Attracting your attention and then keeping it has become a big business. From entertainment to the media, from Google to Facebook… screens persistently compete for our eyeballs.
But the market for our attention isn’t new, it’s been developing for well over a century. Before clickbait, there were tabloid newspapers laden with lurid headlines and risque images.
This flood of data can be so overwhelming that it can leave us wasting our time on things we don’t even care about.
Our attention is one of our most valuable commodities, because where we direct our focus determines the quality and content of our lives.
“A man is what he does with his attention and mine is not for sale.” -John Ciardi
Decide to take control of your life, by taking control of where you direct your attention.
Make conscious decisions about what you watch and read.
Disconnect from the constant flow of information for a period of time during the day, and learn to filter out that which is not useful to the life you desire.
Don’t sell your attention…decide instead, where you will spend it.
- [Article] https://markmanson.net/attention
- [Book] The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads by Tim Wu
- [Book] Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.
…IT job security is often dependent on making things hard, slow, and complex. If the Exchange Server didn’t require two people to babysit it at all times, that would mean two friends out of work. Of course using hosted Gmail is a bad idea! It’s the same forces and mechanics that slowly turned unions from a force of progress (proper working conditions for all!) to a force of stagnation (only Jack can move the conference chairs, Joe is the only guy who can fix the microphone).
But change is coming…
A changing landscape
The cloud does not threaten IT jobs, nor does it reduce the importance of IT departments. If anything, the short-term trend is an increase in importance as users realize that they need the help of IT to manage the complex server and application environments that are being created ad-hoc in their rush to move to the cloud.
As with most new technologies, cloud computing won’t promote a destruction of IT jobs, but rather a change in their nature. Just as developers have to adopt new mindsets to develop cloud-based applications and services, DBAs will have to adapt to cloud-based and big data oriented systems, and system administrators will move from the low-level infrastructure issues (which will be more and more the exclusive province of large providers) to managing complex environments, spanning multiple applications, cloud providers, virtual and physical servers, and even merging the internal data center with the public cloud.
I wish life was simpler.
This is something I’ve said to myself many times before and I’m sure you have too. Feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and unmotivated is often a product of our own doing. We try to do too much, too fast, and too soon.
Short Answer is Simplify. For detailed answer please read the book The Power Of Less by Leo Babaua.
“Simplifying isn’t meant to leave your life empty — it’s meant to leave space in your life for what you really want to do.”
– from The Power Of Less by Leo Babaua
True to its name, the Power of Less is short. 170 pages, this non-fiction work follows the traditional how-to book formula to employ numbered lists of steps.
The main principles he outlines are as follows:
- Set limitations. By setting limitations, we must chose the essential. So in everything you do, learn to set limitations.
- Choose the essential. By choosing the essential, we create great impact with minimal resources. Always choose the essential to maximize your time and energy.
- Simplify. Eliminate the nonessential.
- Focus is your most important tool in becoming more effective.
- Create new habits to make long-lasting improvements.
- Start small. Start new habits in small increments to ensure success.
My favorite line in the whole book is “Simplify. Eliminate the non-essential.” I think if that is all you get out of the whole book it will have been worthwhile.
Still go ahead buy the book and read it fully, it’s full of ideas. The best parts were when the author wrote of his own personal experience and used specific details of life changes he made and how he went about that.
Simplicity boils down to two (very simple) steps:
1. Identify the Essential
2. Eliminate the rest
All in all, this is a good little book with some great logic in it, as well as links and suggestions on how to use today’s tools to make your life better. A short book that combines technology advancements with wisdom of the ages is just the kind of focus that we multi-taskers need to help us calm the chaos that surrounds us online and off.
Learn to move at a slower pace and you will be happier, and just as importantly, you will become more effective and productive.
Bonus: You can visit the this link to read the 10 big ideas from this book.
One ought, every day at least,
to hear a little song,
read a good poem,
see a fine picture,
and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship
I like this advice because it is about appreciating, not creating. And the good thing is it can be used as a Checklist for Everyday.
In the professional world, checklists are a huge component to the daily work of pilots and surgeons. Detailed step-by-step checklists help fight complacency in the cockpit, and maintain safe operation of the aircraft during all phases of flight, from gate to gate. In hospitals, medical teams use checklists to ensure surgical procedures go smoothly.
