Book Notes

Next to title, ISBN, and rating I have added a short description (usualy found on back cover) and my notes. This page will constantly update as I read more, so bookmark it if you want to check back in a few months.

Read a good book 10 times rather than 10 bad books.

Tags: Autobiography, Ethics & Morality, Philosophy, Productivity, Psychology, Self-help, Health, Science Software, Stoicism, Time management, Decision making, Problem solving

Check out my bookshelf or go to home page.


2019


Why we sleep

ISBN: 978-1501144318
Tags: Science, Health
Date read: 6.9.2019.
Rating: 5/5

Description: The first sleep book by a leading scientific expert—Professor Matthew Walker, Director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab—reveals his groundbreaking exploration of sleep, explaining how we can harness its transformative power to change our lives for the better.

Notes & Quotes:

ALL STAGES OF SLEEP ARE IMPORTANT. If sleep wouldn’t serve an absolutely vital function it is the biggest mistake the evolutionary process ever made. That counts for all of the stages of sleep. It’s been proven that all have unique and separate functions. Necessity of two hour dream sleep? When mother nature burns calories it’s usually for a reason....

We need to radically rethink the importance of sleep in education, business, the work place and in medicine. Sleep isn’t the third pillar of good health (amongst diet and excercise)… it’s the foundation on which those two other things sit. For example: if you’re dieting but not getting sufficient sleep 70% of all the weight that you’ll lose will come from lean body mass (muscle and not fat). Your body doesn’t want to give up it’s fat when under slept. Human beings are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent reason. Mother nature has never faced the challenge of coming up with a safety net for lack of sleep. We’ve never been forced to come up with that solution. That’s why we get such demonstrable disease, sickness and impairment when we get a lack of sleep. Only animals under extreme starvation might deprive themselves a bit. That’s why people who vast receive this ancient trigger that you need to stay awake and hunt for food.

Epidemiological studies across millions of people shows the shorter you sleep the shorter your life. You’ll be dead sooner and the quality of that now shorter life will be significantly worse.

Sleeping 6h or less:

  • (Below 7 hours objective impairments become visible)
  • Men who sleep 5-6 hours a night will have a level of testosterone which is that of someone 10 years older. Muscle strength, virility, sexual performance also suffer.
  • Insufficient sleep across the life span now seems to be one of THE most significant lifestyle factors determining whether or not you’ll develop Alzheimers. It’s during deep sleep at night: there’s a sewage system in the brain that kicks in high gear and cleanses the brain of all the metabolic toxins that have been built up during the day. One of those toxic sticky proteins that builds up is called beta amyloid. That’s one of the leading causes of underlying the mechanism of Alzheimers disease. So the less sleep across the life span the more of that toxic amyloid is building up night after night, year after year.
  • Your time to physical exhaustion drops up to 30%.
  • Lactic acid builds up quicker
  • The ability of the lungs to expire carbon dioxide and inhale oxygen decreases
  • The less you sleep the higher the risk of injury. Almost perfect linear correlation with top athletes (9 vs 5 hours of sleep: almost 60% bigger risk). Stability muscles decrease dramatically as well.
  • You’ll be dead sooner and the quality of that now shorter life will be significantly worse.
  • The link between a lack of sleep and cancer is quit strong. Insufficient sleep is linked to cancer of the bowel, prostate and breast... The association has become so powerful that the World Health Organization recently decided to classify any form of night time shift work as a probable cause for cancer.
  • The hormone Leptin (you’re full: stop eating!) gets suppressed by a lack of sleep. Ghrelin (the hunger hormone) increases! People who sleep 5-6 hours a night will on average eat between 200 and 300 extra calories each day because of the under slept state. That’s about 70.000 a year = 10/15 pounds of obese mass a year. You also eat more of the wrong things! Researched very well! Plot the rise of obesity over the last 70 years and plot on the same graph it goes in the opposite direction. As sleep time is declined obesity rates have increased. (Obesity also has other factors that cause it but sleep is a big one) - The number of people that can survive on 6 hours of sleep or less without showing any impairment is 0.)
  • You don’t know that you’re sleep deprived when you’re sleep deprived.
  • Study: gave people 4 hours of sleep each night. They saw a 70% decrease in critical anti cancer fighting immune cells called natural kilo cells. These are wonderful immune assassins that target malignant cells. We all produce cancer cells during the day. What prevents those cancer cells from becoming cancer is in part these natural kilo cells. After one night of 4 hours of sleep there is a remarkable state of immune deficiency. This is why insufficient sleep predicts cancer.
  • Cardiovascular system: all it takes is one hour. Daylight savings time. In the spring when we lose an hour of sleep we see a subsequent 24% increase in heart attacks around the world. In the fall when we gain an hour we see a 21% decrease in heart attacks. That’s how fragile and vulnerable your body is regarding sleep.
  • It will even erode your DNA code: Group of healthy adults 6 hours of sleep for a week. They compared their profile of gene activity relative to when those same people were getting eight hours of sleep. Two critical results. First: a sizeable 711 genes were distorted in their activity. Second: half of those genes were increased in their activity other half were suppressed. Those that were switched off by six hours of sleep were related to your immune response. So you become immune deficient. The ones that increased were ones related to the production of tumors, long term inflammation in the body and genes related to stress and as a consequence cardiovascular disease.

Being awake for a long time:

  • After 20 hours of being awake you are as impaired cognitively as you would be if you were legally druk
  • Every 30 seconds there is a car accident linked to sleeplessness. Drowsy driving, it seems, kills more people on the roads then either alcohol or drugs combined. They are so deadly because when you are under slept you suffer from micro sleeps. With alcohol or drugs it’s a problem of later reaction. With sleep it’s NO reaction. - Amongst teenagers it’s the leading cause of death in most first world nations. Suicide is second. In Wyoming they shifted the school start times from 7:45 in the morning to 8:55 in the morning. There was a 70% reduction in car crashes the following year. The invention of ABS dropped it by 20-25%...

Drugs:

  • Marihuana and alcohol are very good at blocking REM sleep. The need for dream sleep gets build up. When you get a night of sleep without -> crazy dreams (REM sleep rebound effect)
  • Alcohol is sedation. Not sleep.
  • Delirium Trems: alcoholics get dreams while being awake because they never get REM sleep. They get delirious.

Light and darknes:

  • We are a dark deprived society at the moment.
  • Light can suppress the hormone melatonin that tells your brain when it’s dark and time to sleep
  • One hour of iPad reading before bed vs dimmed light and real book: delayed the release of melatonin by three hours. It’s also 50% less in terms of its peak. And furthermore you don’t get the same amount of REM sleep and feel less rested the next day.

REM:

  • It’s during dream sleep that we take all the existing information and start to collide it with new information we’ve learned.
  • Dimitri Mandalea (inventor periodic table) couldn’t figure it out without dream inspired insights.
  • ‘Sleep on it’ exists in all languages and cultures.
  • Edison -> Creativity -> steel balls in hands -> wake up due to noise and then write down creative ideas
  • In REM sleep some parts of the brain becomes 30% more active than when you’re awake. Visual, motor, memory, emotional parts increase... One goes in the opposite direction: prefrontal cortex gets shut of (rational logical thinking)
  • REM: cardiovascular system goes through periods of dramatic acceleration and the other way around. Brain also paralyses your body.

Strategies, going to sleep:

  • Regularity (go to bed and wake up same time)
  • Last hour before bed: reduce half of all the light in your house and avoid screens
  • Make it cold! Faster sleep and deeper REM. Paradox: warm feet and hands to charm the blood away from the core out to the surface and radiate that heat. Or take hot bath: vasodilation. All the blood rushes to the surface so your core body temperature plumates and makes you fall asleep sooner. (Hunter gatherer tribes wake up because of temperature and not because of the sun coming up)
  • Don’t go to bed too full or too hungry.
  • Diets that are high in sugar and low in fiber tend not to be good for sleep. You tend to have less deep sleep and more fragmented throughout the night.
  • Melatonin is useful when you’re travelling between time zones. Your internal clock is out of synch. You can fool your brain by making it think it’s dark. Once people are stable within a new time zone melatonin does not seem to help with sleep. That said: if people think it helps they should keep taking it -> placebo effect is the most reliable effect in all of pharmacology. Older people might benefit from nightly melatonine use.

