Thursday, September 16, 2010

Balancing Mental Workloads

As I continue to take my studies more seriously I am also continuing to rediscover old issues that bothered me in the past, such as how time tracking devices disturbed my ability to concentrate. Some of them have been solved -- for the above problem all I need to do is conceal those devices -- but some continue to plague my efforts. Another such problem I have discovered is the issue of balancing my mental workloads so that I have a wide variety of mediums in which I can act and develop myself mentally.

To make matters clear, take a look at what my studies consist of right now: A pure reading of a series of articles over at The Objective Standard; reading, rubberducking, conceptual exercises, and notes for Good Calories, Bad Calories; and reading, rubberducking, conceptual exercises, and notes for The Journals of Ayn Rand. To summarize, most of this is a sort of passive activity, an activity that is geared towards my absorbing and integrating information rather than my actively creating it. To summarize it even more broadly, it's reading, reading, and more reading. I think my difficulty in being able to always maintain concentration and motivation to perform these tasks lies in the simple fact that I'm probably getting sick of such monotony.

Sure, this may be too narrow an assessment of my study activities, for there is writing too (remember the book reviews?), but that only brings us to a variety of two different types of tasks: reading and writing. Even this type of switching feels like a monotonous going back and forth. Despite my best intentions and judgment otherwise, this is a psychological difficulty that needs to be overcome in order to encourage the most effortless productivity and most consistent motivation. (By "effortless" I mean without psychological resistance, such as lack of motivation.) Recently, for instance, while I was reading one of the David Harriman articles my reading comprehension was totally shot even though I still had full cognitive energy; despite my best efforts, I simply couldn't get my mind out of "Let's do something else!" mode. (I didn't gain much from the article, but the author mentioned the writing is adapted from his book, which I am considering to purchase, so the article was useful insomuch that it contributed evidence for me to assess for the potential value of the book.)

The obvious solution seems to be to add more variety to my study practices, but the specific concrete means of doing that is still in question. Furthermore, there may still be some psychological alterations that need to be made after making such changes, such as preventing myself from neglecting certain tasks.

In truth, after my Project is done variety should naturally come into play. Cooking, baking, and culinary experimentation are largely absent from my life, despite being such large values, because I'm being extremely frugal with my finances due to the Project. I definitely need to get my cooking act together, which I'll talk about later, as it would do well to enrich my life, contribute to my studies, and help me ignore the Circumstance. Active entrepreneurship is also another possibility for diversifying my life, but that is most likely to come into play after the completion of my Project simply because of the learning and practice that needs to be done beforehand. (Note: In order to distinguish my most important project -- the one I can't yet talk about publicly -- from all my other projects, I'll refer to it with an uppercase "P"; I'll use an uppercase "C" to represent the circumstance that caused it to become necessary.)

Even after setting up such diversity, there's still the issue of avoiding the psychological pitfall of being involved in one task more than the others. For instance, in my first study efforts, due to some bad to-do list formats, I often preferred to spend my time doing my literature assignments over all the other tasks, often spending days in succession just reading a novel. (Ironic I'm getting sick of reading now.) So while there may be a great variety of things to do, I still need to exert myself to keep myself from neglecting another task in preference of another. Of course, this still prompts the question as to what I should do when I establish that mindset of desiring another task, such as during the above mentioned Harriman reading in which I couldn't concentrate despite being energized.

Maybe there's also the issue of cognitive rest at play here. Despite feeling rested, maybe the mental gears are tired from being used so intensely in one venue and desire to have another exercise. I mentioned before that I have had difficulty finding proper releases after being exhausted from my studying: I don't follow a lot of television save fewer than a handful of shows, I don't have much money to spare for most recreation (movies, technology, etc.), I hardly enjoy video games any more, and so on. Once I put down my books and decide to opt for a break it's hard to decide as to what that break should consist of, which leads to the frustration of being unable to satisfy my desire for recreation.

Art could be a potential solution. I've read before that it can be used for spiritual replenishment. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but my tastes in music and painting are severely underdeveloped. Due to a mean music teacher in elementary school, I hardly ever intentionally listened to music for the sake of listening to music, and I've never taken to seriously looking at paintings. Maybe I ought to take a good tour around the internet and see what I can find, such as this set from Quent Cordair, and also take my Pandora account more seriously. On the issue of music, perhaps I ought to be more meticulous in documenting what I like; nowadays I often let myself forget what songs I like, which may be leading to my not developing a true appreciation for them. If the lack of art in my life be a contributor to the presence of frustration in my recreational endeavors, then these methods should go a long way in remedying it.

As for my studies and what I could do now to ease my ailments while the Project is still in progress (and thus minimizing my culinary endeavors), I could take a mathematical route. Given my scientific interests and career aspirations, math is going to play a big part of my life, so the more I internalize it the better. I should seek out programs that allows for the instant generation of equations for me to solve, which would develop my mathematical "muscle." I know of a java based program for kids that allows for simple arithmetic problems, but I find it inadequate given the limit on how big and complex the equations can be made, not to neglect that it doesn't generate decimals (to up the difficulty).

So that's my plan of action for now: Contemplate how to get my culinary endeavors back on track, add mathematical practices to my routine, and give more serious attention to art, particularly music.

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