In the Joe Rogan Experience I heard psychologist Jordan Peterson talk about the factors that contribute to success in someone's (working) life. The best predictor for work success is IQ . IQ is difficult to change. With supplements like Paneuromix you can probably score significantly better on tests due to increased alertness, memory and associative ability, but the IQ also depends largely on physical factors in your brain, such as the amount of neuronal hubs in your brain. Between generations there is a very clear increase, because younger generations from ever younger age are increasingly exposed to more abstract information sources, this is called the Flynn effect. But within the "school" of your generation is difficult to maneuver, because everyone gets the same improvement in conditions for development. Similar to when all teams in the F1 introduce better wings at the same time, the advantage is gone.

Conscientiousness and the Big Five

Another predictor for work success is the psychological trade Conscientiousness. In this article I will use Conscientiousness, the abbreviation C. and carefulness alternately for this purpose. The property C. comes from the Big Five, this is the most well-founded and researched personality model consisting of five personality traits / axes. It has been found without a predictive model by statistically summarizing all the words in dictionaries that indicate a personality criteria in independent groups. This turned out to be five groups of trades (psychological characteristics). You can easily remember this with the abbreviation OCEAN:

O = Openness, openness to new experiences versus closeness / stubbornness

C = Conscientiousness, carefulness versus carelessness

E = Extraversion, extraversion versus introversion

A = Agreeableness, service orientation, versus thinking about your own interest

N = Neuroticism, emotional stability versus emotional instability

Many tests can be found online, for example here.

The clearest way to describe C. I think is the analogy with German craftsmanship, especially in the automotive industry. German cars are known to be perfectly finished. The leather is perfectly designed, all details have been thought over, you feel a peace of mind when you sit in such a car. That is Conscientiousness. German culture generally scores high in Conscientiousness. Another way to measure conscientiousness is to have someone write it down 100 times and see how often it is written correctly.

Conscientiousness and salary

Although it does not mean everything, a connection between work success and salary is plausible. In the graphs below you can see that Conscientiousness and Extraversion have a positive connection with salary and Agreeableness a negative (partly due to the negotiation on the amount of salary, if you are easy going you get a lower salary). Although Extraversion also has a positive connection, it seems that this is the job specific, so with a job as a salesperson this will play a role more than with a technician, whereas C. has a positive link with salary with all types of jobs.

Increasing Conscientiousness?

Since IQ is difficult to increase, might it be possible to increase Conscientiousness? According to Jordan Peterson C. is a mystery, namely:

1. There is no theoretical model, nobody knows why some people are more and others less C.

2. There is no neuropsychological model, people who, for example, have a functioning prefrontal cortex are no longer C. You would expect that because a good prefrontal cortex makes it possible for someone to plan well and keep an overview.

3. There is no psychological model, because the Big Five has been created without a model.

4. There is no pharmacological model, focus enhancers such as ritalin may be able to help improve C., but it appears that performance on focus testing is mainly related to IQ and not to C. According to Jordan Peterson C. is really a mystery and this is difficult because it is connected with success at work as well as happiness and well-being. Probably because someone who acts with care will encounter many problems and solve problems in a structured and careful way.

The quest to improve Conscientiousness

I went looking for the changes in the Big Five throughout life. If something changes during life, the chance of consciously improving it is greater. With all the willpower in the world you cannot change your body height, but my conviction is that many things that are connected with thoughts and emotions can be changed by the flexibility and adaptivity of your brain.

A study this I could find showed these results:

What you can see is that Conscientiousness and Openness change most during life. This gives me hope that there can be some form of movement, plus a somewhat explanatory model. It is clear that Conscientiousness makes a huge leap during puberty and young adulthood. This is exactly the period that the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is the latest in evolution and supposedly "higher behavior" (tact, planning, patience, deliberation, etc.) steering up to maturity.

There was no connection between prefrontal functions and C.?

Why did they not find a relationship between prefrontal functions (so-called executive functions) and C. in the laboratory? The problem with these tests is often that the laboratory environment creates a certain structure that is lacking in daily life. People with problems in prefrontal functions, for example also many ADHD -typical people, can perform equally well on a computer test in which they are clearly instructed and at that moment it is clear to them what they have to do to do. I think Conscientiousness is much more reflected in the everyday chaos of life. The level of care that you then know to yield, that is what matters. It may be partly, as with IQ, that as an age group overall there is an improvement in the increase of age, but that as an individual it is difficult to rise in "school" of your group, because others also grow in C.