Facts:

  • Sleep is the greatest legal performance-enhancing drug: skill learning, memory and physical performance
  • Wakefulness causes low level brain damage and it’s sleep that offers a repair-arty function.
  • One half of your brain doesn’t sleep when sleeping in a foreign environment (threat detection system)
  • Non REM and REM (dream) sleep. Non REM consists of 4 stages. Three and four are most beneficial for health.
  • Dip after lunch: brain wave activity shows physiological alertness drop between 14 to 16 pm. Doesn’t depend on diet. Even if you don’t have lunch or a big lunch.
  • Took mother nature 3.6 million years to put the 8-hour necessity in place.
  • Sleep finds problem points in your motor skill (e.g. a part of a sequence on the piano that doesn’t flow nicely yet)
  • Practice with a night of sleep makes perfect! Rats -> Maze -> Motor skills. After a night of sleep you are 20/30% better in terms of your skilled performance than at the end of your training session the night before.
  • You can’t keep using naps to self medicate short sleep of 4/5 hours each night. Your brain has no capacity to regain all of the sleep it has lost. We discovered that you only get 4/5 hours back if you missed like 8 hours of sleep.
  • One out of two adults are not getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep. Almost one out of every three people are trying to survive on 6 hours or less. In 1942 average 7,9 hours of sleep. Now it is down to 6 hours and 31 minutes on average (adult in North America).
  • Under slept employees take on fewer work challenges overall. They end up taking the simple ones. Produces fewer creative solutions. They also slack of when they work in groups. Less sleep does not equal more productivity… Kinda strange that we overvalue employees that undervalue sleep.
  • Prefrontal cortex region (ration / logical) is one of the first to go when sleep deprived. Deep emotional part of the brain which is normally kept in control by that prefrontal cortex erupts in terms of the activity.
  • Your biological rhythm moves forward in time in the later stages of adolescences and adulthood. You want to go to bed later and wake up later. Biological impossible to fall asleep very early for example.
  • There’s a small fraction of 1% of the population that has a gene that allows them to survive on five hours of sleep. The chance to get struck by lighting is bigger.
  • Margret Thatches and Ronald Reagan -> heroic statements about how little sleep they got (4-5 hours) -> Both ended up developing Alzheimers.
  • We haven’t found counter measures for a lack of sleep.
  • ADHD has the same kind of features similar to sleep deprivation. That’s why some paediatricians diagnose certain kids with ADHD who are actually under slept. They also might just be suffering from sleep disordered breathing (tonsils).
  • On average doctors get about TWO hours of sleep education in the medical curriculum. While it’s a third of their patients lives.
  • Residents in medical industry itself: Why do we accept treatments from people who have been awake for more than twenty hours? Unfortunately we place our residents in this position of acting, operating and decision making under conditions of insufficient sleep. One in five medical residents will make a serious medical error due to insufficient sleep. One in twenty will kill a patient because of a fatigue related error… At this moment there well over 20.000 medical residents. The data is very clear about this.
  • When they changed the constant bright light in the neonatal intensive care unit those infants ended up having higher levels of oxygen regulation (they were sleeping better), there weight gain was dramatically increased and they ended up exiting the ICU five weeks earlier.
  • Sleep is the elixer of life - We are with sleep where we were with smoking 50 years ago. We have all of the evidence but the public is not aware of the science.
  • Independent research: A lack of sleep costs nations about 2% of their GDP (Gross Domestic Product)

The Compound Effect

ISBN: 978-1593157241
Tags: Buisness, Self-help, Habits, Reread
Date read: 16.5.2019.
Rating: 5/5

Description: The Compound Effect is based on the principle that decisions shape your destiny. Little, everyday decisions will either take you to the life you desire or to disaster by default.

Notes & Quotes: It doesn’t matter how smart you are or aren’t, you need to make up in hard work what you lack in experience, skill, intelligence, or innate ability. If your competitor is smarter, more talented, or experienced, you just need to work three or four times as hard. You can still beat them.

Give little instructions and a deadline. Ask for results then reward accordingly.

RADICAL DIFFERENCE = small smart choices + consistency + time

Discipline = dedication and responsibility

Take 100% responsibility: for how you feel about something, for what is happening to you etc. Give 100% without expecting anything in return (relationships, work etc)

LUCK = preparation (personal growth) + Attitude (beliefs and mindset) + Opportunity (good thing comming your way) + Action (do something about it)

Preparation - Improve skills, knowledge, expertise, relationships, resources

The day you graduate from childhood to adulthood is the day you take full responsibility for your life.

Log things. For eg. note down every transaction for 30 days. You will magicaly start spending less and earning more.

Track and measure important things - then make changes and corrections based on data.

Losing is a habit, so is winning.

implementing one habit pulls new ones in.

We are what we repeadtly do.

Getting your core values defined and properly calibrated is one of the most important steps in redirecting our life torward your grandest vision.

Hate breeds motivation: Luke vs Darth Vader, Rocky vs Appolo Creed, Apple has Microsoft. Enemies give us reason to fight.

GOALS = choice (decision) + behaviour (action) + habit (repeated action) + compound effect (time)

Eleminating bad habits:

  1. Identif your triggers (who, wht, where, when)
  2. Get rid of everythng that enables your bad habit
  3. Alter your habits so they arent harmful
  4. Removing the in small steps (slowly entering the cold sea)
  5. Alternative - jump in (stop cold turnkey)

People want more money and time and less stress.

If you cant think of three ways plan can go wrong, or three different solutions to a problem, you havent thought it through enough.

Even alt-tab akes off focues and taxes your attention.

SQ3R - Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review

Improve handwriting - think about what your wrting and how you are writing

If yu want to maintain a ood habit, make sure you pay atention to it at least once a day.

Its not about what you attempt to take out of your diet, its about what you put in instead. Apply this principle to other things too.

Find a success budy - utilize friendly competition, do weekly reviews etc.

Ordinary is easy, if everyone fought their bad habits we could stand out. When something is hard remember that average person wont do what it takes. If its hard or awkward or tedious, so be it. Go for it and keep doing it.

Be patient with yourself and others. Change takes time.

Implement 8-12 weeks of hardcore routine (military/special ops like) to build responsibilit and discipline, to become lean and confident, mission driven.

Every morning think of things you re grateful for, and what is your n.1 goal, and what you can do to move closer to it. for me its my relationship so I plan three things to make sure my gf feels loved, respected and beautiful.

Every evening review the day, plan tomorrow, read few pages, wash dishes.

You get in life what you create. Expectation drives the creative process. What do you expect? You expect whatever it is you’re
thinking about. Your thought process, the conversation in your
head, is at the base of the results you create in life. So the question is, What are you thinking about? What is influencing and directing your thoughts? Throw out unecessary information. Garbage in, garbage out. Consume inspiration and success. Surround yourself with things you want to become.

We cant resist senzationalism.

The people with whom you habitually associate with are called your reference group. Your reference group determines as much as 95% of your success or failure in life.

Write down a list of 5 people you hang arund the most. Write down their characteristics, both positive and negative. This couldbe your spouse, best freind, teammate. Whats their average health, bank account, relationship status, are they optimistic... Ask yourself, "Is this list ok for me? Is this where I want to go?" These relationships will form you, so consider carefully who you spend your time with.

Determine the quality of life you want to have and hen surround youself with people and things who represent and support that vision.

You will get in life what you accept and expect you are worthy of. Tolerate disrespect and people with disrespect you. Tolerate them being late and they will always be late.

Each and every incomplete thing in your life keeps calling you to take care of it, sapping your strength.

"hit the wall" and defeat yourself.

There is point in every race when a (bycicle) rider encounters his real opponent and understands that it is himself. If you start feeling you cant continue, remember that your competitors are hurting too. Gain advantage on them.

If you keep pushing after the wall your efforts are multiplied.

Your mind proceeds to match up on the outside what you want most on the inside — your goal. You ll get what you wish for.

Dont wish it was easier. Wish you were better.

Be consistent.

Take immediate action on your new insights and knowledge.

Get the worksheets


Algorithms to Live By

ISBN: 978-1627790369
Tags: Psychology, Science 
Date read: 30.4.2019.
Rating: 4/5

Description: Exploration of how insights from computer algorithms can be applied to our everyday lives, helping to solve common decision-making problems and illuminate the workings of the human mind. Personaly I didnt find chapters 3,4,6-10 to be relevant to me.

