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Career Advice From a Mathematician

Simple and to the point:

And:

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Tips to Get More out of Working Hours

From Cal Newport again:

  • Take a ten minute break for every hour worked. This helps reduce the rate at which your focus intensity decays.
  • Never work more than three hours (with ten minute breaks) before taking significant time off.
  • Get enough sleep. Eat healthy. Exercise. These factors control your energy. Your energy impacts your focus.
  • Work in the morning and afternoon. Try to accomplish as much as possible before dinner. Your focus degrades quicker at night, and activities during the day will force your work into smaller bursts.
  • Always study in a quiet, distraction-free location. Talking roommates or a TV in the background will lower your focus.
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Deep Procrastination

All my post-graduation I was confused whether I am in deep procrastinating mode or suffer from anxiety and depression. But as I moved on, I found that the former is true. Deep procrastination is a killer. At the same time, it is a show stopper kind of thing in life that signals that something is not good. Cal Newport explains it:

Deep procrastination is not the standard urge to goof off that afflicts every college student. It’s much more powerful. A student suffering from deep procrastination will delay important work to an excessive degree. He won’t start studying until late the night before or will delay paper writing until the sun is about the rise. After a while, he might begin to chronically miss deadlines, and find himself constantly negotiating with professors about extensions. Sometimes it gets so bad that he misses the extended deadlines — failing courses instead of completing the required assignment. No matter how dire the stakes, starting work becomes an insurmountable prospect.

The only cure, as I understand, to this problem is to answer the biggest and the most important question of our lives:

figure out what you really want to accomplish at college, then choose your path based on an honest answer to this question.

Whatever is said of college is true about profession and life in general.

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How to Lead a Remarkable Life?

Cal Newport has one interesting answer:

If you’re itching to make your life something amazing, consider spending less time daydreaming about defying the status quo and answering the critics of your decision, and spending more time gearing yourself up for the challenge of becoming so good that they can’t ignore you. Ultimately, it will probably be the latter that generates the remarkable results.

A very neat and sleek answer.

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A Very Nice Take on Procrastination

Why does one procrastinate? Fear of failure? Lack of will? Those were old answers. However, one Cal Newport has a different take on procrastination:

…the complex planning component of your brain evaluates this plan — as it has evolved to do — and then rejects it as not sound. (Grinding it out all night at the library is as haphazard a plan as charging the mammoth with a spear: your frontal lobe is having none of it!)

Here’s the second relevant question: What does this rejection feel like? Complex planning is a pre-verbal adaptation, so it’s not going to manifest itself as a voice in your head exclaiming “plan rejected!” Instead, it’s going to be more intuitive: a biochemical cascade designed to steer you away from a bad decision; something, perhaps, that feels like a lack of motivation to get started.

In this telling, procrastination is not a character flaw but instead a finely-tuned evolutionary adaptation. You shouldn’t lament procrastination, but instead listen to it. Treat it as a sign that your skills as a student need more work.

So, next time a thing is being being procrastinated by us, see why the plan does not seem so good and how we can make it good.