Nevertheless, I do not want to get down, because where your peer group drowsily Apps and surfs you can ensure that your prefrontal cortex develops as much as possible.

Training of Conscientiousness

Time and again it appears from many psychological training programs that specific training does not generalize to daily behavior.As soon as we get out of this training environment the skills will soon be diluted again. That is why I think we should look for general skills that generalize or specific skills and tools that we can spread in a structured way throughout life and bring you to a higher level of C. I have made some assumptions that may not always stand. I assume that focus and less (to suffer from) distraction will benefit your care and that a certain willpower to maintain this focus and structure of thought also has a positive effect.

I am also there convinced that there is both a positive and a negative spiral with respect to C. Remember the movie Limitless? This is about a writer who has become a lager who, after taking a pill (a kind of Paneuromix: D) gets very clever, but first you see that he is cleaning up his chaotic apartment, he gets structure back in his environment and thereby also in his thoughts and life. There are also plenty of reverse examples. For example, I once had a roommate who was an artist and probably scored high on Openness, but very low in C. He alternated periods of complete chaos and little order with more structured and productive periods.

1. Meditation:

Meditation is, in my opinion, the most powerful prefrontal workout out there. There are different forms of meditation, I myself do TM, Transcendental Meditation, here you rehearse a specific Mantra. Every time your thoughts wander away you focus on your Mantra and your breathing in an unforced way. It is that ongoing training of retrieving your attention that trains your "attention muscle". Although I always want to be conservative with this, there seem to be indications that long-term meditation actually changes the brain structurally. Certain fear areas become less active and areas involved in attention and concentration strengthen. The prefrontal cortex would also become thicker. Another trend or even hype nowadays is Mindfulness, which is a more active form of meditation where you try to become aware of your mind and try to live attentively in the moment.

2. Deep Work:

This way of working I have treated last time, it means with certain strategy you change your working method and spend much more time in the "Deep Work". mode in contrast to the quickly-derived "Shallow Work" mode. An important principle is to choose certain tools and strategy as a craftsman. With patience, it means weighing the pros and cons of, for example, new communication methods. This seems to me an extremely Conscientious / careful way of working.

3. Train your distraction muscle / Willpower to stay with your goal:

While you meditate by yourself in an easy and quiet environment, you can also train your brain to ignore distractions. With this increased resilience against distraction you can work with more care. We have to distinguish two somewhat contradictory issues. On the one hand, a lot of research shows that willpower is a source that can become exhausted. Every time you do not answer an App directly, you walk through a noisy environment or you have to control when eating a cake, you just exhaust this same source. In this respect it is therefore best to avoid all these distractions as a whole. For example, by switching off WiFi and 3G and do not have any tarts in your fridge. But it also turns out to be a trainable "muscle" that can become "thicker". Every time you are able to ignore that App and leave that tartlet, your will power becomes just a bit more powerful. It is therefore best to attend at certain times, for example during"Shallow Work" expose yourself  to distractions on purpose, so you train this muscle. It must be said that the connection between this willpower and Conscientiousness does not hold very strongly from the studies, but this may possibly be due to the specific test setting.

4. Try to get order and structure in your life:

First of all, order as much order as possible in your environment. Start by laying out your bed when you get up. The Marine McRaven tells about this (and I know this from Tim Ferriss) "If you make your bed, you have completed the first task of the day. It gives you a little bit of satisfaction and pride and encourages you to accomplish other tasks." Especially with making  your bed you can fully use your Conscientiousness. Those who were in military service probably know all about this.

5. Adapt your environment:

Instead of adapting your brain to the environment, you can also shape your environment in such a way that it supports you maximally in you C.

a. Block digital distractions, block Wi-Fi and 3G if you do not necessarily need them. Log out of all kinds of services that can give notifications. Or login with a separate account for the times that you have to work carefully. A Wifi clock is also a good option, put a timer on your Wifi device with software or hardware.

b. Make use of apps that make planning easier, for example EverNote, Google Keep, Todoist etc. This relieves your prefrontal cortex, so you can work with more care.

c. Make use of a virtual assistant that makes and goes through your daily or weekly schedule. In the future I hope that there are apps that can take control of the entire domain of your life at your desired and appropriate moments. In this way you can work carefully on important matters.

d. Work in a quiet environment where there are as few distracting stimuli as possible.

