Pause to go forward


We all hit the wall. Stuck in inanition, we get frustrated with a lack of progress.

But all blocks are temporary. Our neurons continue searching for one another to talk to without forcing them to connect.

When the well runs dry, quitting to do something else should always be an option. The activity doesn’t always have to be active nor stimulating. It could be laying down on the couch doing nothing at all, letting the unconscious mind go to work.

Think of rest as deliberate postponement

Sitting upright in a chair all day is draining.

Standing on our feet all day is also exhausting.

Admiring our own words without proper interrogation is damaging.

Persistence, sticktuitiveness, building up confidence — everything that comes from deliberate practice matters.

But the answers seem to come when we put the task aside and rest on automatic, letting go as the best possible course. As Aldous Huxley wrote in Island:

It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly.

Humans are too flawed to push it 100% of the time. Our best works happens in stops and starts.

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“Intentional Living” with The Bullet Journal ⚡ Method

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Bullet Journal inventor Ryder Carroll

There are a lot of Bullet Journal iterations out there today but Ryder Carroll is the originator of the practice. According to the video he introduced in 2013, he calls it “an analog system I devised that will help track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.”

I’ve dabbled in his Bullet Journal a bit but haven’t nailed it just yet. Thankfully, Carroll is coming out with a new book (pre-order here) to further explain the process and how it helped him become consistently focused and productive. I’m looking forwarding to reading it so I can get better at prioritizing what’s important despite all the stuff that comes into our brain each day.

Time keeps on slipping into the future

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Time is moving at warp speed.

But is it time or our habits that permit time to slip into the future?

Today’s perception is irreality. We spend more time looking into our devices than we do looking up at the world. What seems like 2 minutes pecking at the phone turns into 20 minutes of squandered time.

Meanwhile, the child just lives in the moment. They are driven by novelty instead of worrying about tomorrow.

Adults mull over the possibility of death and permit regret to poison their hopes. They also have the responsibility — for work, kids, their health etc. — that constricts their freedom of play in the present.

Time holds steady, adherent to each tick. It is humans who panic.

‘The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work and gave to it neither power nor time’

“It is six A.M., and I am working. I am absentminded, reckless, heedless of social obligations, etc. It is as it must be. The tire goes flat, the tooth falls out, there will be a hundred meals without mustard. The poem gets written. I have wrestled with the angel and I am stained with light and I have no shame. Neither do I have guilt. My responsibility is not to the ordinary, or the timely. It does not include mustard, or teeth. It does not extend to the lost button, or the beans in the pot. My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive. If I have a meeting with you at three o’clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.

There is no other way work of artistic worth can be done. And the occasional success, to the striver, is worth everything. The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”

Mary Oliver, Upstream: Selected Essays

The design of the classroom from 1750 to today






The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids by Alexandra Lange 

The design of the classroom is a technology, and you can interpret that in a lot of different ways. Architects can make that look more, and less, typical. But the point is the instruction, the interaction in the classroom, not that it looks more like a circle or more like a square or whatever else.

(via NPR)

Getting to zero time

Time is constant. And it keeps on moving with more and more rapidity, driven by technology.

Said painter Fredericka Foster in her interview with composer Philip Glass:

Time is speeding up in a real way. Younger people’s sense of time is completely different than mine; they have been working on screen time since they were tiny. Perhaps the reason why summer went by so fast for your son is that he has never experienced the slowdown in time, or boredom.

We have food, we enjoy our electronic screens, yet boredom seems to harder to find. It is scarce.

We’ve learned to pursue distraction as a replacement for letting our minds wander. Entertainment fills the void: it introduces new and shiny objects in the form of YouTube videos and shiny Instagrams.

But we can still freeze time, at least in our heads when we look at something like a painting. Says Phillip Glass:

When I look at a painting, time always seems to be in the present. In music, things happen in measured time. When a painter looks at a canvas, time is irrelevant. I was visiting Jasper Johns once, looking at one of his number paintings from 10 years before. He said, “I am still working on that painting.” When I look at your paintings, for you a day of work may go by fast or slow, but the painting is the painting, and looking, I can jump in and get to zero time easily.

When in the midst of creativity, time also seems to slow down. We dance, play an instrument, write, or paint to the rhythm of each tick-tock.

Once I get the composition down, I can begin to pay attention to the rhythm of the painting. I put on music (for example, your Satyagraha) and enter into a dance with the painting, changing the composition to exaggerate the rhythm. Time disappears. I become a verb, seeing, painting. That time cannot be measured. With this kind of focused attention, time has no boundaries. That’s the kind of time you find in love, in creativity, in the life of the spirit, the kind of time I live for.

Time is elapsing now, yet there are still ways to grasp it.

The magic of disengagement

We practice and then we walk away. We get out of our heads and go for a walk, a swim, make a cup of coffee — whatever disengagement there is.

Taking a break isn’t quitting. It’s letting neurons go to work without forcing them to.

Competence comes without comprehension. Nature cuts though the intellectual. We’re born to chase the to-do list but also do nothing.

Unhindered, we move like water over rocks. And the coffee pours itself, like magic.

Pamela Druckerman shares her tips on time management

Below is a couple time management tips excerpted from New York Times Opinion writer Pamela Druckerman in her new book There Are No Grown-ups: A Midlife Coming-of-Age Story.

