If you want your mind to be less distracted, you have to practice the skill of un-distracting yourself.
That is meditation. It is a technique for training the mind to return from distraction easily. That is different from trying to focus. Trying hard does not work very well to increase attention span. It sort of backfires. Meditation is more like accepting a certain amount of distraction, but practicing bringing the attention back. The mind inevitably becomes distracted and it takes a lot of practice to sense that when that is happening and gently correct it.
My pressure cooker has been one of my best purchase decisions
Before I purchased my pressure cooker, I would get home hungry and go to the restaurant across the street. Since I would take my girlfriend, that added up to $60-80 per week. I felt like I was bleeding money through my stomach. I bought the pressure cooker for $100 at the local hardware store. It paid for itself within a month. The particular pressure cooker which I purchased also can act as a rice cooker and a crock pot (slow cooker). So I gave away my old Crockpot. The net result was no increase in number of appliances in my small kitchen.
Work somewhere quiet and do not go home until the job is done.
In my later undergraduate days, I realized that I needed a place to study that was separate from my home. I was lucky enough to work in a university research lab that gave me some space to study. If I hadn’t had that, I would have found a quiet library nook to work in on a regular basis. One of my biggest advantages in finding a place to study on campus was that I could study until my day’s work was done.
I have taken a week off from the news and Reddit and really enjoyed myself.
Strongly consider taking a media vacation, especially if you are stressed out. Watching the evening news or reading the morning paper can make an informed citizen, but the internet lets us get way too much news. The Internet allows us to check the news every 15 minutes. This uses up our mental bandwidth, distracts us from tasks at hand, and makes us feel powerless.
If you are experiencing fatigue, look into allergies
I thought something was really wrong with me when I moved to Texas. I felt unbelievably tired all of the time. I read up on all kinds of maladies and syndromes. Nothing fit very well. A good summary of the conventional approach to unexpected fatigue is at webmd
In my case, it wasn’t a serious disease. I was getting a decent amount of exercise and sleep. Water turned out to be part of the problem, but the other was unexpected. Texas allergies make me feel really tired. I did not know that I was allergic to anything and when I had the sniffles in December, I assumed I had a cold. When the “cold” faded but my tiredness did not. I stuck it out for months feleing like I was packed in cotton. It turned out that a Zyrtec every day made a world of difference. Claritin works for others. Benadryl is the last resort because it has the drowsinesss side effect. Hoewever, my allergy fatigue was so profound that the drowsiness of benedryl was much less. On bad allergy days, I would take half a dose of benedryl and perk right up.
So, if you are fighting the doldrums, try some allergy meds along with the other suggestions on webmd. Check with your real-live doctor, drink more water, get more sleep and exercise, but try a little antihistamine too.
High-calorie Bachelor Chow
Based on some feedback a few months ago from Reddit, lab mates, and commenters on the site, I decided to enrich the calorie density and lavor of my bachelor Chow recipe (available for download in the Top 10 Recipes booklet). This is a short report of my results. Obviously, not everyone is interested in adding calories or additioanal cost to their food shake. For those who are, however, the simplest manner with which to add such calories is vegetable oil. Oils/fats are very energy dense. Relative to carbohydrate and protein, oils contain almost twice as many calories per gram. They are also extremely cheap. Hence…
Browser addons can help avoid distractions
I find that I am easily distracted with semi-productive sites on the Internet. I like Reddit for lots of reasons, but one of my favorites is that I can restrict the subreddits that get displayed to me. I have subreddits like /r/hardscience and /r/chemistry on my front page. While this is great, it tends to lead to my reading Reddit when I have other priorities that I know are higher. I found that the firefox add-on called Leechblock helps me focus. There are more, similar plugins for other browsers.
Separate Decisions from Actions
David over at Raptitude talked about separating decisions from actions. I loved this. He has written very insightful pieces about procrastination. Any course of action is harder if you allow yourself to second guess it while also trying to do it. David uses the example of pushups. He wanted to do pushups every morning. That is a very simple decision without a lot of room for self-doubt or questioning. When willpower is at its weakest, those internal lazy voices start saying “are pushups really the right thing? Maybe sit-ups or a run would be better.” If you allow those questions, you will fail to do the job of pushups every morning. Separating the decision-making from the action can help accomplish the goal.
Quiet discusses in depth the role that introverts can play in business.
I have been thinking about how that might apply to college students. I worried in my last blog entry that perhaps a entrepreneurship oriented economy might disadvantage introverts. This may be true in some cases. Nonetheless, the book goes to great lengths to highlight the skills and inclinations that introverts bring to the table can be very valuable in business. Susan Cain discusses the advantages of introversion like sensitivity, firmness, preparedness. These things can work out just fine in college.
How should introverts approach their college experience and prepare for a career?
Over the next few weeks I am going to review a book called Quiet by Susan Cain. Ms. Cain writes very eloquently about the situation in which introverts can find themselves in today’s society. I hear echoes of Stephen Covey in her conception of the character ethic and the personality ethic. I do not know if she was influenced by Covey and I find the idea compelling that she came to the independent conclusion that we have moved toward a personality driven, surface oriented society. Ms. Cain has produced a TED talk which I find very informative. It was on the basis of this talk that I purchased the book. Here is the key question to which I hope the book suggests an answer – what sorts of goals and careers will sustain an introverted professional?