The best life hacks that I know of are hacks that improve one’s mental functioning. IMHO, this blog doesn’t focus enough on practical ways to increase one’s functioning, like in the post ‘Pushing one’s mental margins’,and like what the iphone hacker’s planning to do in the future.
here’s a question i have: rest & relaxation, does it add value? when i’m not reading, coding, writing, talking, eating, eliminating, etc., i usually have podcast going via my iphone (news & documentaries mostly). but i do remember in the distant past when the data wasn’t always flowing when i was awake that i’d get insights when i wasn’t thinking about…anything….
If you need to complete a task, it’s better to be very focused and on-edge. But to figure out something new, you have to be in a lower-inhibition state, like when you’re sleep-deprived or just zoning out. It’s like drift and mutation vs. selection — first you let your mental spotlight diffuse around ideaspace, and once you pick up the scent of something, you can chemotactically follow the gradient to the source.
So, let your mind wander in order to happen upon the trail; after that, you can sit up straight, chug some caffeine, and write down the equations.
baths, lying down on the floor staring straight up… frequent breaks. i remember stuff i learn just before i go to bed more. cooking really relaxes me. video games, i assumed in the past, were for free time, ie relaxation. but they don’t relax me, after battering away at gta4 for a while i’m exhausted. i listen to a lot of podcasts too…
now, with recalling stuff from podcasts the two main types must be considered – the lecture type and the conversation kind. i tend to drift out much less from conversational podcasts, but i have an inkling i don’t retain as much as from lecture ones – that is, when i’m forced to really pay attention. when walking/performing autopilot tasks etc i much prefer conversational podcasts, and find it difficult to pay attention to lecture ones, which i prefer when doing absolutely nothing and can give my undivided attention. but i’ll have to look into it more.
eureka moments do come when i’m just daydreaming. i try to watch and control my daydreaming, but it doesn’t help much. ruminating on obscure political issues that barely effect you in real life isn’t productive, unless you run a blog! I read somewhere that our obsession with these political issues that don’t effect our here-and-now in any way stems from a biological desire to keep tabs on the high status members of the tribe.
Now my friends – the man-cycle. In the book The Modern Gentleman they lay out this concept called the man-cycle. Basically it points out that men have mood cycles just like women. Male mood cycles, however, tend to diverge between two poles – cresting and slumping. When you crest, everything seems possible, ideas come to you a mile a minute, flagging friendships are reinvigorated with gusto, women are wooed… but they are unsustainable, so they must not be wasted. Slumping is the downtime, which must be combated by not taking a devil may care nothing matters attitude. Be a 10. As they say, ‘maximise the sprints, shorten the stalls, and preserve an overall baseline of optimism.’
Don’t masturbate or have sex in the morning – with a caveat – if you’re superpumped almost beyond the crest then it can bring you down and focus your already above average energies better.
Try out books that tell you how to do stuff, and give you steps. As men we need to feel like we are accomplishing something, computer games provide the illusion of accomplisment very well, and that’s why they’re so popular. So books that say do this, now do that, how well did you do etc, are better for learing. Steven Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled or Neil Strauss’s Rules of the Game have taught me more than all the poetry books (re former) or game books (latter) have. I felt like I was accomplishing things along the way, and the whole experience was very satisfactory.
Also, during downtime or when you get bored, try modeling something — anything — no matter how silly it seems. As you cobble it together, you’ll notice that the phenomenon seems an awful lot like something else, hopefully more important and interesting than what you started off with.
just to clarify – when i say ‘lecture podcasts’ i actually mean audiobook format or lectures just read out from a script. when lecturers at the itunes university talk off the cuff i find it very easy to pay attention.