6. Adjust your perception:

a. Use earplugs, this works well for me, this way you block ambient sounds, in addition you feel a kind of closing of the environment making it easier to pay careful attention to your work and inner thoughts..

b. Immerse yourself in the functional environmentn. I have not tried this myself, but in principle you could set up 3D glasses that project your screen. This way you are completely sucked in.

7. Take hobbies that score high on C.

a. For example, martial arts like Kung-Fu where you have to make precise movements.

b. Play musical instruments that demand a high degree of accuracy, for example violin or guitar.

Conclusion

C. remains a mystery, it looks a bit like the chicken with the golden eggs. High C. is a golden egg that can not be reduced to a few factors. When cutting up the chicken, no golden eggs appear to be in the belly of the chicken. Still, it seems to me that the above strategy can certainly optimize the conditions for Conscientiousness.

Posted in Lifestyle By Roland Verment

Rules for focused success in a distracted world

Summary, review and the most important cheats from this book

Introduction

Deep Work is a book by Cal Newport, a computer scientist I first encountered in this Youtube clip,  Quit Social Media. The video provided guidance in my own search for the effective and pleasant (not) use of technology. The two key points that stayed with me from the clip were that you can see a Smartphone as a slot machine in pocket format, a reason that I only have one with me in my work environment. He also refers to Social Media as a non-fundamental technology. In other words, a technology that, unlike e-mail, a mobile phone or access to the internet, you can leave behind perfectly well without getting to "behind". In the book he will work this out further and some key points will be added. The book is a really read, it is powerful, yet easy to read.

Deep Work has a lot of value

The book starts with an introduction about Carl Jung who combines a hectic lifestyle with high productivity through the use of a special "retreat". room. Jung says about this:  In my retreat room "I am with myself". Here he is able to "Deep Work" To perform: Deep Work are professional activities that are performed in a state of distraction-free concentration where you use your cognitive abilities up to its limits. These efforts create new value and improve your skills and are scarce and & difficult to copy . In this state we look for our cognitive boundaries and this is the only way to really improve skills, we stretch our skills, like muscles at the gym, where they sometimes break, but after recovery grow stronger again. To get into this state we have to isolate ourselves from distractions something that successful people seem to do consistently, for example Bill Gates who twice has "Think Weeks" twice a year. The counterpart of Deep Work is Shallow Work: Cognitive low-level logistical style tasks, often performed in distracting circumstances. These skills add little value and are easy to copy. In this time there is more and more electronic distraction that makes it more difficult "Deep Work" to implement, but the paradox is that it is increasingly necessary to come along. Technological innovation and AI mean "shallow work" job are increasingly under pressure, salaries are falling or jobs are being taken over by devices and technology. In addition, every decade changes so much that we need the Deep Work to be able to keep up with our cognitive skills. For most people, it is much better to spend time on Deep Work. There are exceptions, for example, a CEO of a large corporation, Cal sees a CEO as a well-trained walking decision machine who must necessarily constantly switch his attention.

Deep Work is scarce

While only Deep Work really has a lot of added value, it is a scarce phenomenon. For example, many office environments are created with open structures, creating an excess of distractions on the work floor, just think of the office of an editorial staff. In addition, we are often paid for "shallow" parameters, the number of words we have typed (not the quality), the number of mails we have sent etc. We are rewarded for shallow work. We also live in a culture of connectivity, everywhere we have the habit and expectation of being "online", and respond to each app or mail. This makes it tempting to follow the path of least resistance during work . Namely the constant response to this stream of tweets, mails, apps and text messages. This gives us the feeling of being busy, which is also rewarded by this culture. For colleagues too, we seem very productive due to our online presence. Interestingly, Professor Neil Postman warned in the early '90s' at the lack of a discussion about the pros and cons of technology. We were steaming towards an "age or internet" where everything that had something to do with internet was thoughtlessly embraced, because everything with internet was inherently considered to be agood thing. Cal Newport also sees a chance here, by focusing on Deep Work you can easily hack your carrier in a society where many people linger in Shallow Work.

