Pragmatic Thinking & Learning, Refactor Your Wetware by Andy Hunt (2008) is sensible and matter-of-fact, a gem of a book that works well both as reference and as inspiration. A science-based lifehacker manual that serves as the ultimate guide to personal productivity.
Full of tips, tricks, philosophies, and science behind how our brains function best for learning and thinking, the book covers topics such as reading and study habits, control over context and environment, trusting intuition while questioning everything, discovery and capture of ideas, and how to pay better attention. All tied to harnessing the power of opposite sides of the brain, creative versus practical, reactive versus thoughtful. Seeing both the forest and the trees.
Since the book is too full of useful information to summarize in one blog post, I’d like to share a few of my favorite parts.
Intuition and pattern matching replace explicit knowledge.
This echoes my philosophy of The Investigative Mindset where rules are not a substitute for clear thinking while considering the context. You can trust your intuition, yet you would do well to verify it by asking questions and digging deeper and keeping in mind your expectations and cognitive biases.
If you don’t keep track of great ideas, you will stop noticing you have them. Everyone has good ideas, fewer go further to keep track, act on them, and pull it off.
So true. Keep a journal, review it often, and take action on the best ideas. Share them with others for accountability, they can improve with feedback, or someone else can run with it if you don’t have time or energy to do so.
Rewire your brain with belief and constant practice; thinking makes it so.
This idea of mastery through constant, focused effort echoes what I’ve learned elsewhere, including a new book I’m excited about, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise (review to come soon).
A random approach, without goals and feedback, tends to give random results.
“You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” —Yogi Berra
The best efforts need a plan, because if you work on a team like mine at Automattic you’ll know from experience that starting on things without a clear goal in mind, nor a plan on how to get there, without specific metrics to track it — means it’ll be almost impossible to measure the results.
I love the concept of SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-boxed. Reminds me of Google’s Objectives and Key Results.
Read deliberately with SQ3R (scan, question, read, recite, review), which I find similar and complementary to Adler’s ideas on how to read books, as described by Ian Stewart.
You are who you hang out with: attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, and emotions are all contagious.
What does it take to stay sharp? Awareness. Learn to quiet your mind’s endless chatter, keep track of your ideas by working on and adding to your thoughts in progress, and avoid context switching.
Pragmatic Thinking & Learning is a must-read for all thinkers and learners. Hat tip: Nikolay Bachiyski.