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Alkan's Journal


Alkan
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Today I came here to take my goals from this post and write them down in a place where they will be visible every day. I noticed something along the way: I'm getting distracted by a few things on the internet on my way to this post. They aren't exactly unproductive distractions, but they're not what I set out to do right now. So, in that, I realize now that I need to have more of a conscious mental presence when I am on the internet so that I'm not getting delayed or distracted by it, and that I'm doing what I actually intend to do with my time.

Of course, some free browsing time (on useful things) is good for staying creative and absorbing large amounts of information. But there's a time for that, and it's morning - hence this isn't the time.

Meditation is allowing me to be more aware of things like this as they happen. I've been quite productive lately thanks to meditation and cutting out games. Now I am making ground on more of these little areas where things still go wrong because I've created a good baseline of improvement.

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Coffee 

I drank too much yesterday. It put my mind into a mode of having racing thoughts - for a long time. I was fairly productive yesterday, but it wasn't to the degree that I am looking for. I give myself room for improvement in this area, however. I accept that it's going to take time to become more productive, but because I desire it and have made considerable progress already, I trust that it will happen. Today I made 20 grams of beans worth - about a cup and a half. This seems to be the perfect amount, and I'm going to incorporate this specific amount as the amount that I'll have each day.

Details

What a difference paying attention to the details of your life makes in improving oneself. It stops you from mindlessly making the same mistakes over and over again, creating rapid adjustment.

Pomodoros as Measurement

Today I am designating a new unit of time measurement - the pomodoro, from the pomodoro technique. However, a pomodoro for me is 45 minutes. Measuring things in pomodoros makes it easier to block out time for said activities, and drives in the fact that it's a rather concentrated effort (thus making 45 minutes worth more like 1.5-3 hours of less focused effort).

Internet

I am also going to place more emphasis on mindfulness about using the computer. I'm a very curious person - this seems to be my greatest challenge in terms of not using the internet for a long period of time. I spend a lot of time finding information, trying to scratch my mental itch. A good way to mitigate that itch is to ask what you're actually going to get out of that information. If it's something practically useful in the present moment, then it's worth looking up. If it's not going to be useful now and the information is low priority, just don't bother. And, if it's perhaps low priority but something I'd really like to know - I can write it down and look it up later. It only generates more questions when you start answering them. That said, obviously with my informational thirst, I have a valuable resource at my disposal. It's just a matter of prioritizing the usage of that drive and being mindful of the urge to simply go and dig for the information.

Decisiveness - Making a Plan and Acting on it

I've noticed that when I'm doing a task, I will almost always get frustrated and stressed out by everything else having some level of priority, perhaps higher than what I am currently doing. This is another area that I need work in. For instance, today I am going to finish cleaning my room so that I have a clear space to be productive in. However, I notice that I am becoming indecisive, and stop doing anything because I believe that what I have to work on is a higher priority than a clean room. Well, it is, however, I'll be more productive overall for the day if I start with my room and then work in it with a clean mind.

So, I need a sort of mental flowchart for task designation. So, in fact, I need to make cleanliness a much higher priority, since it makes me more productive in general. Still, if my room is a mess and I have something due the next day, obviously I have to work with what I've got or go somewhere else. But, this is why I quit games in the first place - so that none of this stuff becomes too much of a problem. Then, I have to come up with better methods of planning out and doing my homework. Daily practice on these things makes it much easier - every time you sleep on something it crystallizes, slightly.

It would be far better to practice something intensely one hour a day for a week than to attempt to practice for 7 hours in one day. So, I need to learn to stop working on things, accepting less of a particular thing in a day so that I'm doing more of everything throughout the week.

Basically, the lesson learned from this is that I need to plan out my day instead of just mindlessly plowing at it so that I'm not trying to make decisions on the fly. I have too many things to manage to attack it willy-nilly. And, I have to have patience - accepting the fact that I cannot tackle everything at once, allowing things to remain unfinished while I work on things by my planning.

Edited by Alkan
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My Morning Routine

  1. Shower
  2. Make Bed
  3. Make my spinach and berry smoothie
  4. Make my coffee (essentially simultaneously)
  5. Tidy up apartment for 30 minutes (if necessary)
  6. Meditate
  7. Journal (Here)
  8. Plan day

I didn't do it in this order this morning, but I will do it in that order tomorrow morning. And the next, and the next. The more automatic this process becomes, the faster I will get through each of these. The goal is to complete the whole thing averaging in just a little over an hour (by keeping my apartment clean). I need to create my routine in a place.

I need to find a place to organize my goals and routine such that it's easily visible.

In the evening, I also need to be journalling, paying attention to what I did right and wrong throughout the day so that I can keep improving, while giving myself a little mental reward for doing something right. I also need a routine for the evening to make sure that I sleep properly, or perhaps, more of a set of things that interfere with sleep:

  1. Don't drink too much water
  2. Don't eat too much and/or eating poorly
  3. Don't eat too much salt
  4. No alcohol late
  5. Keep coffee to one cup in the morning
  6. Too little exercise
  7. Too much exercise
  8. Too much light too late (computer screen needs to be out of sight for 45 minutes before I intend to go to bed).
  9. Napping too long
  10. Not prepping for bed (hydrate early enough, eat the right amount of food, brush teeth, turn down lights, read a book)

My entries seem to just be getting longer. This whole self-improvement deal is a lot of work. Which makes it fun.

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My entries seem to just be getting longer. This whole self-improvement deal is a lot of work. Which makes it fun.

It will certainly never be boring. It only goes deeper and deeper. But it's worth it.

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My routine is becoming fairly automatic already, and I rouse myself from bed more quickly. I'm only not journalling here, every day. Most days, or every couple of days seems to work for an update here. I have other places that I also journal in for more private thoughts.

I'm noticing that the most effective form of meditation I'm doing is where I'm trying to make myself aware of all consciousness simultaneously. When I come out of that, I find my ability to focus and get things done is substantially increased. I also gain a certain fluidity in my movement when I do it that way. It also substantially increases my self awareness of my own thinking, direction of thinking and feelings about that thinking. It's almost like it's so difficult to cover your whole awareness consciously that when you stop trying to do that and return to a normal state of living, it's like it's easy to stay focused.

Anyways, I've rearranged my goals based on a few recent things:

  1. 4.0 GPA
  2. Socialize
  3. Cycling
  4. YouTube channel

Same details as above with those, though I'm going to put more effort into the socializing.

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I Finally Realize

Procrastination has been my biggest challenge in life, I'm starting to realize. Putting things off, and not sticking to them when I start has been the thing that's held me back the most. Games and the internet allowed me to bury my feelings of inadequacy, failure and anything else. It allowed me to not seek answers to my problems. It allowed me to numb my mind with something entertaining and addictive.

I know why I quit games - because I have difficulty extricating myself from them when I have them on my mind. Just the feeling of that pull when I have something stressful to do puts it in perspective for me.

Knowing the problem, realizing that I have it and accepting it is the start. But the solution is going to take time. I do have a tendency to stop working on things altogether if I feel that I am not going to achieve enough during the day. And, I habitually say that certain times of day aren't for working and allow myself to get off the hook for not working (the evening, particularly).

One of my biggest problems is just accepting that I'm not always going to want to do something. It's going to be uncomfortable.

My biggest fear is that my prefrontal cortex activity isn't high enough to get the levels of productivity that I so greatly desire. That's why I've made such a large deal about meditating, because my behavior reflects that of someone with low activity in the prefrontal cortex.

However, there is a bit of nonsense in that fear. I have indeed produced before - spectacularly, in fact, and that wasn't even at full function with a conscious awareness of what was going on internally. (And this folks, is why you journal - I just pulled an subconscious thought out of my mind am consciously was able to refute it). Beyond that, I can train my brain in a way to think about things properly. Again, this is why to meditate - to catch your thoughts on a more habitual basis.

So, my most basic project is to overcome procrastination.

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Games and the internet allowed me to bury my feelings of inadequacy, failure and anything else. It allowed me to not seek answers to my problems. It allowed me to numb my mind with something entertaining and addictive.

This is very accurate for many of us. The compulsion to procrastinate isn't ever going to go away, it's a natural part of life and this process will teach you a lot about how to manage that in your life. Even four years later after I quit gaming I still have to be very aware of my desire to procrastinate. I'm certainly nowhere near perfect with it, but I've improved immensely as I improved my understanding of my emotions.

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Well, this is kind of ridiculous. In a really awesome way. I was very productive today, with no pressing deadline. I was getting angry at procrastination, and since have made it my project. I happened to stumble across an article, which I discuss in this thread: http://forum.gamequitters.com/topic/689-procrastination/

The key is making taking action the center of your life, instead of thinking about action (i.e. planning, setting some arbitrary number of goals, etc.). When I couldn't sleep last night, I wrote in a thin art marker on a sheet of paper, working this stuff out mentally.

