Getting enough high quality sleep is important for cognitive productivity. I’ve developed a technique called the cognitive shuffle. This is a technique that you can use in bed to ease you into sleep. I always try to make it clear that it is not a silver bullet. I recently posted an article on mySleepButton about how it can be used with acceptance and commitment therapy. “Acceptance and commitment” is a “third wave” psychological framework that aims to help people better relate to the content their minds generate. (That framework has some dubious “behavioral” theoretical baggage which you can safely ignore.)
My article speaks to a theme to which I frequently return on this web site, which is alluded to in this quote of Buddha
However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?
but which we take further, namely that it’s often very difficult to apply what we think we have “learnt”. One can read a profound book or article, think one understands it, and either forget it, or fail to apply it.
Cognitive Productivity is meant to help us apply knowledge.
To apply concepts related to acceptance and commitment (mindfulness, etc.) is even more challenging than picking up skills such as those described in Gottman’s books.
Here are some tips to help get more out of your information processing (of documents, podcasts, seminars, etc.)
- Realize the huge opportunity we face: There being plenty of “knowledge gems” to apply. (ACT, Gottman’s relationship principles, etc.).
- Realize that it’s difficult to apply knowledge.
- Be selective in what you read. Don’t spend much time reading stuff that doesn’t matter.
- Deliberately try to improve your criteria for assessing and selecting knowledge resources. Become a “connoisseur of knowledge”. In Cognitive Productivity I describe the CUPA criteria: caliber, utility, potency and appeal. Each criterion has multiple components.
- Monitor time spent processing new information in relation to time spent applying it, or instilling it. (Contrasts that with being a dilettante or “intellectual magpie”.)
- Recognize the challenges we face in using knowledge.
- Allocate time, several days a week, to instilling knowledge, with the aim of becoming disposed to recognize when it is applicable, and applying it. (The concept of Implementation intentions is helpful. But it’s not enough to write those intentions down, one needs to practice them.)
Cognitive Productivity expands on these in detail.
It is also important to understand why it’s challenging to learn. And that, too, is a tough problem! Cognitive Productivity lays a framework for such understanding. Chapter 15 of that book suggests acceptance and commitment therapy as an interesting area for future research on personal development.