Category Archives: Longform

This Year’s Theme: Future Self

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Since 2013, when I read about Ramit’s Year of Taking Control theme, I decided I would come up with themes for my years. I actually stole his for the first year just to bootstrap it, but after spending a year with the concept I was able to come up with my own themes that were more relevant to me. (Such high-minded things as: The Year of Finishing and The Year of Awareness.) Sometimes, I have to get into the year a little bit to figure out what the theme will actually be (I try to decide before it starts, but usually something else will present itself as a more natural path to follow).

As a very concrete example, I thought this year was going to be the Year of Productive Procrastination or the Year of Putting the Time to Work (that is: the time saved by being efficient and organized being used in the most productive way possible instead of just more time to check Facebook). Both of those would have been great. I read an article on overcoming productivity addiction on the Todoist blog and it seemed to fit with either of those themes. Instead of reading more about productivity, I would instead use my system of lists and calendars to make sure that even when I wasn’t working on my highest priority items (like writing the next book in the series), I would still be working on something productive to help me reach one of my numerous other goals. I would finally leverage my system in a more conscious way; being aware in every moment of the time I was saving, the little moments here and there, where putting things on a list or on my calendar, would help me build up a reserve of extra time that I could spend on doing what I really wanted. (If only time could actually be garbage collected like that into more contiguous blocks) I even went so far as to think: Hey, maybe instead of always doing something that is obvious, like opening and sorting them mail, or cleaning the dishes in the sink, maybe I’ll let those things slide until they really need to get done so I can put that time to use in the present instead of trying to save it for some nebulous future.

Then I read an article on the Todoist blog about strategies for overcoming procrastination. Initially, it sounded either like something that would fit perfectly with my theme, or something that I’d read a hundred times before and would be able to skim in a few minutes. It turned out to be mostly the latter, but also contained the seed of something else entirely. The strategies for overcoming procrastination were actually very good (please read them when you’re done procrastinating by reading this post), but nothing I hadn’t seen before. (Good to remind yourself periodically though)

But the breakthrough actually came in the background part of the post, where the author – as per usual – quotes some study that someone has done in order to back up the stuff they’re about to tell you. This one went like this:

Research shows that our brains are actually wired to think about about our present and future selves as two separate people. That’s why we’re able to prioritize our present mood at the expense of our future well-being even though it’s an irrational choice in the long-term.

A study run by UCLA psychologist Hal Herschel and a team at Stanford University found that participants actually engaged different areas of the brain when they thought about their present selves versus their future selves. In fact, when people were told to think about themselves in ten years, their brain patterns closely resembled those observed when they were asked to think about celebrities they didn’t know.

This separation of present and future self encourages us to make different decisions about ourselves now and in the future. For instance, one study showed people asked to tutor other students would offer to do so less in the present, but would offer more of their time in the future.

To sum up the research, we procrastinate because our brains are wired to care more about our present comfort than our future happiness.

So “Do something today that your future self will thank you for” is not just a good saying for a meme or an inspirational poster. It’s a legitimate scientific concept.

You think that your future self is someone else.

So from the point of that realization forward, this has been the Year of the Future Self.

Evidence of this can be seen if you look at the dates of the blog posts that I refer to above. They’re from February and March. I started this post in April and it’s been 2 months. Because there were things that were more important for me to get done for my future self. (No offense to anyone who reads this blog, but I don’t think anyone is sitting around anxiously waiting for the next bi-monthly installment of my random thoughts)

Thinking more about my future self has already helped me overcome a lot of procrastination. It actually kind of forces you to do a lot of things that you would see listed in those articles about overcoming procrastination, but I like the change in mindset that comes with it. Eat That Frog! becomes not just a funny way to think about doing something difficult, it becomes a question:

What is the one thing I can do right now that my future self is going to appreciate the most?

For me, and especially for my writing, I can ask myself, “How does my future self feel when he comes home from work and his writing for the day is already done?” That is a question I can answer because I know how my past self felt when that happened and it makes it much easier to imagine how my future self will feel. It draws him closer to me, makes him less of a stranger and more like someone who is almost me. And when that happens, I imagine the feeling my future self will have (or the opposite feeling he’ll have when he has to come home to a 0 word head start), and it turns it into something more about my present comfort than my future happiness.

