Posted: January 19, 2013 Filed under: Lifehackin' Links
I’m having a hard time getting this blog post written today. You see, today is the first day of the NHL hockey season and I’m watching a game, checking Twitter, skimming blogs, and all manner of hockey fan nerdery. I’m glad the season is finally underway, but now I’ve got a lot to be distracted by.
Here are some posts about distractions, how they affect us, and how to manage them:
3-second distraction doubles work errors
That buzzing phone in your pocket may not seem like a huge distraction, but all those small nudges add up to a pretty big cognitive load. This study of 300 people showed that interruptions of no more than 3 seconds double the error rate on a series of cognitive tests. That’s about the time it takes to check your phone to see if that beep you just heard was a text message, Twitter mention, or an new email. That gets pretty scary when you think about all the critical jobs that people do under such conditions. Our advice, ditch the notifications.
This Was Supposed to Be My Column for New Year’s Day
Sometimes, however, distraction isn’t such a bad thing. It’s possible to “positively procrastinate”, at least according to some researchers. Generally speaking, procrastinators aren’t lazy, just distracted. In fact, one of the principles investigated is: “anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.” If you accept that and stop trying to fight it, you can learn to play your tasks against each other and work on one meaningful task when you’re supposed to be working on another. Or, a quick hack to focus on your primary task is the “nothing alternative”, which only has two rules: 1. You don’t have to work on your task. 2. You’re not allowed to do anything else.
TED TALK – Paolo Cardini: Forget multitasking, try monotasking
It’s hard not to get distracted these days when there are so many different signals competing for our attention. This short TED talk by Paolo Cardini takes an interesting approach for blocking out distractions. Special phone covers that will downgrade your phone into “monotask” mode, where you can only perform a single function.
One of the problems with distractions is the time it takes to get back on track once you return to your original task. It’s disorienting bouncing from one thing or another. This applies to small things, like bouncing back and for the between writing this post and watching the hockey game, or larger projects, like switching between long-term projects at work. Here are some ideas about how to smooth the transitions between projects to maintain a sense of flow.
Boost from Facebook may cut self-control (but boost self-esteem)
A study of more than 1,000 Facebook users showed that browsing Facebook negatively impacts self-control. Participants who spent time on Facebook where more likely to choose cookies over granola bars (yum!), and give up sooner on cognitive tests. It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Somewhat buried in the headline was the observation that sharing content with your close social circle also boosts self-esteem.
How I Gave up Email and Reclaimed 3 Hours a Day
Email is one of the hardest distractions to deal with. It arrives randomly, you never know if it’s going to be important or not, and it’s the default way that everyone communicates. So it’s not like you can just cut it all out, right? Right? Apparently, you can. Here’s an account of one productivity specialist’s switch to a “No email” workstyle. Moving communications away from email and into more specialized applications like LinkedIn, Facebook, and and Basecamp initially seems like it could just make matters worse by increasing the number of places you have to go to keep up with incoming information. But it seems to work, and I think it’s an idea that could use a lot more examination, especially considering that email tends to take up around 30% of the average worker’s time.
Posted: January 5, 2013 Filed under: Lifehackin' Links
Welcome to 2013 everyone! It’s the first week of the year, which means it’s the week that most of us set some shiny new productivity goals (many of which we will have completely abandoned by mid-February ) It’s also the week when just about every blogger everywhere has something to say about setting and reaching those shiny new productivity goals. Here’s a collection of posts to help you refine your resolutions to be more sustainable, give you some good ideas if you’re still trying to decide what to focus on, or in some cases dissuade you from setting any goals at all this year. Enjoy!
The science of new year’s resolutions: Why 88% fail and how to make them work
The smart fellas over at Buffer get all science-y and explore why new year’s resolutions typically don’t work out. Once you’re armed with the knowledge about why our brains have a hard time keeping resolutions, you can start to re-frame your commitments into something that’s more likely to succeed. Some of the keys: keeping it simple, focusing on habits instead of aspirations, positive feedback, and social accountability.
Quantified New Year’s resolutions: Take an information-driven approach to lifestyle changes
We’ve been doing some thinking of our own about how to stick to your goals. In this post, we examine the use of self-tracking systems to create feedback loops that help you form habits and build up data points that will help you turn your efforts into a game.