Follow your verve

When you’re trying to decide between several options, pay attention to which one energizes you and which one makes you feel tired just thinking about it. (I learned this from a life coach, Janet Orth.) This isn’t always feasible; practical factors can intrude and there are things you must do. But it’s worth weighing the “energy” factor, too. Even as a grown-up, it’s okay to choose the option that seems like more fun.

Don’t let the internet eat your life

Rules help. A children’s book author tells me that he only returns emails on Thursdays. Another writer tells me he never goes online between nine a.m. and five p.m. (“If I look something up, it’s an hour.”)

Focusing on the long term helps, too. The British writer Zadie Smith got a flip phone and installed internet-blocking software on her computer once she realized that she didn’t want to be 86 “and think that a large part of the life had been spent on Mr. Jobs, in his universe, on his phone, with his apps. I didn’t want that for my life.”

Read more

The Messy Middle by Scott Belsky

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Every advance reveals a new shortcoming. Your job is to endure the lows and optimize the highs to achieve a positive slope within the jaggedness of the messy middle — so that, on average, every low is less low than the one before it, and every subsequent high is a little higher.

Scott Belsky, The Messy Middle: Finding Your Way Through the Hardest and Most Crucial Part of Any Bold Venture

Whether it’s in life, a creative endeavor, or in business, the ‘messy middle’ can also be portrayed as a sine wave. Some people surf the wave, others drown.

Life is not linear. Here’s to the emotional journey of anything great.

Guilted into trying

Things are never perfect the first time around, a bit better than second, and mind a few tweaks, they seem be just about right in the third and fourth efforts.

The fear of failure is good quality control. It ensures that in the process of disrupting ourselves, we appreciate the challenge of ascendancy.

Riding the wave of uncertainty

The attempt to blaze our own trail is never easy. Being misunderstood for long periods of time dampens the mood. But there will always be more guilt in not trying.

Dreams require a ceaseless imperative of movement, the confidence to tread into unknown territory regardless of faith and doubt.

Dear Sheeple, are you part of the herd?

Each individual reduces danger to itself by moving to the center of the group. The herd appears as a unit, but its function emerges from the uncoordinated behavior of self-serving individuals.

We copy others out of safety, thinking that it’s better to conform rather than be ostracized. So like lemmings, we do whatever else is doing, including following the same people like everyone else.

But the center of normality, the standard, is flattening. There’s no longer one size fits all. The internet leveled the playing field for all niche creators and interests while perpetuating the mass.

So while Beyonce trends across the world after dropping a new track, the bedroom musician who makes ambient music strikes a chord for his or her 1,000 devoted fans.

A purple cow is too interesting to ignore. So were Darwin’s finches which thrived on their own uniqueness.

The rest of us can continue to jump through hoops. But then who’s in charge?

Why sitting is bad for you, animated

Sitting is the new smoking. While that claim may be a bit exaggerated, it is an effective reminder to remind ourselves to take our body for a walk.

The more than 360 joints inside our bodies are also ample evidence that we are built to stand up and move. And while more offices are including stand up desks and other mobility devices, the sedentary lifestyle still dominates.

Sitting for long periods of time reduces overall blood flow, particularly the oxygen that gets pushed via bloodstream through the lungs to the brain.

So, set yourself a reminder to get up every half hour and move around. But beware of text neck.

How to persist after hitting rock-bottom

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We can toil in obscurity for years before we get a lucky break. We can also give up and accept that it isn’t meant to be.

But something happens when we feel like a complete failure. We start to simplify everything — what we own, where what we do — and get back to basics.

Defeat offers its own beneficial limitations. It pushes us to play with what he have and stick to the belief in our art.

When JK Rowling hit her lowest point — divorced as a single mother on child welfare with no published books — the only thing she knew was to keep writing. As she said in her Harvard commencement speech:

“I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless.

Even when the publishers rejected her, she kept on and wrote even more. She leaned in on the process of showing up every day at the cafe and getting to work.

Failure can either be deemed temporary or definitive, depending on how we frame it. But with the right mentality, we can leverage the foundation of rock-bottom to help us limit our choices and persist.

How taking an afternoon ‘nappuccino’ increases productivity ☕💤

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Like most people, my brain starts to fizzle out between 2 and 3pm. According to science, this isn’t due to a lunch hangover but rather a part of our circadian rhythm.

To preempt the inevitable afternoon slothfulness, author Dan Pink proposes to take a nappuccino. He recommends that before you take your 20-minute nap (science shows that more than 20 minutes can make you feel drowsier), you should drink a cup of coffee.

Writes Pink in his new book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing:

The caffeine won’t fully engage in your bloodstream for about 25 minutes, so drink up right before you lie down.

The pre-nap caffeination will give you an extra boost when you wake up. Your brain will be sharper and more focused. You’ll also receive all the benefits of a nap: lower blood pressure and a stronger heart.

You can read more about the nappuccino productivity hack here.

The paradox of holding high standards

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The irony of holding high standards is that often times they prevent us from taking action.

Perfectionism can be a thought stopper rather than a thought starter.

Sometimes we can only solve a problem if we’re willing to let it go.

It helps to do things with a bit of insouciance.

We should feel free to rebel against our own seriousness time and again.

The only way to work is not to work, to resist the mindset of overtrying and overthinking.

Indecision never gave people more time.