27173 words

Learning How To Practice - 56

When I compare myself to others people (which I inevitably do), one common difference I've noticed between myself and them has been practiced skills.

A lot of my friends, for example, have incredible art or chess skills. As I've written about before, learning these skills is mostly structured practice; while I do play music and sports, those two are my only high-practice skills, and both of those things don't really feel like 'practice' per se - I passed the point after which mundane practice turns fun a long time ago, and I can control the ball well in soccer and make the piano sound nice when I play. Getting myself to practice is not difficult.

When I've tried starting to learn other practice-intensive skills (including chess, along with programming, art, and meditation) I've had a very difficult time actually getting that structured practice in consistently. To rephrase: I don't know how to practice.

This is one of the most important (in my opinion) goals that I set last night. Over the next few months, I am going to study myself, learn what's the most effective way to get consistent practice in skills that I suck at but want to learn. It's all about getting myself to that tipping point, where painful grinding becomes fun activity.

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Goals set - 55

Tonight, I went for a one-and-a-half-hour walk. I focused on one thing: setting goals for the month of February.

It was extremely successful!

More on this in the future, there are a few goal-setting tricks that I discovered as I thought to myself.

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Noteflow - 54

I read for two reasons:

  • Enjoyment
  • Learning

I often feel like note-taking gets in the way of my reading. I need to maximize reading's two values simultaneously, not sacrifice one for the other.

Today, I spent about half an hour reading an article from Foreign Affairs on the ongoing and future US/China "cold war." The reason it took me this long is that I was highlighting and annotating while I read - but more importantly, I spent a while after I read the article just summarizing the three important points that the author of the article made. Not only do I feel as though I understand much better what I read, but I feel like I had more fun actually reading the article; I think, and this is just a guess, that conscious consumption is actually a lot more fun for me than unconscious consumption.

Anyway, here's a prototype system I have for taking notes:

Articles, posts, etc.

  1. Get articles through RSS feed or apps
  2. Get articles into a usable form (i.e. a form that I can mark up with little effort)
    • printing will definitely have the best resuslts (easiest, most pleasant experience, with plenty of space to annotate)
    • but for portability and simplicity reasons, I may want to (a) save it as a PDF and annotate on a device or (b) email it to my kindle.
      • I will ask around for digital note-taking tips
  3. Annotate (short reminders of ideas I have while reading) and highlight as I read
  4. Summarize/write up salient points in my own words, along with other notes, further research topics/questions, etc.
  5. Figure out what to do with the summary points (hopefully one day I will have a zettelkasten to move some of this stuff into)

Books

  1. Get books (ebooks or print) on kindle or in print
  2. Read and annotate in chapter-long sessions
  3. At the end of the chapter summarize and do what I do with articles
  4. Figure out what to do with all this.

Podcasts

  1. Get podcast episodes via RSS, subscription, or recommendation
  2. Take airrquotes and use the 'hey siri, create a new note' feature (siri is only enabled when I have wireless headphones, so this may not work in every context
  3. Dictate my takeaways, summary, and review my airrquotes in a note
  4. Figure out what to do with info/notes/all this.

And by notes, I mean... well, infomation in a brief format? The idea of 'Notes' is rather abstract, so I'll have to put some thoughts into what they are and different types. That is definitely something interesting to explore.

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Good Compounds - 53

(short post tonight; I have two exams tomorrow and need to get to bed.)

I had a conversation with my father tonight about how best to improve the world if you are in a position of wealth. An idea that I stumbled upon that I find interesting is that good compounds like interest - good done now will usually continue to ripple through time and cause more good to happen in the future, and those ripples increase based on the scale of the good.

For example, building roads in underprivileged communities will make trade easier. This is good in itself, but the results of the results of the good done will be even better: more trade will mean more wealth and prosperity for the community, better education, less poverty - the small act of building roads has now gained 'interest' and become something much greater than just new roads.

Thus, good done now is worth more than good done later. I don't have time to explore this idea fully, but this is definitely something I will need to continue on. I think this could seriously impact my personal philosophy.

Let's get going on good, shall we?

