Jason Collins, PhD on Loss Aversion and Ergodicity Economics

Jason Collins, PhD

People are predictably irrational, right?
We have a poor intuitive understanding of statistics, we leap to drawing cause and effect relationships where none exist, we don’t understand exponential growth very well, and we gorge ourselves on junk food and junk television.
We’re broken!
While there are all kinds of quirks to our built-in reasoning hardware, some of those quirks might not be as irrational as they seem.
Jason Collins has a PhD in economics and evolutionary biology, and he’s long been writing about they ways in which our “cognitive biases” may – in some cases – actually be adaptive decision-making strategies.
In this episode, we dig into some of Jason’s recent posts on ergodicity, and how that may inform the “loss averse” ways that humans make decisions.
While this episode does get pretty technical, anyone who is interested should take a look at Jason’s blog posts on the topic.
[Note: In this episode I talk about logarithmic functions as asymptotic functions. This is incorrect, and I apologize in advance to anyone who I may offend with such foolishness.]
Check out the full episode with Jason to learn:
  • Why the literature in social psychology is so messy, and what four heuristics Jason uses to evaluate the plausibility of social psychology claims
  • Why “loss aversion” might not be quite what it seems – and why humans may be better at intuitively understanding the dynamics of certain types of bets than we originally thought
  • How much variance is there across individuals in terms of their strategy when playing different kinds of games – and how this can translate into understanding the actual effects of different experimental interventions

Check out the episode at the links below. If you enjoyed the episode, the best way to support the show is to share with your friends, so send them a link.

Listen Here

Check out more from Jason here:

Show Notes:

  • [01:50] What is “cognitive bias?” What kinds of systematic judgment errors do humans make – and why do some people think that these errors are actually adaptive heuristics?
  • [06:50] What are the ethics of “nudges”? What are the actual effect sizes of “nudges”? How do the actual results of interventions in things like organ donation and retirement account opt-ins actually play out?
  • [12:40] What heuristics should someone use to evaluate whether a social science claim is worth paying attention too? Is the effect size too large? Why would humans have evolved a certain type of “bias”? And, what is the piranha problem and what is the garden of forking paths?
  • [22:53] How context dependent are social psychology effects? What do we typically see in attempts to replicate studies?
  • [28:53] What actually is “loss aversion”? How do we differentiate loss aversion from risk aversion and negativity bias?
  • [36:07] “Loss aversion” may actually be a rational response to certain types of systems where people have a risk of having their wealth wiped out.
  • [43:01] What is the variance across individuals in terms of psychological effects and different strategies relative to risk taking?
  • [46:32] What is “ergodicity”? What are real-life examples of ergodic and non-ergodic systems?
  • [58:14] What is the optimal strategy for trying to maximize your wealth in a non-ergodic system where gains and losses are potentially compounded?
  • [01:05:20] Would we expect people to have evolved some sort of intuitive understanding of non-ergodic systems based upon the real-life dynamics of things like wealth and prestige?
  • [01:16:16] How can the rules of an experimental game impact the ways that people strategize? Do people have an intuitive sense that they are likely to be iteratively playing the same game over and over again with the same people?

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Joshua Becker, PhD on on Polarization, Collective Intelligence & Social Tipping Points

Joshua Becker, PhD

It’s all over the news: We’re getting more and more polarized. People can’t even seem to agree on basic facts anymore. Politics are tearing this country apart.
However, some of Joshua Becker’s recent research shows that – while polarization potentially makes things more difficult – people are still very capable of learning from each other even in highly polarized environments.
Joshua Becker studies collective intelligence through the lens of computational social science, which means that he studies the ways that groups of people share information, learn from each other, and settle on collective norms.
Check out the full conversation with Joshua below to learn:
  • Why polarization reduces our ability to learn from each other – but why it doesn’t actually prevent sharing information from improving our knowledge about the world
  • How social networks organize to solve problems like “which side of the street should I drive on” – and how groups of people can change those conventions
  • The role of community in creating a better future – and what tangible actions Joshua has taken in his own life to create community

Check out the episode at the links below. If you enjoyed the episode, the best way to support the show is to share with your friends, so send them a link.

Listen Here

Check out more from Joshua here:

Show Notes:

  • [01:14] Are echo chambers a real thing?
  • [12:47] Is the backfire effect real? Or, do people still learn from sharing information with each other – even in highly polarized environments?
  • [21:38] Different studies show different effects depending on exactly what is being measured as an effect of “polarization.”
  • [30:10] Both academics and journalists are motivated to provide “compelling narratives,” “counterintuitive ideas,” and “difficult problems that must be solved!”
  • [39:39] How do people organize to solve collective action problems?
  • [45:12] What types of organization emerge in complex social systems?
  • [49:30] Is there such a thing as a “collective consciousness”? How do people coordinate conventions like which side of the road to drive on?
  • [01:00:58] “Be the change that you wish to see in the world” – this isn’t just a platitude, the mathematics of network dynamics and social tipping points show that this is how you can actually change the world.
  • [01:05:14] How can we create a sense of community – and what actions does Joshua take to create community in his own life?
  • [01:14:32] How to connect with Joshua online

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Jason Crawford (The Roots of Progress)

Jason Crawford (Roots of Progress)

“Progress” sounds like a good thing – in fact it’s almost embedded in the definition of the word.
However, as a mad-at-the-world, angst-ridden teen, I was opposed to progress.
Pretty funny how that works out.
Jason Crawford has been studying the stories behind some of our most game-changing yet under-appreciated innovations like the bicycle, the process of refining steel, and why we use alternating current in our electrical grids.⁠
And, he’s been posting his finds on his blog The Roots of Progress.
Jason and I have a conversation in which we disabuse my 16-year-old self of some misguided beliefs, and we also dig into both the small-scale and large-scale dynamics or our societies that actually stimulate innovation.
Check out the full conversation with Jason below to learn:
  • Why the concerns about excess population growth and rising inequality aren’t all they’re cracked up to be – and why progress itself is potentially the solution to these problems
  • Why a bottom-up view of historical innovation is necessary to better understand our history – and how bottom-up views combine with top-down “grand theories” to give us an accurate picture of progress
  • Why some inventions are “behind their time” (like the bicycle) and what they can teach us about innovation

Check out the episode at the links below. If you enjoyed the episode, the best way to support the show is to share with your friends, so send them a link.

Listen Here

Check out more from Jason and The Roots of Progress here:

Show Notes:

  • [01:04] Disabusing my 16-year-old self of some misguided assumptions about the nature of progress – and all the ways in which life is better now for just about everyone than it was in 1700.
  • [10:10] Common arguments against “progress”: zero-sum thinking and Malthusian concerns about population. And, the unexpected developments that change the population calculus.
  • [17:16] Why Jason is skeptical of arguments about “relative happiness” and increasing inequality.
  • [19:27] Behaviorally modern humans have been around for a long time, so why wasn’t there “progress”? What changed that caused us to start inventing things much more quickly?
  • [28:13] Are there broad sociological trends that kickstart progress (like WEIRD psychology and the Catholic Church)?
  • [34:27] Jason prefers to take a bottom-up approach to understanding progress through specific examples of inventions like bicycles, steel, vaccines, etc.
  • [41:02] What about ideas that potentially require several things to go correctly at a time? Do these kinds of ideas resist “tinkering” or are do they have tangible intermediate steps?
  • [45:40] Are we really in a period of scientific and economic stagnation – as argued by Tyler Cowen, Patrick Collison, Peter Thiel and others? Or, are we just waiting for the next “S Curve” of progress to take off?
  • [53:14] Why hasn’t the increased accessibility to information facilitated by the internet resulted in more progress? What are the negative impacts of things like bureaucratic calcification and institutions that optimize for things like prestige and politics over progress?
  • [01:06:42] Coming soon on The Roots of Progress: Mortality rates and public health improvements, agriculture and the economics of food, and how to build a bridge that doesn’t collapse.

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Brian Speronello (Accelerated Conversions)

Jessica Danger

If you’re actually reading this site, there’s a good chance that you – like me – are often confused by the gap between what people say they want and what they actually want.
There’s one sphere of the internet that takes this in a much more academic and abstract direction – places like LessWrong, Overcoming Bias, and Slate Star Codex.
And there’s another sphere of copywriters and marketers who are much more boots on the ground since their ability to make money and sell products is dependent on a deep understanding of human psychology.
My friend Brian Speronello is in the latter camp. He runs a boutique copywriting shop called Accelerated Conversions, and he works closely with a handful of elite clients helping them optimize their messaging and their marketing.
Brian is not just a great copywriter, he’s a self-aware great copywriter, so he’s able to break down the process that he goes through to craft winning pitches for folks like The Ready State and Organifi in exquisite detail.
Check out the full episode below to learn:
  • Why some of the most well-respected businesses around spend thousands of dollars per month to have people like Brian adjust the words on their websites
  • The most underutilized way for copywriters to show proof of their claims and build trust with their audience
  • The ultimate test of whether your sales pitch or copy was scammy or sleazy

Check out the episode at the links below. If you enjoyed the episode, the best way to support the show is to share with your friends, so send them a link.

Listen Here

Check out more from Brian and Accelerated Conversions here:

Show Notes:

  • [01:22] Why Brian chooses to only work with a select group of clients – and why turning your craft into a “business” can pull you away from doing the work that you love
  • [15:03] Why would someone pay thousands of dollars per month to put words on a website?
  • [19:47] How Brian gets people’s attention – without compromising his ethics or resorting to clickbait
  • [24:02] How does Brian figure out what people actually want and will pay for – as opposed to just what they say they want
  • [30:23] Dissecting one of the most famous examples in copywriting (Schlitz Beer) – and understanding how to prove claims in your copy so your clients find them believable
  • [48:03] The value of constant feedback from clients – and how Brian uses feedback to better understand his market
  • [55:46] The ultimate test to find out if your sales pitch is ethical
  • [57:10] The rebranding and relaunch of The Ready State – and how Brian applied the principles from this conversation to this real life example
  • [01:09:30] The power of a guarantee to further build trust and credibility
  • [01:14:10] How to connect with Brian

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How do you expect things to work?

We recently had a discussion at the latest Chicago Rationality meet-up on Jonathan Schulz’s paper on WEIRD psychology – and its possible origins in the Catholic church banning kin marriage.
At some point, Joseph Heinrich realized that huge volumes of social psychology research is conducted on volunteer university students at prestigious institutions.
Sure, everyone can recognize that there may be some challenges in extrapolating results from university students to other types of folks. You know, like people who have actual jobs – especially since scientists have recently discovered a dangerous link between book learnin’ and back talk.
But, what if there were something deeper that made findings on Western subjects non-generalizable to people throughout the world?
The acronym WEIRD stands for Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich & Democratic.
It seems that folks in those cultures are simultaneously both more individualistic and more trusting of institutions. They are also less nepotistic and clannish.
In our discussion on the differences in cultural psychology, we ended up touching on something that I thought was insightful in terms of clarifying the cultural axis of WEIRDness.
The question is: How do you expect things to work?
If you were going to try to start a business (kind of a WEIRD idea in and of itself), what would you do?
Would you fill out some forms on a government website and actually expect something to happen? [Even if the forms were opaque, the user interface was outdated, and it took longer than seems reasonable to get confirmation in the mail.]
Then, would you sign up for a Squarespace account, start a mailing list, and expect people to sign up for it based upon the interestingness of your idea?
Or, would you hope that your cousin manages to take power in a government position and starts giving you lucrative contracts?
If you expect institutions to actually work roughly as advertised and to create an environment in which you – as an individual – can strike out on your own to do what you want and change the world then you are WEIRD as hell.
If you expect institutions to only work for those who are in power – so the only way to get things done is through a nepotistic connection – then you are not quite so WEIRD.
In fact, we can potentially understand many of the culture war dynamics at play on both the left and the right as a “breaking” of standard WEIRD dynamics.
People for whom institutions have failed are not going to trust those institutions, and are thus going to fall back onto nepotistic groups as their default way of organizing in the world. If there are no institutions that can be trusted, it’s not safe to be an individual. We can see this in identity politics on the left and populism on the right.
In these groups, there’s an assumption that no one is actually doing the right thing for the sake of institutions and for society as a whole and that it’s all a big con so that the powerful can get more power and the rich can get more money. So, opaque, procedural and techoncratic government is viewed as an elaborate ruse hiding the self-dealing and grift that everyone knows is going on behind closed doors, right?
Based upon this, populist leaders like Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro are able to claim to fight corruption while being the most transparently corrupt type of politician possible.
However, this is the type of corruption that people understand – especially people who don’t trust institutions. It’s not couched in policy wonk language. It’s really straight-forward, old-fashioned fixin’, double-dealin’ and takin’ a bit off the top. But, this time, it’s being done by someone on our team for once.

Pseudoscience and Metaphorical Truth in Personality Modeling

I recently read a post on Steven Novella’s Neurologica blog about personality testing – and how it’s a bunch of pseudoscientific nonsense.
I don’t disagree that a lot of personality testing is kind of bullshit, especially if you have some knowledge about the more evidence-based Five Factor model of personality (Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Neuroticism, Openness to Experience, Extraversion).
The Five Factor model isn’t “scientific”” in the way that we might think of something like… *searching for something that people actually think of as “science” and not some plot by ivory tower elites to cover up a secret cabal of sexual perversion and crony capitalism*…evolution,climate sciencepharmaceuticalsthe way that jet fuel burns, osmosis and fluid diffusion?
Instead, it’s a statistical aggregation of ways of describing people that seem to all vary independently. For example, people who are “generous” are also often “caring” or “tactful.” People who are “talkative” also tend to be “social,” “outgoing” and “interested in thrill-seeking.”
But, you can’t really say anything about how “thrill-seeking” someone is based upon how “generous” they are – meaning that trait Extraversion is uncorrelated with trait Agreeableness.
So, think of the current thinking on personality as having “knobs” that can be turned up or down. And people vary continuously across these knobs – meaning that they can have each of these traits tuned anywhere from 0 to 10.
Based upon this thinking, people do not fall into “types” the way that they do in something like Myers-Briggs, DiSC or Enneagram.
This can result in two major errors in understanding others.
1. Most people fall into the middle of the range of variation on a trait
So, a huge number of people aren’t particularly introverted nor are they particularly extroverted. They aren’t particularly neurotic nor are they particularly not neurotic. 
“Types” in a lot of personality modeling lean on putting people into categories that typically reflect the more extreme manifestations of specific traits, and people tend to be much more “in the middle” than their categories would belie.
2. Traits that many personality typing methodologies view as “opposites” vary independently
Yes, you can have hyper-organized and disciplined creatives (people who are high on both Conscientiousness and Openness). You can have people who are the life of the party but are very socially anxious (people who are high on Extraversion and Neuroticism). You can have a gregarious, back-slapping salesperson who is also extremely systematic in their follow-up (people who are high in Extraversion and Conscientiousness).
Still, despite their flaws, things like DiSC seem to resonate with people because they are true enough to be insightful without being overly complicated or messy.
If you don’t have a model for understanding variations in personality, then other people are unbelievably frustrating and confusing. (Instead of just very frustrating and confusing if you do have a mode for understanding variations in personalityl.)
While DiSC is pretty fluffy, it’s close enough to reality to give people buckets to put people in that at least kind of align with Five Factor variation, so it both fulfills basic human desires to “understand myself” and “understand others” while also being actually useful in understanding the dimensions across which people vary.
Sort of like a “gateway band” – most people don’t get into death metal without having a phase where they listen to Korn along the way.
And, if you have some understanding that other people behave differently than you would in their situation not because they are evil, power hungry manipulators who are trying to kick you down a few rungs on the status hierarchy and ostracize you from the tribe, but because they have personality knobs that are just tuned a little bit differently, then you may have a much easier time playing nicely with others at work.
Personality typing is an example of something being “metaphorically true” as opposed to “literally true.”
If an organization is trying to improve relationships across their team and stop the internal politicking and backstabbing, it may actually be more effective to introduce pseudoscientific, fluffy content like personality testing that allows people to easily categorize each other in “personality types” rather than trying to teach a nuanced Five Factor model that is fuzzier and more difficult to understand.
Most employees aren’t going to be terribly interested in thinking about things in terms of “statistically aggregated traits that are uncorrelated with each other.”
And, even if they are kind of interested, it’s another leap to turn something like the Five Factor model into an actionable framework that results in someone not just totally overreacting to a colleague who basically never actually fully reads an email before firing off a terse, spelling error-laden response (because they’re low Conscientiousness! Low Agreeableness! High “Assertiveness” dimension of Extraversion!)
Instead, it’s much easier and effective to be like “Ok, you’re an Aries, you’re a Virgo, you’re a Pisces. And you? Well you’re a Taurus, my friend.”

Jessica Danger (Morning Chalk Up | A Fresh Cup of Fitness)

Jessica Danger

I first started writing articles when I was about 16 years old for a polemical political zine my friends and I distributed in our high school.

Since then, I’ve been regularly creating some form of written content, but I can’t say I’ve put too much thought into the craft of my writing.

I’ve certainly done quite a bit of training in copywriting and attempting to write in order to sell something, but that’s not quite the same thing as writing in order to tell a story.

So, I was really excited to have this conversation with Jessica Danger to get some insight into how she actually teaches creative writing and what she recommends to improve the skill of writing.

Jessica is also an editor at the Morning Chalk Up and a podcast co-host on “A Fresh Cup of Fitness,” so she has insights into how to create and curate content for a large audience – without giving in to incentives to post clickbait or use salacious titles.

Check out the full conversation with Jessica to learn:

  • Why it’s so important to separate writing from editing – and why most writers have difficulty with this
  • How to develop the critical eye of an editor – and the most common mistake made by beginner, intermediate, and advanced writers
  • What drives editors crazy when they receive bad pitches

Check out the episode at the links below. If you enjoyed the episode, the best way to support the show is to share with your friends, so send them a link.

Listen Here

Check out more from Jessica, the Morning Chalk Up & A Fresh Cup of Fitness here:

Show Notes:

  • [01:15] Writing is a skill that is learned through constant practice and iteration – just like skills in fitness. It’s less magical than people think.
  • [07:05] There’s one consistent stumbling block that shows up for beginning, intermediate and advanced writers – it just presents itself differently.
  • [14:52] Does reading actually translate into making people better writers? Or is there some other mysterious skill that makes people good at writing? What other drills can people use to improve their writing?
  • [26:15] Most people make this mistake when trying to write and edit their work. And – what are other drills that people can use to become better editors?
  • [35:00] What is worth sharing with the large audience of the Morning Chalk Up? What different types of people read the newsletter, and how does Jessica develop an intuition for what they are interested in?
  • [42:00] No click bait and no “iceberg lettuce” in the Morning Chalk Up
  • [49:40] What should a potential contributor think about when pitching an editor? And what drives editors crazy about bad pitches?
  • [59:13] “A Fresh Cup of Fitness” podcast – and the difference between written content and a more conversational podcast
  • [01:11:11] Jessica’s memoir – and her plans to prioritize getting published after focusing on different aspects of her career

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Pushers on Vacation

Steve Magness and Brad Stulberg’s work on passion and “pushers” has opened my eyes to the dark side of of high conscientiousness behavior.
Some of us turn everything we do into an assignment for ourselves that must be completed or else we are letting ourselves down.
This is the type of thing that results in business owners like Dave Teare of 1Password working so hard that they forget things in their actual lives like turning off the stove.
That results in athletes in endurance sports like marathon runners and CrossFitters exercising until their bodies betray them and their entire stress response physiology gets so dysregulated that they can’t sleep, can’t focus and have to stop working out.
This is the type of thing that results in accumulating 450 saved long-form articles in your Instapaper account and also saving all of the email newsletters that you haven’t gotten around to in a separate folder (I think there’s 386 to go down from like 1200) over the course of years of running a small business – and actually having a plan to get through all of them. [Hint: It me]*
And – I’m currently staying at the Ritz Carlton in Cancún for a friend’s wedding, and I couldn’t help but notice that they have an Ironman class on offer as part of their regular fitness programming.
You know, for all of the folks who work hard enough in their careers that they can stay at places at the Ritz-Carlton but – goddammit – have an Ironman in 10 weeks and are not going to let this goddamn vacation throw off training.
Push on, pushers.
*I figured out that Pocket has a pretty reasonable text to voice option that allows you to listen at 2.5x speed. After making it through the hundreds of bookmarked videos I’ve accumulated, I’ve shifted my focus to these articles. Ridiculous.

What I’ve Learned About Learning

Learning

Learning is a super power.

And, if you learn how to each, then you’ve compounded that super power.

Not only can you acquire skills, but you can pass them on to others and quickly level up both yourself and your entire organization.

I’ve put a lot of thought into both learning and teaching over the last few years. I look back with regret on my own bad learning habits, but I’ve also learned – through an interplay between real-life experience and abstract content consumption – a lot about teaching and understanding how to make knowledge actually “stick.”

If anyone reading has any thoughts, ideas or resources on improving transfer of learning, please send them my way as well.

Check out the full episode below to learn:

  • The most important thing that I’ve learned that has helped me learn – and teach – more effectively than anything else
  • How to blend “theory” and “practice” so that what you’re learning sticks
  • Why “genius” and “talent” isn’t always something that you’re born with – and how people develop elite level skills

Check out the episode at the links below. If you enjoyed the episode, the best way to support the show is to share with your friends, so send them a link.

Listen Here

Show Notes:

  • [00:09] Learning and teaching are superpowers. Not only can you level up your own skills – if you can pass that information on, you can level up everyone in the organization.
  • [03:33] Understanding one thing has dramatically improved my ability to teach and pass along skills: People need to be solving a problem in order to learn effectively
  • [10:41] What is the optimal blend of theory and practice? Some people end up doing a bunch of “drills” and “skill transfer” exercises that result in little real progress. Others spend a lot of time on “book learnin” that doesn’t have practical application. How do the best blend the two?
  • [17:40] Transfer from practice scenarios into real life application is extremely difficult. How can we create practice scenarios that recreate the chaos and unpredictability of real life?
  • [24:44] Pattern matching and “chunking” facilitates creativity and understanding of nuance – and also creates the illusion of “genius” or “talent.”
  • [30:55] Better improving the transfer problem is probably the highest leverage activity we can focus on in learning and teaching

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To Become More Productive, Notice Friction

I, like most people, want to be more productive.
I also find that one of the most important skills to becoming more productive is not necessarily related to actual productivity habits themselves, but rather the meta-skill of noticing when something is full of friction.
What counts as friction?
Well, since we are discussing “productivity,” we may as well use an example from my own life that I’m feeling pretty good about.
One of the key tenets of Getting Things Done – or “GTD” as geeks like to call it – is having a universal capture mechanism for ideas. So, rather than having random scraps of paper, some notes in your phone, a few voice memos, and some half-remembered notions bouncing around your head, you have one spot where you put all of your inbound stuff.
“Your mind is for having ideas not holding them.”
I use Asana as my homebase for tasks, projects, reminders, etc.
I have a project called “Inbox” where I collect pretty much any input into my system. This includes starred Slack messages, emails that I forward to an email address linked to Asana, and random Siri-transcribed voice memos of things that strike me as a good idea during inopportune times.
Theoretically, I clean out my inbox every other day or so – completing tasks that are quick to-dos on the spot, relegating other tasks to repositories of ideas, creating projects out of confusing thoughts with bad grammar, moving reminders to projects for “Follow-Up” or “Someday,” etc.
And I hate doing this. Because it’s full of friction.
My brain has to work so hard to figure out how to categorize everything, and I oftentimes can’t summon the energy to spend 30 minutes moving stuff around.
So the list grows. And then I know it will take 60 minutes to move everything around. So there’s more friction.
And this is where most people quit. We say things like, “Yeah, I tried to do something like that, and it was more work to use a system than to just remember what I need to do.”
And then we go on with our lives constantly forgetting to do things and having unclear priorities in our work, levying a tax on everyone who has to work with us and constantly remind us about accepted obligations, check on progress of to-dos, and generally keep us on track.
Instead, that friction  – that discomfort, that ugh, I don’t want to do this – is something to be leaned into.
Friction is indicative of a messy process. Something that isn’t quite right. Something that hasn’t been properly broken into an actionable task. A categorization scheme that doesn’t make any sense.
In the case of my Asana Inbox, I had too many disjointed things coming in, and I didn’t have good spots to put them. Here’s why I was having such a hard time:
•I was using Asana to capture notes that weren’t related to specific projects – more “general interesting things” or quotes from articles or papers that I wanted to save for future reference
•I was using Asana to capture things that I wanted to read and research more
•I didn’t have a clear system for how to catalog tasks and projects for things that I wanted to do “someday” – either things to learn, projects that aren’t a priority now but that are good to keep on the radar, events that I should consider attending, etc.
Based upon this, I would have nebulous tasks, links to scientific papers that I want to read, and quotes from articles cluttering my inbox. And I would hate going through it since I would rarely be in the mood or have the bandwidth to make high level decisions on priorities, read a dense academic paper, or categorize some abstract idea from a blog post into a useful project.
By recognizing this friction, I’ve been able to clarify my thinking around capturing tasks and develop cleaner systems for different types of ideas. So now, I no longer need to push through a mental molasses every time I think about what to do with my uncategorized tasks.
I’ll keep rolling with this example, since I think that having very tangible, in-the-weeds flows can be helpful (even if you don’t use the same system or have the same struggles that I do):
•I now have an Inbox in Evernote specifically for notes from articles so those don’t even touch Asana. This makes the Asana workflow much simpler – and doing all of the “note categorization” at once flows nicely once you get in a rhythm. While David Allen advocates having one inbox, I find that separating things like “notes” from “tasks” is very helpful. Besides, going through multiple notes at once can spark some interesting connections between seemingly disparate ideas.
•I refined the way I think about things that I want to do “someday” or ideas for projects that I’m not currently working. I have more clear categorizations for “Things that should be considered in the next few months” vs “Things that seem cool that I should periodically check on.” I also clearly split out different types of ideas: ideas for SLSC, ideas for Legion, things I would like to learn, courses I would like to attend, etc. This results in much cleaner buckets for these “maybe someday” ideas, and allows for easy categorization.
Has this made me more productive? Tough to say – but it certainly feels a lot better.
And the point here isn’t to “get better at understanding how to categorize your ideas and create better buckets for them to fit into.”
The point is “recognize when there’s something that causes a lot of friction in your brain and figure out a different way to do it.” If you do this enough times, you’ll be astonished at how much progress you can make.