New Year’s Resolution Tips for Busy People
It’s all well and good to set goals, even grandiose ones, but the keys to reaching them are focus and iteration. Both can be really difficult, especially given our increasingly busy lifestyles. Tackling your goals in small chunks, with reviews and deliberate next-steps in short cycles along the way.
New Years Resolutions: 11 ways to increase your productivity in 2013
Here’s a list of bite-sized resolutions for entrepreneurs or anyone else who wants to advance their career in 2013. Ideas range from keeping your inbox at zero to reading the Wall St. Journal every day, to pledging to stop bringing your computer to meetings. They’re all over the map, so pick and choose a couple that seem interesting to you and see if you can form some new productive habits.
Google Zeitgeist 2012
Google takes a nostalgic look back at the major events of 2012, but also takes a look to the future with this neat interactive map that let’s you view people’s new year’s resolutions from around the globe. Play around with it, get inspired, and add your own resolutions to the list. (hint hint, can you find RescueTime’s resolution on there?)
5 Reasons Your New Years Resolution is Destined to Fail
File under “resolution tough love”, LifeHack gives you five reasons your resolutions are likely to fail. Do you really care about what you’re committing to? Are you willing to make the necessary changes to put your self in a situation where you’re likely to succeed? Do a little soul-searching, then modify your goals as needed.
What to Do When You Fall Back Into Your Old, Less Productive Ways
You know it’s coming. That day when you look up and say “that was a good run, but I totally failed at that resolution attempt”. Sometime’s our good intentions are much loftier than we can handle. Don’t be too hard on yourself, it happens. Read this article for some ideas on how to respond to a ‘resolution relapse’ and get back on track.
3 reasons to nix those New Year’s resolutions
David Allen, of Getting Things Done fame isn’t so fond of making new year’s resolutions. Here are three reasons why.
Consider Not Setting Goals in 2013
More exploration of the “goals are bad” idea. Instead of goals, just pick some areas that you’d like to focus on, and commit to working at them, without an explicitly defined end-goal. Chances are, you’ll get where you were wanting to go anyway, and you’ll give yourself the flexibility to make the proper adjustments along the way.
Here’s wishing everyone a happy and productive New Year!
Posted: December 29, 2012 Filed under: Lifehackin' Links, Workplace Productivity
One reason New Year’s Resolutions are so hard is because they involve making time for a new activity in your daily routine. It’s difficult to find time to go to the gym or learn a new skill because you’ve already got a tight schedule. Since you’re likely already devoting at least 40 hours to work each week, why not take advantage of that time and make some resolutions to optimize your working time?
Here are a few ideas for New Year’s Resolutions that you might consider to boost your productivity:
Go on an email diet:
If you want to get more out of your day, one of the most straightforward things you can do is cut back on email. Unnecessary communications are one of the biggest time-wasters, and the saddest part is that many people feel powerless to do anything about it. There’s often constant pressure to keep managers and colleagues informed, and over-use of email, instant message, and other communication systems unfortunately becomes ingrained in many companies’ cultures. But, you can make some small tweaks to start taming the email monster.
Take a look at www.emailcharter.org for some easy-to-remember rules that will help you reverse the email spiral.
Consider using a service like Sanebox or unroll.me to clear some noise out of your inbox.
Take a look at some compelling health reasons for limiting your email intake.
Or, read an account of one CEO’s experiment with ditching email.
Switch to a standing desk:
More and more studies are confirming that sitting at your desk all day is really bad for your health. An obvious solution, stop sitting. The problem is that most standing desks will set you back several hundred dollars. But many people have improvised and come up with some creative ways to hack together functional (and sometimes even pretty) standing desks. Will you be able to ditch the chair? Only one way to find out.
Take a look at this cheap, functional, and none-too-shabby-looking standing desk setup made from IKEA shelves.
There are many recaps of other people trying standing desk experiments. Read up on them for tips and things to watch out for.