Notes & Quotes:

1. Optimal Stopping

  • the 37% Rule
  • wait until 26 to look for a wife (leaping)
  • treshold rule (set minimum, accept everything over it)
  • love is "nebolous emotional response"
  • burglar problem: (percentage of pulling off an op) 90 / (risk of failure) 10% = (num of max ops) 9

Imagine the following scenario: you have to hire a secretary from a pool of fixed applicants. You have to interview the candidates one by one and make a hire/no-hire decision right after each interview. If you pass on someone, you cannot come back to them. If you hire someone, the process stops and they are your new secretary. How do you maximize your chances to find the best secretary in the group? This is the famous Secretary Problem, and it forms the basis for the discussion in this chapter.

You probably don’t want to hire the first person you interview, since you don’t know what the baseline is. You don’t want to hire the last person either: you almost certainly have passed on your best candidate at this point. So the optimal strategy involves interviewing and rejecting the first few candidates no matter how good they are: just to set up the baseline first and then hiring the best you’ve seen so far after. This optimal point turns out to be 1/e or about 37%. Reject 37% of the applicants, and then hire the next one better than anyone you’ve seen so far. Variants of this Secretary Problem and the accompanying 37% Rule apply to vast areas of real life too — from dating to parking your car to selling/buying a house: knowing when to stop looking is crucial. Before you get too excited, here’s the sobering bit: this optimal strategy fails 63% of the time.

2. Explore/Exploit

  • stay on winner principle
  • Gittins index
  • regret minimization framework
  • upper confidence bound
  • a/b testing

It’s Saturday and it’s your cheat day. Do you open Yelp and explore a new restaurant, or do you go back to the sandwich place you’ve been craving all week? Do you put on Spotify’s Daily Mix, or do you just go back to listening to your favorite albums? In other words, do you explore, or do you exploit? From A/B Testing websites to A/B Testing human drugs via clinical trials, software engineers and pharmaceutical companies alike are trying to figure out where the balance lies. When we talk about decision making, we always only consider the single highest pay-off on our single decision, but in the long term it’s way more efficient to first explore your options, before exploiting the highest pay-off decision, so you’re sure you’re exploiting the right decision. Ie. go around and explore all the places and restoraunts.

3. Sorting

Sorting is waste of time. Sort only the most necessary.

4. Caching

  • Least Recently Used thing - throw it out
  • Keep often used things on top
  • noguchi filing system
  • the forgetting curve

Researcher showed that by accumulating more knowledge, we’re getting slower at accessing it. We’re not forgetting, we’re remembering — we’re becoming archives — which need organisation and are hard to access.

5. Scheduling

  • gantt charts
  • ordering of tasks is often not important
  • Eat that Frog — beginning with the most difficult task
  • Shortest Processing Time — always do the quickest task you can (in batches)
  • add weight to task (modey in buisness context time to complete/money it brings) and divide weighth with time needed to complete and then rank them

Imagine you have a 4 day project and a 1 day project. If you deliver the 1. project on Thursday (4 days lapsed) and the second on Friday (1 day lapsed). The client will have waited 4+5 = 9 days, if you do it the other way around the client will have waited 1+5 = 6 days. The sum of completion times is shorter and you saved the client 3 wait days, even though it was a full work week for you either way.

6. Bayes’s Rule

I’m assuming you already know Bayes’s Rule, but if you don’t, it’s just a simple way to determine how probable something Ais given something else Bhas happened, usually denoted as P(A|B). It’s assumed you have good information about the priors: how likely those two things are to happen independently, and you know how likely things are things to occur the other way: B|A I’ll just write it out. To get P(A|B), multiply P(B|A)with P(A)and divide by P(B). It’s really that simple. Just make sure your priors are good: a good reminder in this chapter was that exposure to just news and not much else serves to contaminate them, making us worse predictors of events.

The Copernican Principle, which dictates that a good prediction for how long something will last is to see how long it has already lasted, it applies to things that are antifragile (like books) and not to those that are not (like human lifespans).

The three basic probability distributions: Additive rule (Erlang prior), Multiplicative rule (Power Law prior), and Average rule (Normal prior) are explained in this chapter in a very elegant and easy-to-read prose.

7. Overfitting

Too much information, options, research is harmful. There is wisdom in deliberately thinking less and settling for second best solutions.

8. Relaxation

The perfect is the enemy of the good, so it’s okay to just relax and let it slide once in a while. Considering every possible option and finding the absolute optimal solution can take forever. Constraint relaxation helps you make decisions by consciously setting constraints / benchmarks which are good enough. Once achieved you can still expand them and aim higher.

9. Randomness

Randomness is another thing that works when nothing else works. Monte Carlo Method, and other Randomized Algorithms.

10. Networking

eh

11. Game Theory

The Prisoners Dilemma: the paradox where two individuals acting in their own self-interest does not result in the optimal outcome. Succinctly, think of two prisoners being interrogated by a detective: if they rat each other out, they both have to serve time in the prison, but if only one rats the other out, he gets to walk away free while the other one goes behind the bars. If they both stay loyal to each other, both of them walk away free: but this optimal outcome will never be reached if both the prisoners act in their self-interest — which is something you would expect them to do.

This is the core problem used to introduce anyone to Game Theory: the beautiful field of Nash Equilibria, Dominant Strategies, Tragedy of the Commons and infinite recursions of getting into each other’s minds. The panacea: if you’re trapped in a game that lends itself to paradoxical incentives, change the game: set the rules so that there’s no incentive to act any other way. Have the mafia waiting outside the prison so that the one who rats his comrade is found getting eaten by the fish at the bottom of the local lake the next day. From poker to auctions, especially ad auctions that form the basis of the internet economy today (think Google and Facebook).


The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

ISBN: 9781885167774
Tags: Business, Self-help, Productivity
Date read: 30.4.2019.
Rating: 3/5

Description: The One Thing explains the success habit to overcome the six lies that block our success, beat the seven thieves that steal time, and leverage the laws of purpose, priority, and productivity.

Notes & Quotes:

Key insights:

  • Extraordinary results are determined by how narrow you can make your focus
  • Do fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects
  • Small dominos can topple much larger dominos; stack them right
  • Success is built sequentially
  • Not everything deserves equal time
  • Achievers always work from a clear sense of priority
  • Mulitasking is a lie and it does not work (no studying and music/texting)
  • Discipline and habit intersect
  • It takes 20-250 days to create a habit (66 avg)
  • Become a person of powerful habits
  • Willpower is limited
  • Success = Being appropriate in the moments of your life
  • Connecting purpose, priority, and productivity determines how high above the rest successful individuals and profitable businesses rise
  • Happiness happens on the way to fulfillment
  • Purpose without priority is powerless
  • Resting is as important as working
  • To experience extra ordinary results, be a maker in the morning and a manager in the afternoon
  • Personal energy mismanagement is a silent thief of productivity
  • Your environment must support your goals

Practical application

  • Create a success list as compared to a to-do list
  • Say “no” more offten
  • Be like a surgeon and avoid distractions; respect my work
  • Ask quality questions
  • Determine my “System”
  • After you have picked your one thing, your number one priority should be protecting the time you use to work with your ONE thing.
  • You should reserve four hours of non-interrupted time from your day only to work with your ONE thing.

The Focusing Question

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” - Chinese proverb

So too must the journey toward extraordinary results. To determine that first step (and every step thereafter) we have to ask the right question. Keller calls it the Focusing Question:

“What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

Once you’re asking the right question, the key is to use it to narrow down all the things that you could do, to the ONE Thing that you SHOULD do. Then it goes like this:

The ONE Thing you should do today feeds into your ONE Thing this week, then this month… and so on.
These small steps create the path to your ONE big goal.

“One thing” is in reference to an idea. Everyone should pick one thing and focus completely to the one thing only.

Anecdotes

Michael Phelps (diagnosed with ADHD and predicted not to be able to focus on anything, ever) selected swimming and practiced six hours every day. And he became the most successful swimmer and most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 medals.

Steve Jobs reduced number of Apples products when he rejoined Apple and rest is history we all know.

Quotes

  • “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • “To do two things at once is to do neither.” – Publilius Syrus
  • “People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” – F. M. Alexander
  • “Productivity isn’t about being a workhorse, keeping busy or burning the midnight oil… It’s more about priorities, planning, and fiercely protecting your time.” – Margarita Tartakovsky
  • “Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing.” – Peter Drucker
  • “Surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher.” – Oprah Winfrey

To look up

  • Stanford marshmallow experiment
  • "Monkey mind"
  • effect of complex carbs and protein intake on willpower
  • Paul Graham's article: Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule

Figures


The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking

ISBN: 978-0691156668
Tags: Psychology, Self-help, Reread
Date read: 4.3.2019.
Rating: 5/5

Description: Real-life stories, explicit action items, and concrete methods that allow you to attain a deeper understanding of any issue, exploit the power of failure as a step toward success, develop a habit of creating probing questions, see the world of ideas as an ever-flowing stream of thought, and embrace the uplifting reality that we are all capable of change.

