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Three things helped me:

1) Mindfulness training so I could see myself in the moment NOT concentrating and stop myself. Still not at 100% with this but have been getting a lot better since I first took https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/mindfulness-wellbeing-pe... a couple of years ago.

2) Thinking of my mobile in the way marketers think of it. As a cache for mobile minutes. Each marketing dept is like a little gnome each trying to get at my treasure. So I cut them off. I deleted all apps with ads and made an effort to block all ads or suggestions for new content across the digital things I use via everything from Greasemonkey to plug-ins to switching providers of services. So now distraction from my digital browsing is significantly diminished.

3) Re-reading this Michener essay about once a year: http://www.asahi-net.or.jp/~xs3d-bull/michener.html. It reminds me that it takes long periods of time and discipline to create great things. Else they are easily achievable and don't IMHO qualify as great. This includes everything from putting tons of time in for Ironman training (quite the physical achievement) to writing a book (look at Michener's books and how crazy-well-researched and expansive they are) to having a good relationship with your mate to writing quality code for your most recent idea. The more the gnomes pick at your little time treasure, the less time you have to achieve great things.

Deep Work (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Deep-Work-Focused-Success-Distracte...) concisely sums up many feelings I've had about distractions and how this always connected world affects the way I think. I believe the teachings of this book are especially applicable to knowledge workers.

I can’t recommend this book enough. It is one of the most important ideas in my life. The book is good, but the ideas and observations are critical. It really helps me manage my ADHD. A lot more goes into it, but the basic notion is: more deep work hours = more productivity = moving the needle in my universe more.

What I like about the book is that it presents many ways of incorporating deep work into your life: from long, focused sabbaticals (e.g. writers living and working in a cabin to complete important work) to frequently dedicating a small part of your day to pursue your goal. It also presents rituals, quirky as that may be, as a good way to get yourself into the desired mindset.

Another interesting idea: not all important jobs require or even benefit from deep work.

I'm also a big fan of this book, for the same reasons (ADHD management). Understanding the value of setting aside big chunks of time to work deeply and prioritising that time has had an enormous positive impact on how I get things done.

I have tried (legally prescribed) amphetamines. I found without a structure and a plan I would be intensely focused on /something/, but maybe not what was most important every day. And with good time management, diet, and most important, exercise, I didn’t need anything else. So, seconded there on the impact :)

I've had a pretty similar experience. Get exercise, sleep, food and hydration under control, then (in my case) medication helps me make the most of that structure.

I actually just wrote a giant post [1] about what I've learned about managing ADHD so far. It focuses on the core stuff, but I want to follow it up with a breakdown of how books like Deep Work (e.g. Flow; Farsighted; Thinking, Fast and Slow; How Not to be Wrong) have made a difference for me.

[1] https://medium.com/@sashacollecutt/life-with-adhd-a61cae5a5b...

Piggy-backing off of this to add the things I find useful:

- Mindfulness medidation, same as you. It is hard and when you first try it feels like you are failing. But Yoda is wrong: trying is very valuable and builds the mindfulness muscle.

- Website blocking software like SelfControl.app and Freedom.io —- some might ridicule these as being a crutch, but that is a silly reason not to use them. If you are trying to change your diet, don’t keep cookies on your desk.

- working with a therapist to improve my self-confidence — one reason I was distracted so much is that I didn’t have a strong belief in my right to decide how I spend my time. Combined with mindfulness meditation, I now have a much stronger internal voice that says “I had decided I wanted to relax and read this long history article so that is what I’m going to do.” Or “this bit of life-administrivia is really frustrating and scary, but I do need to do it and have set out this time for it.”

- A belief in “setting myself up for success” in tasks — when I feel like I don’t know how to do something, it is much better to trust that intuition, dig into it, and flesh it out into an explicit list of resources to acquire rather. If instead I say “I should believe in myself* and buckle down and do the work.” Then my sense of not doing the right thing will stick with me. For instance, I am someone who is much more effective at building things when I know how my tools work.

* (This is perhaps very idiosyncratic to me, but I absorbed from a young age that I could do anything I set my mind to. When you don’t know how to set your mind to things, This turns out to be a less-than-useful belief, especially in response to a not-well-articulated need for resources. Example: I once tried to write code against an api whose docs were in Chinese —as a non-Chinese speaker. )

- Sleep, Food, Exercise — I am a sack of meat. The thinking bits of me are also made of meat. Thinking meat, if you’ll believe it. In order to think well, I need to give my meat what it needs on a habitual basis.


One interesting thing about being more mindful and less distracted is that it reveals some underlying discomforts that I was distracting myself from. For instance, I didn’t have any friends as a child and I just don’t know how to lead engaging conversations or how to keep conversations going when they fizzle out. But now that I’ve repeatedly noticed that, I can make it a goal to find ways to learn it (suggestions very welcome) and confidently pursue that goal.

Well, for starters, you seem to have learned a great deal of useful stuff about life, stuff that takes years to accumulate. So to me you already seem like someone I could have engaging conversations with.

That said, I have no trouble talking to strangers but a colleague of mine once said he found "The Tao of Badass" [0] a useful book. It didn't fix the fact that he was always completely disinterested in what others did with their life. Which was funny because I always greatly enjoyed talking with him and he had a great way of speaking about his own Asperger syndrome, I always felt like the doctors had told him he was almost human, in a way he was almost super human, reminded me of Data from star trek, he sort of objectively tried to understand what he was missing and I really didn't understand that he felt he was missing something. I miss that colleague/friend.