Cut down on distractions:
Between email, Twitter, Facebook, and all the apps on your smartphone, you have about a million things vying for your attention each day. The problem is, each one of them takes you away from something you were already working on. Even if it’s just for a few seconds, switching back and getting into a state of flow can take several minutes. Even worse, over time all those bleeps and buzzes train you to always be on guard for new incoming information. Next time you are at a restaurant, do a quick scan and note how many people are looking at their phones, or have them on the table next to them so they can be ready for the next incoming notice.
Consider turning off all notifications. It will feel weird at first, but after a few days you’ll notice a pretty dramatic shift. I made the switch last year and I’ll never go back.
Or, consider taking steps to block out distracting web sites that you frequent. Here’s how some prominent authors block out distractions. Here’s a shell script to turn off websites you’d rather avoid. Or, you could always use RescueTime’s Get Focused! site blocking.
What are your productivity-related New Year’s Resolution ideas?
p.s. If you’d like to keep track of your productivity for the new year, sign up for a RescueTime account today!
Posted: December 3, 2012 Filed under: Guest Posts, Lifehackin' Links
This is a guest post by Maneesh Sethi, a RescueTime user, productivity hacker, and author of the blog hackthesystem.com
. He’s experimented with several creative ways to increase his productivity, and has decided to document the whole process as he goes so others can benefit from what he’s learned. If you’d like to follow along with his productivity experiments, you can sign up for his mailing list at http://hackthesystem.com/rescuetime
It’s not easy growing up in a culture of distraction.
You’ve noticed it—it’s never been harder than today to focus on one task at a time. As I sit in this cafe, writing this article, my phone is buzzing with Facebook notifications, Twitter mentions, and–oh, hey! my Klout score just increased!
Fifteen years ago, none of these distractions existed. If you wanted to waste time at home, your options were to read, eat, or maybe watch television—if anything was on. Now, it’s never been easier to spend a day (or a week, or even a year) doing absolutely nothing.
What do you do online every day? Where do you waste the most time? Everyone has a different answer, but most people honestly have no idea. RescueTime was invented to help people track their wasted hours and determine what they should stop doing. So, ask yourself now—”Where do you waste your time every day?”
Growing up in an Indian family, I’ve always been driven to be more productive, but I’ve never been able to succeed. Recently, I sat down with Tim Ferriss, the master of productivity, to talk about how to get more done—and I realized that I was having the same conversation I had when I was thirteen years old.
“I just feel like there is nothing I can do. I waste all my time chatting and browsing reddit. Imagine what I could do if I just learned to focus!”
“Remember man,” said Tim, “that you’re going to die. Do you want to want your time spent to have been wasted—or spent producing something? Focus on output.”
Small Changes That Cause Big Effects
I don’t want my life to be filled with unmemorable Skype chat and funny cat pictures. It’s a waste of living. So, I began to undertake a series of productivity experiments to determine what actually works—what small changes could I make to effect massive change. Over the past year or so, I’ve used RescueTime to measure the results of my online productivity. The results have been astounding.
I want to discuss a few experiments that I’ve done, and let you know that I’ll be conducting several more over the next few months. I’ll be revealing my stats, writing about what works and what doesn’t, and attempting to help others join the movement to improve their habits.
If you’re interested in following along, sign up over at http://hackthesystem.com/rescuetime.
Hiring a Craigslist Slapper
I spend a lot of time online every week, and the majority of it is unproductive.
38% productive. That means that almost 19 hours of my time last week were wasted—disappeared, never to be seen again.
So, what could I do to fix this? I decided to outsource an authority figure and hire someone to watch over me, and if need be, hurt me.
I used Craigslist to hire a girl to sit next to me. Her job? Every time I used Facebook, she would slap me in the face.
Yes I know. I’m weird. And yes, she actually slapped me.
But the results were astounding. My average RescueTime productivity skyrocketed from 38% to 98%.
But not only did my productivity skyrocket—the quality of the work I did skyrocketed as well. Kara forced me to complete my first guest post, The Sex Scandal Technique. She also helped me push through an application for a secret project that I applied to—an application that won, out of hundreds of applicants.
It was certainly a funny experiment, but it also seemed to be relevant around the world—the HackTheSystem article I wrote about it ended up being featured in NPR, on ABC News, in the Telegraph, Venturebeat, and the front page of Yahoo. Clearly, the whole world recognizes the amount of time we waste using Facebook.
