My Favorite Spotify Playlists for Productivity and Focus

Some people liked the Spotify Playlists I shared last time, so I thought I’d share a few more. I wouldn’t claim that these four are the best but they are definitely my favorites when it comes working or studying:

  1. Electronic music, mostly medium to fast tempo, 1,039 songs.
  2. Electronic music, mostly slow to medium tempo, 1,661 songs.
  3. Electronic ambient drone music — super slow, for very occasional use when the deep focus is needed or when everything else seems too distracting. 321 songs.
  4. Jazz music with no vocals or saxophone, 454 songs.

I’ll also embed them here:

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Stanford Class: How to Start a Startup by YC

Free, open to everyone and highly educational Stanford class “How to Start a Startup” has just ended. But all the materials, including talks by star speakers, such as Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, Ben Horowitz, Sam Altman, Brian Chesky and others are going to be available online. For quick reference, here is the complete collection of all course materials:

Lectures

Date Speaker Topic
9/23/14 Sam Altman, President, Y Combinator
Dustin Moskovitz, Cofounder, Facebook, Cofounder, Asana, Cofounder, Good Ventures
Welcome, and Ideas, Products, Teams and Execution Part I
Why to Start a Startup
9/25/14 Sam Altman, President, Y Combinator Ideas, Products, Teams and Execution Part II
9/30/14 Paul Graham, Founder, Y Combinator Before the Startup
10/2/14 Adora Cheung, Founder, Homejoy Building Product, Talking to Users, and Growing
10/7/14 Peter Thiel, Founder, Paypal, Founder, Palantir, and Founder, Founders Fund Competition is For Losers

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Memrise: learning languages mnemonically using spaced repetition

You might remember my recent post about “Moonwalking with Einstein” book about memory and mnemonics.

What you probably did not know though is that one of the characters, winner of multiple memory championships, Ed Cooke, launched his own web startup Memrise.com

I first read about it in The Guardian article “How I learned a language in 22 hours” by the book author, Joshua Foer. Although, the title is somewhat misleading, the approach is very interesting. So, what is so special about Memrise? They have an interesting learning model. Primarily, the focus is on languages, but there is a whole range of secondary courses, ranging from “How to say I love you in 100 languages” to HTML5.

memrise

The first principle: spaced repetition. The words you are asked to remember are spaced in time in a precise manner with intervals calculated based on your past performance. By the way, the same principle is employed by simple app Anki which I once briefly mentioned in my post about GMAT.

The second principle: mnemonic. You are usually shown a picture or an idea that helps you remember a given word using associations. These so-called mems are added by members of community in the best crowd-sourcing traditions. The most voted-up are displayed.

And of course, they also use gamification, who does not?

Overall, it appears to be an interesting tool. However, it remains to be seen whether it is really a good idea to invest one’s time in it without a firm intention to actually learn a language. But learning to read a Chinese menu sounds like a fun thing to try anyway, all serious goals aside.

By the way, Memrise is also discussed on Quora which I recently wrote about.

Wisdom in few words: best motivational quotes

Throughout last couple of years I’ve been collecting my personal favorite quotations from various inspirational people in my Evernote. As a result I got quite a long list of sayings which I personally consider to be one of the smartest, wittiest, daring and positive at the same time.

Best smart, motivational, inspirational witty quotes/quotationsMoscow, 2008.

So, I thought why not to share them with you? Assuming I have a lot in common with my readers, you might enjoy them too. If you don’t then you might just skip the post and excuse me for wasting your time. Otherwise, here is the collection:

  • “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
  • “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
  • “There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.” ~ Mark Twain
  • “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” ~ Michelangelo Buonarroti
  • “Money is like gasoline during a road trip. You don’t want to run out of gas on your trip, but you’re not doing a tour of gas stations. You have to pay attention to money, but it shouldn’t be about the money.” ~ Tim O’Reilly
  • “Doing what you like is freedom. Liking what you do is happiness.” ~ Frank Tyger

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Two Books About Brain And Neuroscience

Not a long time ago I wrote a post about My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor. And during last couple of months I listened to two more books: Brain Rules by John Medina and Your Brain at Work by David Rock. Unlike Jill, they don’t tell their own stories but try to give real life recommendations based on neuroscience research.

