Quick and Easy Journaling for Fun and Profit

I had trouble starting and stopping a journaling habit for the longest time. I’d do it, for literally a day or two, then forget about it until the next time I decided to try some more self-reflection. Some inspiration from LessWrong and Ryan Holiday crystallized a way of making it easy on myself, while still letting me do the self-reflection and recording of decisions that’s been useful to me in the past.

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“I feel” vs. “I am”

Many of us who have had even a brief introduction to meditation, secular or especially related to Buddhism, have also heard the concept of separating what one feels from who one is: “I am happy/angry/sad,” versus “I feel happy/angry/sad.” It always seemed somewhat woo-woo to me, even though I had experienced it for myself. Today, though, a potential reason struck me; I want to explain as best I can with my limited knowledge of psychology. Warning: armchair psychology ahead – for discussion purposes only.

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The Lessons of History by Will & Ariel Durant (3.5k words of notes!)

The Lessons of History is a short edition, about a hundred pages, written by Will and Ariel Durant – a couple who were both historians in their time, and presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their lifetime’s work. This one is one of their last publications, carries the weight of their fifty-plus years of study, and displays the quality of writing honed over that period. I cannot begin to recommend the book enough. It is short, illuminating, and engaging, with a dry wit that shines through and endears the book to me even more. High praise, but it has become one of my favorite books ever.

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Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

Nothing to Envy is on the range of historical fiction, but closer to fact than fiction. The novel’s basis comes from the interviews of its author, Barbara Demick, with defectors and refugees of and from North Korea. In it, the stories of those refugees become threads that Ms. Demick uses to weave a tapestry portraying life in North Korea, giving readers a look into a country that most only know through fanciful tales and overblown media, and that an unfortunate few know through hard, terrible experience. It is a deeply touching, engaging read, and she brings the characters, who are in fact real people made characters to protect their identities, to life. I highly recommend this book.

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Extreme Productivity by Robert Pozen

This one was quite useful. I can see it being paradigm-shattering for anyone that doesn’t regularly procrastinate by reading about productivity on the web.
If you already read people like Sebastian Marshall, you’ll most likely recognize snippets here and there, like the Touch It Once principle. However,
even being the productivity-researching procrastinator I can be, I still got a lot out of this book, and would recommend it to students and working
professionals alike.

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Jumper by Steven Gould

Jumper (and its sequel, Reflex) are light yet deeply engaging sci-fi novels about a young man who can, as you might know if you’ve seen the movie, teleport at will. The books are far better than the movie, just FYI. Mr. Gould doesn’t delve too deeply into the mechanics of teleportation itself; the novel uses Davy’s — the protagonist — ability as a catalyst for the plot and character development. It’s rather well-done, and the second book especially had me frantically tapping my Kindle screen to advance through the pages.

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Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford

This book was overall a 9/10 for me. 12/10 for the first half and a 7/10 for the second. You can learn so much from the rise of Genghis Khan, and the story reads like an actual story. Rather than just saying there was X battle in Y year, Weatherford lays out the motivations behind the powers and the conflicts that erupt, and the narrative comes alive. This is a perfect book for somebody who wants to begin reading history or learn about an infamous figure who deserves a much better reputation.

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How I put a barrier to spending too much time on my phone: Tasker

I noticed (thanks to Rescuetime) that I was wasting too much time on my phone. You know the feeling: oh, I’m ‘just’ going to check Facebook/reddit and then 45 minutes of you just staring at the same thing has gone by. So I opened up the trusty app Tasker, which people have used for some ingenious things, and made a small profile that I’ll use for a little while: if I open up Facebook or the Internet browser, it immediately closes, and pops up a reminder to think of 3 things I’m grateful for, and to briefly remind myself of the mental opportunity cost I’d pay. Here’s how.

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