The Bet-Switch Mechanism — $50 For A Cookie
[Before we move on, I want to remind you---to follow along with future RescueTime experiments, please sign up at http://hackthesystem.com/rescuetime . I’ll help you improve your productivity---guaranteed.]
Another of my most successful experiments involved using competition to improve my productivity and my health.
I decided that I wanted to lose 10 lbs. So I made a rule—every time I ate something that wasn’t healthy—anything that wasn’t meat, vegetable, or eggs—I owed my friend $50 / item.
I wrote an article where I described what happened: The Bet Switch Mechanism: The One Simple Social Tactic That Will Get You In The Best Shape Of Your Life. The difference was astounding—instead of looking at food and saying ‘Oh, one chip won’t hurt,’ my mental processing was completely changed. I began to look at a bag of chips and say ‘I’m not paying $50 for that chip, no way!’
I’ve used the Bet Switch Mechanism to write guest post articles and articles on my own blog, too. My friend will give me a deadline for an article, and if I don’t write it, I owe her $500. In fact, I have a bet on the article I’m writing right now—if I don’t finish it today by 8pm, I owe Robby from RescueTime $50!
Betting allows you to make a competitive game out of a goal, and makes it much more fun to play.
You’re just one step away from skyrocketing your productivity
Over at my site, Hack the System, I talk about small hacks that can cause big changes. I’m really excited to announce that RescueTime and Hack the System are partnering to help readers become more productive.
If you head over to my site using this special link, you’ll be able to sign up for the Hack the System productivity challenge. I’ll be testing several experiments to see how they affect my productivity, and inviting you to join along.
I’ve also created a special gift for RescueTime readers, The Minimalist Guide to Hacking Your Habits. It’s my special gift—a worksheet that will help you identify exactly what’s holding you back, and how you can overcome your barriers.
Thanks a lot, and don’t forget to join in over at http://hackthesystem.com/rescuetime .
Posted: November 17, 2012 Filed under: Lifehackin' Links
I’ve been watching The Men Who Built America on the History Channel this week, and it’s gotten me on a bit of a history kick. I started thinking about how our opinions about work and productivity have changed over time. It’s so easy to think of workplace productivity in exclusively modern terms, given that so much of it is dominated by technology that didn’t even really exist until the last couple of decades. Here are a few interesting historical tidbits about intelligence, efficiency and productivity in the modern (and not so modern) workplace.
Civilisation is making humanity less intelligent, study claims
Feeling mentally sluggish? Unable to stay focused? Well, it might be due to the cushy lifestyles that pretty much all of humanity leads these days. By “cushy lifestyles”, I mean: having shelter, buying food from a store, not getting hunted by wild animals. You know, luxury items. According to one theory, the lack of natural selection in the modern world has probably allowed gene mutations that reduce our cognitive abilities to flourish, and we probably reached our intellectual and emotional peak between 2,000 and 6,000 years ago. Don’t worry, it’s just a theory, and there’s another school of thought that says the real driver for our intelligence is the complexity of our social world, which has increased steadily over time.
Bring back the 40-hour work week
Salon takes a look at the history of over-work. Specifically, how time and time again it’s been proven that working employees too hard leads to reduced productivity. It’s easy to assume that today’s work environments are fundamentally different, but there’s a big mountain of data that suggests otherwise. Despite our comfy office chairs and all our gadgets to augment our work capabilities, we still need just about as much downtime as we always did.
How a Robot Will Steal Your Job
Looking away from history, and towards the future, here’s another article about how your next co-worker might be a robot. I took a look at some more examples of the coming robo-pacolpyse a few weeks ago. It seems like every week, there’s another new story about machines doing the work that only human hands had be previously capable of.
The Evolution Of The Knowledge Worker [Infographic]
Here’s a look at knowledge workers throughout history, and how information has been used to get things done. A nice illustration of the impact of information to the general workforce over time.
History of mobile productivity shows it started way back in the 1970s [More Infographics!]