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So really, I think they key is not just to see that motivational quote on someone’s Instagram and go for a run or do a workout. It’s not eating the frog because that’s what a book tells you is the key to overcoming procrastination.

It’s about drawing your future self back into your present self. So he or she doesn’t feel like a celebrity you don’t really know. Think about how you’ve felt when you’ve procrastinated or when you haven’t. Recognize that is how your future self is going to feel.

If I think about how I felt last year when I was falling behind in my writing goals, there was stress. I know how that felt. It’s concrete. I don’t have to imagine it like it’s a future scenario. I know that if it happens again (which it is), my future self will feel that same stress. (It’s totally irrational stress since it’s not like writing is anything close to a full time job that puts food on the table or a roof over my head, but that’s a whole different therapy session blog post)

When I imagine my future self feeling that concrete emotion, it makes present me stressed. Not as stressed as I certainly would be in the future. But enough to make me think: “It’s worth suffering for another thirty minutes to crank out two hundred more words so that my future self doesn’t have to write those extra two hundred words on top of everything else I’m going to ask him to do.”

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Jaiku is still the best Lifestream app

Jaikoogle Post

I wrote back in September that Jaiku was the ultimate microblogging platform. In the 4 months since then, it’s gone from Microblogging to Lifestreaming, but it’s still the same thing. SocialStream didn’t come about as anticipated, but I’ve tried a bunch of different Lifestreaming/Microblogging web apps since then. Tumblr keeps being brought up as one of the top lifestreaming apps, but the advantage of easily mapping your tumblelog (sp?) to your own domain is immediately counteracted by the fact that you can only import 5 feeds. That’s probably enough for most people, but for those of us like me (how many of us are there anyway?) who have Twitter, Flickr, blog (you’re reading it), Yelp reviews, del.icio.us bookmarks, recent Diggs (or other social news site votes), and recent Halo 3 games, you can’t fit them all. (I could add my Netflix At Home or Queue feed in there, but I haven’t really decided which of those Netflix feeds I want to expose to the public) Anyway, as you can see, there are too many feeds to put into a Tumblr lifestream.

Soup.io lets you add as many feeds as you want, and they make it pretty easy to map your own domain. Buuuuuuuut, neither Soup nor Tumblr let you leave comments on someone else’s Lifestream/Tumblelog/Microblog. Jaiku does. And Jaiku still lets you unsubscribe from friends’ individual feeds. So, if you don’t care when I play Halo 3, or what I digg (not that it happens that often anyway), then you can (still) unsubscribe from those aspects of my Jaiku-ing. And now that Google has purchased Jaiku, you can rest assured that the service will continue (even if no further development is done on it) for what will probably be a long time (in web-relative time).

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the Jaiku feature set integrated into the social activity streams that Google is slowly adding to their suite of applications. At first I thought that the mobile app Jaiku built was the reason Google made the acquisition (and I still think that’s probably part of it, since Google is now launching their own mobile OS), but I can now see that the – shall we say – more advanced lifestreaming features were also an important part of the deal; the ability to unsubscribe from individual feeds probably being at the top of the list there.

While I’m on the subject and rambling away, I think Google/Jaiku made a serious error in shutting down the open sign up process when the purchase was made. I’m sure that day was the most traffic Jaiku had ever seen, and I know that both Twitter and Jaiku were set ablaze with comments on which one people should be using. Google should have capitalized on the momentum to get as many new Jaiku users as possible, and given them the opportunity to see why Jaiku is still the best Lifestreaming platform as well as a great microblogging platform.

Colin Moock’s ActionScript 3 Tour – Chicago

On a metaphysical level it was nice to have another day off from work. On a realphysical level, it was nice to get back into the routine. And not having to walk all the way from the entrace of Navy Pier to the back. It was a 10 minute walk and I was trucking it.

I took a picture of Colin with my cameraphone, and I was all excited cause I found out the USB cord for my real camera connects to my phone, too. But when I connected it, Windows couldn’t find the software, and so, no picture.

