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Achieving Top Mental Performance for Software Developers (softwarecreation.org)
68 points by admp on Sept 16, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 8 comments

Is it just me, or do these read more like a list of objectives to accomplish than a set of methods for achieving objectives? Let's look at a few random ones:

Plan and prioritize first to establish clear path for achieving your goals. Beware – planning uses a lot of energy and meet serious resistance from the brain.

Okay. Great. Planning and prioritization meets serious resistance from the brain. Got it. Any tips on how to overcome that resistance?

Do one conscious active task at a time. Brain has very limited working memory and processing capacity (about 4 items). Multitasking seriously reduce your IQ and performance as brain can work only in the serial mode.

Sure. That's easy to write in a blog post (so easy that I've literally seen hundreds of blog posts saying this very thing). But how do you reduce multitasking? How do you cut down on the urge to "just check email/IMs/Facebook/whatever for just 10 seconds"?

Start your sprint on the full power and eagerly run until the end of your committed time. Put yourself in the champion mindset to achieve your goals. Forget about everything else and run, run, run…

And what is this "champion mindset", exactly, and how do I go about achieving this Zen state?

I don't mean to be harsh, even though I've probably come off as being extremely harsh above. It's just that I've seen posts like this go by again and again in my HN feed. They all seem to say the same (or at least, very similar, things) and none of them seem to notice the inherent irony of posting productivity tips on a site that is so notorious for sucking productivity, it has inbuilt mechanisms to limit the time you spend on it.

I think that motivation and interest is a much better predictor of mental performance than anything mentioned in this article.

After tutoring for a few years I have to agree with you.

I worked at a Kumon center, which was an "enrichment" program for both poorly-performing kids needing help with math and reading but also very smart kids trying to get (sometimes far) ahead[1] in their math and reading skills.

I learned two things: First, you can explain anything to almost all kids, but there are a lot of different ways about thinking about numbers and the way their teacher taught them may not be a good way for any particular kid.

I had some kids who would just seem "blocked" when faced with a math problem like 48x12 (usually larger than that), putting the numbers one above the other and trying to do multiplication the way the teacher taught them. I'd play around with the numbers in front of them, show them that every number is really a bunch of other numbers just expressed in a different way. I could show them that 48x12 was really just 48x10 plus 48x2, which are 480 plus 96, which just makes 576 just-like-that.

Some kids would be blown away that numbers were not these final static things but really figures that could be represented so many different ways. For a lot of them just kind of "exploring" what it means to be a number helped a lot more than making them crunch problems the way their teachers told them to, and once they got that numbers were these very liquid things they seemed to do a lot better.

The second thing I learned is that nothing fucking matters except motivation. If the kid's not motivated it's nigh impossible, and if he is the job is a dream and tutoring becomes practically as pleasing as a musical song and dance.

There's only one thing I was able to figure out about motivation: You can't teach someone to be motivated by lecturing them on the importance of being good at math or reading or threatening them (as parents sometimes did in front of me) or calling them lazy. The only thing that mattered was that I was visibly motivated and excited about the material, always happy and buzzing around them. The only way I could impart motivation was by realizing that it was contagious. There's a quote I sometimes parrot on here that more or less relates to the phenomenon:

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." -Antoine De Saint-Exupery

And it looks like I've gone on and on and forgot what I really meant to say here (other than I agree). Ah well.

[1] Rather, their parents were trying to get them ahead.

"I could show them that 48x12 was really just 48x10 plus 48x2, which are 480 plus 96, which just makes 576 just-like-that."

I learned this lesson on my own, and was chastised for it while young. "That's not how you learn multiplication!" And so forth.

It was only (much) later until I saw Feynman's infamous videos where he denounced how the subject of Algebra was taught, and it made me feel a lot better about how I went about learning - and how I will teach my son. Or rather, lack of teaching.

I couldn't agree more - motivation is everything! I love that quote. Another to add: "Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence." - Helen Keller

My favorite saying on motivation, which your experience seems to prove is "motivation is acquired, not required".

Agreed, pretty much every "average" developer I've worked with, has been average because of a lack of motivation, or interest in pushing themselves, not because of a lack of following a list of steps posted on some website that somehow makes motivation and interest irrelevant.

Getting enough sleep might be the most important thing.

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