For as much grief as I give smartphones for being a huge distraction-magnet, I have to admit they have opened up some huge possibilities to be more productive and work together more efficiently (sometimes to a fault). This infographic takes a look at the technical advances of mobile technology over time and shows how it has impacted our productivity.
Random historical productivity trivia
Are you feeling the need to earn a few nerd-points amongst your fellow lifehacker friends? Look smart and impress them by name-dropping some of these historical productivity icons:
The Hawthorne Effect
These famous series of workplace productivity experiments at the Hawthorne Works found that, well, pretty much anything you change will have a positive effect on your productivity… as long as you observe it… and the effect generally wears off after a few weeks. It’s a somewhat depressing phenomenon that can throw a wet blanket on your otherwise-exciting productivity self-experiments. But it also supports a more positive idea, that conscious changes in your routine will almost always bring some sort of gain, even if it’s short-lived.
Peter Drucker was one of the earliest thinkers about the information economy. In fact, he was the one who coined the term “knowledge worker” in 1959, as he saw a shift away from repetitive process oriented work, such as manufacturing, and a move towards people who “think for a living”.
W. Edwards Deming
Have you ever heard the saying “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”? We’ll, W. Edwards Deming gets credit for it, although he never actually said it. In fact, he said many things that seem to indicate the exact opposite opinion. And he certainly should know what he’s talking about. He was one of the early pioneers of using analytics and testing in the workplace to increase efficiency and productivity.
In addition to being a famous writer, Ernest Hemingway seemed downright 21st century when it comes to efficiency. He worked at a standing desk, he kept detailed stats about his performance, he understood the dangers of multi-tasking (quote: “The telephone and visitors are the work destroyers.”). Here are some of his better-known productivity habits. For a more in-depth read, here is an interview with him from 1958 where he discusses the work of being a writer.
There’s your history lesson! Have a productive week, everyone!
Posted: November 10, 2012 Filed under: Lifehackin' Links
Moving fast can be really exhilarating. It feels good to sprint to meet a tight deadline or get a project done with half the resources. It feels really good to manage all the incoming streams and keep things moving, despite the odds. At least it does at first… If you keep your foot on the gas for too long, the excitement starts to wear off, and you run the risk of hitting a major wall. Here are some articles about how we find ourselves overloaded, what the consequences are, and some ways to manage your way out of it.
Take A Break [Infographic]
Here’s a look at all the ways your overworking, stressed-out lifestyle isn’t doing you any favors. Even before you get to the state of total burnout, you should be asking yourself if the heroic effort your putting in on this project is worth it.
Stop Being a People-Pleaser
One of the easiest ways to get burned out is to constantly put other people’s needs in front of your own. A desire to be helpful isn’t a bad thing, by any means, but when you’re putting everything else on hold so you can quickly return emails, or respond to other people’s issues, you’re setting yourself up for failure with your own tasks. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to draw a line in the sand and set some boundaries.
Brain study provides new insight into why haste makes waste
Haste makes waste. It’s more than just folksy wisdom, it’s actually backed up by science. This study by researchers at Vanderbilt University found that brains switch into a special mode when pushed to make rapid decisions. There are actually some useful situations for this, such as snap judgements in the midst of a crisis, where the cost of not making a decision is likely greater than making a mistake. But when you’re overloaded, you can get into that state more easily, and open yourself up to a lot of unnecessary mistakes.
Report raises ethical concerns about human enhancement technologies
How do you deal with the fact that there aren’t enough hours in the day? Have you ever thought that you could get this project done if you could just clone yourself? This forward-looking report by several public policy groups in Great Britain examines the ethics around emerging technologies such as cognitive enhancement drugs and digital implants and assistive devices. In many cases, these are advancing rapidly, and it’s a good thing that people are starting the discussion early.
No Studying After 5pm: Using Parkinson’s Law to Kick Procrastination’s Ass
Here’s one student’s thoughts on how to get things done and keep his stress levels low by hacking the observation that “work generally takes about as long as the time you set aside for it.” Improving focus is the key to getting more done in less time, and tricks like setting time boundaries and turning off the clocks around you can help you stay on target.
Are new entrepreneurial ideas keeping you from getting things done?