Anyway…

Colin was a great presenter, and I applaud him for presenting for essentially 8 hours (he kept saying 9, but that included the lunch break). I guess when the name is “ActionScript from the Ground Up” I shouldn’t have been expecting any real advanced coverage of the topic. I got a great review of OOP, though, and I’m sure for all the Flash “design” type people there, it was way too fast. It was essentially a 9 week course crammed into 9 hours with no time for homework. So, yeah, I’m sure there were some minds blown. But I also am sure there were people who were bored out of their minds. I was close, but I hung on and managed to pick up things here and there even in the OOP stuff. That said, I’m pretty sure I can skip his book (sorry Colin!) since the reviews on Amazon say that it goes a lot into the OOP stuff. But that frees up some cash, so I can get the RIAs with Flex and Java book I’ve been wanting forever, or else Adobe’s Flex 3 training book. And for Adobe, I think that was the point anyway; just to get people more exposure to ActionScript and make them more interested in using it; so they can stay on top of Silverlight.

I am also glad I got to see how similar ActionScript is to Java. I’d say that AS is probably more like Java than JavaScript. Of course, names for languages really don’t tell you anything about them.

I overloaded myself with the Flex/ActionScript by reading my Flex 2 with ActionScript 3 book on the train and bus to the event. Now, I will try to busy myself with a game I’d like to develop using Flex/ActionScript, and try to also fit in an extra credit project at work using Ruby on Rails. My FA side project will be a good one since I can probably move quickly to advanced Flex/ActionScript concepts since the languages are so similar to what I already know. The RoR project will have a bit more of a learning curve since I’m still getting to know Ruby.

Just an FYI (while I was finding the picture below), I came across this TIOBE software site that ranks programming languages. As of Dec 2007, Ruby is at #9 while ActionScript is #25 (glad to see it’s at least that high; MXML doesn’t count as a programming language). Java is #1 with a 20% share, so I guess it’s good that I’ve got that one down pretty well.

Ruby Rides the Rails

Imitation… blah blah … flattery …

Shortform: Bionic Woman = Alias + bionic parts + little sister – 1st/2nd season “friends” – (prophecy + familial turmoil)

There are seriously some times when Michelle Ryan (aka Jamie Sommers) looks exactly like Jennifer Garner (aka Sidney Bristow). And I’m pretty sure I like it (it being Bionic Woman – not Michelle Ryan looking like Jennifer Garner) because they’re pretty much copying the Alias formula for all it’s worth, and actually getting it right. Could use a little more Sarah McLachlan, though. Nothing says “Heroine Emotion” like Sarah McLachlan.

I also like it because the parts that are different from Alias are well done. Sometimes so well done that I wonder if Bionic Woman might not turn out to be a better show than Alias. Scary, I know. But the little sister part is well done and takes up just the right amount of time to be a good diversion from the rest of the show (except for the part where Jonas drives her home from the police station and then appears in Paris the same night to talk to Jamie; though, I’m sure the Berkut group has a private airport, and maybe they have a plane like the Concorde).

The flirting went a little overboard in the most recent episode (The List), but I liked it at least as much – if not more – than the brooding, deep stuff that went on with Sidney and Vaughn. I’m sure it’s hard to write it so that the humor works while still keeping the show fairly dark and not going off into Chuck territory.

I was going to make a list of things that look like:

Marshall = Nathan

Sloane = Jonas

Fiance killed in 1st episode = Fiance killed in 1st episode

but I’m sure that’s already been done on about a dozen other blogs. So, let me end with this:

Dear NBC,

Can you please switch Bionic Woman with Journeyman (or just go ahead and cancel Journeyman; it’s too much like Day Break and nobody watched that dumb show). Journeyman seems like a much better fit with Life (both single white men trying to solve mysteries about their lives), and Bionic Woman seems like a much better fit with Chuck and Heroes (that doesn’t even need a parenthetical – it’s practically like Chuck and Heroes had a baby who was Bionic Woman).

Also, this would allow me to watch Bionic Woman when it’s broadcast, forcing me to view the commercials that appear on my TV screen, as opposed to watching it online where I can just click over to my email or Bloglines for 30 seconds while Toyota plays a nice little song for me.

Thanks for helping me out,

Nels

Birthday 2.0

This is what my inbox looked like on the recent anniversary of my birth:

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(You can click it to see the whole thing)

Related only by the fact that it’s Gmail… I found this to be an interesting advertisement:

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So you conspiracy nuts who think that Google is reading all your mail… um, yeah. See Thru Bikinis.