Deep Work has meaning

Craftsmanship is a beautiful concept, nothing is more beautiful than seeing your own work accomplished. In knowledge workers, however, craftsmanship is more difficult to identify compared to, for example, a swordsmith, but at a more abstract level there is also a difference between Deep and Shallow work in knowledge work. Neurologically, Deep Work is good because our brain is being wired to the state of our focus. If we focus a lot on positivity and quality, the brain strengthens certain circuits associated with this. It also appears that only with Deep Work, only during long-term concentration on a task that requires a certain skill, the nerve cells involved are myelinated. Myelin is a protein that wraps around nerve cells and thus improves nerve conduction. Distraction can in fact be seen when the enemy of myelin and a healthy brain is standing. In the book  The organized mind I have read from Daniel Levetin that distraction, or rather the constant switching of attention, excessively activates an area in the vicinity of the insula. The insula is interesting enough involved in pain experience. The typical horrible and dizzy feeling after a day too much electronic distraction therefore has a neurological basis. An important psychological argument from Deep Work comes from the famous psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who has published a lot about flow . He has structurally monitored their well-being of a large group of volunteers. It turned out that the best moments in someone's life occurred when someone had to stretch his physical or mental skills to the ultimate level. Interestingly, the conditions for this occur more often at work than in free time. To get this effect at Shallow Work, there are also initiatives to make this kind of work more challenging with game elements, the so-called gamification of work. Flow is an interesting state I want to write more about in future. Philosophically there are also arguments for Deep Work, after the enlightenment we have started to see our own human experience as the highest good. Something that can quickly lead to nihilism. Deep Work is a flight from this, we can see craftmanship as a piece of sacredness in ourselves, something I think is best expressed in musicians, how beautiful it must be to in full control of an instrument. Cal Newport advocates a new future human being, the Homo sapiens deepensis, and here he has established a number of rules.

Deep Work

The rules

 

Regel #1: Work Deeply

Very interesting; Cal cites David Dewane with a so-called Eudaimonia Machine (eu = good). This is in fact not a machine, but a template for a favorable working environment. To get to your workplace you have to walk through all parts of the building. It starts with an inspiring gallery, a large room or hall with inspiring examples of work results. After the gallery you will get the salon with quality coffee and WIFI, discussions can take place here and you breed on new ideas. After this gallery you will get to the library, this is the "hard drive" of the machine, where all products and inventions are stored. Than you enter the office space, the place for Shallow Work, hereis also some copy and print equipment. Last but not least, you go to the "deep work chambers", here the Deep Work is carried out, I see the signs on the doors already in front of me, Greek sages with their heads in the palm with the text below: Deep work in progress. The idea is that people do work in isolation, but for the desired "serendipity" collide with each other on the way to the toilet or coffee machine.

Choose your depth of philosophy

There are some variants possible to get to your Deep Work. The cold turkey method is the monastic philosophy, this means that you really go off-grid and are only accessible by letter or carrier pigeon. However, this is not possible or desirable for everyone. For most people it is therefore better to adhere to a bimodal philosophy. This means that you will make a structured distinction between Deep and Shallow work. It is important to note that a few hours of free plans are generally not sufficient for real Deep Work. In order to prepare your brain well, it is good to get a grip by means of rituals. Because of this you do not have to constantly make the decision to do Deep Work, but it becomes part of your life rhythm. What I have done myself when typing this piece is that I have taken place in a separate Thinkpod, a protected workplace away from my normal office, I am also logged in with a different email address, so that I do not automatically see my daily mails or other services that I log on by default. I started at 10 o'clock in the morning and have to get my son from school at 3 o'clock. So I have to go through this book in the main lines in about 5 hours time, I read the book several months ago. The time pressure ensures that I ignore distractions and enter a certain flow. In the future I also want to use a Freewrite, an e-ink based typewriter. For your ritual you can plan where you will work (in Thinkpad), how you will work (without access to distractions), how you support your work (good coffee).

4 Disciplines of Execution

These disciplines are from the work of Harvard professor Clayton Christensen.

Discipline # 1: Focus on the most important things

This gives you intensity of focus.

Discipline #2: Act on Lead measures

He makes a distinction between lag measures , these are the ultimate goals of you and your company (for example selling more biscuits), and lead measures, these are the intermediate goals you must achieve to achieve the lag measure. This concretises your goals and makes it easy to keep the focus.

Discipline # 3: Use a convincing scoreboard.

Make it clear to your brain what you have achieved and what you need to achieve.

Discipline # 4: Make regular accountability

Share your results and justify any mistakes, so keep your attention for the whole and do not slacken your attention.

 
Be lazy

Be lazy at times, you do not always have to be busy, it's even better to let everything go on occasion:

Reason # 1:Downtime is good for insights

The best insights have been done in the bath or in bed, if you are constantly focused, your unconscious mind can't freely associate. Less obvious and therefore creative solutions often come about through free association of your subconscious. Do not underestimate this power.

