that penalizes me for exiting, and buckling down for 1h 50m was enough to finish more than I expected.

I'm excited. If I work at this rate for 45 minutes per night, what could I get done? An hour? Two? If I am focused on a goal with my full attention, 7 hours per week, I want to find out how far I can get.

I also noticed that I generated a lot of ideas - 3 full post-its to be exact - when I forced myself to write them for later use, instead of going on temporary diversions to pursue them. Focusing like this is a win-win for me; I get more done, generate more ideas, and spend less time working on things I don't enjoy.

Things are coming together. A lot of my free time is going toward making new systems to keep myself organized and more habitual(?). I'm hoping that things will be very different for me by next week. That said, my blog here is full of unfulfilled writing promises so whether I'll explain any further may be a mystery.


Long-term Goals - 40

I'm trying to figure out my goals for the longer-term - a year, two years, etc. I'm having a more difficult time than I expected, though, since I'm not sure what I would find fulfilling. I'm imagining myself looking back on 2021 and thinking about what I did, imagining that I'd accomplished various things and gauging my own reactions to them.

The problem here is that I don't know what I'll be like in a year. In the same way that you can't just make a learning plan for a subject you don't know anything about—you don't know what you don't know yet—it's difficult to create a plan for a year you haven't experienced, and for someone that you don't actually know.

I think some of my hesitation here also comes from an arbitrary fear that I'm not really living my life as others are. I'm supposed to be enjoying a time of "exploration" and I'm spending a lot of said time trying to get my life organized. I'm worried that I'm going to look back on my earlier life and be sad that I spent it trying to act older than I was.

I don't know, man. I'm conflicted about all this. I'm sure it's also partly the night talking.
See you tomorrow for #41.


Pseudo-post filler - 39

Today was an extremely unproductive day. I did the bare minimum amount of work, and did it at 11pm. I did my jobs, got through events, but in general it sucked. Hopefully I'll learn from the experience.

I have a big project in the works, one that I'll surely be explaining in depth sometime soon on this blog. Until then, I'm going to bed.

(Youth) Poet Laureate - 38

Like many others across the country, I really enjoyed seeing Amanda Gorman recite at the Biden-Harris inauguration ceremony. She showed some awesome (as in inspiring awe) poetic ability. The spoken word style that she used - with varying rhythm and rhyme structure, plenty of wordplay, motion, and an intent to convey a message - was familiar to me, as I've had the chance to try out performing in spoken word events before. Now, being 'appreciated' and 'applauded is very different from being able to write and perform a pieceso good that it (arguably) upstages the POTUS. And she went further than that, too, doing interviews after the ceremony and fucking acing them. Having experienced the process of writing and performing a piece of my own (and doing interviews, I guess) made me appreciate just how good she is at it. It was not the type of thing I expected to see following the inauguration of a new president, but I'm nevertheless pleased that I had a chance to watch it live.

Side note: having done some research, I have come to realize that she is not employed by the government and was simply invited to speak. The title of "Youth Poet Laureate" is awarded by judges ("esteemed poets") appointed by a non-governmental organization, Urban Word NYC, but is sponsored by the library of congress and other government organizations. I had some wrong info in my previous version of this post, so I figured I'd update to rectify them.


Another Filler - 37

I honestly don't have the energy (or the time) to write a post I can be proud of right now (but I have written some ideas for future posts) so instead I'll just write down some disconnected thoughts.

Nevermind, my head is empty. It's interesting how I will often just lose the capacity to think when I sit down to write, yet when I try to empty my mind to meditate I suddenly get a burst of activity. Irritating, too.

See you tomorrow.


Other Friends & Scale - 36

As I am used to small social circles (schools, sports teams, and local communities), it is always a strange thing when my close friends mention other friends that I don't know, especially when they're making plans. Though of course I know it, confronting the fact that these people that I know so well have friends other than me is never a pleasant experience.

