Thinking is hard and it is slow

I couldn’t recall how I got to know about this book but I’m so amazed with it that I bought one from the bookstore many years ago. It’s one of my precious possessions. I actually started reading a few chapters quite some times ago and I forgot about it until today when I visited a page to listen to the author, Daniel Kahneman talking about bias in our reasoning. As a researcher and academic, reasoning is so important and we all know we are sometimes bias.

Listening to that interview reignites my interest in behavioural sciences where I always find it amazing how different people think and I sometimes wonder how we come up with certain conclusions that shape our lives. Anyway, I just wish to share with you this wonderful interview by Social Science Bites. I found this particular excerpt interesting when the author was asked why we don’t use System 2 (the slow and effortful thinking) more often.

Daniel Kahneman: Because it’s hard work. A law of least effort applies. People are reluctant, some more than others, by the way, there are large individual differences. But thinking is hard, and it’s also slow. And because automatic thinking is usually so efficient, and usually so successful, we have very little reason to work very hard mentally, and frequently we don’t work hard when if we did we would reach different conclusions.

And we thought we sometimes think too much. I guess we don’t think slow enough to mentally exercise our brain. Let’s start to think hard and slow today!


The 5 Choices: Act on the Important

This post is to follow up on my previous post Extraordinary Productivity where I introduced this awesome book by Franklin Covey called The 5 Choices. My reading on this book is slow because I only read on and off. When I finished one or two chapters, I started trying to apply what the book recommends. So here’s a summary what I have done on Choice 1: Act on the important.

Here’s my initial attempt on building my four quadrants for my daily tasks. Not fully optimized yet because I had problem deciding some tasks to be in which quadrants. Obviously, I put many as urgent/important (Q1) and trying to sort some into not urgent/important (Q2). Although I did some urgent/not important (Q3) tasks throughout the day but I forgot to write them. For example, some urgent email to reply that normally took me less than 5 minutes. Sometimes, that’s a big mistake because replying one 5-minute email sometimes could lead me to one hour of replying multiple consequent emails that require my attention. If I were to be honest with myself, I’m such a failure in email handling. I wish I have better plan to handle these. I’m now taking the book’s advice, trying to put off some urgent tasks like replying to emails that just drop in to my inbox. I’m still practising on that and starting to dedicate certain time of the day to handle all emails.

This was my improvised version where I started to follow up more advices about making a bullet journal. I also realised that my quadrant 3 and 4 were actually waste of spaces so I started not to include them in my daily task list. So now I can focus more of my daily tasks in Q2 and Q1 in my hope to be more productive. Of course, I understand that although I put Q3 and Q4 out of sight does not mean they do not exist. Disturbance from others’ problems would continue to happen throughout the day but if I could help it I would want to avoid them.

For the new year, here is my improved version on a new notebook. I really must get more colourful pens. They really make me happy and I feel more productive. After I laid out my schedule for January, I realized I have a very busy January with many invigilating duties and marking workload plus I have to prepare to run a public course for 7 Saturdays starting end of this month. It’s really helpful for me to have something like this on paper so I don’t feel that panic with the amount of work to be done. My greatest worry is forgetting an important task especially when it comes near to due date.

Okay, that’s all my sharing for Choice 1: Act on the important. Next will be Choice 2: Go for extraordinary.

Be a fitter academic

It’s now Week 7 of the 14-week long semester. I can finally breathe and take a break to write because I have settled the final examination papers and midterm papers. I know work is actually endless so this breather is just temporary. Anyway, I’m simply happy to have time to write something.

Today I would like to share with you about my latest fitness gadget that my husband bought for me. As an academic who spends most of the time sitting around in front of the computer (and also one who is getting older), I’m getting quite concerned about my health and fitness. I don’t actually run or exercise a lot, but I have started learning to swim in the hope that it helps me in keeping fit. I had always wanted this gadget to help me improving my fitness and I didn’t get it myself because it’s quite expensive. Thanks to the husband, he got it for me for no special reason and I truly appreciate his loving gesture.

Come and say hello to my Sony Smartband Talk. You can actually talk to this band. Seriously, I’m so in love with this new gadget because it’s the best fit for my Sony Xperia Z1 and to me, its ability to answer any phone call on the band is the best feature ever. Of course, this Smartband has all other fitness functions such as counting steps, counting calories, tracking sleep, and etc.

The smartband works well with Sony app called Lifelog, though this app can work on its own on the phone without the smartband. What I find this app so amazing is the weather animation. See my above screen capture. During that time, it was really raining and it showed in the app.