Reason # 2: Downtime allows you to restore energy

Focus, but also willpower can be seen as a muscle that has to recharge once in a while. I found this statement for the benefit of nature beautiful: "Nature has intrinsically fascinating stimuli." If you walk in nature you do not have to plan every action. The reason that parenting is sometimes (or often: D) heavy is because you can never completely abandon your attention with children around.

Reason # 3: We often waste time on non-urgent matters

In this digital age there are always things that remain on the shelf. By resting and relaxing we get better insight into which tasks are really important and contribute. Do not let your brain get accustomed to distraction, remember, your smartphone is a pocket-sized slot machine!

 

Rule # 2 embraces boredom

This rule builds on the lazy principle. Don't let your brain get tired of constant addictive distraction, each app gives a small shot of dopamine (new) and serotonin (attention), these are small addictions. Interestingly, people who do the most multi-tasking perform the worst on it, their filter and focus power is reduced by continuous distraction, so they seek further distraction and thus come to a downward spiral, try to relax here instead. Do not take breaks of distraction, but turn it around, take breaks of focus. Plan your moments that you have to do varying tasks on the internet and stick to this, so do not go online five minutes earlier than scheduled, this ruins your discipline and in this way your brain stays in the dependent / addicted state (just like with sugar cravings). If it is necessary that you go on the internet always plan a delay of five minutes. This way you keep time between your wish (going online) and the reward. You can also do this at home. I use Youtube and Netflix at home via a smartwatch. This way I keep my brain clean, and I must say that I feel much better because of this.

Cal recommends meditating productively, for example walking and actively training Deep Work. I myself would also like to recommend meditation in general. I myself do TM, transcendental meditation, because of the powerful and simple method, but you can choose from a broad spectrum of methods. What Cal really recommends is structuring your Deep Work, for example when trying to solve a problem, try to think out the main lines first and then systematically check which steps have to be taken to solve the problem completely.

 

Rule #3 Quit Social Media

Something I found very powerful in the book and I really remembered is the Anny benefit argument, or better fallacy. We assess a tool whether it has a benefit and if so, we apply it without looking at any negative aspects. The benefits of Social Media are obvious, but do they weigh against the disadvantages? Cal suggests that for most people is not important, he does not take a hard stand, for example a student on a new campus can have some benefir from it. The method for evaluating the tool should preferabbly be "The Crafstsman Approach to Tool Selection". Identify the key points that encompass a happy and successful professional and personal life for you. Only use the tool if the positive points significantly outweigh the negative points. This also reminds me of Kevin Kelly who has studied the Amish extensively in their adoption of new technology. The Amish often test new technology in a small setting and carefully check whether the new technology does not disrupt the core values ​​of their strongly conservative community. We may all need to find the Amish in ourselves :D.

The Law of the Vital few

Also called Pareto's law, often means that 80% or more of an effect comes through 20% of the underlying causes. This applies to many domains. It also means that there is a zero-sum game of time and attention. Attention that you give to relatively few profitable things is at the expense of paying attention to the really important issues. Because of our addictive sensitivity and tendency to choose the path of least resistance, we are often busy with unimportant things.

 

Rule # 4 Ignore the superficial things

The company 37signals launched an experiment in 2007. Their work week was shortened to 4 days by 1 day and employees were given a few months to work on their own projects. This proved to be a success, the performance even improved. Due to the cutted working hours the employees automatically gave less time to Shallow Work. In addition, they had to plan far better to complete everything within the given time, a double-up effect that could explain that performance not only remained the same, but even improved. I think the Law of Parkinson also applies here, this means that a given resource always smears across the given time or money supply. Plan writing a paper in 3 months and you will also do 3 months, plan it in 2 weeks and it will be done. Somewhere, of course, there is a limit here. The way to limit the Shallows is to systematically plan your day, in which you plan the content of your day in blocks. You can see this as a mosquito net that protects you from the mosquitoes (distraction), but you can adjust your schedule during the day, but always do this in a consciously way and change your schedule gradually so that you do not lose this routine. You may also want to stray from a moment of inspiration for something new. Work on this until the pulse has been processed or dropped and resume your schedule.

Quantify the depth of your work

Go through all your tasks and quantify them on a scale from 0 to 100 in depth. At the average knowledge job, approximately 50% of your tasks are considered Deep Work and the other is Shallow Work. Knowledge workers and scientists with privileges sometimes reach up to 80%. I found it an interesting suggestion to ask your boss (if you have one) for a budget of Shallow Work, for example 50% of the time. This creates a guideline for yourself and your boss that makes it easier for you to refuse work.