When you’re an entrepreneur (or simply have an entrepreneurial spirit), the line between day-dreaming and “strategizing” can get pretty blurry. When you’re overwhelmed with your current activities, it’s really easy to fall into the trap of “planning for that next big thing” as an escape. It can be a useful exercise, but it’s bad when it comes at the expense of your current obligations. Here are some thoughts on how to find balance.
The war on noise
Information overload goes hand in hand with burnout, and being able to manage all your incoming data streams is crucial if you want to prevent a downward spiral of unproductivity. Consummate hyper-sharer Robert Scoble somewhat ironically rants about the noise level in social media, and what could be done about it.
How Can I Be Productive Without Everyone Else Piling On More Work?
Ah, the curse of being the most productive person in the office. Let’s say you have taken steps to improve your efficiency and get more done in less time. Congratulations! Now that you’ve proven you can get things done without losing your sanity, here is a bunch more work to do! Unfortunately this is an all-too-common scenario. Here’s some ideas from Lifehacker on how to avoid, or at least manage, these types of situations.
Have a productive week, but try not to over-do it, ok?
Posted: November 3, 2012 Filed under: Lifehackin' Links
I’ve been thinking a lot about sticking to goals this week. (I’m sure the fact that I’m already slipping behind on my NaNoWriMo word count has nothing to do with this).
Here are some articles about finishing what you started, why it may be tough to stay on task, and some tools you can use to make it easier on yourself.
David Allen on How to Fix Your Life
David Allen is a productivity expert and creator of the GTD (Getting Things Done) methodology. Here’s a longish interview with him talking about distractedness, information overload (or the lack thereof), and dealing with the problem of the “busy trap”, where we’re always behind and struggling to catch up.
The Get Off Your Ass Manifesto: How to Motivate Yourself to Actually Achieve Your Goals
Here’s some thoughts on how to dive into a new endeavor and actually see it through. Some of the ideas are a little naively optimistic, in my opinion (“Just set deadlines and stick to them, it’s that easy!”), but the idea of framing your new effort with a manifesto is pretty interesting. It’s a way to really put a stake in the ground for yourself to stay motivated.
Saving Daylight Savings: How To Be More Productive When It’s Always Dark Out
We turn out clocks back for Daylight Savings Time this week, and losing an hour of daylight can mess with your productivity. Here are a few simple strategies for optimizing your days to offset the darkness.
How is Facebook Addiction Affecting Our Minds? [INFOGRAPHIC]
One of the seemingly obvious reasons for not accomplishing newly-set goals is being distracted by social media. The allure of the quick check of your Facebook feed can be hard to resist, and then you look up hours later and wonder why you thought you’d actually have time to work on that writing project (I may be projecting here, just a bit ). Here’s an infographic from Mashable showing some of the different ways that internet addiction affects our brains.
Daniel Goldstein: The battle between your present and future self [TED TALK]
Here’s a TED talk that gets into the theory of why we don’t seem to meet our goals. Daniel Goldstein explores commitment devices, tools we can use to maximize our chances of meeting our goals. They are basically a way to let your present self, the one that wants to accomplish your goals, to give a nudge to your future self, who may be distracted or tempted by other things. An example is freezing your credit cards in a block of ice to keep you from frivolous spending.
A couple of interesting websites that make it easy to use commitment devices are Beeminder and Stickk.
On a similar note, Write or die is an application that forces you to keep writing. If you stop for too long, you’ll receive some kind of negative consequence. If you have it on the most extreme setting, pieces of your work will actually start getting deleted if you don’t keep up with it. Yikes!
For a more positive-reinforcement version of the same idea, check out Written Kitten. It’s also a tool that encourages writing, but it does it by showing you a new picture of a kitten every 100 words. Whether you like cats or not, it’s a neat mind hack to turn your writing into a game.
The ultimate productivity suite shootout for OS X & iOS
Finally, here’s a comparison of four productivity applications for OS X and iOS. If you feel like you’re in need of a new tool to help you organize your way to meeting your goals, you might find some good options in here.
Good luck on whatever goals you’ve got set for the upcoming week!
