Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fluctuating Environments Enriches the Mind?

It's interesting what you can learn about yourself when you become attentive at the right time.

I've mentioned it a few times here and there, but one thing I haven't emphasized much is how I'm a proponent of the productivity methodology detailed in Getting Things Done by David Allen. At first glance it seems like just another way to set up those dreaded to-do lists, but Mr. Allen meticulously takes into account and identifies various facets of human psychology towards being productive, so his system differs in that it strives to clear one's mind of worries of other activities by constructing lists that are meticulous, very well distinguished among different actions, and downright intuitive. The end point is not to just have to-do lists, but to have a set of lists that discourages evasion of what you have to do and prevents worrying about what you're not doing. I have set up such lists and it plays a big role in my life, certainly having increased greatly my productivity.

However, the downside is that all of my lists are kept on my computer. To avoid discouragement and monotony, I've chosen to go the electronic route in keeping lists so that they're quicker to set up and edit, and I don't have to rewrite them from day to day. It's so great I'll never go back to paper planners ever again. The downside is that it means I'm most productive when I have access to my computer, and I'm still utilizing a non-portable desktop PC.

It wasn't until recently that I've been struck by how significant this fact is. While waiting for the details of my new job (though I have started another one) I've largely been focusing on my writing and reading. The only hand-writing I do at length is for my introspection journal, meaning everything else is typed on my computer, and to keep track of my reading assignments, progress, and book rentals I need access to my computerized lists and library account, so combined together I depend pretty heavily on my computer to keep track of my life and activities, regardless of whether or not the computer is actually needed in the task. As such, I'm often glued to one spot.

Recently while traveling about town and being exposed to changing environments I was intrigued by how refreshed and energized I felt. It's strange because the particular activities I was engaged in weren't very high values to me, so to observe such a level of inner renewal in contrast to other activities I value higher was interesting. Instantly I was reminded of a post I read on Mark's Daily Apple about how changing one's environment can improve one's study capabilities. (I can't find it.) Physiologically, could that be what was at work here? Could being around different environments on a regular basis be mentally refreshing?

I'm entertaining this question, of course, because studying and frequent learning plays a huge role in my life. I've seen what wasted lives non-thinkers lead, so I don't intend to follow the same path. Logically, I'm always open to new ways to enhance my study methods and learning potency, and simple things like these seem like they're worth trying.

Could humans be wired in a way that makes it so that being in a monotonous environment is more damaging beyond that of mere boredom? Could changing environments on a regular basis enhance one's learning through the refreshing change of atmosphere? While I admit this could all possibly be hardly justified and easily refuted, I'm tempted to try it. So long as I learn to filter out distractions, like that of other people about, introspecting on the past reveals to me that such changes were consistently enlivening to my mind and thinking.

I'll have to do more thinking and research on this, but at first glance it seems like it may be a worthy goal to save up for a laptop and smartphone, so that I can more easily carry my productivity tools with me, especially my broad lists. It's an entertaining goal to word, but I'm thinking about sticking myself in random places and seeing how it affects my ability to be mentally productive.

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