[0] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13457225-the-tao-of-bada...

From [0] above:

> The Tao of Badass by Joshua Pellicer

> Josh Pellicer is a leading expert on female psychology, body language and the art of seduction. His seduction system, The Tao Of Badass, is the best-selling seduction system in the World.

Well this is creepy as fuck.

> creepy as fuck

This is probably true. And there is indeed a lot of attracting-people-to-you advice which fails to respect people, much less their bodily autonomy. Certainly, calling a book which calls itself "Badass" doesn't strike me as particularly conducive to building healthy relationships. The cover also doesn't do it any favors.


However, I think it is an error to equate creepiness with trying to better understand how sexual attraction works and how to be more successful at the social skills involved in sexual situations. Creepiness is fundamentally about a lack of respect for someone else's autonomy and interests. Trying to get better at social skills isn't creepy.

If someone is born into circumstances where society expects them to play the active role in sexual situations, and they want to have a healthy sex life, then they shouldn't feel shame for wanting to better understand how to play that role. It is certainly better for someone like that to work toward their goal of a fulfilling sexual/romantic relationship than for them to feel trapped and lonely. I think it would be a better world if there were lots of attraction learning resources which weren't full of misogynistic rubbish and successfully taught useful mental models and mindsets.

Haha, my colleague told me it was all about getting a conversation started and keeping it going. He didn't really mention it was targeting women. Anyway, I saw him using it on men as well, asking open questions like: "What was the nicest things you did this weekend?" People rave on about what they like...

I also find it hard to concentrate.

Exercise is a big one (needs to be just the right amount though), and so is sleep. I struggle with chatter noise in my work environment being the thing that derails me, so a pair of noise cancelling headphones is an absolute must to quiet the mind; currently waiting for the new Sony one..

Try mynoise.net

Great for blocking outside noise and concentrating.

I've found it useful to have a pair of earplugs underneath my noise-cancelling headphones.

The Michener essay is a great read. Thank you for the link.

It has made me think about a problem, though: how to select that huge task in which to pour your energy. For him, it was his novels; but being in a 9 to 5 office job like I am, I'm wondering what are my options.

Here is what I think. Do you have something you really want to achieve? Writing a book? Learning something new to advance your career? Whatever it is you must carve our deep work time for it. Waking up early, etc.

How to select your “whatever it is”. Don’t start small. Think about it every day. I think this will prime your brain to help you find it. Keep a journal focused on this. It probably won’t take too long. If you are still hit by analysis paralysis some times you just have to flip a coin and force a decision. This catalyst will often make the right choice clear (e.g if the coin flip lands on a thing you aren’t as excited about).

Final thought, practice deep work at your job. Prime your colleagues for when you will be in deep work. 2-3 hour stretches are a minimum IMO. Really entire days are ideal, but 2-3 hour stretches are good enough if they are truly distraction free.

Lately it's been fashionable to downplay the idea of "passion" (try Googling "don't follow your passion"), but I think it's critical to having any chance of success at tackling a big problem.

Several years ago I took up jazz drumming and purchased a DVD by the jazz drummer John Riley. Amidst all the technical lessons that comprise 99% of the disc he inserted a brief, 1 minute long sidebar on the idea of being "gifted" at drumming.


Of course it applies to anything, not simply playing the drums.

It caused me to think differently about what kinds of things I'm willing to spend my time on, simply because doing that thing was most rewarding.

Passion is almost a Zen concept to me. Follow your passion is great, but, fly too close to the Sun and you get burned. Passion can be learned in the sense that you can explore new things and find you have a passion for them. And you won’t know if you have a passion for some topics until you are deep into them. I think most smart people can learn to have passion for almost any area where they have mastery and purpose to achieve. It can be a bit of voodoo “finding your passion” and you can learn to be passionate about almost anything if it scratches the right itch, IMO. It is all about expanding horizons. Getting a job in a hobby or passion can be the worst thing for that passion.

I have always found that detailing a car carefully to really calm my mind and feel rewarding after words. Recently I decided to try my hand at repairing a panel on my car as the shop wanted ~1000 over materials. It came out great and I have now built out a home painting setup that is great. There was a mix of research, fabrication, and careful practice in order to develop the skills, and the results are far more rewarding than simply detailing a car. I am now planning to help my father paint his car.

My advice? Start with something you get enjoyment out of and take it as far as you can, even if it isn't exactly practical

That's always the question, isn't it? Even if you could choose your job to fit the chosen task, what is worth your time and evergy at the expense of anything else?

To be honest that’s half the thrill, not knowing what to do, having no idea of the level of success of the outcome. Pick something, perhaps an ‘earned secret’ that you’ve noticed in your field; some problem and set about fixing it.

Even making miniature art in the eye of a needle can be an admirable dedication! https://youtu.be/d0ALUjoyMJI

"You do not need to have a great idea before you can begin working; you need to begin working before you can have a great idea. //Josh Collinsworth"

Just the quote from this week's Hacker Newsletter

Thank you for this essay, it is truly magnificent. It reminds me of pg's "What You'll Wish You'd Known" [1].

[1] http://www.paulgraham.com/hs.html

I can also recommend this (free) course:


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