John focuses on general principles rules of brain functioning which he covers relatively briefly. David on the other hand provides more of a deep dive in various situations that we face daily, mostly at work but views them through the prism of our brain and its biochemistry. Social concepts, such as status, reward and others are explained through things like oxytocin, dopamine & epinephrine.

Those who find such topics interesting can find my notes below. Plus, a couple of great videos of authors’ talks and one fun Slideshare presentation.

1. Brain Rules by John Medina

I used the actual “brain rules” by John from his website as the basis for my notes and briefly tried to explain main idea of each one.

John Medina

EXERCISE | Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power.

John recommends various kind of physical activity, especially aerobic one, including long walks. He states that if participants of business meetings walked on treadmills with 1.8 mile/hr speed, they would come up with much more creative ideas, not to mention increased memory and overall well-being. By the way, John takes his own medicine. It took him 15 minutes to adapt to replying to emails while walking.

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Save time by approaching your RSS subscriptions in a completely new way: 8 principles for effective reading of blogs

RSS feeds is an awesome tool to save lots of time. You can get them all in the same place and not visit every single web-site to check if there are some updates. But often it becomes quite the opposite.

I personally have 573 subscriptions. That’s a lot. You risk looking at your favorite RSS feeds aggregator (like, Google Reader for example), seeing 1000+ unread items there and then spending half a day passively browsing through them. Instead of pursing your purpose and doing something that will bring you closer to your goals.

So, what are the lifehacks to minimize the time and maximize the value of reading blogs or other RSS feeds?

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How I saved hours and hours of time, reduced disturbances and stress level with a simple Gmail lifehack

“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.”

I’ve been re-reading Getting Things Done by David Allen recently and thinking about other ways to get closer to the “Mind Like Water” state and suddenly I’ve come up with a very simple, but useful lifehack for GMail. It aligns very well with all the recent trends in productivity, time management and lifestyle design set by Tim Ferriss in his Four Hour Workweek and assumes you should minimize all the unnecessary disturbances and batch your typical actions in order to save time.

So, what I did is very simple yet really helpful and I highly recommend you to try the same approach.

1. Create 2 labels in your GMail.

First one is “! once a wk” and another one “! once a mnth”.
The idea is to group all the not so important mail and not to get interrupted every two minutes. It doesn’t necessarily need to be once a month or once a week. Probably once a day and once a week will work better for you. Anyway, you got the basic principle.

2. Create filters for these labels.

For example:

Matches: subject:(“Facebook” OR “Linkedin”)
Do this: Skip Inbox, Apply label “! once a wk

and

Matches: subject:(“Twitter” OR “Microsoft newsletter”)
Do this: Skip Inbox, Apply label “! once a wk

Obviously, “Facebook”, “Linkedin”, “Twitter” and “Microsoft newsletter” are just examples. The point here is to put subjects or email addresses of those letters that you receive from time to time, but don’t need to read/process/reply the same second it’s received. It’s up to you to decide what these letters are, but I’m convinced that absolute majority of the letters fall into this category.

Then, you should tell your Gmail to apply the appropriate label for those letters and skip the inbox.

3. Schedule checks

Put view “once a week mail event and view once a month mail on your Google Calendar (or whatever calendar you’re using), make this event repeat every week/month correspondingly and create an email reminder.

3. Now, the most difficult step to actually practice: do not (do not!) check these two labels any other time than your scheduled time. I know these two labels look so yummy-yummy attractive when the number is more than zero, like in this screenshot (which is BTW the final result), but believe this is the habit worth developing.
gmail-gtd

Putting it all together.

So, if everything is done properly, you will have all the important mail (which is usually 1-10%) in your inbox right away and all the time consuming stuff (social networks, subscriptions, newsletters, etc) that prevents you from doing really important and inspirational things with your life will be held under two labels which are always available. Usually it takes very little time to process it all at once instead of doing it every single time when letter is delivered.

This is pretty much it. Good luck with implementing and improving! Hope, you won’t be spending the time saved in Twitter, but do something that you always wanted to start doing, but didn’t have enough time. And of course, I’m looking forward for your feedback!