Notes & Quotes:

Quotes

  • Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. Winston Churchill
  • The way to get good ideas is to get a list of ideas and throw the bad ones away. Linus Pauling
  • There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not have been done at all - Peter Drucker
  • In a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks. Warren Buffett

Stories

In 1937 Sylvan Goldman made an observation and then asked a question. He observed that shoppers in his grocery stores were limited to the amount they could carry or place in a basket they held. He asked the question, “How can I help my customers carry more groceries?” The shopping cart was born.

The assembly line - In order to keep up with the increasing demand for those newfangled contraptions, horseless carriages, Ransom E. Olds created the assembly line in 1901. The new approach to putting together automobiles enabled him to more than quadruple his factory’s output, from 425 cars in 1901 to 2,500 in 1902. Henry Ford improved on Olds invention by adding conveyor belts.

Notes

  • Strive for rock-solid understanding.
  • Fail and learn from those missteps.
  • Constantly create and ask challenging questions.
  • Consciously consider the flow of ideas.

1. Grounding your thinking: Understand deeply

  • Understand simple things deeply
  • Clear the clutter—seek the essential
  • See what’s there
  • See what’s missing

Master the basics. Consider a skill you want to improve or a subject area that you wish to understand better. Spend five minutes writing down specific components of the skill or subject area that are basic to that theme. Pick one of the items on your list, and spend thirty minutes actively improving your mastery of it. See how working deeply on the basics makes it possible for you to hone your skill or deepen your knowledge at the higher levels you are trying to attain. Apply this exercise at all scales to other things you think you know or would like to know.

Ask: What do you know? Do you or don’t you truly know the basics? Consider a subject you think you know or a subject you are trying to master. Open up a blank document on your computer. Without referring to any outside sources, write a detailed outline of the fundamentals of the subject. Can you write a coherent, accurate, and comprehensive description of the foundations of the subject, or does your knowledge have gaps? Do you struggle to think of core examples? Do you fail to see the overall big picture that puts the pieces together? When you discover weaknesses in your own understanding of the basics, take action. Methodically, slowly, and thoroughly learn the fundamentals. Repeat this exercise regularly as you learn more advanced aspects of the subject. Every return to the basics will deepen your understanding of the entire subject.

Sweat the small stuff. Consider some complex issue in your studies or life. Instead of tackling it in its entirety, find one small element of it and solve that part completely. Understand the subissue and its solution backwards and forwards. Understand all its connections and implications. Consider this small piece from many points of view and in great detail. Choose a subproblem small enough that you can give it this level of attention. Only later should you consider how your efforts could help solve the larger issue.

Uncover one essential. Consider a subject you wish to understand, and clear the clutter until you have isolated one essential ingredient. Each complicated issue has several possible core ideas. You are not seeking “the” essential idea; you are seeking just one—consider a subject and pare it down to one essential theme. In fact, you might perform this exercise on yourself. What do you view as essential elements of you? Isolating those elements can give a great deal of focus to life decisions.

Say it like you see it. Homework assignments, tests, and job-related assessments ask you what you know. Unfortunately, partial credit or social pressure often encourages you to pretend to know a bit more than you actually do. So in the privacy of your own room look at assignments or possible test questions and write down the weaknesses as well as the strengths of what you know and don’t know. Deliberately avoid glossing over any gaps or vagueness. Instead boldly assert what is tepid or missing in your understanding. Then take action. Identifying and admitting your own uncertainties is an enormous step toward solid understanding.

Try on alternatives and size up the fit. Temporarily embrace some opinion that is counter to what you hold. Try not to be judgmental. Don’t resist the alternative views. You are not committing to any change. This exercise has the goal of understanding alternatives more realistically. As a result, you might change an opinion, but more likely you will simply have a better understanding of why the alternative views make sense to others.

See the invisible. Select your own object, issue, or topic of study and attach an adjective or descriptive phrase (such as “the First” before “World War”) that points out some reality of the situation, ideally some feature that is limiting or taken for granted. Then consider whether your phrase suggests new possibilities or opportunities. This exercise helps you to create interesting and provocative insights.

2. Igniting insights through mistakes: Fail to succeed

  • Welcome accidental missteps—let your errors be your guide
  • Finding the right question to the wrong answer
  • Failing by intent

Fail nine times. The next time you face a daunting challenge, think to yourself, “In order for me to resolve this issue, I will have to fail nine times, but on the tenth attempt, I will be successful.” This attitude frees you and allows you to think creatively without fear of failure, because you understand that failure is a forward step toward success. Take a risk and when you fail, no longer think, “Oh, no, what a frustrating waste of time and effort,” but instead correctly think, “Great: one down, nine to go—I’m making forward progress!” And indeed you are. After your first failure, think, “Terrific, I’m 10% done!” Mistakes, loss, and failure are all flashing lights clearly pointing the way to deeper understanding and creative solutions.

Don’t stare at a blank screen. Take an issue or problem of interest to you. Just quickly jot down any ideas—good, bad, inaccurate, or vague—that you have about the issue. Your ideas will be very bad in many ways. They will be disorganized and jumbled. They will be inaccurate or simply wrong. They’ll be impractical. They will be boring. They won’t come close to resolving the issue. They won’t be creative. Congratulations—excellent start! Now read what you wrote and focus on two features: what’s right and what’s wrong. Now you have something to do: tease out the good elements; find particularly nice phrases or pieces of strong ideas; uncover a word that is suggestive of some unstated interesting notion; find that you have clarified for yourself the core of the idea that you want to express. The second task is to recognize and exploit what’s wrong and correct the errors you see. You are now doing something different—you are not creating a work on a blank canvas but instead you are responding to a work already there. In making this action item practical, you must be sure to give yourself enough time for the required iterations.

Have a bad day. Bad days happen to good people. What separates the good from the great is how we react to that bad day. Bad days often include uncomfortably clear lessons about how to grow, learn, or reassess. So the next time you’re having a bad day, make the conscious effort to find and extract positive lessons from those not-so-positive experiences.

Exaggerate to generate errors. Consider an issue or problem and now exaggerate some feature of it to a ridiculous extreme. If you are arguing one side of an issue, support the side you truly believe; then make the argument so exaggerated that you realize that it’s way over the top. Now study your exaggerated description and discover some underlying defect. Does that defect also exist in a nonexaggerated perspective? As if you were conducting a stress test, you might apply this exercise to something that works well and learn how it breaks down. The strategy of exaggeration to extremes can be applied to any issue, from writing to marketing to product development to politics. For example, large companies hire hackers to attempt to break into their computer systems to expose security weaknesses.

3. Creating questions

  • How answers can lead to questions
  • Creating questions enlivens your curiosity
  • What’s the real question?

Teach to learn. There is no better way to learn anything than to actually teach it, because to teach something you have to confront many fundamental questions: What is the motivation to learn this topic? What are the basic examples? On what aspects of this material should I focus? What are the underlying themes? What ties the ideas together? What is the global structure? What are the important details? These questions force you to discover the heart of the matter and see exactly what you truly understand and what you still need to work on. So consider an idea or topic you are trying to better understand, and ask yourself what you would say if you had to start right now to give a complete explanation, including motivation, examples, overview, and details, of that subject. Better still, prepare a minilecture and then deliver it to someone—family, friends, or even your teacher.

Improve the question. From a student’s point of view, the question “How can I get better grades?” is not the most effective route to higher grades. Questions such as “How can I learn to think better and understand more deeply?” “How can I learn to communicate better?” “How can I increase my curiosity?” are far more constructive. For each question that presents itself in life, craft more focused questions that might lead to a productive conclusion. Try to create questions that expose hidden assumptions, clarify issues, and lead to action. Question your own questions.

Ask meta-questions. Whether in the classroom, the boardroom, or the living room, asking questions about an assignment or project before beginning work in earnest will always lead to a stronger final product. Ask, “What’s the goal of this task?” and “What benefit flows from the task?” Keep that benefit in mind as you move forward. A by-product of this exercise is that it often saves time, because it focuses your attention on the core issues and allows you to quickly clear up the initial confusion that always is present at the start of any project or task.

