Thursday, 22 January 2015

Tiny habits, how to improve their effectiveness, and thoughts on procrastination

Just re-watched a 15 minutes TEDx talk by B. J. Fogg (via lifehacker.com). I really like his work on changing personal behaviours by the use of tiny habits.

You only have so much will power for each day, and once that is used up you will start making bad choices that you will later regret. For instance, you might force yourself using will power to go to the gym but then end up eating pizza for dinner. This is not because you were tired from the exercise and needed the extra calories, even though you might tell yourself that. No, you probably wanted to work out and loose weight or get healthy. Unfortunately you were just out of will power.

Using tiny habits can help you. However, combining tiny habits with convenience and not-todo mentality greatly increases the effectiveness... at least for me.

The rest of the blog assumes you know what tiny habits are. So please watch the TEDx talk if you don't :)

Let's start by looking at convenience

Let's continue with the exercise example, and we assume that we have set up either a real habit of going to the gym, or are using tiny habits to get there (by starting exercise routines at home, for instance). How can a convenient thing or situtation help you ensure you do not eat pizza for dinner, without having to resort to pure will power? One solution is to make a new tiny habit that ensures you always have a healthy meal in your fridge (or at the office). You will be less likely to go get a pizza if you have a ready-to-eat meal available.

This is my convience principle. I create convenient situations throughout my day, and this is possible, since many things in my day are planned (tiny habits). I don't like strict schedules but I create causalities between events and the first event exists because of a personal goal: For instance, wanting to bench press 100 kg as my standard weight again. Because of this goal I have made a habit of making a bunch of healthy meals each morning. The tiny habit for this is:
When I make my breakfast I will make enough food for at least two more meals.
I have another tiny habit that ensures the convenient situation always is present while at home:
When I take the second to last ready-to-eat meal from the fridge I will make at least two more meals before sitting down to eat.
Note the addition to the basic tiny habit formula. I added an extra condition. This is because I know myself, and I am utterly hedonistic, love food and enjoyment, so I know that my food must be a sign of victory in this situation. If I start by eating I have a tendency of thinking "I will make the other meals later". This is also why the rule triggers on the second to last meal. That gives my some slack, and also if I truly am in a rush I can just eat and simply make more meals later, before eating the last ready-to-eat meal.

That is how convenience can greatly strengthen your good habits and help remove bad habits. Get there by using tiny habits to create the convenient situations.

Not-TODO mentality

This is basically turning tiny habits on their heads. As an example I work a lot from home and when I go to the toilet I pass my washing machine and laundry basket on the way. I had I tendency to always check the amount of dirty laundry in the laundry basket, and if it was getting full, then start the washing machine. Sounds like a good tiny habit, right? No, not if it is office hours! This was in fact nothing but procrastination, that had become a habit. The worst kind of procrastination. I might seem like it only ate a few minutes per day but my mind had shifted its focus so in total I probably lost an hour of productive work.

Some people use not-TODO lists, and I do as well when planning, but for removing procrastination habits I create tiny habits. The tiny habit solving the above problem is:
I will not start the washing machine unless I am putting clothes in to the laundry basket and see it is getting full.
Apart from the highlighted words there is another subtle but very effective thing about this rule: When do you put dirty clothes into the laundry basket? Normally not during office hours! So this rule that prevents me from performing a bad procrastination habit doesn't in any feel restricting. That is, I don't force myself to not do it and thus prevent using a lot of will power.

In my experience fighting procrastination with will power is never a battle you can win. Will power focuses your mind on not procrastinating but you need your focus on your work to actually stop procrastinating.


Hope this information is helpful to some of you. Enjoy :)

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

We all procrastinate, here is a short motivational video on how to stop.

We all procrastinate, every day. Luckily it actually isn't that hard to stop ourselves from procrastinating. Personally I make sure to use my creative surge in the morning to get a lot done, and also use meditation (5 minutes at a time) throughout the day to keep my calm and strengthen my focus.

However, I just tonight stumbled upon a Youtuber who calls himself Humble the Poet. He does these really nice, approximately 2 minute long, videos on various (mostly motivational) topics. He also did a video about procrastination. I actually think he nailed it. Both in what he says but also his personality and his way of communicating his point of view makes the video really great. There are a handful of videos that I watch quite often, as motivation, as well as a bunch of good blog posts. It's a nice alternative to meditation for keeping focus. A smiling and motivational human being can give you a boost of energy in just a few minutes. It will make you just start working, even if you feel you are not ready or are afraid of performing sub-optimally. The key to success is getting stuff done, not how good the stuff is. It will get better over time, the more you get done. Practice makes perfect and procrastination causes you to get no practice at all. Just start working and you well get into the flow of it. Once you are there, you will get a lot done and the hours will fly by... voila, procrastination is gone. It will come back, but just watch the video again, or meditate, or some other procrastition killing exercise and get back into it.

Note: Breaks from your work/hobbies are okay. If you work too much your brain will burn out. However, don't trick yourself into thinking you need breaks during your day every 10 minutes... that is procrastination. Get off Facebook, Twitter, Google, your phone, whatever, and get back to work. Long term achievements are what you want.

Now. Watch HtP's video:


Enjoy and may you have many productive and joyfully creative days :)

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Loving my new Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro

I needed a new netbook and decided to go with the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro. It's elegant, has a beautiful screen with 3800x1200 resolution and flips in to a tablet.

Windows 8.1 works quite nice in tablet mode and the extra software that Lenovo ships with the laptop actually isn't all spam-ware (apart from McAffee antivirus. Who uses that!?).

I was hesitant about installing Ubuntu due to various post online about people having issues with it. All sorts of posts about how you have to set BIOS to legacy mode etc. But hey, doesn't Ubuntu support EFI boot? Sure it does, and just install Ubuntu in the expected way and everything expect wireless works.