-branches

Going Nowhere, Working Hard - 52

I am working hard, constantly, but getting nowhere.
Despite my organizational efforts, my task management and knowledge management systems (among many others) have made no progress. I have poured hours and hours into research, trying new tools, downloading apps, listening to podcasts, and I am still working in the same disorganized way that I used to. My post from two days ago, Zettelkasten - 50 is an example of this. I have begun numerous projects upon which I have made little progress. I hate being busy but I cause myself to be it anyway. I have given presentations to friends to try to get them on board with ideas, only to find out that they have forgotten about it the next day.

I have come to terms with the fact that things do not work the way that I do. I will have to build my own tools in order to feel fully in control... but I don't have the fucking time to build tools for myself when I am on a roller coaster with my current workload.

Everything just feels futile. I may just be suffering from night-induced dystopianism, but it doesn't look like I'll make any real progress anytime soon.

See you tomorrow for something better. Actually, maybe that's what I should be saying to myself every time I get like this. Hopefully things trend toward the more optimistic outcome.

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Fifty-one Reflection - 51

As I enter the second half of my #100days challenge, I wanted to write a reflection on what I wrote back at Listed - 0.

I am incredibly happy that I have gone with a pseudonymous blog over one connected to my real-life identity. I feel empowered, freed from self-censorship - and I don't even post anything personal here. The words that I wrote in my first post here sum it up:

Essentially, I'm here because I need a place where I can write without pressure, constraint, or expectation.

Pseudonymity is perfect here. I feel as though I somewhat have a reputation to keep up; this prevents me from shitposting or saying things that I don't mean. That said, those are the only real stakes here. Thus, my writing limits are as follows:

  • write what you are interested in writing about
  • don't say stupid shit

Regarding my first sentence:

My brain generates a lot of ideas.

Writing every day has significantly increased the amount of ideas I am creating and showing to the world - even 'the world' here means the two people that left me feedback in the guestbook.

(Thanks for that, by the way. Guestbook messages are enormously encouraging to find, even if they're one sentence long.)

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The Zettelkasten - 50

I've been trying to learn the Zettelkasten note-taking system on and off for about a year now. Over the past few days, I've been reading the book How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens, and I keep getting 'insight' and 'explanation' but no examples of how to actually use the system. It is the same with most online tutorials; they love to give me info about the system but not tell me how to use it.

One day, I swear. One day.

(Halfway through the challenge!)
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Bad Incentives - 49

I feel like there are so many systems with fundamentally bad basic incentives for the actors within the system, yet people blame surface-level problems for the results of these deep-rooted problems.

  • U.S. Politics: Politicians' incentives push them to make them decisions get (re)elected and stay in office, not to run the country well, make compromises, or represent the will of the people. This is the problem with almost any democratic system, but it's still the root cause of a lot of the U.S.'s (and many other countries, I just live in the US) problems.
  • Social media: no, Facebook and Twitter do not run their sites the way they do because they enjoy watching the world burn. It is what will keep people's attention the longest in order to serve them the most targeted ads, so their algorithm tunes it to the individual user. If that individual user is entertained by conspiracy theories, hate groups, and misinformation, so be it. The platform is making money.

These are just two examples that I have on hand. The wold begins to be much more transparent in many areas once we start thinking about the actors in a system and what action that system incentivises. Recognizing those incentives is the first step to changing them.

(Note: I am extremely tired right now (a common theme throughout my writing) so I apologize if this is extremely obvious to you. Feel free to go read another blog; listed has plenty.)

I have a ton of reading material on this sort of idea (books on game theory, "The Dictator's Handbook", etc.) but I haven't gotten around to reading them. As a matter of fact, I haven't gotten around to reading anything really in a while. I'll have to add a lot more time to read to my schedule.

I recall asking a favorite teacher of mine if he had any advice and he said "read more books"... I read an embarrassing total of something like 5 books, plus or minus a few, in 2020. That's not to say I didn't read - I read plenty of long- and short-form journalism, along with plenty of discussion threads, Wikipedia pages, blog posts, and tutorials - but uh that's still embarassing. I need to get started. Going to go read a book now.

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Dictation - 48.5

i’ve now written multiple drafts and one full, published post entirely using dictation software rather than typing (albeit with some edits to fix misinterpretation). It took me 20 minutes to write my previous post using only voice type, and that was without having my ideas fleshed out before hand.