4. Seeing the flow of ideas: Look back, look forward

  • Understanding current ideas through the flow of ideas
  • Creating new ideas from old ones

Iterate ideas. You don’t need an army of thousands of individuals to struggle to address a challenge. The only person who needs to move forward little by little is you. Take a homework assignment, essay, or project that you’re facing and quickly just do it; that is, tackle the questions, draft the essay, or move forward on the project at a fast-forward speed that will surely generate a work that is, at best, subpar. Now consider that poor effort as your starting point: react to that work and start to improve and iterate. The flow of iteration will lead to a refined final product. Notice how this flowing mind-set perfectly coincides with the elements of failure we introduced earlier.

Think back. Whenever you face an issue—whether an area of study or a decision about a future path—consider what came before. Wonder how the issue at hand landed in front of you. Ask where and what it was yesterday, a month ago, a year ago, and so forth. Everything, everyone evolves. Acknowledging that reality as well as considering the subject’s history will allow you to generate new insights as well as create fruitful directions in which to move forward.

Extend ideas. Take a good idea from any arena—work, society, or personal life. It need not be an idea you yourself originated. Now engage with that idea and extend it. The key is not to wonder whether the idea has extensions; it does. Your challenge is to find them.

Once you have it, see if you can improve it. Take a solution to an issue or an essay you’ve written and create a different, better one. Assume there is a mistake or omission or missed opportunity in your work—there always is! Now find it (yet another example of the power of failing). This activity is much more challenging than it might at first appear. We are biased and limited by what we already know—especially since we know it works. However, moving beyond that bias can lead to new answers that, in turn, can lead to new insights and more effective solutions.

Ask: What were they thinking? What beliefs, cultural habits, opinions, or actions that are completely accepted today will be viewed as ridiculous by our grandchildren? What are some possible candidates? Centuries ago, perfectly respectable people viewed slavery as a natural and moral practice. What practices that we accept as fine today will be condemned as offensive in the future?

5. Engaging change: Transform yourself

Expert change. If you’re learning something, solving a problem, or developing a skill, imagine in detail what a more skilled practitioner does, or what added knowledge, understanding, and previous experience the expert would bring to the task. In other words, describe the different task that an expert would be doing compared to what you are currently doing in undertaking your task. Instead of thinking that you are going to be doing something that is harder—requiring more concentration and more effort—think in terms of what kind of knowledge or skill or strategy would make the task an easier one.

The quintessential you. The first four elements enable you to think better than you do; learn better than you do; and be more creative than you are. The fifth element recommends that you actually do it. Just do it. Adopt the habit of improvement, whether using our four elements or by any other methods that you find. If the ability to change is part of who you are, then you are liberated from worry about weaknesses or defects, because you can adapt and improve whenever you like.


Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management

ISBN: 978-0340909126
Tags: Time Managment, Productivity, Self-help, Reread
Date read: 28.3.2019.
Rating: 4/5

Description: Aimed at those who have trouble completing assignments on time as well as anyone looking to lead a well-organized life, this innovative handbook takes a unique approach to time management. Efficiency expert Mark Forster shows that prioritizing tasks is never a sufficient approach to organizing a schedule, and is rarely even helpful. In the place of prioritization he posits several radical new ideas, including closed lists, the manyana principle, and the 'will do&' list. Innovative forms of communication that are designed to produce effective conversation and planning are also provided. The result is a complete system which will boost efficiency and simultaneously decrease stress and overworking.

Notes & Quotes:

A clear vision is as much about what you are not going to do as it is about what you are going to do.

How to get everything done by doing it tomorrow

  • Put all the work that you are behind on in backlog folders (email, paper, etc.) and put it where you can’t see it.
  • Collect all your incoming work during the day and deal with it in one batch the following day. Group together similar activities like email, paper, phone calls and tasks. Aim to clear the lot every day.
  • If anything is too urgent to leave to the following day, write it down on a separate list and action it at a convenient time during the day. Never take even the simplest action without writing it down first.
  • Spend some time on clearing the contents of the backlog folder(s) first thing every day. When you’ve finally cleared them, find something else you want to get sorted and start doing that first thing every day instead.

The Principles

  • Have a clear vision
  • One thing at a time
  • Little and often
  • Limits
  • Closed lists
  • Reduce randomness
  • Commitment v. interest
  • What do we need?

The clearer you are about your vision, the more likely you are to achieve it. Your vision should bring your efforts sharply into focus, not envelop everything in a soft-focus fuzz. This usually means defining it as narrowly as possible.

We have to have weekly routine. If your routine woek is supporting your main endavour and is handled well by simple and effective systems, your creativity and imagination can be directed accurately where they need to be, without distraction.

Current iniative

  • work you want to have done soon
  • first thing you ll do in a day
  • thing you ll do at least 5min a day

Simplicity exercise: pick one single task you ll do evey single day, no exceptions. Once you can do it easily every single day chose one more, or a harder task and try with that.

Define your limits (dont overlaod yourself, you ll colapse sooner or later).

Dealing with backlog:

  • closed list (no new items coming in)
  • handle work in batches
  • minimize interuptions and inputs (ie unsubcribe from usless newsletters)

Do little and do it offten.

Dont prioritize by importance. Do least urgent things first.

Dont mix up interest and commitment. Commitments take a regular slice of time out every single day. Interests are just something we care about but dont activly focus on. We have limmited commitment slots: pick commitments carefully.

Continous project

  • regular repetition of same action over longer period
  • ie learning language, writing a book
  • pick only few continous projects since they take up a regular slice of your day

Organisational projects

  • series of different tasks leading to a specific goal
  • ie mailing campaign
  • not repetitive so split them into smaller tasks
  • when schduling complex project make yourslf item list, ie
    • think about...
    • discuss... with...
    • make decision about...
    • plan...
    • review...

The aim of this book was to get you to be 100 per cent creative, ordered and effective. How well has it succeeded in that? Let’s try the test again that you took during Chapter 3.

  • Mark yourself out of ten for creativity _____
  • Mark yourself out of ten for ordered _____
  • Now multiply the two scores. That gives you your percentage effectiveness: _____ per cent

If your score isn’t as high as you’d like it to be, tick the items that apply to you in the checklist below. If there are items on the list that you haven’t ticked, then these are where you should direct your attention. Good luck

  • ☐ I write out a will-do list for each day.
  • ☐ I aim to complete my will-do list every day.
  • ☐ I write down every additional thing I do which isn’t on my list.
  • ☐ If I do not succeed in completing my will-do list more than three days in a row, I carry out an audit of my work to see whether I have too much work, am working inefficiently or am not leaving enough time.
  • ☐ I save up emails and deal with them in one batch the following day.
  • ☐ I save up paper and deal with it in one batch the following day.
  • ☐ I save up voicemails and deal with them in one batch the following day.
  • ☐ I save up tasks and deal with them in one batch the following day.
  • ☐ I have a task diary in which I collect tasks for action the following day or later.
  • ☐ The first item on my will-do list every day is my current initiative.
  • ☐ I have a list of current initiatives arranged in the order in which I am going to deal with them.


2018


The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less

ISBN: 978-1491514238
Tags: Decision making, Problem solving
Date read: 23.12.2018.
Rating: 3/10

Description: Excellent book about making choices using a different approach. Understanding when it's important to invest the time to make the absolute best choice (like when buying a new home) and when "good enough" is good enough.

Notes & Quotes: Key Idea: Giving people too many choices tends to lessen their satisfaction.

Schwartz relates the ideas of psychologist Herbert A. Simon from the 1950s to the psychological stress that most consumers face today. He notes some important distinctions between, what Simon termed, maximizers and satisficers. A maximizer is like a perfectionist, someone who needs to be assured that their every purchase or decision was the best that could be made. The way a maximizer knows for certain is to consider all the alternatives they can imagine. This creates a psychologically daunting task, which can become even more daunting as the number of options increases. The alternative to maximizing is to be a satisficer. A satisficer has criteria and standards, but a satisficer is not worried about the possibility that there might be something better. Ultimately, Schwartz agrees with Simon's conclusion, that satisficing is, in fact, the maximizing strategy.