I feel like this is caused by some other, larger characteristic of humans. While I'm not sure what it is, I could take a guess: humans have to ignore huge amounts of information in order to focus on relevant information, so we're not usually thinking about what other people are currently experiencing or trying to figure out what their lives are like; our own lives already have enough going on. This makes our whole world center on us, rather than others, so realizing that other people are the center of their own world - this happens when you're reminded that they have other friends - is sort of a shock.

This could also tie into our ability to function normally despite things like huge death counts (e.g. from coronavirus) and I guess our ability to disregard the fact that there are billions of people on this earth. The sheer scale of it all is unimaginable, so we simply don't imagine it. It seems like this is a necessary characteristic to function in the modern world.

Anyway, there's a very real possibility that I'm totally wrong here, for any number of reasons, but it's fun to theorize.


Ideaflow - 35

One thing that I can never have enough of is ideas. I come up with what I think of as a 'cool idea' on an almost-daily basis, and since I have a Notes shortcut in my Control Center, I usually just open my phone, write it down, and then that's it.

I created a Shortcut to export these notes in a single textfile, in bullet point format, with the intention of sorting through them and categorizing them for future use (e.g. when i'm looking for a project to finally help myself learn JS). This didn't work out at all. Not only was it difficult to group these ideas by common characteristics (I had everything from narrative ideas to shower thoughts); I had absolutely no idea what to do with them even if I was able to categorize them. Do they go into my Zettelkasten? Do they go under some tag in my Standard Notes? Do they go into a separate folder on my sync server? How will I know when to use them? How can I easily search them?

I feel as though I'd be creating a lot more if I had this 'ideaflow' ironed out. Hopefully I will be able to do so sometime soon, but considering the mess that I'm currently in, it might be a while.

Well, there's not much to be done tonight. See you tomorrow for #36.


[Potential Identifier] - 34.5

I'm writing this post so that I can link to it when I use [potential identifier] in a blog post, rather than having to explain it every time I use it.

When you see this in a post, it means that I wrote something that I liked but realized that posting it could create a verifiable link to my real identity. In order to stay as true to my real thoughts as possible (and to save time/effort), I simply replaced the part that could identify me with [potential identifier] rather than trying to edit it out.

When I use it for the first time in a post, I will put insert a link to this post in order to explain. I will not be going back to old posts and replacing whatever solution I used then with this; again, this is to save time/effort and remain true to my thoughts. I'm fine with whatever I thought was good enough back then; after all, it's only been a month since I started this.

Six Fucking Days - 34

Today, using the iOS Screen Time feature, along with ActivityWatch (my favorite open-source device analytics software), I have calculated the total "leisure time" (time spent on my phone and on my personal computer account is almost entirely that) for the past three weeks.

I have spent one hundred and one hours using technology over the past 3 weeks, and that's not including time spent working on schoolwork or attending online classes.

101 hours. 4.2 days. Four and a fifth fucking days. If I divide that into my waking hours, about 15.5 hours/day, I have spent about six and a half days using technology (edit: by technology I mean electronic devices - technology in the colloquial sense), most of which I can say with relative certainty was not time well-spent. Time spent on my phone and personal accounts is mostly web browsing or communicating with friends, and while I do find value in that... SIX FUCKING DAYS! Some of it, at least four hours a week, was dedicated to writing here, but the vast majority of it was me absentmindedly consuming. I was a fucking idiot to think that I was resisting the pull of addiction that I saw in my sister; the beast simply took a different form. Treachery often comes in pleasant packaging.

(Thinking about it, I just realized that I spent a large part of my aunt's birthday party this evening on my phone. Admittedly, most of it was scrolling through the Reuters app while my mom explained Retinol to her. Still, I wish I'd been more present during the evening than I was. Maybe now that I've realized that there's a problem, I'll start noticing my habits more often.)

I can't get my brain around this. I could have simply spent the entirety of my weekends scrolling through my phone, and put it away during the week; the resuslts would be the same. Actually, I'd probably have less screen time than I do now. Literally days of my life are gone to this brain-eating void. I thought my habits were more mild, honestly - if you asked me, I would have said about three hours per day. Not so.