I’m not sure whether I type as quickly as I speak, but it is definitely nice being able to focus on my thoughts without having a clicking sound going on behind me. whether I will use this long-term remains to be seen; for now, I am appreciating this feature very much.

(This post was written(spoken?) with dictation too.)

Losing Shame - 48

Shame and embarrassment, an instinct to not want to go against the grain… if I think about it, they are more of an enemy than a friend.

Theoretically, their development makes sense. Collective thinking is one of humanity's important traits; instinctively following the path of others, the path of the pack, should put decisions in the hands of leaders and/or The judgment of the group as a whole. Rather than doing that, however, these traits seem to simply apply social pressure on individuals not to go out of their areas of comfort or expertise - i.e. they're not going to learn anything or try anything new.

I find that they are holding me back. My instincts tell me not to try to engage with people older and more intelligent than me, to 'stay in my lane', to remain silent when others remain silent. In essence: be the average person. This is not, by definition, a bad thing; in these situations that I am encountering, however, it is not exactly my goal.

Let me give you an example. In a meeting earlier this week, I was in attendance among a majority of people that were older than me. They clearly had stronger bonds with each other and the meeting's host than I did, so my instincts told me to be quiet and wait until I knew everyone better to start speaking up. these in stinks would have maybe another face in the crowd, someone just showing up and then leaving without saying a word.

I am not sure why, but I did chime in. I had something to contribute, so I just unmuted and added it. Then I continued with it, and I ended up actually having a conversation with these people I'd otherwise have no way to talk to (at least, according to my instincts lol). I absolutely do not regret doing it; also I feel much more a part of that group than I did before, even after just one high-participation meeting.

Overcoming my fear of/instinct against shame and embarrassment was not only not embarrassing; it was empowering.

I will definitely have to practice this more; I don’t know if these feelings will lessen if practice fighting or even just ignoring them, I but I believe that building the skills to overcome these instincts when they’re not helping will aid in driving to future success.

-branches

Answering My Own Meta Questions - 47

Rather than write some thoughts down, I want to get some work done on my reorganization. Using the meta-questions from #45, I'm going to start putting things into action. (I'm writing in some form, so I'd say it counts toward #100days.) Sorry if it's boring.

How will I ___ effectively?

  • Decide what tasks to do

I'm going to have a running list, an inbox of sorts, which stores every single assignment, step in a project, etc. - must be concrete, quantifiable achievements in order to be added, otherwise they'll go into a projects, ideas, etc. section depending on what they are.

Then, each morning, I will copy unsorted items on this list into an Eisenhower Matrix (this is the blog that I initially heard about it from so I figured I should cite it) and use that to prioritize my working time.

  • Distribute my time

Time blocking. (see next question)

  • Organize my calendar

Recurring events will do most of the grunt work, but I will also have shortcuts that add certain day templates to tomorrow or two days from now in order to fill in days that don't go along with the routine.

I anticipate this being one of the most difficult parts of my system to implement successfully. It will require effort, trial, and error, and potentially a lot more time than I'd hope, but I do think it will work out in the end. Use review sessions to consider my performance.

  • Ensure that my bedroom is orderly

Pick stuff up every night rather than doing cleaning marathons during dedicated time; try to decrease total stuff over time to reduce clutter; elaborate on my system for deciding where objects go in my room (I have general categories but that doesn't seem to be enough). Use review sessions to consider my performance.

  • Ensure that my phone doesnt get cluttered

Trying to cut down to the bare essentials is a constant struggle for me. One thing I can do to quickly improve, however, is to prevent myself from keeping apps that I want to test out on my phone. They cause clutter, they're unused, and are potential security risks - among other annoying issues - so if I set out a time to test things and force myself to delete unused testing apps after a period, I think things could improve significantly. Use review sessions to consider my performance.

  • Secure and protect my data

Self-host a personal cloud for syncing stuff (and practice hardening linux)
Use private browsing extensions in ff or degoogled-chromium
Use systemwide vpn and adblockers
Use secure (encrypted) communications wherever possible (good link)
Update and keep up-to-date on sec and privacy news
Harden (and pentest on, I guess) my home network
Use anonymity or pseudonymity appropriately; use my real identity only in very specific, intentional situations (I do this already, not that much of an issue)
Avoid installing unecessary applications to reduce attack surface
Keep learning!
(incomplete list)

  • Organize and retain my knowledge/notes

This will likely be another one of the more difficult-to-implement parts of this system.

