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Sleep vs. Productivity

Yesterday I got up around 4:30 in the morning because of…we’ll just say a combination of parenting and entrepreneurial passion (expressed, respectively, in a baby squawk around 3 a.m. and an ensuing mental swirl of irrepressible goals and ideas).

Oddly, I found myself rather enjoying it. I listened to a great talk or two I’d been meaning to get to, showered, made myself a pot of tea, and then spent an hour or two working on Frobisher. I made the last couple connections that solved my months-long stuckness on the ending—picture me dancing with glee in my fuzzy slippers in my basement at 5 a.m. I got a jump on the day.

A few days ago, after a similarly sleepless night, I still ended up staying up until 1 a.m. plugging away at Clickworks tasks. It was one of the highest-impact productive time I’ve spent lately. In short order I hammered out two medium-sized projects that have been nagging at me for months. In addition to the quiet and solitude, I think the sleepiness took the edge off my perfectionism and helped me just plow ahead.

For all that, the sleepless nights have also pummeled my mental acuity. I drifted rather a lot. I poked around at Facebook for way too long even though I had no real interest in it. That night after a group meeting I wandered the darkening streets for 45 minutes, trying to remember where I’d parked, and berating myself for not thinking to wear more than a t-shirt. The following morning I searched the house unsuccessfully before realizing I had worn my hoodie, but forgotten it at the meeting. Irony. Then my wife found my hoodie in the stroller.

So now I’ve got a debate going in my head. Up too early (or, as the case may be, too late) yields solitude, extra time, and generally a good flow state. Lack of sleep apparently breaks my brain, which is about what you’d expect. Worth it? What say you?

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Review: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My LifeHow to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While this book is a little scattered both in format and subject material, it has some very helpful ideas about reframing your approach to life in ways that are likely to maximize your chances of success overall and your happiness even in the meantime.

Some of my big takeaways:

  • Arrange your life around processes, not goals. As you learn to routinize patterns that increase your energy level, skills, human connection, risk tolerance, etc. you’ll continually increase your chances of success while rarely having to power through big lifestyle changes on sheer willpower.
  • Learn to think of failure as a resource, not an outcome. Select and arrange your endeavors in a way that will result in useful gain even if the endeavor fails. This will free you up to try lots of things, fail freely, and in the process keep gaining new skills, connections, experience, etc., increasing the likelihood of success on future endeavors.
  • Best starting point is caring for your body. Energy levels (used kind of loosely to mean a mix of physical energy, optimism, and drive) are a linchpin to unlocking your capacity in most other areas. Learning to eat right (in enjoyable therefore sustainable patterns) will increase your tendency toward (enjoying therefore maintaining habits of) physical activity and fitness, which will tend to improve your mood, likeability, creative/productive capacity, and more, which will make it more likely that you will feel happy, try interesting things, enjoy and be enjoyed by other people, etc.
  • Tips and tricks. Some helpful specifics on conversational skills, developing sustainably healthy diet and exercise patterns, and more.

    View all my reviews

Book Review: The Dream World Collective, by Ben Y. Faroe

“…if you like interesting personalities, hidden depths, deep emotions, determined artists, and hilarious dialog, this is the book for you.”

Check out the full review below!

The Page Turner

: The Dream World Collective: A NovelThe Dream World Collective: A Novel by Ben Y. Faroe

  • Paperback: 476 pages
  • Publisher: Clickworks Press (December 13, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1943383138
  • ISBN-13: 978-1943383139
  • My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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    Just how much “relaxing” do I really need?

    I’ve been thinking about rest lately. Having a fitful 4-month-old will do that.

    Strangely, what got me thinking wasn’t the many sleepless nights. It was when we collectively conked out one Saturday and did pretty much nothing but family movies, Wii games, convenience foods, and (finally!) solid naps for everyone, including the grown-ups.

    And it was good to veg out and all, but really it wasn’t that good. By the end I felt more sluggish than energized, even though it was all the “relaxation” I could cram into one day. Instead it brought into focus a question that has been bugging me for a while now: Just how much “relaxing” do I really need?

    Put differently, when do I expect that I’m going to put down my phone and actually do all the life-giving but effort-requiring things I’m remembering I love but rarely do these days? Will I ever touch Latin again? Write good theology? Read actual books like a gentleman?

    There’s some part of me that assumes that once I rest up and feel a little less zombie-ish I’ll start digging in on those things. And that’s probably kind of true, at least for the ones I already do sometimes, but really what’s going to make the difference is better free time routines. I want to stop being someone who defaults to smartphone-poking-while-“watching”-Netflix in my free moments.

    A few early discoveries on this path:

    • Most of the entertainment I consume doesn’t particularly rejuvenate me. Books are probably the exception, for whatever reason.
    • Constant stimulation isn’t necessary. It’s rare for me to be without a book or a show or a background podcast these days, and I’m finding just sitting quietly is actually quite nice. Boredom isn’t as scary as I thought.
    • Walks are brilliant. This one I’ve known all along. It’s fresh air and low-key exercise and, if you’re with someone, good company and a chance to talk. I’m trying to take a walk or two a day, and it’s lovely. Sitting on the porch reading a book for 20 minutes is also remarkably refreshing.
    • Walks and quiet time also help me figure out what I actually want to do (and when and how). Figuring this out is (unsurprisingly, in retrospect) a key step in the transition from vague aspirations to real life changes.
    • Finishing looming background tasks is more restful than avoiding them, even if they’re scary and ambiguous. We faced a couple big complicated tasks head-on (after weeks to months avoiding) and, while they made for a tricky weekend each, we feel so much relief and freedom now that in my book it’s totally worth it.

    One way I’m applying that last one, incidentally, is to shorten my books-in-progress list. I’m generally in the middle of, say, eight books at a time (which is probably not industry best practice anyway). Instead of a page of this and a page of that, I’ve started plowing through one book at a time (or one fiction and one non-fiction) until it’s done, and I’m now down to maybe four books in progress instead of eight or ten. It’s been surprisingly freeing. I hadn’t realized how much brainspace books-in-progress take.

    What about you? What have you found truly restful and life-giving?

    Cheers!

    –Ben

     

    AutoHotkey Hacks for Lazy Nerds Who Like Webcomics

    I am beginning to seriously groove on AutoHotkey. It’s a free open-source program that lets you automate things on your computer. A pretty common application appears to be making up your own keyboard shortcuts and/or autoreplace rules.

    I initially found it early in my vim kick–a kick which, for the record, is gamely stumbling on as I continue to insist to myself that one day I will learn enough to make vim so magically, brilliantly super-efficient that it will…well, make up for the dozens to hundreds of hours I will have spent learning stuff about vim, I guess.

    Anyway, I was getting all excited about vim and learned that many power users remap their keyboards so that CapsLock becomes Esc and vice versa, because vim involves hitting Esc a lot and the CapsLock key is closer and easier, and so I charged ahead and found a little program (the aforementioned AHK) that would let me remap the keys in a fairly straightforward, untechnical way, and I did, and I thought little more of it except for putting in a mental pin to remind me to look more into AHK’s capabilities at some point.

    That point was a couple days ago, and boy are my arms tired! Wait, different joke.

    Anyway, I started reading up on AutoHotkey a little more and it’s amazing what it can do! It’s really a full-blown scripting…thing. (Application? Tool? Sorry, The Giver. No precision of language here.)

    I once jokingly told a colleague that I wasn’t satisfied with the fact that I’d semi-automated a report to where I could run one query, paste the results into one spot in Excel, hit refresh, and send it out. I wanted a single button that would run the query, paste the results, and send the report for me. And then I wanted a machine that would push that button for me every day.

    It appears that AutoHotkey is that button. And maybe also that machine. Time will tell.

    For now one of my favorite uses I’ve put it to is creating keyboard shortcuts that pull up ‘dashboards’ of all the websites and/or files and/or folders I need to monitor or work on a particular project, task, or topic. It cuts out the friction that slows me down from getting to work (on, say, writing) because I’d have to open the story and the planning document and my music and my tracker and whatever. Or whatever.

    I’m sure there will be more on this later, but just as an appetizer, install AutoHotkey and run a script containing the following code, then hit Ctrl-Shift-A. You’re welcome.

    ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;
    ;Fun Dashboard Ctrl-Shift-A
    ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;
    ^+A::
    navOpenInNewTab := 0x800
    navOpenInBackgroundTab := 0x1000

    sites:=”www.reddit.com|www.xkcd.com|

    http://www.smbc-comics.com|www.penny-

    arcade.com/comic”

    ie := comobjcreate

    (“InternetExplorer.Application”)
    ie.visible := true

    Loop, Parse, sites, |
    if A_Index = 1
    ie.navigate(A_LoopField)
    else
    ie.navigate(A_LoopField,

    navOpenInNewTab)

    return

    The 2016 2K Indie Book Tour: Wendy Ogilvie

    Kate M. Colby

    Up next on my and Kate Evans’s 206 2K Indie Book Tour is women’s fiction author Wendy Ogilvie.

    wendyogilvie_1441640180_4Wendy Ogilvie lives in Essex with her boyfriend Carl and their two dogs; Chinook and Storm. She has been a Personal Trainer for twenty years and has been writing training books and short stories in her spare time. The office in her new house is her favourite place to write as she can see the fish swimming in the pond and her two huskies digging up the garden! She is currently working on the next novel in the Wanda series called Wandering Among the Stars.

    Here’s the synopsis of her novel, Wandering on the Treadmill:

    WANDA MIKOS lives in Briford, England but has a dream to live in Los Angeles and become a Personal Trainer to the stars. She finds a way to make her ambition a reality by entering The Main Event…

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