How we choose

Schwartz describes that a consumer's strategy for most good decisions will involve these steps:

  1. Figure out your goal or goals. The process of goal-setting and decision making begins with the question: "What do I want?" When faced with the choice to pick a restaurant, a CD, or a movie, one makes their choice based upon how one would expect the experience to make them feel, expected utility. Once they have experienced that particular restaurant, CD or movie, their choice will be based upon a remembered utility. To say that you know what you want, therefore, means that these utilities align. Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues have shown that what we remember about the pleasurable quality of our past experiences is almost entirely determined by two things: how the experiences felt when they were at their peak (best or worst), and how they felt when they ended.
  2. Evaluate the importance of each goal. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky have researched how people make decisions and found a variety of rules of thumb that often lead us astray. Most people give substantial weight to anecdotal evidence, perhaps so much so that it cancels out expert evidence. The researchers called it the availability heuristic describing how we assume that the more available some piece of information is to memory, the more frequently we must have encountered it in the past. Salience will influence the weight we give any particular piece of information.
  3. Array the options. Kahneman and Tversky found that personal "psychological accounts" will produce the effect of framing the choice and determining what options are considered as subjects to factor. For example, an evening at a concert could be just one entry in a much larger account, of say a "meeting a potential mate" account. Or it could be part of a more general account such as "ways to spend a Friday night". Just how much an evening at a concert is worth will depend on which account it is a part of.
  4. Evaluate how likely each of the options is to meet your goals. People often talk about how "creative accountants can make a corporate balance sheet look as good or bad as they want it to look." In many ways Schwartz views most people as creative accountants when it comes to keeping their own psychological balance sheet.
  5. Pick the winning option. Schwartz argues that options are already attached to choices being considered. When the options are not already attached, they are not part of the endowment and choosing them is perceived as a gain. Economist Richard Thaler provides a helpful term sunk costs.
  6. Modify goals. Schwartz points out that later, one uses the consequences of their choice to modify their goals, the importance assigned to them, and the way future possibilities are evaluated.

Why we suffer

Schwartz integrates various psychological models for happiness showing how the problem of choice can be addressed by different strategies. What is important to note is that each of these strategies comes with its own bundle of psychological complication.

  1. Choice and happiness. Schwartz discusses the significance of common research methods that utilize a happiness scale. He sides with the opinion of psychologists David Myers and Robert Lane, who independently conclude that the current abundance of choice often leads to depression and feelings of loneliness. Schwartz draws particular attention to Lane's assertion that Americans are paying for increased affluence and freedom with a substantial decrease in the quality and quantity of community. What was once given by family, neighborhood and workplace now must be achieved and actively cultivated on an individual basis. The social fabric is no longer a birthright but has become a series of deliberated and demanding choices. Schwartz also discusses happiness with specific products. For example, he cites a study by Sheena Iyengar of Columbia University and Mark Lepper of Stanford University who found that when participants were faced with a smaller rather than larger array of jam, they were actually more satisfied with their tasting.
  2. Freedom or commitment. Schwartz connects this issue to economist Albert Hirschman's research into how populations respond to unhappiness: they can exit the situation, or they can protest and voice their concerns. While free-market governments give citizens the right to express their displeasure by exit, as in switching brands, Schwartz maintains that social relations are different. Instead, we usually give voice to displeasure, hoping to project influence on the situation.
  3. Second-order decisions. Law professor Cass Sunstein uses the term "second-order decisions" for decisions that follow a rule. Having the discipline to live "by the rules" eliminates countless troublesome choices in one's daily life. Schwartz shows that these second-order decisions can be divided into general categories of effectiveness for different situations: presumptions, standards, and cultural codes. Each of these methods are useful ways people use to parse the vast array of choices they confront.
  4. Missed opportunities. Schwartz finds that when people are faced with having to choose one option out of many desirable choices, they will begin to consider hypothetical trade-offs. Their options are evaluated in terms of missed opportunities instead of the opportunity's potential. In other words, after choosing an alternative with a plurality but not a majority of utility, people remember the sum of the lost utility rather than that they made the utility-maximizing choice. Schwartz maintains that one of the downsides of making trade-offs is it alters how we feel about the decisions we face; afterwards, it affects the level of satisfaction we experience from our decision. While psychologists have known for years about the harmful effects of negative emotion on decision making, Schwartz points to recent evidence showing how positive emotion has the opposite effect: in general, subjects are inclined to consider more possibilities when they are feeling happy.

When people have no choice, life is almost unbearable. As the number of choices increase, the autonomy, control, and liberation this variety brings are powerful and positive. But as the number of choices keeps growing, negative aspects of having a multitude of options begin to appear. As the number of choices grows further, the negatives escalate until we become overloaded. At this point, choice no longer liberates, but debilitates.

I will argue that...

  1. We would be better off if we embraced certain voluntary constraints on our freedom of choice, instead of rebelling against them.
  2. We would be better off seeking what is "good enough" instead of seeking the best.
  3. We would be better off if we lowered our expectations about the results of decisions.
  4. We would be better off if the decisions we made were non-reversible.
  5. We would be better off if we paid less attention to what others around us were doing.

When given free samples of jams in a store, 30% of people exposed to 6 jams bought a jar. Only 3% of people exposed to 24 jams bought a jar. A large array of options discourages customers because it forces an increase in the effort that goes into making a decision. So consumers decide not to decide. When experiencing dissatisfaction on a shopping trip, consumers are likely to blame it on something else (salespeople, traffic, prices), anything but the overwhelming array of options.

Thinking about the attractions of some of the unchosen options detracts from the pleasure derived from the chosen one.

Most good decisions involve these steps:

  1. Figure out your goals
  2. Evaluate the importance of each goal
  3. Array the options
  4. Evaluate how likely each of the options is to meet your goals
  5. Pick the winning option
  6. Later, use the consequences of your choice to modify your goals, the importance you assign them, and the way you evaluate future possibilities.

Interesting story about how you can read Consumer Reports saying that Volvo is the most reliable car (based on dozens or hundreds of sources, combined). But all it takes is one person at a party saying, "Oh I had one and it was nothing but trouble" to sway us from our choice. Logically, this one report should have almost no influence on your decision. Unfortunately most people give substantial weight to this kind of antecdotal "evidence", perhaps so much that it will cancel out the positive recommendation from Consumer Reports, because it is extremely vivid and based on a personal, detailed, face-to-face account.

When you see film footage of a $50,000 car being driven into a wall, it's hard to believe the car company doesn't care about safety, no matter what the crash-test statistics say.

We assume that the more available some piece of information is to memory, the more frequently we must have encountered it in the past. People mistook the pervasiveness of newspaper stories about murders, accidents, or fires as a sign of the frequency of the events these stories profiled. This distortion causes us to miscalculate the various risks we face in life, and thus contributes to some very bad choices.

Any random group of people predicting who will win the Academy Awards will do better than the predictions of any one individual. (!!) The group picked 11 out of 12 winners correctly, while the average individual only picked 5 out of 12 correctly, and even the best individual only picked 9. This is amplified by mass-reach news, because friends and neighbors will have the same biased story from the same source, making us assume it to be true. The more people believe it's true, the more likely you are to repeat it, and more likely you are to hear it. This is how inaccurate information can create a bandwagon effect, leading quickly to a broad but mistaken consensus.

Any particular item will always be at the mercy of the context in which it is found. A store sold a bread-maker for $279. Later, they added a deluxe version for $429. They didn't sell many of the expensive ones, but sales of the less expensive one doubled! The $279 now looked like a bargain. Even if companies sell almost none of the highest-priced models, they can reap enormous benefits from producing such models because they help induce people to buy their cheaper (but still expensive) ones.

Losses have more than twice the psychological impact as equivalent gains. Loss aversion.

Once something is given to you, it's yours. Giving it up will entail a loss. Because losses are more bad than gains are good, the thing you have gained is worth more to you than it is to a potential trading partner. Losing the thing will hurt worse than gaining the thing will give pleasure. This is why companies can afford to offer money-back guarantees. Once people own them, the products are worth more to their owners than the mere cash value, because giving up the products would entail a loss.

Even with relatively unimportant decisions, mistakes can take a toll. When you put a lot of time or effort into choosing a restaurant, vacation place, item of clothing, you want that effort to be rewarded with a satisfying result. As options increase, the effort involved in making decisions increases, so mistakes hurt even more. Thus:

  • decisions require more effort
  • mistakes are more likely
  • the psychological consequences of mistakes are more severe

So - what counts when we asses the quality of a decision? Objective results or subjective experience? What matters most of the time is how we feel about the decisions we make.

Students who think they're in the right school get far more out of it than the students who don't.

Figure out when information-seeking has reached the point of diminishing returns, stop the search, and choose the best option.

Perfectionists have very high standards that they don't expect to meet, whereas maximizers do. Perfectionists are happier with the results of their actions than maximizers.

