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The Work Computer/Play Computer Setup -- By Force

One of the largest productivity gains I ever got was going to a work computer / play computer setup.

I'd read about Paul Graham implementing it, and a few other people I respect. So when I switched over to Mac, I kept my old Toshiba for surfing the net and otherwise screwing around, and would only work or do work-like things on the Mac.

It worked well.

Not only was I more productive, I was happier. And I mean, really truly happier across the board. In the moment-by-moment, I was either fully disengaged and feeling good about it after working or when deciding to take a break. And when I was working, I focused. When I got to a hard problem, I kept going and pushed through it. It produced both more calm and more triumph. It was a good thing.

But then... eventually, things start to crack. And once they do, it's hard to get the magic up.

What I've Learned about Meditation

On Tynan

It seems like almost high achiever I know finds the time to meditate and lift weights. Those are two fairly different activities which are usually associated with disparate stereotypes, but tons of high achievers do both. Not only do they do both of these things, but they ascribe some of their success to them.

Because of this observation, I've tried to meditate several times in my life. I went to a Vipassana retreat and left after two days. For a month I meditated for twenty minutes every night. The habit never seemed to stick, probably because I didn't know why I was doing it and didn't see any results.

Then I read a book called the Willpower Instinct. It said that both exercise and meditation increased will power. Further, it said that five minutes of meditation a day was enough, and that it would take two months for it to pay any dividends. Okay, I thought, I'll meditate every day for five minutes, and not quit for at least three months.

My technique, as outlined by the book, is to close my eyes, focus on my breath, and think "breathe in.... breathe out...". After a minute or two I stop the silent breathe in, breathe out chant and try to just focus on my breath. I used to find this process very frustrating, because I thought that if I strayed from thinking about my breath, that meant that I wasn't getting the benefits of meditation. It turns out the opposite is true-- meditation is supposed to be difficult, and it's this very straying and regrouping process that builds willpower.

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