Posted: October 31, 2012 Filed under: Lifehackin' Links
It’s Halloween, so that means time to tell scary stories. (cut the lights and cue the spooky music). A few days ago, we wrote about productivity zombies, but let’s be honest, those guys are probably just going to shuffle around and drool a lot. They’re not all that scary.
Robots, however… those dudes can be downright terrifying.
They don’t sleep. They don’t take breaks, not even to check Facebook. They just keep churning away, an incessant model of clinical efficiency. Our saving grace is that robots tend to not be all that smart. Chances are, there isn’t a robot today that can do what you do for a living. Most knowledge worker jobs require a pretty large degree of creativity. You have to be able to adapt, think on your feet, and respond to changes too subtle for a robot to deal with.
So that means we’re safe from robo-pacolypse, right? Not so fast… (cue more scary music) Computers (read in a scary voice: Robot Brains!) are getting smarter at an exponential rate. It won’t be long before many of the activities we consider impossible for our mechanical creations become routine for them. Here are few examples to think about. It may be that the scariest story isn’t the one where you’re getting chased down a dark alley by some hellbent-on-evil machine, but instead you show up for work on a monday morning and a robot is sitting at your desk, humming away at your job.
In a Race Between a Self-Driving Car and a Pro Race-Car Driver, Who Wins?
If you’re getting chased by a robot, at least you can jump in your car and get away from it, right? For now, that’s true, but only if you’re an elite race car driver with years of experience. Let’s be honest. You’re not. And there are robot cars in existence today that can literally drive circles around you. Keep in mind that the vast majority of auto accidents are caused by human error, so the increasing automotive dominance of computers may not actually be such a bad thing. Or, perhaps that’s exactly what the robots want you to think?
How Technology Is Replacing Workers
“Approximately 2.5 million service robots were sold in 2011 for personal and domestic use.” From assembly line workers, to farmers, to grocery store tellers, robots are becoming viable alternatives to human labor. Consider that in 1850, agriculture employed about 60% of the working population. Today, it’s less than 3%, yet the largest industry in the United States is the food industry, accounting for more than 20% of the US Gross National Product. When you can build one machine that can do the work of five people, the economics stop looking so good for humanity.
Man or machine – can robots really write novels?
Okay, okay, manual labor sort of makes sense. You can build a machine to do repetitive tasks, and not have to worry about the problems that come with frail human bodies (not strong enough, not fast enough, pesky bathroom breaks). But surely it’s a different story for knowledge workers? Well, not if you’re a chess player, which last I checked is usually something you have to be pretty smart to be good at. There is a piece of software that can piece together entire books from a special algorithm and a bunch of internet searches. It’s creator has over 100,000 titles listed on Amazon. Forbes.com even has a robot blogger that posts a number of articles each week.
So enjoy humanity’s dominance of it’s mechanical creations while it lasts. One day, sooner than you might think, the tables will turn.
(cue corny horror movie outro music)
Happy Halloween, everybody!
p.s. I got most, if not all, of the material for this post from the Tweets of Andrew McAfee, a research scientist at the Center for Digital Business in the MIT Sloan School of Management. He has some really insightful and entertaining views on the future of technology as it relates to work. I recommend following him. To get a less Halloweeny, and far more optimistic view of this topic, check out his TED talk.
Posted: October 27, 2012 Filed under: Lifehackin' Links
Happy Halloween, everyone! Have you figured out what you’re dressing up as yet? If you don’t mind wrecking your productivity, you could go as a workplace zombie. It only takes two easy steps: 1. turn on every notification you can think of, 2. multitask as much as possible. You’ll quickly supercharge your amygdala and short-circuit the more analytical parts of your brain. Before you know it, you’ll have overloaded your brain into a state where you’re stumbling around the office looking for brains to chew on. Editors note, don’t actually do this. It may make for a good costume, but it might be so effective that you won’t recover from it. Also, your co-workers are unlikely to appreciate it.
Here are some posts about brains, and how they affect your productivity.
This article breaks down the differences between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. Both parts of the brain serve useful purposes, But for office zombies, it’s all amygdala, all the time, and the prefrontal cortex gets completely left out. The amygdala controls your “fight or flight response”, and can actually respond to stimulus much faster than other parts of your brain. This puts the prefrontal cortex at a serious disadvantage when the amygdala is revved up. A good example of the differences between the two regions: “Your amygdala will run around trying to ‘put out fires.’ Your prefrontal cortex will think about how to prevent the fires in the future.”
