Monthly Archives: June 2009

Nokia, Goosync, Google, Thunderbird: a winning combination

I use an unlocked Nokia phone, the Supernova 7310. I like the phone. It will act as a modem if I want to get online in a crunch, and supposedly it will work in Ukraine, which is high on my agenda to try out. Having internet access there is important and sometimes painful to get.

But the phone’s compatibility with linux is limited to file transfer, and I want to sync its internal calendar with my Firefox/Lightning calendar. What to do?

I love Thunderbird/Lightning. It’s the Sunbird calendar ported as a add-on to Thunderbird, a slick email client. It works great in linux and it’s quite fast. If you use the google calendar add-on (a separate download available from this link) it can do bi-directional syncing with any google calendar. Then, to get the information too and from the phone, you need to sync the phone with google. There are a number of ways, but I found Goosync to be my favorite. It has compatibilities for many phones.

That’s a “bucket” I can trust. If I put it in anywhere (via Google, phone, or at my PC) it shows up everywhere.

the Now Habit for Grad Students: Stop Procrastinating

This is a continuation of last week’s post.

The Now Habit has a few gems worth passing along. The book is full of psychological explanations for procrastination that are pretty well laid out. The first thing I got from it was the fact that low-level “motivational techniques” result in more procrastination. Second, and more importantly, is that “guilt-free play,” is an important aspect of Habit 7, Sharpening the Saw.

In terms of low-level motivational techniques, I mentioned a while back that there are not too many ways to motivate others. Bullying and financial reward are common, but not very high-minded. They can be as easily applied to oneself as to others. But they don’t work any better on oneself than they do on others. If procrastinators could inspire personal motivation through mental flagellation and self-bullying, then there wouldn’t be any procrastinators. The Now Habit suggests that this might be due to an increased perception of risk. Negative mental self-talk reinforces the idea that only perfect performance is adequate. This makes procrastination seem more attractive. It’s easier to deal with a self administered lecture than actually risking failure by taking action.

The book devotes some pages to discussing “peak performers.” One example that hit close to home was that of PhD students. The range of time to completion of a PhD is wide – it can take anywhere from 4 to 10 years. People who avoid procrastination finish sooner (obviously). What Fiore points out is that those people who successfully avoid procrastination (sounterintuitively) include many “distractions.” They don’t cut out all of the play from their lives to make more time for research.

In terms of completing a dissertation, there are benefits for people who are engaged in some form of extracurricular, guilt-free play. They finish their “real work” sooner, procrastinate less, and complain less of the difficulty and lack of reward that come with graduate student life. Treating play as an important (if not urgent) part of life seems to be critical in overcoming procrastination. It’s not just a reward for getting things done, but rather play is an enjoyable part of the overall habit of proactivity. Indeed, play is part of the “productivity” that makes up an effective and healthy life.


Change your paradigm, change your habits: review of The Now Habit

The big impediment to getting things done is procrastination. Procrastination is a habit. The most effective way to break habits is to change the mental stimulus that causes the habitual action. The easiest way to change the stimulus is not to change the environment (though that can help) but rather to change the interpretation of the environment; that is to say that the best way to change a habit is to change the underlying paradigm. The word “paradigm” is often overused and even misused. It doesn’t just mean “point of view.” It goes deeper than that. It’s not a thing you can change over the course of a conversation, and it is a concept that deserves more respect that boar-room buzz words. In general, people are not aware of their paradigm. It is the subconscious value system that filters what we see. Today I’ll discuss that in general terms.

A person’s paradigm is sometimes compared to eyeglasses, but a paradigm is not something you can just take off. I would compare it to a person’s eyes rather than their glasses. Lots of people have bad vision without realizing it. They assume everyone sees the world the way they do – blurred. They don’t know it’s blurred. That’s how the world has has always been. There are mental tricks that are like “corrective lenses,” in that they slowly affect your “eyes” until you don’t need to wear them any more. When a person truly has adopted a new paradigm, they have “new eyes.” It takes a while. What’s more, it’s hard to even remember how the world looked before it changed.

Habitual actions stem from paradigms. It’s easy to see in that analogy: someone with blurred vision might habitually feel and smell objects to identify them. That’s a habit. And it would be foolish to tell someone with bad eyesight “you don’t need to smell that – it says ‘milk’ right on the bottle.” That fact is not accessible from their reality. But then, once their eyesight has improved, the smelling/feeling habit disappears naturally. That’s the power of paradigm. New paradigm yields new stimulus which produces new action, even in the same physical environment.

How does that relate to procrastination? I’m reading The Now Habit by Niel Fiore, which does a great job of explaining the procrastinator’s paradigm. Procrastinators have a paradigm of risk and coercion (I’m generalizing and paraphrasing, so forgive my imprecision). Procrastination is a habit that is a resultof the following stimulus: “I have to do X, and I must do it perfectly, or it will be terrible”

Saying “I have to…” implies a lack of freedom; it implies coercion. Whether it’s self-imposed or externally imposed coercion is irrelevant; the easiest way to rebel against coercion is to do nothing.

Saying “… and I must do it perfectly, or it will be terrible” is the perception of risk. The easiest way to avoid risk is to do nothing.

Hence, procrastination.

If I change the paradigm of coercion and risk, then the perception of how hard it is to do something will change. With that change of perception, Getting things Done will happen far more naturally.

More on The Now Habit next week.


P.S. I continue this article further in next week’s post.