Mindfulness Meditation Is Rediscovered

Amy Gross retired from her job as editor-in-chief of O, the Oprah Magazine to pursue a career in mindfulness meditation:

The key shift is in turning toward pain, when all your life you’ve turned away from it. You give it your full attention—you yield to it—and, paradoxically, its hold on you diminishes. (The majority of chronic-pain patients in an eight-week meditation course are able to reduce their medications and become more active.) You open to emotional pain as well. As you meditate, the grip of your history loosens and you get a little saner, lighter, less entangled.

Via Ben Brooks

Shutting Down Simple Desks

Pat Dryburgh is shutting down his porno site:

About 6 months into running Simple Desks I began realizing that what I was doing was running a porn site. No, not topless girls and chest-hairless guys romping around in a beach house-type porn. Just pointless, casual, look-at-this-empty-fucking-desk-you’ll-never-have porn.

Good for him. This coincides with my post about the problems with minimalism.

Collect Your Thoughts

Randy Murray’s simple productivity tip of the day is to collect your thoughts:

Try this: sit down, take a deep breath, and write out everything on your mind. If it’s something to do, fine, you can transfer that to its proper place later. Now keep going. Write down everything you’ve been thinking about this day. Be honest. Don’t censor yourself. Write it ALL out, everything you’ve been thinking about at this moment, in this day.

An empty mind is a peaceful mind.

Advice from Seth Godin

Seth Godin, keeping it real:

As soon as you accept that just about everything in our created world is only a few generations old, it makes it a lot easier to deal with the fact that the assumptions we make about the future are generally wrong, and that the stress we have over change is completely wasted.

And, on productivity and resolutions:

Until you quiet the resistance and commit to actually shipping things that matter, all the productivity tips in the world aren’t going to make a real difference. And, it turns out, once you do make the commitment, the productivity tips aren’t that needed.

"A Physical App"

Diego Basch on the Kindle:

The Kindle is so cheap that I see it as a “physical app”, just like the iPod Shuffle. I couldn’t care less about the object itself. I don’t have a case for it, and when it breaks I’ll order a new one overnight without thinking twice about it.

I agree. I love my Kindle, and it’s nice that it’s so easily replaceable.

Via Brett Kelly

Utter Failure & Hotel Steak

If you haven’t started listening to Back to Work by now, then shame on you. Regardless, I highly recommend the latest episode on New Year’s resolutions:

In the last episode of 2011, Merlin and Dan talk about fresh starts and modest changes rather than rehearsing for sucking. You don’t need a calendar to tell you to change. Whether you want to give up nail biting, onanism, or drinking a gallon of vodka a day, you need a plan and a tolerance for failure. Plus, a little care never hurts.

It’s a great listen.

Merry

John Gruber:

Late last night, inspecting Santa’s handiwork, a simple thought occurred to me. A decade or so from now, when, say, I’m waiting for my son to come home from college for his winter break, and, when he does, he wants to spend his time going out with his friends — how much will I be willing to pay then to be able to go back in time, for one day, to now, when he’s eight years old, he wants to go to movies and play games and build Lego kits with me, and he believes in magic?

Flow is the Opiate of the Mediocre

Note: I’m on vacation this week, so posting will be a little lighter than usual. I hope you’re having a great holiday week!

Cal Newport shares some advice from one of his readers on getting better:

Strategy #4: Create Beauty, Don’t Avoid Ugliness.
“Weak pianists make music a reactive task, not a creative task. They start, and react to their performance, fixing problems as they go along. Strong pianists, on the other hand, have an image of what a perfect performance should be like that includes all of the relevant senses. Before we sit down, we know what the piece needs to feel, sound, and even look like in excruciating detail. In performance, weak pianists try to reactively move away from mistakes, while strong pianists move towards a perfect mental image.”

Fascinating stuff. I’ve really come to love Cal’s website, Study Hacks.

Beating the Social Overeating Habit

Leo Babauta has compiled 12 tips for beating the social overeating habit. It’s a good list, and I particularly like this contribution from Alessandro Shobeazzo:

Cheat without guilt. For one or two occasions a year, allow yourself to eat as much as you want, which doesn’t necessarily mean to stuff yourself, but to eat without thinking too much about consequences. Two big meals on Christmas or similar occasions don’t spoil a year-long habit of healthy eating. Don`t overanalyze, just enjoy, without any bad conscience.

Step off, step on.

The Many Faces of Fiddling

Great article by Brett Kelly on the many faces of fiddling:

Always think, but resist the urge to think about it more than is required. Make a decision and execute on it. If the decision turns out to be the wrong one, then your gut now has a little more context for next time.

Brett offers his own response to this week’s Back to Work, but he also takes the concept of fiddling beyond the physical. Mental fiddling, or what Brett refers to as unproductive learning and over-thinking, is also something we need to be aware of. Really well put.