For someone who feels overwhelmed by choices, apply the satisficing strategy more often, letting go of the expectation that "the best" is attainable.

Learned helplessness can affect future motivation to try, and future ability to detect that you do have control in new situations. Our most fundamental sense of well-being crucially depends on our having the ability to exert control over our environment and recognizing that we do.

Feelings of helplessness should now be rare. But in 1966, only 9% felt left out of things going on around them, in 1986, 37%. In 1966, 36% said what they thought didn't matter, whereas in 1986, 60% agreed.

The most important factor in providing happiness is close social relations. Happy people attract others to them, and being with others makes people happy. In many ways, social ties actually decrease freedom, choice, and autonomy. Establishing and maintaining social relations requires a willingness to be bound or constrained by them, even when dissatisfied. Once people make commitments to others, options close.

Following rules eliminates troublesome choices in your daily life.

Friendships often sustain themselves on a combination of standards and routines. We're drawn to people who meet our standards and then we stick with them. We don't make a choice, every day, about whether to maintain the friendship. We just do.

Some cultures have constraints in oppresive abundance, while ours has eliminated as many constraints as possible. But oppression can exist at either extreme.

Wanting and liking are served by fundamentally different brain systems.

The downside of abundant choice is that each new option adds to the list of trade-offs.

Excellent advice for managing our own psychological response to choice : Pay attention to what you're giving up in the next-best alternative, but don't waste energy feeling bad about having passed up an option further down the list that you wouldn't have gotten to anyway.

The existence of multiple alternatives makes it easy for us to imagine alternatives that don't exist. When we engage our imaginations in this way, we will be even less satisfied with the alternative we end up choosing.

There is no objective "best" vacation, job, or activity. What matters is the subjective experience.

Being forced to confront trade-offs in making decisions makes people unhappy and indecisive.

Story of retail situation:

  • One Sony CD player for $99, far below list price 66% of people said they'd buy it. 34% would wait.
  • Two CD players: Sony for $99 and $169 top-of-the-line Aiwa, both below list price 27% would buy the Sony, 27% would buy the Aiwa, 46% would wait.
  • Sony CD player at $99 and a clearly inferior Aiwa at $105 73% go with the Sony, almost nobody goes for the Aiwa

So... Faced with one attractive option, 66% of people will go for it. But add one conflicting option, and only 50% buy anything. Adding the 2nd option creates a conflict, forcing a trade-off between price and quality. The 2nd option made it harder, not easier, to choose. But in the 3rd scenario, the crappy Aiwa gave people confidence that the Sony is a good deal - an anchor of comparison that bolsters a buyer's reasons for buying the Sony.

Difficult trade-offs make it difficult to justify decisions, so decisions are deferred. Easy trade-offs make it easy to justify decisions. Single options like somewhere in the middle.

When people are presented with options involving trade-offs that create conflict, all choices begin to look unappealing.

We want our doctors, investment advisors, Consumer Reports to be weighing the trade-offs for us. We don't want to have to evaluate the trade-offs ourselves. It's emotionally unpleasant.

When we are in a good mood, we think better. We consider more possibilities. We're open to more considerations that would otherwise not occur to us. We see subtle connections we might otherwise miss. Something as trivial as a little gift of candy to medical residents improves the speed and accuracy of their diagnoses. Positive emotion enables us to broaden our understanding of what confronts us.

Students given too many options of what to write an essay on: as they try to write about the topic they chose, they're further distracted by other appealing but rejected topics, preventing them from thinking clearly.

When asked about what they regret most, people name failures to act.

When you miss by a little, ouch. (Missing a plane by 1 minute causes much more regret than missing by an hour, since you obsess about all the things that could have saved you 1 minute.)

Bronze medalists are happier than silver medalists, because instead of thinking how close they were to Gold, they think about how close they were to having no medal at all.

  • "Counterfactual" = contrasting actual experience with what it could have been.
  • "Upward counterfactual" = comparing to the next-best option (the Silver medalist)
  • "Downward counterfactual" = comparing to next-worst option (the Bronze medalist)

We'd be happier if we did Downward counterfactual more often. Be grateful things aren't worse. Upward comparisons produce jealousy, hostility, frustration, lowered self-esteem, and stress. Downward comparisons boost self-esteem, and reduce anxiety.

People who have started their own business are more likely to invest in expanding them than people who have purchased their business.

Many people persist in troubled relationships because of the effort they've already put in.

In all of these cases, what should matter are the prospects for future performance, but what seems to matter is the previous investment.

Different gaps:

  • gap between what one has and wants
  • gap between what one has and thinks others like oneself have
  • gap between what one has and the best one has had in the past
  • gap between what one has and what one expects

Real hedonistic charge comes when an experience exceeds expectations.

We can do more to affect the quality of our lives by controlling our expectations than we can by doing virtually anything else! Leave room for experiences to be a pleasant surprise. The challenge is keeping wonderful experiences rare. (No matter what you can afford, save great wine for special occasions.) It's a way to make sure you can continue to experience pleasure.

More than half of people chose options that give them better relative position: better to earn $50k/yr while others around are earning $25k/yr than to be earning $100k/yr while others around are earning $200k/yr.

Social comparison has relatively little impact on happy people.

Optimists explain success with chronic, global and personal causes - and failures with transient specific. ("I got an A", and "She gave me a C") Pessimists do the reverse. ("I got a C" and "She gave me an A")

In societies in which you have little control, you also have little expectation of control. Lack of control does not lead to feelings of helplessness and depression.

Those nations whose citizens value personal freedom the most tend to have the highest suicide rates. These same values allow certain individuals within these cultures to thrive and prosper to an extraordinary degree. The problem is that on the national or "ecological" level, these same values have a pervasive, toxic effect.

WHAT WE CAN DO:

  1. Choose when to choose - Decide which choices in our lives really matter and focus our time and energy there, letting other opportunities pass us by. By restricting our options, we will be able to choose less and feel better. Try this: (1) review recent decisions you've made, (2) itemize the steps, time, research, and anxiety that went into it, (3) remind yourself how it felt to do that work, (4) ask yourself how much your final decision benefitted from that work.
  2. Be a chooser not a picker- Shorten or eliminate deliberations about decisions that are unimportant to you. If none of the options meet your needs, create better options that do.
  3. Satisfice more and Maximize less
  4. Limit how much you think about the attractive features of the options you reject. Unless you're truly dissatisfied, stick with what you always buy. Don't be tempted by "new and improved". Don't scratch unless there's an itch. Don't worry that if you do this, you'll miss out on all the new things the world has to offer.
  5. Make your decisions nonreversible - Agonizing over whether your love is the real thing, or your sexual relationship up to par, wondering whether you could have done better - is a prescription for misery. Knowing you've made a choice that you will not reverse allows you to pour your energy into improving the relationship that you have rather than constantly second-guessing it.
  6. Practice gratitude.
  7. Regret less
  8. Anticipate Adaptation (the fact that the "fun wears off" when you get used to the new choice) Remember that the high-quality sound system, the luxury car, the big house, won't keep providing the pleasure they give when we first experience them. Spend less time looking for the "perfect" thing, so that you won't have huge search costs to be amortized against the satisfaction you derive from what you actually choose.
  9. Control Expectations - Reduce the number of options you consider. Be a satisficer rather than maximizer. Allow for serendipity.
  10. Curtail Social Comparison
  11. Learn to Love Constraints - By deciding to follow a rule, we avoid having to make a deliberate decision again and again.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

ISBN: 978-0062457714
Tags: Self-help, Psychology
Date read: 10.10.2018.
Rating: 4/5

Description: The opposite of every other book. Don’t try. Give up. Be wrong. Lower your standards. Stop believing in yourself. Follow the pain. And oh yeah, kill yourself. Each point is profoundly true, useful, and more powerful than the usual positivity.

Notes & Quotes: Wanting positive experience is a negative experience; accepting negative experience is a positive experience.

The more you desperately want to be sexy and desired, the uglier you come to see yourself, regardless of your actual physical appearance. The more you desperately want to be happy and loved, the lonelier and more afraid you become, regardless of those who surround you. The more you want to be spiritually enlightened, the more self-centered and shallow you become in trying to get there.

Just because something feels good doesn’t mean it is good. Just because something feels bad doesn’t mean it is bad. Emotions are merely signposts or suggestions. Make a habit of questioning them.

Exceptional information drives us to feel insecure, so we feel the need to compensate through entitlement and addiction, feel the need to be more extreme, more radical, and more self-assured to get noticed or even matter.