This, I hope, will finally push me to fix things.

I am not spending another 33 hours on my devices this week.

My "secret" [poential identifier] organization project - something I haven't mentioned yet on this blog, codenamed [potential identifier] - is finally going to be deployed. This project is ambitious, and I sort of stopped working on it for a while, but it basically is a guide to organizing my entire life. I failed to do so over my winter break, so I'm doing that now. No more cluttered room, no more mindless scrolling, no more unintentionally spent time, no more... no more of any of the shit that's been plagueing me for months, years even, that I haven't gotten around to fix. This public commitment to my own set of rules is going to be the first official step, and hopefully many more public commitments will come along soon.

Starting now, I am going on a diet. I am committing to 10 hours per week of phone use, and 5 hours of computer (personal account, non-project) use. Here are my public guidelines:

Phone: 10 hours

  1. ~13 minutes in feed apps per day: RSS reader, HN, LessWrong, SkimFeed, and AP/Reuters apps (1 hour 30 min total, mostly on my phone)

    • I will skim headlines quickly, search for things that are meaningful or interesting to me, and save them to my wallabag to be read in the 30 minutes. (pattern: open up HN, search RSS, open up LessWrong, look at SkimFeed; quickly look through AP/Reuters apps.)
    • I only open these apps up deliberately; I will do it in one session around the end of the day. Reuters and AP have notifications on in case of a major news story, so if I recieve a notification that seems like something I should know about, I will make a brief exception.
  2. 30 minutes of communications per day: Signal, iMessage, Wire (3.5 hours total)

    • I will open these apps up when I recieve notifications or feel that I have something good to share
    • I will close these apps when I am no longer actively communicating or engaged in the conversation. Notifications are there for a reason.
    • This limit is relatively open for apps like Signal, which I mostly use to communicate with my closer friends (I care more about conversations with them so I will give myself leeway when using Signal)
  3. 30 minutes minutes of reading (3.5 hours total)

    • This will satistfy my FOMO and consumption urges.
    • I will read articles throughout the day and be careful to stay under 30 minutes. (Set a timer?)
    • I will stay in the wallabag app and refrain from visiting the website of what I am reading (I can open safari to save a bookmark but that's it)

Computer: 5 hours

Writing: 35 minutes/day (rounds to 4 hours/week, about)

  • This will be a hard limit to follow, but the main reason for it is that I keep writing posts past 12am, which is the main reason that I'm usually up so late. It is unhealthy and I want to minimize it, so I will set a 35 minute timer for my writing and save long posts for later work.

Non-project browsing (like passive consumption): 8.5 minutes/day (rounds to an hour/week)

  • This is pretty self-explanatory, but I figure I'll write out its use case anyway.
  • Once I finish a project working time I can open up the tabs that I saved for later and figure out what to do with them.
  • I probably won't do this every day, so time will carry over (I care about weekly screen time, not daily (though that may need to change depending on the outcome of this; I find that short-term goals are better than long-term ones))

Project browsing: unlimited but deliberate; if it becomes unintentional browsing time it turns into non-project browsing.

  • I will set an intention before beginning a project session
  • I will list the websites that are important and go into focus mode
  • I will save interesting but unrelated tabs to Onetab instead of opening them in the background

What will I do with the weekly 18 hours that I've now freed up?

I am going to re-learn how to be a person offline. I am not going to be afraid of longer time commitments.

Here are (most of) the activities I will emphasize, in no particular order

  • Read the perpetually-beckoning pile of books on my shelf
  • Spend time with my family
  • Work on reorganizing my room
  • Meditate
  • Relax on my bed and play some music
  • Work on some projects (preferably offline)
  • Go for a walk outside and catch up on my favorite podcasts (I want to link to the podcasts page of my personal website here, ugh fucking pseudonymity)
  • Use my pull-up bar and do body-weight exercises or stretch
  • Draw
  • Write a letter
  • Go to bed early or take a nap
  • Practice music

Wish me luck. I hereby relinquish control.