A Couple of Things About Distractions

Stephen Hackett discussing minimalism and real work:

In reality, minimalism (or zen, or whatever) doesn’t have a fixed definition. It varies. It is about reducing friction just enough to work, then sitting down and doing the work.

Precisely. It’s not about removing everything, it’s about removing needless things.

Also, David Caolo on meditating with distractions:

I mention work because that’s were we get to apply this stuff. In fact, that’s the whole reason to meditate (for me, at least): to extend those moments of focus to real life. When you’re at your desk and emails come pouring in or the phone rings off the hook, remember the mountain. “Oh, there’s the phone. Oh, there’s email.” In and of themselves, they’re not bad. Or good. They’re just a phone and email.

Both of these posts are great supplemental pieces to this week’s episode of Back to Work, wherein Dan and Merlin discuss the meta-distractions of minimalism. Important stuff. More tomorrow.

Cooking With Gas

Randy Murray in Cooking With Gas:

Yes, there are still times when I climb out of bed late at night and find my way to my keyboard. There are times when I stare at the blank screen and shake my head. But most days I sit down, make the necessary adjustments, and start writing. It’s something I learned, something I earned.

It Feels Like Trust

Randy Murray on his recent visit to the Apple Store:

And then I remembered the new Apple Store iPhone app. I pulled out my iPhone and downloaded the app right there on the spot, using the Apple Store’s wifi. I opened the app and it recognized that I was in an Apple Store. It let me scan the barcode on the product, confirm the purchase using my iTunes account, and showed me the receipt. I asked a passing Red Shirt if that was all I needed to do and he smiled and said, “Yep, you’re good.” So I put the adapter in my pocket and walked out of the store.

Haven’t had a chance to try this myself yet, but it sounds pretty awesome.

Simplifying GTD

David Allen on how to make GTD simpler to adopt:

It’s hard to get it any simpler than this:

  • Keep meaningful stuff out of your head
  • Make action and outcome decisions about the stuff sooner than later
  • Organize reminders of those items in easy to view places
  • Review it all and keep it current

Any one of those elements without the others won’t really produce that much value.

Via Patrick Rhone

Required Reading: "Better" by Merlin Mann

Required Reading is a series of articles, videos, podcasts, etc. that I consider to be unmissable. These are the things that have inspired me the most, and they’re the things I keep coming back to for repeated readings, viewings, and listens.

Speaking of self-improvement, today’s Required Reading is Merlin Mann’s 2008 essay, “Better”:

To be honest, I don’t have a specific agenda for what I want to do all that differently, apart from what I’m already trying to do every day:

  • identify and destroy small-return bullshit;
  • shut off anything that’s noisier than it is useful;
  • make brutally fast decisions about what I don’t need to be doing;
  • avoid anything that feels like fake sincerity (esp. where it may touch money);
  • demand personal focus on making good things;
  • put a handful of real people near the center of everything.

All I know right now is that I want to do all of it better. Everything better. Better, better.

There’s something hugely inspiring about watching one of your heroes strive to improve. Someone who has already had success and is already great, but still isn’t content with resting on his laurels.

For example, Neil Peart, despite decades of fame as the drummer for Rush, decided to study with Freddie Gruber and learn an entirely new style of drumming. He could have decided he had nothing left to learn, but he didn’t. Because he wanted to get better.

Merlin’s essay is an exercise in course-correction. Even when we set out to be awesome, over time we become vulnerable to complacency. I reread “Better” every couple of months, and it always helps remind me to aspire to be great.

Stuff

Paul Graham on stuff:

Another way to resist acquiring stuff is to think of the overall cost of owning it. The purchase price is just the beginning. You’re going to have to think about that thing for years—perhaps for the rest of your life. Every thing you own takes energy away from you. Some give more than they take. Those are the only things worth having.

Lots of great passages in this one. Read the whole thing.

Via Shawn Blanc

Thinking Time

Jacob Gorban on thinking time:

I put it in my calendar, weekly, as the first thing to do each week. It’s a good way to start a new work-week. While most of the population rushed to the jobs thinking “It’s @#$%@#$ Monday again”, I start the week slower, walking the streets or sitting on a park bench or under a tree to write things down, breathing real air.

Shawn Blanc, in response:

It’s easy to forget that, as a writer, you don’t have to have your fingers on the keyboard to be doing your job. Sometimes your best work is only realized when you are away from the very place where that work will later be put onto the page.

Hey, there's a Tumblr!

Greetings from the wee hours of Sunday morning.

After much fiddling, I’m pleased to announce that my Tumblr is up and running once again.

I try to keep QLE semi-focused on a (large) handful of topics, so I’ll be using the Tumblr to collect various bits of internet minutia that fall outside the QLE realm. These may include, but are not limited to: links, quotes, pictures, videos, music, and anything else I think you need to be aware of. Plus, it’ll give me a place to curse, should I ever feel compelled to do so.

So, there you go.