If the worst thing you can be is in the middle of the bell curve, it then becomes better to be at the extreme low end, because at least there you’re still special and deserve attention: the most miserable, or the most oppressed, or the most victimized.

The rare people who do become truly exceptional at something do so because they’re obsessed with improvement, which stems from an unerring belief that they are, in fact, not that great at all. It’s anti-entitlement.

William James decided to conduct a little experiment. Spend one year believing that he was 100 percent responsible for everything that occurred in his life, no matter what. During this period, he would do everything in his power to change his circumstances, no matter the likelihood of failure. James would later refer to his little experiment as his “rebirth,” and would credit it with everything that he later accomplished in his life.

“Finding yourself” can cement you into a strict role with unnecessary expectations, and close you off to potential and opportunities. Don’t find yourself. Never know who you are. Let go of the idea that “you” exist at all. Don’t be special. Don’t be unique. Redefine your metrics in mundane and broad ways.

Asking a tutor out on a date is as simple as saying the words; risking intense embarrassment and rejection feels far more complicated.

If you’re stuck on a problem, don’t sit there and think about it; just start working on it. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, the simple act of working on it will eventually cause the right ideas to show up in your head.

To build trust you have to be honest. That means when things suck, you say so openly. When trust is destroyed, it can be rebuilt only if the following two steps happen: 1) the trust-breaker admits the true values that caused the breach and owns up to them 2) the trust-breaker builds a solid track record of improved behavior over time.

The desire to avoid rejection at all costs, to avoid confrontation and conflict, is a deep valueless, pleasure-driven, and self-absorbed life.

There’s a certain level of joy and meaning that you reach in life only when you’ve spent decades investing in a single relationship, a single craft, a single career. And you cannot achieve those decades of investment without rejecting the alternatives.


Deep work: rules for focused success in a distracted world

ISBN: 978-1-4555-8666-0
Tags: Time management, Productivity, Psychology, Reread
Date read: 29.07.2018.
Rating: 5/5

Description:
One of the most valuable skills in our economy is becoming increasingly rare. If you master this skill, you'll achieve extraordinary results.

Notes & Quotes:
How to get rid of the shiny object syndrome explained through series of essays.

Introduction:

Microsoft CEO Bill Gates famously conducted “Think Weeks” twice a year, during which he would isolate himself (often in a lakeside cottage) to do nothing but read and think big thoughts.

When Carl Jung wanted to revolutionize the field of psychiatry, he built a retreat in the woods.

Part 1: The idea

Deep work is valuable:

Two Core Abilities for Thriving in the New Economy

  1. The ability to quickly master hard things.
  2. The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed.

High-Quality Work Produced = (Time Spent) x (Intensity of Focus)

To produce at your peak level you need to work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task free from distraction. Put another way, the type of work that optimizes your performance is deep work.

Deep work is rare:

The Principle of Least Resistance: In a business setting, without clear feedback on the impact of various behaviors to the bottom line, we will tend toward behaviors that are easiest in the moment.

Busyness as Proxy for Productivity: In the absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive and valuable in their jobs, many knowledge workers turn back toward an industrial indicator of productivity: doing lots of stuff in a visible manner.

Deep work is meaningful - neurological, psychological, philosophical argument:

"Like fingers pointing to the moon, other diverse disciplines from anthropology to education, behavioral economics to family counseling, similarly suggest that the skillful management of attention is the sine qua non of the good life and the key to improving virtually every aspect of your experience." Winifred Gallagher

“The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” Csikszentmihalyi calls this mental state flow (a term he popularized with a 1990 book of the same title), "Ironically, jobs are actually easier to enjoy than free time, because like flow activities they have built-in goals, feedback rules, and challenges, all of which encourage one to become involved in one’s work, to concentrate and lose oneself in it. Free time, on the other hand, is unstructured, and requires much greater effort to be shaped into something that can be enjoyed."

In a post-Enlightenment world we have tasked ourselves to identify what’s meaningful and what’s not, an exercise that can seem arbitrary and induce a creeping nihilism. “The Enlightenment’s metaphysical embrace of the autonomous individual leads not just to a boring life,” Dreyfus and Kelly worry; “it leads almost inevitably to a nearly unlivable one.”

Part 2: The rules

Rule #1 will teach you how to integrate deep work into your schedule and support it with routines and rituals designed to help you consistently reach the current limit of your concentration ability. Rule #2 will help you significantly improve this limit.

Rule #1: Work deeply

Eudaimonia Machine

Monastic Philosophy - remove all distractions
Bimodal Philosophy - alternate between deep work (monastic) and shallow everyday life
Rhythmic Philosophy - chain method; transform deep work sessions into regular habit

The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add routines and rituals to your working life designed to minimize the amount of your limited willpower necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration.

Deep work ritual questions:
Where you’ll work and for how long. (office with shut door and clear desk) How you’ll work once you start to work. (no internet/words per minute) How you’ll support your work. (food/water/coffee)

Grand gesture - By leveraging a radical change to your normal environment, coupled perhaps with a significant investment of effort or money, all dedicated toward supporting a deep work task, you increase the perceived importance of the task.

4DX framework:
Discipline #1: Focus on the Wildly Important
Discipline #2: Act on the Lead Measures
Discipline #3: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
Discipline #4: Create a Cadence of Accountability

Downtime strategy (art, music, literature and exercise):
Reason #1: Downtime Aids Insights
Reason #2: Downtime Helps Recharge the Energy Needed to Work Deeply
Reason #3: The Work That Evening Downtime Replaces Is Usually Not That Important

Rule #2: Embrace boredom

Don’t Take Breaks from Distraction. Instead Take Breaks from Focus.

Productive meditation: take a period in which you’re occupied physically but not mentally—walking, jogging, driving, showering—and focus your attention on a single well-defined professional problem. Depending on your profession, this problem might be outlining an article, writing a talk, making progress on a proof, or attempting to sharpen a business strategy. As in mindfulness meditation, you must continue to bring your attention back to the problem at hand when it wanders or stalls. Be Wary of Distractions and Looping. Structure Your Deep Thinking.

Memorize a Deck of Cards

Rule #3: Quit social media

Don’t formally deactivate these services, and (this is important) don’t mention online that you’ll be signing off: Just stop using them, cold turkey. After thirty days of this self-imposed network isolation, ask yourself the following two questions about each of the services you temporarily quit:

  1. Would the last thirty days have been notably better if I had been able to use this service?
  2. Did people care that I wasn’t using this service?
    If your answer is “no” to both questions, quit the service permanently.

Don’t Use the Internet to Entertain Yourself

Rule #4: Drain the Shallows

Schedule every minute of your day: Divide the hours of your workday into blocks and assign activities to the blocks.

Finish Your Work by Five Thirty: fixed-schedule productivity, as I fix the firm goal of not working past a certain time, then work backward to find productivity strategies that allow me to satisfy this declaration.


Meditations - by Marcus Aurelius

ISBN: none, http://classics.mit.edu/Antoninus/meditations.html
Tags: Philosophy, Ethics & Morality, Stoicism
Date read: 28.07.2018
Rating: 3/5

Description:
Meditations (Medieval Greek: Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν, translit. Ta eis heauton, literally "things to one's self") is a series of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD, recording his private notes to himself and ideas on Stoic philosophy.

Notes & Quotes:
Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.

A cucumber is bitter. Throw it away. There are briars in the road. Turn aside from them. This is enough. Do not add, "And why were such things made in the world?" (VIII. 50, trans. George Long)

Soon you'll be ashes or bones. A mere name at most—and even that is just a sound, an echo. The things we want in life are empty, stale, trivial. (V. 33, trans. Gregory Hays)

Do not then consider life a thing of any value. For look at the immensity of time behind thee, and to the time which is before thee, another boundless space. In this infinity then what is the difference between him who lives three days and him who lives three generations? (IV. 50, trans. George Long)


Other books

Notes on books I skimmed or didnt find important enough to add to main reading list.


Patterns of Software

ISBN: 978-0195102697
Tags: Autobiography, Software

Collection of essays. Book can be divided into two parts: author's views on software engineering issues, and his biography. Not useful from software engineering point, out dated, but its quick read that provides few interesting thoughts and anecdotes.


Fiction

Entertainng books for personal pleasure.


  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
  • Swingers by Jon Favreau
  • After life by Simon Funk
  • Peter Camenzind by Herman Hesse
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell