Friday & FFS? What do you mean?

Ok, having ranted yesterday, let’s be practical and talk about concrete things you can do to be more organized and effective.

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  1. Avoid multitasking. The brain has two modes; day-dreaming and executive. Switching between the two takes a lot of energy and what you are doing when you are trying to do many things at once is doing them all badly because your brain cannot keep up with the switches. There is a time and place for it though. I listen to podcast while cleaning and that is a very pleasant distraction from a tidious chore. But cleaning is automated behavior so I don’t need to think about it, and can focus on the podcast. Driving and listening to an audiobook might not be a great idea as you need to focus on the road. Doing one thing at a time is more effective.
  2. Set a timer. The brain can be in executive mode for something like 45-60 minutes depending on the time of day and if you have slept well etc. If you have task that needs doing, like writing a blogpost, then switching off the phone and any other possible distraction and setting a timer for 45 minutes is a way of focusing. This is also called the “tomato method” by some, the name coming from a timer that looks like a tomato. It’s also a method to be effective in other ways. Set a timer for 30 minutes and try to go through as many emails as possible during that time. Set it for 10 minutes and try to clean as much of the kitchen as possible and then do it for every other room. By focusing on one task intently you get a lot done.
  3. Get a wristwatch. This is just me me but really I miss having one. My phone is such a distraction for me it’s an embarrassment.
  4. Get a good “exo-brain”. Storing information outside of your brain is essential to free up space for decision making. Notebooks are great as are diaries, index cards etc. Many advocate putting things on a hard drive or in the cloud but remember that a shift in technology or hacking might compromise that intel or leave it inaccessible. There is a reason why I still have photographs developed from time to time. An old phone broke and with it many lovely pictures, a mistake I’ll never make again.
  5. Have a reasonable system. By having less things i.e. a proper sort from time to time and then storing things in a particular place then you don’t have to look for it all the time. Or get three chargers and keep in different places. Habits are neural shortcuts and they save a lot of time.
  6. Take a break or a nap. I have learned the expression “neural hygien” this week. It refers to taking a quick break between meeting or tasks, 5-10 minutes, so that there is time for the brain to reset itself. And if you want to be productive all day then a mid-day nap isn’t a bad idea.
  7. Read a good book. Fiction fosters empathy, being empathic means that it’s easier to imagine the thoughts of others and factor that into the reasoning, basically making better decisions when making them not just for yourself but also others. Being nice and thought of as agreeable is good for your brain, we are social creatures and human interaction will stimulate us. And as King pointed out, reading helps your vocabulary, and by being able to express yourself better you will improve communication. And it’s a great way to relax.

I hope that makes it somewhat clearer. That said, what I took from The organized mind by Daniel Levitin might not be your findings. Now if you excuse me I have to go meditate.

-Suss

7 thoughts on “The organized mind”

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I took my time reading The organized mind by Daniel Levity, there was much I wanted to learn and think about in the process. The pages of this book are thus filled with margin notes and phrases highlighted with a fluorescent pen.

What this book does well is that it takes bits and pieces of research and put it together in a readable and interesting way. There are a lot of books floating around, on how to be more effective, on how to think sharper not harder etc. I haven’t read all of those, they might still be a great books on that topic but this is a good overview it seems.

I’m in familiar territory; his whole chapter on probability I just swam through as I studied statistics at university level. I have also read Daniel Kahnemans Thinking fast and slow, which Levity refers to more than once. The writer was a pupil of Amos Tversky who was a friend and research partner with Kahneman for  long time. This is much in that vein of thinking (and the same dry humor as well).

Levitin also applies his findings, or the results of research by him and others, to everyday situations. There is an arc of the scientific base, examples from real life and then how you can use that to your own advantage, with the clear understanding that everyone is different. What I take away from this book might not be what you find most relevant. Again; I have an understanding of statistics (even though I’m as fallible as any human and ignore what I know to be scientifically reasonable in line of my ever so gullible gut-instinct). I was fairly organized to begin with, I could not manage my life if I wasn’t, so this book rather explained why I do some of the things I do. And as always, it’s good to re-evaluate habits and reasoning. These are seven things that I will take with me from this book, in no particular order.

  1. Notebooks make total sense. I had someone in my life that often questioned my love of calendars and notebooks, and instead extolled the virtues of using the phone for everything. It should come as no surpirse that I’m the person who never misses an appointment (unless I cancel because of an emergency) , remembers people’s birthdays and keep my promises. That person with everything in the phone? Not so much. I’m being a bit facetious, I also know people who manage life with their phones pretty well but usually that’s in tandem with something as old-fashioned as a piece of paper with a to-do list. The first thing to be more organized  is to de-clutter the mind by storing information elsewhere. What pen and paper,whether it’s notebooks or index cards, allow for, simply put, is the storing and the  restructuring of the information should need arise. I have ideas for many things and I couldn’t possibly keep it all in my head, so I use notebooks a lot. I don’t always know what I know, but I know where I keep the data. There is also a mounting amount of anecdotal evidence in favor of analogues systems. A calendar will give a very different overview of a week than a iPhone calendar. If you use the Google calendar its better but still. Obviously a lot of people would argue that my instance on this being a valid piece of advice from Levitin is my silly love of stationary making itself known. I would answer that with the argument that the increased popularity of bullet journaling is because it’s a great way of handling information and avoiding overload.
  2. Fiction is good for you. On page 119 Levintin points out that research has found that people who read literary fiction, i.e. not popular fiction or nonfiction, are better at detecting the emotions of others. Which means you are learning  empathy in short. That’s what you do when you read; you engage with the thoughts and feelings of another and place your self in their shoes. I feel here that the caveats must be made that good literature can be best-selling, evidenced by the fact that A little life is on the best seller list in Sweden, popular fiction probably refers more to the likes of those Kepler-Mysteries that I have become fond of lately.
  3. You cannot catch up on sleep, but the solution to a problem might be found at the other end of  nap. As a chronic insomniac I stick to sleep hygiene semi-religiously but I too have believed for a long time that a few nights of sleep deprivation can be ameliorated by a long weekend of relaxing. Not so. Being tired makes you, for a lack of a better word, stupid and you can’t make up for it. That said; if you have small children, things that need to be done or a job that requires a lot then there is nothing you can do. Oh wait; you can take naps. Those are really good for you, just make sure they are no longer then 20 minutes and not to late in the day. That whole siesta thing? There is now research to back up the Mediterranean lifestyle. Why not? The food in that area is great and I’m totally onboard with that whole nap thing. On the other hand they have a penchant for fascist leaders so maybe they haven’t got it all figured out just yet. And as thinking is hard, and uses a lot of energy, it is sometimes a really good idea to proverbially “sleep on it”. It really helps. In dreams we find a lot of solutions and having a fresh and alert brain doesn’t hurt either. Old wives tale backed up by science, once again.
  4. I need a wristwatch something awful. Levitin quotes someone who said something about “a man who has one watch knows the time, a man with two is never sure”. Well, a woman with no watch who has to use her phone to check the time is constantly distracted by information. I’m talking about myself here obviously. My beloved Seiko broke, I’m having a devil of a time finding a replacement because watches are huge nowadays and my wrists are tiny, and I have to resort to looking at my phone. And then I’m down the rabbit hole of IG comments, FB messages and what not. And I’m not alone in this. We are all easily distracted by stuff like that. Writing a blog post like this with my phone beside me is nearly impossible because I cannot stop checking updates. Flight mode+ timer is the solution here. Setting aside time everyday to reply to emails (most of which are superfluous to begin with) is a good routine. In between, try to avoid the phone or use one of those apps that filters communication.
  5. Make sure your ideas find you. Levitin brings up “daydreaming mode” a lot. It’s when your brain wanders from thought to thought and solutions and ideas present themselves, the brain at it’s most creative. Cultivate that mode. Remember what Gilbert/King said about ideas? By sitting at the desk everyday at a certain time, and being in the moment the ideas come. By making sure your brain recognizes that it can switch off (i.e. no distractions) when you sit at your desk and you let your thoughts roam free, then things will come to you. The brains ability to switch is the real magic here.
  6. There is a good argument for the Junk drawer. There is a place for everything, ad if you have less stuff there is good chance that you will be able to keep everything with other things in that category. Or you could buy staplers for every room so you don’t have to look for it /go get it. And things that are not in any other category make up one of their own. Marie Kondo will be horrified, famously so, but there is a time and place for things you do not know where to put. And so they end up in the junk drawer. The trick is to go through it every now and again and make sure that thing leave it. Some things will find a place in a newly arranged category (books that I’ve been given by publishers that I feel I want to read) or you find that it is no longer relevant (books that I’ve bought that I no longer want to read so I can give it away). And don’t have multiple junk drawers please, make a decision.
  7. Routines save a lot of time. I know this and have known it for a long time. I almost put my keys in the same place (and the only time I lose them is when I don’t). I have a sign on my door that ask “Do you have phone?Keys?Wallet?. I have no idea when books need to be returned to the library BUT I have signed up for the service where they send an email a few days before. I do not have to think about these things. I spend a lot of time looking for the cat for obvious reason but rarely waste time or incur fees for lost keys or unpaid bills. I know this to be true and will continue to live by it. It allows me to read without a nagging voice in my head telling me I should be doing other things becasue those things are already done. Being organized is essentially about doing the things that need to be done so that you can spend time doing what you want to do.

-Suss

Tuesday & Tablecloths

My love of curtain fabric will never fade but the next best thing is probably tablecloth. Just like with curtains they are often of a robust fabric, many of them have lovely patterns and there is an abundance of them as they are no longer fashionable. Oh, and they tend to get stains rendering them less usable for the table but ever so good for me.

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This is one of my all time fave skirts, if it had pockets it would be perfection but alas not enough fabric.  I use it all year around. The colors (burgundy,beige and a bit of blue) work with a lot and somehow a bohemian skirt is never a bad idea( in fact I have several). It wasn’t exactly as big I needed so there is a bit in the back that is just black( I used something that I had laying around) but as I often wear skirts or sweaters with it nobody notices. And if anyone ever says something the phrase “I upcycled an old tablecloth myself” will be the only response. Most people just admire the fabric and people from Iran will point out that they have something just like that on the table at home, I then show them the stamp on the inside as it is in fact an Iranian tablecloth.

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Having made that one, I was given this fabric, also an Iranian tablecloth, which got turned into a summer dress last year. Now that it’s warmer I’m using it again. I’ve noticed that I probably should take it in as the fabric has become looser and softer with use. Blue and white is a great combo, I often add a belt of some sort for definition and a pop of color as I like it.

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This is an old skirt that I have gotten a fair bit of use out of. Its linen and judging by the colors probably from the 70’s. I made a 50’s design because when I hade taken away the damaged pieces (those stains wouldn’t budge I tell you) the design of the weave lent itself to it. I am thinking about making it into a pencil skirt right now as it’s something that I would have more use of probably, given what else is in my closet at the moment. I do however love wearing it with a white shirt and some sea green accessories or neutral shoes and a hot pink clutch which is such a nice contrast. In my world orange is a neutral.

-Suss

Monday & Murder

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True to form I’m the last person in the world to get to some books. I’m either one of the first or the last on book hypes it seems. In a quick phone conversation with my parents this weekend I mentioned that I had started reading Kepler, and how much I was enjoying it and I could literally hear my father making a face on the other end like ” Oh really? I’ve been a fan of these books for years and now you see the point?”. And yes, I did learn to “bitchface” from my father.

Well, I’m always saying that are a time and place for most books. There are some genuinely bad books out there, and a few of them become bestsellers oddly enough. I have no problem understanding why people are such huge fans of this series however , I just haven’t been in the mood for contemporary crime for a few years ( the first book about Jonna Linna came 7 years ago. Been busy with fantasy, Russian classics and non-fiction during those years apparently). And all of a sudden I’m also reading sci-fi. Is Mercury in retrograde? Because that would explain lot.

Are these plots realistic? No. Do they add up completely? No. But during the time I’m reading them I’m completely absorbed; train rides just fly by, I nearly miss appointments and when people cancel plans I’m like “No problem”. When I’m finished though I start that process of ” but if? Why did he? Do these people never think properly?”. No, they don’t, it’s book not real life. My best analogy is that this is the Hollywood version of Stockholm. The police force doesn’t act like that, crimes like these are rarely seen in Sweden, especially not of this magnitude. Hyperreality kind of.

The first in the series, Hypnotisören, introduced Jonna Linna. He is troubled as detectives are wont to be in novels.( With the exception of Miss Marpel and Hercule Poirot; Christie famously liked her sleuths well-balanced). In any case the cause of the troubles is a bit of a sub-plot and being only two books in I don’t know that much yet. He is a migraine sufferer so I feel affinity I guess. But the main plot involved several psychopaths with high intelligence, means to murder and defenseless children. Nothing is in fact taken out of thin air, many of the things are inspired by real events like Marc Dutroux in Belgium, but put together to create a larger then life story. The same goes for the second book.

What does save these books is that the couple behind the Lars Kepler pen name do point it out in the book, and always try to point out social injustices. They are not making light of events but try to put in a message about social injustices and point out the failings of society, which is very much in the tradition of Sjöwall-Wahlö (another famous crime writing duo that changed (and maybe started) the Nordic crime scene). How successful are they in that? I don’t know. I was kind of in that whole “human rights is important, fascism is non acceptable and opinions are not facts”-vibe before.

Point is, these have a certain amount of depth and intelligence  too them (and are fairly cultured) and I wouldn’t be surprised if I have read all of them at the end of the year.

-Suss

Sunday & Suspense

IMG_3702I finished Sleeping giants by Sylvain Neuvel and picked up Paganini kontraktet by Kepler the next minute. This month is turning out to be all about page turners. I need the distraction and the relaxation, nothing to thought-provoking please.

Speaking of distractions. I’ve had the aim, if not always succeeding in that, to post every day. From no on there will be no posts on Sundays. I will still try to write a bit (i.e. compose a silly list) but lowering the bar as I have other things I need to deal with.