I have seen other fitness apps out there, but I found this Lifelog to be quite comprehensive with tracking the time I spend in commuting, viewing FB/browsing the Internet, reading books, and playing games. Of course, these are based on the activities I spend on the phone. The above screen capture showed the time I was commuting to work. The animation is really cute with the car moving.

Another reason I’m obsessed with my smartband and the app is about this sleep tracking. I had always wondered why I still felt restless though I slept more than 8 hours a day. After wearing this band, I realize I actually move a lot in my sleep every night, resulting in lacking of deep sleep. The above screen capture was the only night that I had the most deep sleep and that was on one of the weekends. I’m still trying to improve my sleep to increase my deep sleep.

In the campus, I actually walk a lot from one block to the other to conduct the lecture and practical classes. I really thought I should be fitter by just walking this much. After wearing this smartband, I have been proven wrong. It is recommended that we walk at least 10,000 steps a day to maintain our active lives. Anything lesser than that is considered less than active. To my surprise, I only managed to fulfill this 10,000 steps a day goal only once in the past few weeks.

Seriously, I didn’t think it was this hard. On average, I could only complete 7500 steps. Sometimes, it was lesser if I didn’t have a lot of classes and I spent a lot of times sitting in front of the computer. I’m still trying to aim for this 10,000 steps a day and I’m going to make sure it happens more often.

I have just updated the Lifelog and with this new update, the app can now show me insights. The above screen capture showed the data collected over last week and comparing it to the previous week, I have actually made progress with my steps. This is a great feature, as a good motivation indeed for someone (like me) who is obsessed with data and statistics.

Are health and fitness a major concern to you nowadays? Are you already on the ‘band’wagon? Do share with me how you are keeping fit and most importantly how to stay motivated?

Writing at home on my day off

I actually took 3 days leave from work since Monday. It’s the semester break and it’s the only time I can officially apply leave. I’m not sure about other academics in other universities but for me, applying leave is one of the hardest thing to do in my university. Unfortunately, taking day off to really enjoy myself at home is not usually so easy. Just yesterday, I was required to go back to campus to attend an important meeting. Good thing is I stay quite near to campus so going back is not such a chore. 

Today is my third day off and originally I thought I would need to go back too because last night I received another email with urgent and important task from the boss. After I woke up this morning, I have second thought. By the way, I have actually started reading the book I discussed in my previous post: The 5 Choices. So I actually pause-clarify-decide in arriving at my decision today for not going to campus to deal with the urgent and important task. I guess it’s not really that urgent that I need to deal with it today, so here I am staying at home typing away. Simply so good to be able to write comfortably at home.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Here’s my setting at home for writing today. I love this bluetooth keyboard unfortunately I didn’t utilize it that much. Blame it on my laziness. Whenever I’m at home, I tend to watch more TV than write. My excuse was I no longer have my laptop to write. The laptop I used for my dissertation was too old now to work properly and I didn’t replace it. I normally try to write at my campus desktop but it didn’t do me much good recently. I was struggling yesterday to write at my campus desktop. Staring at the monitor without any words coming out. Even a simple blog post to update the blog was extremely hard yesterday. 

I guess today is a new breakthrough. I feel so motivated to write with this new setting. Make me happy. I’m going to spend my free time today to read more and hopefully I can write more. Okay, now is time for lunch. 

Extraordinary Productivity

This post was seated in my draft since early March when I came across this great Chronicle’s article about being Extraordinary Productive. What really caught my attention was the word productivity (oh…it also said extraordinary) as I have become quite obsessed trying to be more productive. Needless to say, I’m not always successful so I’m even more obsessive to find out more. Since I have finished grading my first batch of exam scripts today, I thought it’s best to revisit my drafts and publish this particular post.

Anyway, according to the article, Franklin Covey’s new book is about The 5 Choices we need to make to become more productive. It’s actually an updated version on Stephen Covey’s productivity tool on Important/Urgent matrix which I’m sure many of us are already familiar with.

Let’s take a look at the updated matrix below with some guidelines of what should be done in each quadrant.