Infinity and Resources (+ two long ass footnotes) - 33

Infinite power, infinite money, infinite time... they all seem great and all, until you realize the effects that they have on the human brain. Power will turn you into a dictator; money will turn you avaricious, infinite time will make you depressed.

The internet is yet another example, in this case an infinite expanse of information. Using it unstructured is one of the worst things I can do (and am doing) to myself. I am constantly in a state of searching and exploring, finding new, cool stuff, bookmarking it, and moving on (<-- Shu Omi's abbreviated notes on the phenomenon, since I've already linked to the full article in Firefox Focus (part one) - 7 and yes I will eventually get around to writing the next part). I couldn't tell you any concrete concepts that I've studied or subjects that I've learned about from my internet travels over the past few months, and the problem there is scattered attention.

Because there is so much for me to look at, constantly, my attention span has gotten worse - to the point that I notice it often - and I've gotten very little done. I have a hard time committing to reading books because I need to feel like I'm busy at all moments. Settling down and reading is the exact antithesis of """being busy""".

Sure, I'm exploring and finding out about new things. I actually think that's making the problem worse: constantly getting dopamine (that's probably neurologically misguided but you get what I mean) from clicking new links and getting novel stimulation reinforces scattered thoughts and de-inforces(?) focused, deliberate work on those things that are less new but that I care about so much more. Great, I found things like Arweave and mymind, but are those things really worth losing huge chunks of my life?

"Resources" for me just means "cool site but I won't ever use it, I'll just go store it away in a folder and let that sit for the rest of my life". I have a fairly large store of resources on most of the subjects that I want to learn more about, such as data science, web development, painting, digital media/design, pure math, linguistics, and on, and on, and on... but I don't use any of those resources. Instead, I simply seek out more. Thus, I have spent (cumulatively) days on the internet without learning or focusing on any of the things that I really want to learn. Instead, I get the impression of knowledge from link aggregators and various blogs, despite the fact that I'm missing out on their true depth because of my lack of experience/understanding.

It's far easier to read than it is to think. I can't trust myself to resist, especially now that I have this miniscule attention span, so I'm going to have to continue to create rules and schedules for myself to avoid this.

Sort of related thing that I want to write while I'm thinking about it: I've been thinking about using the iOS Shortcuts app to automate my time blocking. I can create a shortcut with templates (e.g. "school from 9 to 11:30", "break from 11:30 to 12:30" - all the events that happen repeatedly throughout my life) and just run it the night before to set up my schedule for the day. Adding options like "how much writing time do you want?" and "do you have a lot of work to do?" will make it even more sophisticated and further automate my day.

I think that ultimately, taking decision-making, effort, and ultimately control out of my own hands in the moment is the best way for me to actually do things that I want to do, since it removes as much friction in doing what I'm supposed to as possible, and automating my life is a significant help in that endeavor.

I'm not sure if what I just wrote here makes sense since I'm up 4 hours past when I normally go to bed, but as usual I won't do anything about it.

Finally: I am officially 1/3 of the way through #100days. I'm glad I've been able to keep up the challenge, and I've enjoyed the constant writing practice; though I haven't been doing my best writing, I still feel as though I've evolved, somewhat at least, stylistically. Also, writing my ideas down really forces me to flesh them out.

While I'll admit my writing here is a weird blend of informality, broken (sometimes accidentally) grammar and punctuation rules, and essay-style writing, and is often all around kind of shit, it's fun. All I need to do is start writing and the words spill out, and it's freeing to let my brain work the way it naturally does and not concern myself with stupid shit like making sure I use the em dash instead of the hyphen when there's a break in a sentence - I don't, lmao, the dash is way faster to type - and putting the hyphen between adjective and -ass (it's funnier without it fsr) when I'm using it as a compound modifier (or something like that? I'm a native english speaker so I've never learned the linguistic terms that describe it).

I'm rambling, sorry. It's really late where I am and my brain can't focus on anything past the current sentence. I'll go to bed now.