The Art of Manliness provides a historical look at checklists, along with a detailed primer in deciding which lists will work for you, sourced from the excellent book The Checklist Manifesto. You can implement the similar checklist(routine) in your daily life to help give you a greater shot at success.
Here’s a problem worth solving:
Am I doing the thing I am most needed to be doing right now?
Here is an example of my daily checklist:
- Start your day with a prayer.
- Think of three things you’re grateful for. Be specific.
- Never start your day with a newspaper or TV.
- Workout or go for a walk – don’t sit all day!
- Think of one thing you learned today. Journalize it, why not!
- One day a week, ignore this list entirely.
- Forgive yourself for your imperfection and remember that everyday is everyday. Tomorrow will soon be today. There’s more time.
Notice that social media, reading news, watching TV, checking email, browsing my favorite sites, sharing photos … none of these are on the list. If I’m doing one of these things and not one of my daily checklist items, I’m probably not doing the right thing.
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close;
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night’s repose
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
What else would you add to the list?
When historian Charles Weiner looked over a pile of Richard Feynman’s notebooks, he called them a wonderful ‘record of his day-to-day work’.
“No, no!”, Feynman objected strongly.
“They aren’t a record of my thinking process. They are my thinking process. I actually did the work on the paper.”
“Well,” Weiner said, “The work was done in your head, but the record of it is still here.”
“No, it’s not a record, not really. It’s working. You have to work on paper and this is the paper. Okay?”, Feynman explained.
Source: Clive Thompson (2014). Smarter Than You Think. p. 7
Richard Feynman, who won the Nobel prize for Physics, understood that writing his equations and ideas on paper was crucial to his thought.
Let me ask you this – how many times it has happened that, after reading a book, you thought you understood the idea but found it difficult to explain it to others? The idea seemed pretty clear in your head but the moment you had to verbalize it you discovered that either you didn’t have a proper grasp on the idea at the first place or you were unable to explain it in a logical coherent way to a third person.
As far as I am concerned, this is the kind of reaction people gave me, “You’re telling me that you just finished reading a compelling book but can’t explain the central idea in few sentences?”
Reading something passively creates an illusion of knowledge. It creates a confusion between ‘mere familiarity with the concepts’ in the book and an actual understanding of them. Only by testing ourselves can we actually determine whether or not we really understand.
This is when the Feynman Technique came to my rescue. It says that the mere action of writing something down allows for a more effective integration of the learning.
In most books, the important ideas and insights are usually unevenly distributed across the whole book. Which means, if your intention behind reading books is just to gain knowledge (and not care about its entertainment value) then there’s always some part of the book which doesn’t add as much value. Does it mean one should read just the book summaries? Scott Young, makes a case in favor of reading the whole book instead of books summaries. And his argument is quite convincing.
…the value of books comes not only from their ideas, which of course can often be gleaned from a summary, but from being a difficult mental task that requires focus and simultaneously guides deeper thinking…reading a hard book is more than just the ideas you obtain from it. Thinking about the book’s content while you read it is what matters. So a really long, good book on a topic will provoke much longer reflection and therefore have a much larger impact than a short summary or perhaps even many short summaries.
TL;DR :Read 20 pages everyday.
If you know how to read, then reading books is relatively easy. You simply have to make time to read. Easier said than done, of course.
As a result, most of my reading is done online. Now, there are plenty of excellent articles on the web, but generally speaking, the quality of good books is better. Books typically have better writing (more tightly edited) and higher quality information (better fact-checking and more extensive research). From a learning perspective, it’s probably a better use of my time to read books than to read online content.
So, I had to figure out a strategy that would allow me to read more books without letting typical distractions get in the way.
How do you that?
Here’s the only pattern I’ve been able to stick with consistently:
- 20 Pages Per Day
- The First Hour: How do you spend the first hour of your day?
Here’s why I think this pattern works: 20 pages is small enough that it’s not intimidating. Most people can finish reading 20 pages within 30 minutes. And if you do it first thing in the morning, then the urgencies of the day don’t get in the way.
Reading should be a joy, not an obligation. Books are full of magic and mystery, and if you’re not used to reading regularly it might be hard to tap into that at first. Keep going, however. Pick up a book and find time to read during the day. If it’s not a good book or if it’s not bringing you pleasure, then stop reading it! You certainly don’t have to finish every book you start.
So go on. Take a few steps to read more often and immerse yourself in our worldwide cultural pastime. It’s what all the smart people are doing.
Conclusion: Read 20 pages to start the day.