Paul Graham on Procrastination

According to Paul Graham, procrastination practiced thoughtfully, is productive:

There are three variants of procrastination, depending on what you do instead of working on something: you could work on (a) nothing, (b) something less important, or (c) something more important. That last type, I’d argue, is good procrastination

Graham urges us to become “type C procrastinators”–to put off time wasters such as errands and busywork to focus on the projects that will be mentioned in our obituary–our life’s greatest work:

People who fail to write novels don’t do it by sitting in front of a blank page for days without writing anything. They do it by feeding the cat, going out to buy something they need for their apartment, meeting a friend for coffee, checking email. “I don’t have time to work,” they say. And they don’t; they’ve made sure of that.

On Essay Writing–Turning the Mind Inward

Mary Oliver, editor of the Best American Essays 2009, asks the question, “What is an essay?” In her answer she quotes Michel de Montaigne, who popularized the essay as a literary genre:

The world always looks straight ahead; as for me, I turn my gaze inward. I fix it there and keep it busy. Everyone looks in front of him; as for me, I look inside of me; I have no business but with myself; I continually observe myself, I take stock of myself, I taste myself; Others always go elsewhere, if they stop to think about it; they always go forward…As for me, I roll about in myself.

–From the Complete Works, translated by Donald M. Frame.

Be curious–seek possibilities

Steven Pressfield says that to be a professional, you have to retain curiosity and look for possibility:

A pro turns up his nose at nothing. A pro respects everyone and everything, however humble. A pro keeps his eyes and ears open. All things are fascinating to the professional, because he understands how much thought and effort go into even the most unassuming articles (and jobs and concepts and people, including ourselves) in our lives.

Train your brain muscle with attention interval training

Clay Johnson over at infovegan.com uses attention interval training to increase his ability to focus and concentrate on productive work. From How to Focus:

Neuroplasticity is how your brain changes its organization over time to deal with new experiences. It involves physical changes inside of the brain based on the particular tasks the brain is asked to complete. It’s why the hippocampus of a seasoned taxi driver in London is larger than average, and how a meditating monk grows grey matter. Your brain isn’t a mythological deity but a physical part of your body that needs to be taken care of just like the rest of your body. And your body responds to two things really well — diet and exercise. Let’s presume your brain, being a part of the body, also does.

Johnson uses the Pomodoro Technique to improve and track his attention during work sessions.

Modeled after how I trained to run my first marathon using Jeff Galloway’s technique, I practice attention interval training. I got this timer installed on my computer. It’s an excellent interval timer based on a technique called the Pomodoro technique — but I’m primarily using it based on its ability to make sound, set good intervals, and support logging. I started small: 10 minutes of work with two minute breaks. My strategy has been to keep it so when the timer goes off that tells me it’s time to take a break, I feel like I can keep going. I’m up to 35 minutes now with 2 minute breaks.

My kind of pilgrimage

Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson, armed with their typo correction kit, traveled across the US to correct spelling and punctuation errors on public signage.

I stared at that no tresspassing sign, and I wondered: Could I be the one? What if I were to step forward and do something? The glare from the extra s seemed to mock me. Sure, others before me had recognized that there was a problem afoot in modern English. Plenty of people had made much hay of ridiculing spelling and grammatical errors on late-night shows and in humor books and on websites weighted with snark. But: Who among them had ever bothered with actual corrective action? So far as I knew, not a soul.

Read an excerpt of their book, The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time.

Field Notes, How do I love thee? Let me count another way.

I love Field Notes. I live by my lists. I have to-dos for ALA, for each of my freelance projects, as well as lists of books I want, sites to visit, compelling quotes, and things to pick up at Safeway.

Earlier this week, Field Notes wrote to say they were offering Field Notes Colors subscribers the chance to receive two packages of Field Notes personalized by favorite U.S. state. Wha?

I’m a Canadian, living in Canada. I understand that Field Notes is a U.S.-based company and that they have every right to offer state-based personalization to their customers. But, as a Canadian, I’m not really interested in receiving Field Notes personalized based on a state. Doesn’t do a thing for me. In fact, I found it a little insulting. Why would I want my Field Notes “personalized” by a U.S. state?

I ignored the first note and did not visit the site to choose my states. The reminder notice came, and I wrote back to say that I had no interest in personalizing my Field Notes by state. To my surprise, a Field Notes staffer replied nearly instantly, offering me an alternative. Just another reason to love Field Notes and the real humans who make them.