Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Notes on 'Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware'

Finished this book. I liked it. Here's my raw notes. I might go through this and organize it at some point.

-always have something around to write ideas.
Ex: when coding have a word doc open. Today I came up with several ideas. Design questions, performance optimizations. I usually have some medium with me to write on.

-learning - l-mode favors analysis. R-mode favors synthesis. 
Ex: I like to build prototypes, do unit testing, and write test sql statements. That's learning by synthesis. Good!

-positive emotions and being happy further enable creative thinking

-aesthetics matter for brain neurogenesis. In other words, good looking stuff makes your brain awesomer.

-Neuroplasticity - your brain can become stronger just by believing I can learn anything, and by practicing

-time pressure has terrible effects. It shuts down the r-mode, the creative side. Give yourself permission to fail. How i thought of this while i was reading it was "how do you deal with pressure? You don't deal with it." in other words, don't give into pressure. 

-drawing is an r-mode activity, draw more. Drawing meditation. Being in the flow is what happens when the r mode takes over. 

-R-mode to L-mode flow. Start by doing something and then get the formal lecture. 

-lead with R-mode, follow with L-mode. R mode is like doing whiteboard design. L mode is hammering out the details 

-pair programming or stepping away from the keyboard once in awhile. I think I do this often, by reading Facebook, playing games

-use metaphors to explain things

-ask a problem, then close my eyes, observe the images that come to mind. Analyze the images. This strengthens l to r mode.

I think I've been doing a lot of this stuff before, I just didn't know why. When I'm working on a hard problem I think of solutions at random times. The async r-mode explains why that happens.

-write more. Use blogger to write out ideas. Write on paper. I kinda do this a lot already. Write more

-step away from the computer when trying to solve hard problems. Take a walk, etc.., but don't actively think about the problem. Focus on the simple task at hand - walking. 
Note: this goes well with the Power of Now (a book). Power of Now = focus on now, don't think about problems. This has the effect of defocusing the left brain, and gives your right brain control

-change routine and habits frequently to shake up the mind

-when writing come up with new words frequently 

-uncertainty is a good thing. It leaves choices open. The opposite of this is committing to a big decision from the start, like putting a design decision in stone, discovering it's wrong, but continuing to use it and therefore build a castle on sand.

-cognitive biases. Biases cause us to reach false conclusions. There are many cognitive biases.

-at the beginning of a project you know the least, at the end you know the most. Therefore it's a bad idea to commit to ideas made at the beginning. Welcome change into the project, as more information becomes discovered.

-welcome and accept uncertainty. Deadlines are counterproductive. I can give estimates, and have a target date, but 100% certainty is not possible. This leads to making guarantees early which can't realistically get met, and in order to get close that's when 16 hour work days start to happen, and burnout happens. Innovation is surely stifled by this excessive working, and so you're probably introducing more bugs, and being less and less productive. It's better to have an estimated time, and a target date, but not set in stone. Don't worry about a deadline that was made without a proper estimate being given, that's totally unrealistic, and leads to the unproductive rush at the end to try to satisfy the unrealistic date. Instead, set a target date based on an estimate, and let others know that it's just an estimate. Others may panic and demand a deadline, but don't give in. Embrace uncertainty. Get it done, and get it done right.

-go back to reading many different things at once, instead of one at a time. I get very bored and don't read anything. Reading a wide variety of topics is also good for creativity,

-lead with intuition but follow up and verify with logic 

Learning 
-specific technologies are not important, whereas constantly learning is important

-goals need to be SMART. 
Specific 
Measurable: progress that is
Achievable: realistic 
Relevant: it must matter to me, and I must be in control of it
Time boxed: has a deadline

Pragmatic investment plan:
1. Concrete goals
2. Diversify: various technologies, languages, other. I already do this.
3. Active investment: this means check how my plan is going frequently. Example is doing the spanish quiz on duolingo. 
4. Make regular investment - this means make time for learning. Have a routine.

Believe in my intuition. Believe I can learn and do anything. Have humility, and an open mind. Be willing to fail.

-use "sq3r" or whatever when reading. That basically means to take notes and shit. Actively read, not just passively plowing through it. That is what I'm doing right now, taking notes 

-mind maps - take an idea and start drawing related ideas and how they relate. Do this by hand. Do this whenever brainstorming or at he start of a problem. Next time I get a support case or problem, mind map it
(Note on this note: I've been using mind maps alot, and they are freaking awesome. It basically allows you to quickly plan out what you're going to do, or brain storm, without writing long ass shit, and therefore more ideas plop out. It's a creative exercise.)

-don't waste time on documents that don't add value. If the design doc mirrors the code then don't do it. The design docs I do help me to plan out the steps to take and entities. It's where I put design questions, and put pictures of designs I came up with. I think this is practical, since I do it as I go along. It's sole purpose is to help me plan out the coding. The build docs help me to know what went into each build, this has proven useful over and over. Besides that, I don't think I do any other useless documents.

Documenting leads to insights, now or later
-preparation
-hand drawing
-creation of notes
Planning, and writing out the plan is the key. The actual doc is not important. This is like my design docs. They are basically repositories for my planning, and throwaway.

Do more creative documentation. Instead of long, boring documents, do a video, do screenshots 

Take notes by using mind maps. Use more pictures. This engages the right side brain more than text.

-playing with ideas should come before studying the facts

-accept "I don't know". Accept mistakes. The important part is to learn from those.

-experiment safely. Always be able to roll back changes, and test functionality. For example, have version control and unit testing  
(Note on this note: Typically when i'm trying to debug something i have a few ideas in mind. I try one, it doesn't work. Thank God for source control! I can just throwaway the changes and grab what's in the safe)

-during brainstorming accept all ideas. Allow failure. Don't shoot down ideas, becuse it hurts crewstovomg (sic) more ideas 

-imagining that you've done something is the same as actually doing it, according to the brain

-imagining you are the expert, performing something expertly, is enough to "grove" the brain, and increase your performance. Believing is powerful.

-embrace failure. Failure is OK. It's an effective way to learn

-focusing on one thing is key to getting things done. 
-meditation trains the brain to let go of the idle-loop chatter of the l-mode. And therefore meditation helps you to focus better in all areas of life

-use a personal wiki for organizing data, ideas, thoughts. This is kinda like my notes here and blog

-multitasking
(Note on this note: I didn't finish writing this, because I was distracted by something. That's kinda funny)

Email
-get out of the habit of constantly checking for email
-don't respond so fast to emails. The faster you respond, the more frequently you will get emailed. Control the tempo.
-IM is probably the worst distractions. Stay DND most of the time. Stay DND whenever I really need to focus, which is usually

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