I wrote out "the problems of goals."

1. You don't actually know if a goal is reasonable without taking action first. You basically are standing on one side of a hill that you have to climb over, and you're basically saying what you should be able to do without even knowing what's on the other side of the hill. It's bad both ways, because if you project that your projection is too easy, you'll be disappointed to find when it's hard. And, if your projection is harder than the actual accomplishment, you'll be far less motivated when you actually hit that goal, and you'll stop using your time as productively.

2. Creating goals basically puts you in the thinking trap - a state of daydreaming about what you want to accomplish, where you don't notice that you're not actually accomplishing something. If you're not careful, goals will give you a reward - for doing nothing. You'll self-identify with the accomplishment of your goals without actually achieving them.

Real goals emerge after you take action. I.e. I'd notice that I'm biking up ______ hill in two minutes, so maybe I'll just try to beat that time in a couple weeks. I'm going to do a lot more exploring in terms of how and when to implement goals and planning. My life will no longer revolve around goals, but it will revolve around effort and vision.

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  • 2 weeks later...

What I've learned from the mindset of taking action so far:

1. I have less time than I realized.

2. I can change more things about myself more quickly than I ever realized.

3. Taking action on something teaches you a lot - a lot of real information - not just your internal conjecture.

4. Taking action as its own mental habitual reward gives you more "willpower." More accurately, it reduces the amount of willpower you need to consume to actually get things done because it makes the task itself more rewarding, understanding just how essential it is to achieving the things that you want.

5. Action comes before you even start worrying about "grit." Procrastination isn't a matter of grit - it's a matter of a lot of different thinking problems - problems that usually need to be isolated, but, a lot of the time, you can pave over them by simply being motivated by the mere satisfaction in the act of doing.

6. Perhaps the most important one... It's the only way to live life, as opposed to merely existing.

Edited by Alkan
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Excellent! You might enjoy a book called The Flinch. It helped me realize the importance of taking action when undecided. 

I'll have to check that out.

Phrase of the day: Gradus ad Parnassum

It's meaning is sinking in as I resume learning new pieces on the piano for the first time in years, noticing how I become better with each session, but it takes a lot of sessions to make major progress. It is a lot like climbing a looming mountain - it appears very large - and you have to keep moving for a long time to overcome it. Gradual steps are the only steps you can take - and the progress you make will be the sum of them over time.

So, to make progress, one focuses on making as many steps as possible during the day. Understanding this conceptually and experientially are two completely different things. I'm rather blown away by the difference in the two, in fact.

Social:

I'm realizing that I don't push social interactions further because I've had negative psychological feedback from a time before I understood less. These days I'm actually quite good with non-verbals, pacing, and being likable. I am still going to screw up, but I need to be making more approaches. It actually gives you some power to be the one who made the first approach  In keeping with the phrase - (perhaps not phrase of the day, but the phrase of life), I'm going to focus on increasing my number of social interactions by focusing trial and error as a part of the process - finding the motivation in finding it intrinsically rewarding (as well as necessary) to do so.

A feeling of necessity motivates - the understanding that your dreams will not be realized without the long time spent with baby steps each day gives that added dopamine reward. It brings up another important point: we're always looking for quick solutions to problems. The Free Lunch. The thing is - it's an illusion. Lottery winners have their own problems. Rarely do people just randomly "fall in love" without dating several people first and understanding how to actually be a decent human being. Nothing is truly free, and the things that seem free are rarely worth having, usually involving hidden obligations or problems.

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Excellent! You might enjoy a book called The Flinch. It helped me realize the importance of taking action when undecided. 

I've read this! I was in Costa Rica a few years ago. Great book. Available online as a free PDF too I believe.

 

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Apparently I keep forgetting how powerful fresh, high quality coffee beans coming through a Chemex is extremely potent stuff. I had basically 2 cups and I was so wired today that I still feel the racing thoughts feeling from it. One cup... Tops. I wrote that here earlier, but thought "eh, it's sunday, I need an extra boost." I totally forgot about the distractibility part of being over-caffeinated.

So, today kinda sucked. I biked to get some of the caffeine out, but unfortunately a bit of drama unfolded with my and my roommate (which thankfully we resolved quickly - no doubt in large part because of all the work I've been putting in on myself) but that took me out for the other portion of the day. So, here I am, still having to stay up late to get things done. Nothing is due tomorrow, but the nature of this stuff is that I have to keep plugging away.