It does look quite clear that obviously we should be doing more important but not urgent tasks but by looking at the list I wonder how many of us (academics) have been doing proactive work, high-impact goals, creative thinking, etc. Definitely not me. What have I been doing so far? Attending emergency meetings is way too a common practice here because apparently we often have crises to solve. Unnecessary reports or paper works are definitely part of my lecturer’s life, though they are sometimes not really urgent. Replying to emails is the most tedious task and now I understand what other academics have been talking about Inbox Zero. Although I always keep all my emails read, I have a very hard time sorting them out. Retrieving or searching for old emails is a nightmare to me. Now ever since I became the leader for Industrial Training Committee, my other more urgent tasks are solving students’ problems and dealing with unforeseen events. I guess I can proudly say I don’t waste time on gossip but I do relax a lot after work while at home by playing game or watching TV series. Have you noticed that I have nothing much from the Q2 quadrant? Perhaps I did do some planning and learning but that’s all.

Okay, let’s look at what are the 5 choices that I should have considered:

  • Choice 1: Act on the Important, Don’t React to the Urgent
  • Choice 2: Go for Extraordinary, Don’t Settle for Ordinary
  • Choice 3: Schedule the Big Rocks, Don’t Sort Gravel
  • Choice 4: Rule Your Technology, Don’t Let It Rule You
  • Choice 5: Fuel Your Fire, Don’t Burn Out

Interesting! Especially the “Don’t Burn Out” part as I did feel burn-out recently. I guess I need to look for the book to learn more. Anyway, the article does mention one important process we can do: Pause, Clarify, and Decide. It’s important that we don’t rush into a task without thinking about its value and then decide whether to do or not do. Sound simple but sometimes it’s hard to achieve when others are pressing you for urgent tasks. I have always known productivity is about the choices we make on what to do at what time in order to get things done but many (including myself) are still not good at being productive because we are too overwhelmed with so many (never-ending) tasks that need to be done. Oh, not forgetting the distractions from so many sources, especially the social media and the Internet. Guilty as charge!

Have anyone read this book yet? Do you have any good productivity habit you want to share?

[Image from]

Go ahead and take a step

I came in to campus today at 8 am, thinking to start on my tasks earlier. At the end, I used more than one hour to clear my Feedly reading list and now I’m writing this post to clear my mind. I have been a bit stressful lately. One would think that after a year plus in academia, I would become more relax over work as I have learned necessary skills in manoeuvring my academic tasks. Unfortunately, that’s not for my case. I found myself to be covered with higher pile of tasks. Sometimes I was too overwhelmed to start anything. I might have even lost track of keeping the urgent and important tasks completed on time. All these things give me stress over time and I feel like I’m currently at the boiling point for my own limit.

I’m wondering is it me who has given my own self so much stress because I have high expectation of myself? Have I made the wrong decision to take up more responsibilities because I truly wish to learn and explore more? Is the way I work the problem? Am I not efficient enough or productive enough? Questions over questions for myself. Eventually, I give up in finding answers.

Now that I’m writing these down, I don’t think I regret getting myself involved in more tasks. Some of them I truly enjoy doing because I know I’m making a difference. Anyway, I’m determined to get things done today. So I would just go ahead and take a step…

[My own image – A gift from a friend.]

How to be happier in learning

While I’m still on training this week and still have the mood to write, let me share about my way of learning. I guess we all would agree that how we learn makes a big difference in our learning experience. I find that getting into a particular learning process that you are comfortable with, would improve your learning experience. For me, my stationery contributes a big part of my learning process. Although I’m in the IT field and obviously I have so many gadgets to help me in my learning, I’m still kind of old-fashion in certain way when it comes to my learning process. I still need my colorful pens, notebooks, and other cute stationery that keep me motivated in learning. If you know me well by reading this blog, you should know my number one requirement for my stationery is BLUE.

Here is my precious blue notebook that I bought quite some times ago. Originally, I was keeping this for my eventual PhD. When I was getting ready for this week’s networking training, I was searching high and low for a notebook so that I can start my own ‘network bible’. I used to have one simple notebook for my previous networking lessons last year and that notebook has already run out of pages. So, I decided to use this precious blue notebook for my ‘network bible’ as I think I can always get more blue notebooks for my PhD later. Haha!

Anyway, what I really want to say is everything blue makes my learning happier. Other than the topics and the way the lessons are delivered (which are not under my control most of the times but they are still important elements in learning process), getting stationery you like can improve your overall learning process. At the very least, you should be motivated to learn by looking at the things you like, right? Of course, that’s not all you can do to improve your learning process. Learning is simply so subjective and it varies from one person to the other. Finding the right way for yourself is essential for success. Motivation is the key to keep you on the right track. Hence, it is very important to find the right things to keep you motivated and happier so that you are always on the right track in your learning.

Do you have better ways that make your learning happier? Do share with me.