-Suss

7 things to print on a t-shirt(or other)

So witty text printed or embroidered on something is a trend that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. T-shirts,pouches or pillows, the sky is the limit. And that pleases me to no end as I’m a huge fan. I even make my own even though Lingua Franca and Lisa Macario are the the coolest chicks doing it. The latter has one that says “lipstick literature liberalism”. I made one that says “Books Negronis Lipstick”. One of the few times I didn’t go all in with alliteration (as I’m otherwise wont to do).

So what’s next? I’ve been thinking about what to make as a statement on a shirt for fall. It is possible that some of these have already been made by someone else (and please let me know if that is the case). I haven’t decided if I am gonna print or embroider. I do really well with a needle and thread and have made modern proverbs on fabric for friends in the past.

1.Mrs. President. I saw a woman with the words “Mr President” on a sweater the other day. It may have been from one of previously mentioned ladies. But as many seem to have a hard time getting their head around the idea of a female president why not have it on a t-shirt? If people see it enough times they will (hopefully) get used to the idea. (delusional thinking on my part, and mostly to do with wanting to fly my feminist colours high and wide).

2. Whatever Trump tweets next. I’ve seen so many “covfefe” memes that have been spot on that I’m just waiting for a brainfart from that man and I’m joining in. Which might be counterproductive.

3. Oh, I call everyone darling. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that I’m shit with names so just walking around with a disclaimer seems like a good idea. I do however remember peoples allergies and cocktail preferences. My brain famoulsy only memorizes the important things.

4. Really?. I say this a lot, and sarcastically so. It would save having to say anything, I could just point at the word and question mark on my chest. Might not be a great friend maker though.

5. Byron is bae. Or possibly Byron is the new black. He is everywhere and he brings drama. I should create an excel-file for all the Byron mentions in books and bring you the stats at the end of the year, and stats there will be, trust me. That would also be the nail in the coffin for the expression “bae”.

6. Chewbacca has hairy legs too you know. I do often shave my legs but really every woman should chose for herself if and why. Why the sight of hairy legs is the worst thing to some men but Chewbacca is the BFF they all want makes little sense. (Of course it makes sense in accordance to a patriarchal logic, rationality is context dependent and you can convince yourself of anything as long as you ignore facts or actually think something though. I know that, previous statement was an attempt, however feeble, to be funny).

7. Cocktail witchery. After all it’s one of my favorite things.

-Suss

Friday & freezer full of fun

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As things have resumed their normal pace, and schools are about to start, we finally have some sun and warmth in Stockholm. Better late than never? So let’s discuss summer cocktails and a few things pertaining to that. In fact let’s talk about ice in particular.

The standard for ice in cocktails has gone up the last few years. Any bartender with self-esteem will be seen hacking away at chunks of ice behind the bar because ready-made cubes are not so not OK anymore. Some bars have ready made cubes with their logo but that’s as close as it gets.

If I were to speculate at the reason for thither are primarily two; one being the revival of cocktails and the insight that a big ice cube melts slower and thus doesn’t dilute the drink as much. Which is correct and very reasonable. The other is those lovely Muji silicone spheres allowing the “at home bartender” to make big cubes with no fuss. As the whole point of going to bars is the experience and that it should be above the level of mere mortals they have had to up their game. That’s my theory anyways.

I have nothing but love for the Muji spheres and have gifted many a friend with a kit of one of those, some cool raw suger cubes and a decent cocktail spoon. I don’t use them myself though. I have a tray to make ice cubes in the shape of diamonds which I like, but the spheres are a little to big for the glasses I use. Instead I reuse those little plastic containers that they use for soy sauce at my local sushi place(sidenote; I rarely buy the sushi but prefer their dumplings). Ordinary as they may seem those little cups they make an excellent cube and can, if handled with care, be reused several times. Then it’s put in the recycling bin.

If you want to add further oomph to the visual appearance of your cocktail there are a slew of things that can be put in the ice as garnish. Fresh flowers is a classic, I tried using dried rosebuds this week and that looks OK. One thing I often do is put pink peppercorns in; it’s from a variation on a G&T that I found online the other year. Pink peppercorns in the ice, gin, tonic, grapefruit juice and dash of rosewater or rosewater syrup. Looks nice and tastes great. I encourage experimenting with this, many things loose their colour when frozen but something like juniper berries look very cool and ties nicely to gin in a G&T. They don’t release much flavor as they stay in the ice mostly.

Another obvious trick is to use frozen berries as ice. Excellent in a white wine spritzer or something like that. Try to use a little fresh basil with frozen strawberries; looks nice and a good combination of flavours.

Another good thing about putting things in the ice is that it obscures “the view”. With the nerdiness/snobbishness with ice bartenders talk about clarity in ice like my mother talks about diamonds. It has to be clear and see through to rate. Seriously. Spending to much time on achieving clear ice is the sign of a clouded judgement.

Have a great weekend everyone!

-Suss