Finish your work before 5 pm

Ignore mails and apps after finishing work, you will usually notice that nothing happened. You have to be difficult to reach, for example, when you view your e-mail address add directives on how and when to e-mail, what information you need and which e-mails you respond to. In addition, and this I also remember Tim Ferriss in the 4-hour working week, write a thoughtful mail back, for example give various alternatives in terms of time and place for an appointment and what matters will be discussed, how the other should prepare for it etc.. In this way you prevent endless back and forth mailing. Finally he indicates the possibility not to mail.

It is now 10 to 15, I still have to write a conclusion. So I did not succeed completely in writing this summary, but it might be a good thing if I sleep it over for a night. I am now going to finish, and write the conclusion tomorrow.

 

Conclusion and the most important cheats from Deep Work

Writing this summary turned out to be an experiment in Deep Work, my phone and other traffic were in a different room. It turned out that I had missed three calls, all about trivial matters, about the delivery of a chair, an advert that did not work and Hellofresh. Then there were several mails, none with high urgency and some things that were urgent I could't  resolve quickly anyway. If I had answered these calls and mails I would have disrupted my flow and the things that required some action had felt the whole day as such a pebble in your shoe. In 5 hours I have re-read 250 pages' pages on a large scale and also typed more than 3,000 words, in my student days this could have taken about 3 months :D, so I'm really happy with this result. I also felt coherent and clear in the head for the rest of the day. I almost felt the myelin growing as a result. Today I began with a considerable amount of information, but until now the coherence remains and myelin keeps growing. Now I have neatly completed and/or scheduled the Shallow Work and have taken the time to finish this article.

"The Dizziness"

I know from fellow entrepreneurs that some of them recognize themselves in the so-called "Dizziness", a state of over-excitement in which you can no longer get away from the computer, I have experienced this myself in the past but luckily this stopped. This state feels really bad and 20 years ago you would go to the doctor for this or think that you had a unnoticed blow to your head. The book Deep Work offers especially for those who experience "The Dizziness" regularly a good guide. These are the multitaskers who paradoxically perform the worst on multitasking (or rather fast task switchers). Information overload is not the problem here, your brain can process large amounts of information. Recording a lot of information can also be exhausting, but this gives a satisfied pleasant fatigue. The greatest exhaustion is getting your brain to constantly switch and this gives a rickety and dizzy feeling. 

The seven most important cheats

Many things, such as Pareto's law, planning your day, etc., are also mentioned in other management and life hacks books, and are therefore not completely new, but they have been worked out extra well in this book. The most important seven points from the Calport strategy that will stay with me and provide guidance are:

  1. 1. A smartphone is a slot machine in pocket format, I will keep repeating this.
  2. 2. Deep Work is a legit cheat. By familiarizing yourself with the skills of Deep Work you quickly get a head start on others who stick to Shallow Work and use communication according to the path of least resistance (constantly apping etc.)
  3. 3. Train yourself to do nothing, to get bored, preventing you from getting a junk brain that is constantly looking for new impulses and satisfies them with Shallow Work.
  4. 4. Related to this, you may deviate from a schedule, but always keep a gap of at least 5 minutes until you make the decision (searching for something on the internet) and actually executing it.
  5. 5. Try to plan your day, see this as a mosquito net that protects you against the constantly distracting information mosquitoes from our digital society. (I personally find this the most difficult to maintain consistently).
  6. 6. Do not try to schedule your focus moments, but plan your moments of much distraction, for example internet browsing. Your normal state of being is at best in focused, Deep Work state, or in a lazy, recharging state.
  7. 7. A smartphone is a slot machine in pocket format.

    More about Cal Newport can be found on his blog about Study Hacks .

Posted in Lifestyle By Roland Verment

It was different from what I had imagined. On the internet I had seen colorful purple fields. In my mind I smelled the strong sweet smell, taken on a warm breeze from the Mediterranean Sea.

But the reality was different. It was not a disappointment, because I knew we were not in the right season. Together with my girlfriend, I was in Provence last summer. Foreign tourists visit the Keukenhof in the spring for the tulip fields. Around August they are in Provence. If I have to believe it, then it is spectacular. The colors and scents of lavender, the warmth and the atmosphere.

We had set up our tent in the town of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. It is an idyllic place with wonderful restaurants and a stone staircase to old church among the rocks. High above the center a star hangs on a chain between two rocks. The story of the star is surrounded by mysteries. The inhabitants now attribute the star to a knight who went on a crusade and was captured there. During his imprisonment, he had sworn to hang a silver star over Moustiers upon return.

Sheep

In addition to the  path to the church, experienced walkers can also walk to the chain where the star is attached. Although I had my roadbike with me during this holiday, we have walked a lot. Like the trip to the chain, but also several walks in the Gorges du Verdon.

The Gorges du Verdon is a gap of more than 25 kilometers that has been carved by the river Verdon. The rock walls reach up to 700 meters. It is not for nothing that it is also called the French Grand Canyon. After a long walk through the cliff, along the rapids and waterfalls of the Verdon, we were tired and hungry.

Back in Moustier we decided to eat at one of the fancy restaurants. The waiter did his best, but he was as good in English as I was in the French language. I decided to choose a random dish on the menu. The waiter looked surprised, spoke a few sentences in the incomprehensible French and then shrugged his shoulders.

It tasted exquisite, but some peculiar bones remained on my plate. After I had translated the name of the dish, it became clear to me that I had eaten sheep's feet. A local delicacy.

Herbs for cognition

A sheep's feet in itself is not that special. The secret to good food lies in the preparation, the timing and the mix of flavors. This also applies to this dish. It was well cooked in a mix of good butter, delicious vegetables and tasty herbs.

Sometimes that is not necessary. Fresh ravioli (stuffed pasta) does not need much more than onions, garlic and olive oil. In many other cases, a dish can win a huge amount by using the right herbs.

This is also a way to combine the pleasant with the useful. By using the right herbs you can also boost your brain. Three examples are: ginko biloba, ginseng and lavender.

Ginko Biloba

Ginko biloba is getting widely known. Not without reason, because this herb has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine. The ginko tree (Japanese walnut tree) also has something stately: the tree grows to around 30 to 40 meters high and can become 4,000 years old. The leaves of the tree or seeds are processed into a herb. In Japan and China, the seeds are eaten as a kind of cocktail nuts. If you buy them here, for example at the toko, you can use them in a soup or salad.

Research publications claim that the herb has a positive effect on the maintenance of the brain cells and the production of new compounds in the brain. This ensures, among other things, an improved memory and more concentration. A point of attention is that ginko has a blood-thinning effect, so that you do not have to combine it with aspirin or ibuprofen.

Ginseng

Ginseng is a root of the Panax. It has been used in Asia for centuries, just like Gingko. Today it is one of the most popular herbal medicines in the world. It seems to support the body in dealing with stress and it has a positive influence on the brain, among other things through the protection against toxic substances and biological damage.

You can drink Ginseng as a tea or in dishes such as smoothies or a soup. The advantage of this is that you already get a large dose of vegetables and you do not notice the somewhat bitter taste of ginseng anyway.

Lavender

Although the lavender had blossomed when we visited Provence, there were still plenty of places where we could buy lavender oil. This oil is not suitable for use in the kitchen, but in the bath. The scent of lavender has a relaxing and soothing effect. That is why you often find this herb in bath oils. Another method that I sometimes use is to apply a few drops of lavender oil on my upper lip just before bedtime.

Ideal solution

Do not you feel like going to the market or the shop? The ideal herbal mix for lazy (or efficient?) people are nootropics. Like the nootropics of Paneuromix. In addition to Ginko Biloba and Gingeng, the caps also contain Huperzia Serrata, Alpha GPC and Rhodolia Rhosea. I will write again about the background and effect of the last three ingredients.

Lavender? That is not in most nootropics. Do you want to fall asleep with visions of purple lavender fields and a delicious glass of French wine? Then let your bath fill with water with a few drops of oil. Or drop lavender oil on your upper lip just before bedtime.

I guarantee: you will sleep well. Maybe you dream about your French childhood love or the knight from Moustiers.


Author

This article has been written by Peter Joosten. Peter is trendwatcher, biohacker, human guinea pig, blogger at ProjectLeven.nl and a biohacking vlogger on Youtube.

Posted in Lifestyle By Peter Joosten

A few weeks ago I was at the Brave New World conference in Leiden, the Netherlands. I was really looking forward to the event, especially because of the presence of Neil Harbisson, a cyborg artist. He got a skull implant when he was 20 years old. When I heard that story, I realized that the chip in my hand is not that that special. Just as the nootropics that I take. Neil is  a real biohacker. He uses electronics on his brain to improve himself.