To fix the wireless you need to unload the ideapad_laptop module that Ubuntu loads per default for this machine. Simply do a sudo modprobe -r ideapad_laptop and afterwards blacklist the module to ensure that it doesn't get loaded in the future. I prefer creating a personal blacklist file (and not just adding the module to an existing modprobe configuration file). For instance, create the file /etc/modprobe.d/myblacklist.conf containing a single line:
blacklist ideapad_laptop

I use Ubuntu Gnome and with the above wireless fix everything runs smoothly. Google Chrome (my preferred browser) doesn't scale the webpages for HiDPI per default but just go in to advanced settings and set the default zoom level to 200%. The only minor issue is that my Sunrise Calendar (Chrome app) has a rather small font but it is still readable so I'll live with it for now. I expect that proper HiDPI support will be implemented in a future Google Chrome version as it is already properly supported in the Windows version.

I did mess around with the various command line parameters for Chrome but ended up with just changing the default zoom level. You can however force scaling using --force-device-scale-factor=2 but that messes up the apps quite a bit. I found a nice list of Chrome command line options here:
http://peter.sh/experiments/chromium-command-line-switches/

If you find a better solution for Google Chrome, please let me know :)

Dirt cheap wireless laser printer

I needed a laser printer, and the only requirements was that it was cheap, small in size and preferably wireless. I was rather impressed when I found one for only 638 DKK (link), i.e. approximately €86.

Even though the specifications doesn't say it supports Windows 8, it does. Linux as well.

The Windows 8 drivers can be found here:
http://www.dell.com/support/home/us/en/19/product-support/product/dell-b1160w/drivers

I installed the printer in Windows 8 first, allowing me to easily set up the wireless part and get the printer firmware upgraded to the newest version, then I installed it in Linux.

The Linux drivers can be found here:
http://www.dell.com/support/home/us/en/19/Drivers/DriversDetails?driverId=M4HVD


This all  went surprisingly well. No trial and error, just googled it, installed it all, and voila! A most acceptable process for a relaxed Saturday afternoon :)

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Turn off G+ for Google Business. Multiple Google accounts - Round 2.

Google+ has been available for Google Business accounts for quite some time now and there were good reasons to activate back in the day. It allowed you to easily text, voice, and video chat with colleagues. However, the company Google+ profiles you get were public. A very annoying issue, but luckily Google created a fix (I have written another blog post about that).

However, having a company Google+ profile doesn't make sense to me. Maybe for really big companies it is useful but for me the only reason to active Google+ was to enable Google Hangouts. I want video chat functionalities inside the company and the ability to invite people from outside as well but without getting another Google+ profile .

Good news! Now I can. I am not sure exactly when Google made this change but now, if you disable Google+ on your business account, you can still create meetings with video conferencing via Google Calendar and invite people from outside the company as well.

If you still want text chat then you can activate chat in Gmail or use a stand-alone chat client. I prefer the latter and use the Hangouts chrome app, which integrates well with Ubuntu Gnome.

The last issue for me was having calendars on multiple Google accounts. Android devices support multiple Google accounts but Google has no such feature for the PC desktop.

My solution so far is to use the Sunrise Calendar chrome app. It is pretty and supports multiple Google accounts. It does however lack the feature for adding video hangouts to events you create but you can get around that issue by activating "Automatically add video calls to events that I create" in your Google Calendar settings.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Glass instead of plastic when it comes to storing food and drink

It seems like scientist keep finding harmful chemicals in plastics, so instead of having to worry about poising myself in the kitchen I have replaced my old plastic kitchenware with glass versions.

The the small Pyrex 4-in-1 container in the picture is just awesome. I bought a whole bunch. It can go directly from fridge to microwave and has a rubber plug in the middle that can be pulled up to let a bit of air in (for when in the microwave). You can also get square versions and a larger square one as well.

The bottles are great too. I use the small one (400 mL) at the gym, and the large on (1L) for keeping cold water in the fridge. They both aluminium lids.

So unless some of the few rubber parts suddenly turn out to be toxic as well then I think I'm good. I am normally not paranoid about stuff like this, however, I cook all my food for an entire day in the morning and store it in portions in small microwavable containers in the fridge. This allows me to easily eat them during the day. So if my old containers were toxic then I have been getting a hefty daily dose for quite some time. Better safe than sorry :)

All the products can be bought on Amazon. Here are the links:

BLUE 1.0L Glass Drinking Bottle / Fridge Bottle - Non-Slip Silicone Grip - BPA Free - 100% Recyclable


LIME GREEN 350ml Glass Drinking Bottle 'Curvy' - Non-Slip Silicone Ringed Grips - BPA Free - 100% Recyclable


Pyrex 15 cm/ 0.35 Litre 4-in-1 Plus Round Dish with Lid

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Make your Google contact list a stand-alone web app

When using my Google Business accounts I have access to a separate web app for managing my contacts. This is how it should be, as our contacts are used all over the place by many different Google apps. You also have a separate Contacts app on Android phones. However, the Contact web app not show up when logged in to a normal Google account. But don worry, you can access it as a normal Google user as well by visiting http://contacts.google.com.

When you are in the Contacts web app, try clicking on the Google apps button and you will see a "Add link to this app" (perhaps phrased differently) at the bottom of your app grid. Click that and now you have a nice Contacts short-cut to use.

I seems like a properly implemented feature but when you click the "More" link that is at the very bottom of your app grid it will send you to a new page with a list of Google apps and Contacts in not on that list. Maybe it is still a hidden feature, just like Google Keep was for a long time. Not sure, I just thought that the link above would work, and it did.

Well, anyway. From me to you, enjoy :)