The key to fast improvement is to iterate as quickly as possible and have good feedback loops built in from quality sources. This is why sketches, outlines, designs, and rough plans are so important. The goal is gather as much feedback as possible, and then to iterate quickly. When enough information about the optimal solution is gathered at a particular level of granularity, then drill down into greater detail. It’s essentially the gradient descent algorithm applied to life.
Lately I’ve been doing a lot of work on automating my life. It’s been a lot of fun! I’ve been using Python and Jupyter a lot to create scripts to make myself more productive. I have been customising my notebook to create an optimal work environment. I’ve been setting up my Emacs environment to make it more effective. It’s been nice having the space to do this!
Some days I feel flat and completely unproductive. It’s a struggle to get anything done. I find that time-boxing helps. Today I found that going for a run really helped. This morning I felt totally discombobulated. This afternoon after the run, I had a lot more focus. I still need to ensure that I get the right things done though.
Today I discovered the sheer awesomeness that is Emacs with EIN. This lets my Emacs environment to to Jupyter Notebooks. Through it, I have the power of Emacs Python completion and editing while writing iPython functions. It works really well! I can display matplotlib graphs inline in my Emacs buffer. There is even symbolic computation via the sympy package! Bliss!
I have been studying continuously for many years now. I am still refining my studying technique though. One of the things that I am being forced to do with the maths I am doing at the moment, is to read and re-read the course materials over and over again. My workflow at the moment is:
- Skim the chapter. Scan the headings and sub-headings and try to build up the outline in my head.
- Skim through the problems within the chapter.
- Speed read the chapter. Get more of an idea of what is going on.
- Read through the problems and the answers.
- Read the chapter more thoroughly. Try and get a good understanding.
- Work through the problems.
- Repeat 5 and 6 until either clarity or the exam arrives!
The World-champion chess player Gary Kasparov concluded that “Weak human + machine + better process was superior to a strong computer alone and, more remarkable, superior to a strong human + machine + inferior process.” He created “Freestyle Chess”, pairing a computer and a human to make a stronger chess player. This hybrid combination is sometimes called a “Centaur”.
I’ve been using Todoist for my daily tasks, but today I decided to upgrade to a Premium account. I used Things for a while, but when I switched to using an Android phone (OnePlus One), I had to switch to something that was cross-platform. Todoist allows me to structure my projects hierarchically and put priorities on the tasks. The Premium account means that I can add labels and comments to the tasks. It integrates with Amazon Alexa, and there are apps for all my devices!
When I was young, I did this thing called Silva Mind Control. It taught me meditation, and various other mental techniques that have come in handy throughout my life. One of the techniques that we learnt was for memorising lists of things – they called it “Memory Pegs” in Silva. It turns out that this technique is generally known as “The Major Mnemonic System” derived from a technique developed in the 1600s. I became more interested in mnemonics after the book “Moonwalking with Einstein” shot to fame, especially combined with all the studying I have been doing over the years which made me desperate for faster ways of remembering things. It made me dust off this technique and start to use it again.
I am currently experimenting with coding using a Vortex Pok3r Mechanical Keyboard. I’m not sure whether it was a good buy or not. My rationale was that has a programmer, my keyboard is my primary tool, and it makes sense to have the best that I can get. I quite like the action of the keyboard, but it is too early yet to tell whether it is making me more productive or not.
I have both an iPad Pro and a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet running Linux. Depending on what I am planning on doing on a day-to-day basis affects which device I carry around. Mostly I carry my Surface, as I have Linux installed, and it allows me to easily do development, remotely administer machines, or do general computing tasks. The keyboard on it isn’t great however – it’s kind of flimsy and doesn’t work well if it’s not on a firm surface. I can’t easily use it on a train for example. It was perfect when we were in Australia for a month, and allowed me to both work and do University assignments. I can use it as a tablet for reading, but it isn’t great for that.