Hear colors

Neil Harbisson was born color blind. With his implant he is able to hear colors. You could say that Neil did not have the full capabilities that the rest of society has and that he can now participate at the same level.

After all, a lot of things in the world are based on colors. Not just traffic lights, but also maps of metro connections and how we navigate the world. Now it's less common with apps like Google Maps, but when I used to have to show someone the way in my village?

Then I often mentioned the color as an adjective: "Go to the right at the house with the blue roof and turn left at the building with the purple curtains".

Color in our culture

Color plays a dominant role in our culture. Not only when it comes to locating places or metro routes. Think Greenland, the Red Cross and 'The blues' (Manchester City). If you do not have the sensory experience of 'color vision', then you also lag behind culturally. Not that Greenland is very green, but still.

Neil can now join the rest of the society that can see colors. He can do even more with it. First, Neil's implant is connected to his smartphone via bluetooth. With that he can download photos and listen to them. A friend occasionally sends him a photo of a sunset in Australia and listens to the photos taken by the International Space Station (ISS). He himself says: "The space is full of colors, most people do not realize that".

The second advantage that Neil has is that the color spectrum that he can hear is broader than the spectrum that we can see with our eyes. He is also able to hear infrared and ultraviolet. 

Unfair advantage

Have the roles not been reversed? With his bluetooth connection and his extensive color spectrum, he has more options than we do. He has given himself an upgrade. According to him, that is a basic right: he thinks that everyone should have that opportunity. At least, anyone who wants to.

I asked Neil if this does not lead to a class difference. Will only the well-to-do in the world soon be able to buy and use such technology? His answer is that it must remain a free choice.

Personally, I agree with this, but what if a lot of people make this (individual) choice and that you can not stay behind? An alternative scenario is that it is partly imposed, for example by your parents, employer or the government.

Human enhancement

The development that Neil represents is also called 'human enhancement': adding technology to improve your abilities or skills. In essence it is not new. If you wear glasses, you have also artificially improved yourself: the capacity to see things far or close to sharp.

The same goes for a mobile phone: communicate directly with people who are hundreds of miles away. The current smartphones optimize other functions as well. Think of Evernote for notes and memories, a digital agenda to remember meetings and translation apps to understand another languages.

The Matrix

The ultimate form of 'human enhancement' is when we link artificial intelligence directly to human intelligence. This is the vision of the future that the Wachowski brothers display in the first film from The Matrix trilogy.

There, Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, gets software downloaded directly into his brain. After a few hours of being directly connected to a computer, he has the highest level of karate, kung-fu, jiu jitsu and all other Asian martial arts.

Deep Brain Stimulation

How long do films such as The Matrix still remain science fiction? The neurosciences are developing pretty fast. For example, physicians and scientists are doing experiments with deep brain stimulation with patients suffering from Parkinson's disease.

That means that when scientists send a weak current through a needle that is in the brain of the patient, all vibrations and shocks disappear. In fact, the patient regains his or her fine motor skills. An example can be seen in this video.

The next step in this development is that we use 'deep brain stimulation' not only to make sick people better, but to make normal people even better. This is, among other things, the vision of Elon Musk with the company Neuralink. With a brain implant we can link artificial intelligence directly to human intelligence.

The role of nootropics

Until the moment that we immediately receive 1,000 extra IQ points or 'instant focus' by activating a brain implant, we have to use the current possibilities. Such as healthy food, a good night sleep and swallowing nootropics.

What does this vision of the future mean for how we now look at nootropics? I personally experience the benefits: a sharper focus, more concentration and a better memory. But what happens when nootropics becomes the norm? It can therefore have social implications: what if you refuse to take nootropics?

Or take a different scenario (but not unthinkable in professions that require an immense focus such as stock traders or poker players): your employer requires you to take nootropics. A moment of lost focus can mean huge financial losses.

Impact

Using nootropics is a free and individual choice. As far as I am concerned, that also remains the case. You can decide for yourself whether you want to use it or not. But what if we can impact our brains more profoundly? Then it can have consequences for your professional life,  your social life and how we interact with each other in society.

For that reason, we must already think about it and discuss it.

With or without nootropics. You still have that choice.


Author

This article has been written by Peter Joosten. Peter is trendwatcher, biohacker, human guinea pig, blogger at ProjectLeven.nl and a biohacking vlogger on Youtube.

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Posted in Lifestyle By Peter Joosten