Exploiting the Neuroscience of Internet Addiction
If the amygdala overriding your rational thought processes weren’t bad enough, there’s also dopamine, a neurotransmitter that gets released in the brain’s pleasure centers. The release of dopamine forms the basis for nicotine, cocaine, and gambling addictions. In the past, it was the brains way of keeping us motivated to find food, procreate, and acquire survival skills. But when the rewards come too easy, it can be a major driver for addiction. Here’s a look at how websites, games, and apps take advantage of the task-reward, “compulsion loop” to make engaging products, but also in some cases drive additive behaviors.
Dopamine impacts your willingness to work
Dopamine isn’t all bad. This study shows that people that produce higher levels of dopamine tend to be motivated, type-A personalities but only if the dopamine is released in the right areas of the brain. Released in another region, dopamine can decrease willingness to work hard for rewards. Takeaway, brains are complicated.
Confessions Of A Professional Internet Addict
Speaking of internet addiction, here’s “a cautionary tale about what happens if you plug your spinal column into the Internet before either the Internet or your nervous system is ready.”
The science behind how your productivity is chosen by what you eat
Here’s a look at how the foods we eat affect productivity. Essentially, everything eventually gets broken down into glucose, which fuels our bodies and brains. There’s a lot of variety in the path foods take to get there, however. This article takes a look at the different mechanisms, AND gives some tips on how to stay productive by getting the most out of your food intake. Might make you re-think your upcoming haloween candy binge.
Happy Halloween! Have a great week!
Posted: October 20, 2012 Filed under: Lifehackin' Links
We’ve all had those moments where we feel like we’ve tried it all in our quests to be more productive, motivated, happier, etc… Here are some ideas, tricks, and perspectives that you might not have thought of. They range from the head-smackingly simple to the head-smackingly (literally) ridiculous.
The Surfer’s Guide to Taking Risks
When facing new challenges, the thought of stepping outside of your comfort zone can be so overwhelming that the rewards just don’t seem worth it. Not to get too zen on you or anything, but perhaps it would help to think about it like surfing a wave? This article from 99u breaks down the whole process, from dipping your toe in the water, riding through the uncertainty and ultimately ending up “in the zone”. Life’s a wave. Ride it, Bro!
Gmail Timer – Schedule when to receive new mail
I have yet to set this up and test it out, but I love the idea of this Google Apps script. It re-routes any new items to your Gmail inbox to temporary holding area, then moves them back at times you specify. It’s basically like pressing a pause button on incoming email, allowing you step outside the fire hose of your inbox. It’s one of those simple solutions that once you hear about it, you wonder why it wasn’t built into Gmail to begin with.
The Best Productivity Tricks Used By Evil Dictators
As part of Lifehacker’s “evil week” series (where they take a tongue-in-cheek look at the ‘dark side of productivity’), here are some of the productivity tricks used by evil dictators throughout history. Not that we advocate “purging your threats to power” or anything, but there are some good things in this list to consider. (Also, some things to watch out for from others!)
99 Life hacks to make your life easier
I don’t even know where to start on this one, just look at it. It’s awesome. So many simple hacks for every day objects that you’ll kick yourself for not thinking of sooner. Take a look, and indulge your inner MacGyver.
How I Used a Webcam to Break My Bad Habits and Make Better Decisions
It’s often said that changing habits is so hard because of the disconnect between the present self and the future self. Try time-traveling to break the cycle. Okay, so you can’t do that. But, you can record yourself each day giving a short speech to your future self about what you’d like change about yourself.
Why I hired a girl on craigslist to slap me in the face and how it quadrupled my productivity
And finally, one of the most extreme productivity experiments I’ve ever seen. Maneesh Sethi was bothered by how unproductive he was being, so he put out a simple ad on Craigslist… for someone to hang out with him and slap him in the face whenever he was slacking off on work. It ended up having a huge impact, quadrupling his productivity.
Have any unconventional life hacks that have worked for you? We’d love to hear about them.
Have a great week!