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I Finally Realize

Procrastination has been my biggest challenge in life, I'm starting to realize. Putting things off, and not sticking to them when I start has been the thing that's held me back the most. Games and the internet allowed me to bury my feelings of inadequacy, failure and anything else. It allowed me to not seek answers to my problems. It allowed me to numb my mind with something entertaining and addictive.

I know why I quit games - because I have difficulty extricating myself from them when I have them on my mind. Just the feeling of that pull when I have something stressful to do puts it in perspective for me.

Knowing the problem, realizing that I have it and accepting it is the start. But the solution is going to take time. I do have a tendency to stop working on things altogether if I feel that I am not going to achieve enough during the day. And, I habitually say that certain times of day aren't for working and allow myself to get off the hook for not working (the evening, particularly).

One of my biggest problems is just accepting that I'm not always going to want to do something. It's going to be uncomfortable.

My biggest fear is that my prefrontal cortex activity isn't high enough to get the levels of productivity that I so greatly desire. That's why I've made such a large deal about meditating, because my behavior reflects that of someone with low activity in the prefrontal cortex.

However, there is a bit of nonsense in that fear. I have indeed produced before - spectacularly, in fact, and that wasn't even at full function with a conscious awareness of what was going on internally. (And this folks, is why you journal - I just pulled an subconscious thought out of my mind am consciously was able to refute it). Beyond that, I can train my brain in a way to think about things properly. Again, this is why to meditate - to catch your thoughts on a more habitual basis.

So, my most basic project is to overcome procrastination.

I have just found this forum this morning and I read most of your journal already. I had to highlight these lines, It felt like you are quoting me there. I decided to quit playing games altogether last night, I had one of those weekend long gaming sessions. Just pure waste and, man, I want my weekend back. I have tried many times already but I after a week or two I always come back to my old habit - the smallest of life problems served as excuse to "get a fix" with a game when I should have really worked on resolving that issue. And problems do pile up. 

It's encouraging to read that people had same problems I as do and that they are successful in resolving them. I hope you get all your goals this year. 
 

 

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Today has been ultra productive. I'm keeping this entry about as short as that because it needs to remain productive because of a deadline.

I've been in motion since 7:30 this morning, and it's 8:13 pm as of writing this. I caught myself after that last entry and got some stuff done the night before, which was part of my needing to be productive today.

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Today's thoughts:

I didn't get quite as much of my homework done as I would have liked (it's some intense upper division mathematically intensive stuff). So, now I am holding myself to be strategic about completion.

The process:

  1.  Start as soon as possible.
  2. Work through as many problems as possible. When stuck, try hard for about 5 minutes, then move onto the next problem.
  3. Because your brain accesses your long term memory and processes information over time, go back to the problems you were stuck on and give them a harder try.
  4. Go to office hours to get help on all of those problems originally stuck on.

That seems to be the way to achieve 100% completion on all of them, which in turn is the greatest possible studying for the tests. Also, by starting early, you give yourself more time to practice the material, which in turn makes your abilities more fluid.

Another thought: journalling is a way of amplifying the learning process. It causes you to intuit the information that you type, by in some sense, socializing it. It also helps organize thoughts, taking them from inchoate blobs of information to clear, polished concepts that can be applied intuitively. You can also create stronger associations by journalling, allowing for a more rapid change in habit. By journalling this material, I my brain is now physically more likely to actually start the next homework set early. I am unusual - I don't tend to think that free will is a thing. Instead, I think we have a complex decision making process. Likewise, I take a strategic approach to my mind.

Habits to change:

1. Going to sleep earlier

2. Getting focused on work more quickly after taking a break.

3. Manage time more effectively - instead of trying to plow entirely through one assignment, sometimes its better to do smaller sections of each assignment each day so that the unconscious processing is happening on all assignments faster. Every night when I go to sleep now I see math in my mind's eye. This is my brain intuiting that information, working it out, making me more effective at it. By actively working on multiple assignments during the day, I can put all of it into that intense sleep cycle processing. Hence, that's why it's more important to get more sleep. This sort of process is extremely effective in making learning more efficient for anything you'd like to improve at.

By following these, I should make my work cycle much more efficient, and I should actually open up some free time to practice things like art and music.

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You really nailed it with respect to how journaling can help. I feel like I'm addicted to it to some degree because it feels so good to take the blobs in my head and clarify them in text. This process is invaluable and I feel that doing it socially has been much more productively for me than doing it privately, at least for some topics.