Annotate/highlight/take notes on/write takeaways from as much media as I can
Take those literature/media notes and send them into Zettelkasten format (?) at a certain time each day (Thoughts, other writings should go into S.N. account)
this will need further consideration; notes system needs much more work.
Create (write, make infographics, make websites, compile resources that I've used) as much as possible (obligatory learn in public reference)

  • Keep learning

Block out learning time every day. Use review sessions to consider my performance.

  • Organize my writing

Not sure what I was thinking when I wrote this, embarrassingly.

  • Make sure I use 'shower thoughts'

I will take shower notes down using my control center button, and at the end of the day export them as .txt files to a folder in my zettelkasten. Useful ones go somewhere, not useful ones go somewhere else...
Use review sessions to consider my performance.

  • Enable myself to get back on track if my schedule is derailed

When I notice that I'm off-track or that something is going to come up, I will create a new block and adjust my schedule. Time spent should be intentional; it's fine to play video games spontaneously on the weekends as long as I choose an amount of time and decide when to end and when to start other things.

  • Make sure I don't have too much screen time

This is a losing battle during lockdowns. Nevertheless, I will still attempt to decrease my screen time.

Remove high-time apps/sites from my diet (youtube, forums, news sites, etc.)
Be more aware of my own screen time
Give myself plenty of convenient alternatives when I want to consoooooooom
Use review sessions to consider my performance.

  • Still have fun

Allow for changes in schedule. Still be spontaneous, but deliberate.

  • Have review sessions make sure I’m reaching my goals

Schedule this.

  • Plan long-term

Goals area (like my tasks and thoughts area) in which I list out my goals for time periods (explained at a later hour). Use review sessions to consider my efforts.

  • Plan events

I think this will be one of my "projects": build friendships and still have fun in whatever way I can during times like these. Have a quota/reminder to plan events (online or in-person)?

And a few more that I didn't add last time:

  • Organize projects & longer-term goals

Projects and goals session. Divide into smaller tasks for scheduling and Eisenhower Matrix-ing. *Use review sessions to consider my performance.
*

  • Stay focused/prevent technology-induced memory loss

Use apps, timers to put myself into focus mode
Put phone away for certain activities or times to reduce digital amnesia
Think more (no, seriously)
Focus hard for a moment when I start a task or activity; really hammer home what I'm doing in my brain.

  • Make my photos album actually useful

Save less, categorize more, caption more, tag more. I don't know if this is really going to happen but I guess we'll see.

  • Legitimately start, take notes on, and finish nonfiction books

Reading time blocked into schedule. Seriously read. Search around to see if I'm missing something?

  • Maintain a set of values and goals that I pursue

Values and goals area. Use them to help me make decisions. Use review sessions to consider my performance.

  • Optimize [this needs a post of its own]

Practice optimizing and observing; block out time, one approach is to list (try to list) rules and then figure out how to optimize things using said rules.

  • Reuse school resources

Keep good notes
Filter through for useful information, put into Z if possible, file them in filing cabinets w/ related stuff

  • Study

I want to learn to study effectively. Practicing it is good, but I've also heard about courses from Ali Abdaal (skillshare, I think?) among others. Look for online resources and ask around.


This post has taken me about an hour and a half, and I'm really happy with how it's turned out. I just need to keep making progress - and asking questions.

Ultimately, I plan (read: hope) to one day build my own tools that fit my brain better, but until my coding abilities are better I'll have to make do as best I can.

See you tomorrow.

-branches


Still to do:

  • build shortcuts for calendar use
  • figure out item categorization and storage system
  • create list of blocks to add
  • Figure out notes system
  • What does "organize my writing" mean?
  • Goals, values and Projects
  • list out all blocks still needed
  • Implement

How will I implement?

Balancing Work and Work - 46

I'm really having trouble prioritizing my personal projects. I work hard on my schoolwork, but then I don't feel like doing anything other than lying down and doing nothing. I don't know when I'm supposed to fit these things, but I guess I'll figure it out sometime. Dedicated, scheduled time seems to be the answer.

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.

-branches

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.

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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.

-branches