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You really nailed it with respect to how journaling can help. I feel like I'm addicted to it to some degree because it feels so good to take the blobs in my head and clarify them in text. This process is invaluable and I feel that doing it socially has been much more productively for me than doing it privately, at least for some topics.

Exactly how I feel. There are some things I will only do privately. Other things work very well when you feel like you have an audience to discuss it with.

And, your feedback makes what I wrote solidify in my mind in that deeper, emotional processing part of the brain sort of way. So, sharing it does help.

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On the Relationship Between Planning and Action

I've had my biggest change from the concept of taking action as a way of life. Now I'm realizing that sometimes I have too many things to do with too little time. But, because I've taken action, I've learned how to become more efficient with tasks. That action came first - now planning and journalling are tools to refine how I am taking action. The brain can only handle so much change at once. It really only can do so much at a time. Structuring my learning (intense practice) around getting things done is now what I am working on today.

For instance, if I study for 20 minutes intensely, take a break but do something less mentally engaging in that break, I'll learn more and get something done in that time. And, I can instantly do things like go run errands at the end of a study/practice session. So, to say that I don't have time to study and run errands might be an optimization error.

In fact, if I were to do three 20 minute chunks with 5 minutes in between each, I'd spend an hour and 10 minutes with three practice chunks, get a larger break to eat/go run errands, then come back after an hour and a half and study for another hour and ten minute section. So, in a space of four hours, I could chunk in a very efficient, effective practice session - and get a significant portion of errands/cleaning/cooking done.

I wouldn't really have as solid of a grasp of this, nor would I be as likely to do it as I plan it if I hadn't first taken action on as a way of life. It's rather incredible - this is literally the biggest change I've had in the year I've spent improving myself.

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This is something I'm beginning to realize as well. There are various non-renewalable personal resources that we have. Time is limited, sure. But other things are more limited - mental energy, willpower, the ability to focus - however you want to define it. We can only work so hard before we are exhausted, we can only make so many decisions before we run up against decision fatigue; we can only learn so much in a short time because there is a literal physical limit to our brains' ability to undergo plastic change in a given period of time.

I guess this sort of stuff is what underlies the Pomodoro technique. Which I'm realizing I do unconsciously and informally these days.

Edited by kortheo
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  • 2 weeks later...

Finally back here.

I've been busier than I've ever been in my life, but having freed myself from games and worked on myself, it's also one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had. I feel satisfied and confident on a daily basis - these are the feelings that come out of applying oneself, even if the result isn't exactly what you want. I've taken effort on as a way of life and it has paid off greatly.

A new strategy - I used to classify myself as an introvert, but not too long ago I started noticing I actually do enjoy things that are very clearly extroverted activities. I also find that when I have energy, I find that I have quite a bit of energy that doesn't require serious away time. I actually am not that big of a fan of being alone for very long either - games just filled that void more easily.

So, my strategic thought for the day: it's easier to meet more people when socially warmed up. If I've just been sitting around, my brain isn't in social mode - and when it's not in social mode, it's difficult to think of things to say. I am significantly better at playing the piano about 30 minutes after I start playing. So, the new routine is just going to be to talk to strangers on a daily basis about whatever funny/random BS there is to talk about so that I actually keep that part of my brain warmed up.

Furthermore, this is another way to expand on social practice. Beyond that, if I'm the one constantly taking initiative, I'll be perceived as more confident. So, essentially it's time to destroy hesitation.

I do a lot of my studying in a particular coffee place at which I am now becoming a regular. There is a piano there, which is a great way to meet some other musical people who happen to come through there.

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So, the new routine is just going to be to talk to strangers on a daily basis about whatever funny/random BS there is to talk about so that I actually keep that part of my brain warmed up.

Yep, this is definitely a key lesson. What I do is try to stay social throughout the day by interacting just that little bit more with each person I run into (baristas, grocery store clerks, etc.)

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So, the new routine is just going to be to talk to strangers on a daily basis about whatever funny/random BS there is to talk about so that I actually keep that part of my brain warmed up.

Yep, this is definitely a key lesson. What I do is try to stay social throughout the day by interacting just that little bit more with each person I run into (baristas, grocery store clerks, etc.)

It also creates conditioning. Being curious is also a way of motivating yourself over that initial gap.

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Time for an internet break. I stopped meditating and my internet habit crept back a bit too easily.

It's causing a problem now, so now I need to take a break until next Tuesday, except for pressing matters that I need to use it for, obviously. Cya in a week!

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