Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Best Way to Save An Article to Read Later

Today, I want to share a little tip I recently discovered: using iPhone reminder to save articles you came across on your phone but didn't have time to read it right then.

I find myself constantly in a situation where I opened a tab of an news/article, but didn't have time to finish it. If I don't take some measures to remind myself, I will end up not remembering reading it at all. The result is 10 open tabs in Google Chrome on my phone, all of them only half-read.

There are apps like "Pocket" that solves problems like this. While it does a good job saving unread articles for later, it doesn't have a reminder for you to return to saved items. Pocket also doesn't plan to add that feature"We’re the first to admit that it’s difficult to remember to return to all the great content that you’ve saved! However, we don’t want Pocket to feel like another To-Do list to get through." 

I found an easy way to solve it, without even downloading a new App! (for IOS only).

  1. On the page you want to save, click on the little anchor icon next to the link. 
  2. It will pull up a menu at the bottom of the screen. You have options to: message, reminder, add to notes, etc. 
  3. Click on the Reminders icon. This will add this article to your reminder.
  4. In the popup window, you could click on "options", click on "remind me on a day", and set reminder for yourself to return to that article! 
  5. Then you're done! 
Normally, I will set the reminder for around 8PM weekday nights, when I will be winding down for the day and have some free time to read.

Hope you could try it out some time!

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Most Life-Changing Lecture in 2019: "The Science of Well-Being" - Part 2

Today, I will continue to share what I've learned from the most life-changing lecture in 2019 - "The Science of Well Being", available FREE on Coursera.

In my Part 1 blog post, I shared thoughts on two topics: 1) we're wrong about what will make us happy; and 2) why we are so wrong about what make us happy. Check it out first before you read this post.

The second portion of this class focuses on what actually makes us happy, and how we motivate ourselves to do more of those. Here're the stuff that actually makes us happy:
  • Exercise
    • It's so simple, yet it's true. Exercise keeps you healthy - physically and mentally. Learn about the basics of exercise and fitness from a credible source such as Harvard Health.
    • To get started, YouTube has some great FREE workout videos. I recently found the BodyFit by Amy channel and absolutely love it. She's a certified personal trainer in LA. her videos are energetic, easy to follow, and most importantly focuses on form - which is very important for beginners to avoid injury. All you need is a mat, two dumbells, and some space at home!
  • Awesome experience, not awesome stuff
    • This is the most interesting point to me. Because of the annoying feature of hedonic adaptation, our mind adjusts itself to material goods or any luxury good pretty quick. We'll end up always going after the better, more expensive, more luxurious stuff. However, it's different for experiences. Due to the fact we can't own an experience the way we own a car, a bag, a house, we actually come to cherish good experience more. The key is to be in the moment and learn how to savor the experience. So if you have $500 and not sure if you want to buy a fancy watch, or book a quick weekend vacation with your loved one, it's almost always a better idea to go for that vacation. 
  • Kindness
    • Professor Elizabeth Dunn from British Columbia University conducted a series of research, where she gives people $5 and they could either buy themselves something, or buy someone else something. Then she tracks their happiness afterwards. The result is very interesting - people who bought something for others have a higher increase in happiness, compared to those used the $5 on themselves. She repeated the similar experiment in different settings, in developed countries like Canada as well as third world countries where $5 is a lot more money. The finding remains consistent.
    • So, doing something nice for other people, no matter how small it might be, could make you happier.
  • Social Connection
    • We don't talk to each other anymore. On the train, we put AirPods on. We read. We look down on our phone. However, research shows just being surrounded by someone make an experience better. Talking to someone while eating a piece of chocolate seems to make it better! 
So there you go. Scientifically proven ways to make you happier. It's nothing earth shattering really. Things that we inherently have known for years probably. How do we achieve them though?

Professor Laura Santos shared a method - WOOP

WOOP stands for: wish, outcome, obstacles, plan. Again, it's scientifically developed. Over 20 years of research has proven WOOP works. Generally it works like this:
  • Wish: envision something you really really want, something if you could do, can make your life much better.
  • Outcome: if you are successful, what outcomes will you achieve?
  • Obstacles: what might be in your way to achieve your outcomes? Focus on the inner barriers. List them out.
  • Plan: what can you do to overcome the barriers. If (obstacle)..., I will...(action/thoughts).
Check out the WOOP website to learn more.

Hope you get to check out the "Science of Well Being" course after reading this post!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Most Life-Changing Lecture in 2019: "The Science of Well-Being" - Part 1

Taught by Professor Laurie Santos, "The Science of Well-Being" is a course explaining what makes you happy, based on robust scientific research. The course is available for free on Coursera with almost 2000 ratings and 4.9 stars. It's easily the best life-changing idea I've been exposed to in 2019.

1. We're Wrong about What Makes Us Happy.
What makes us happy? Easy question. We thought we knew. Money, a good job, awesome/expensive stuff, a good body, good grades, etc. After all, we spend the majority of our waking hours in pursuit of them. We study hard, to get a good, high paying job. We work hard at our jobs to get promoted, to get a raise, so we could make more money and buy good stuffs: a fancy car, a bigger house, an expensive purse. So many others are thinking and doing the same. How could we be wrong?

Using empirical scientific research findings, Professor Santos debunks the myth: none of these things listed above make us happy. She used evidence to rebuff them one by one. The only caveat here is you meet your basic needs as a human being - a roof over your head, fed three meals a day, clothes to keep your warm, etc.

Take money as an example. Study shows that once you pass $75,000 annual income threshold, any more money will not make you happier. This research was a few years old, and more recently some argues the number should be updated to $83,000 after adjusting for inflation and cost of living nowadays. 

The actual number is beside the point. The point is more money don't buy happiness. We always say that millionaires have their worries and might not be as happy as we think they are. Now there's evidence for that. 

Reflecting on this myself, I have to agree with it. Nine years ago when I came to the U.S. for my Master's degree at Villanova, I was making $12,000 a year on a Graduate Assistant stipend. Nine years later, my regular salary has significantly surpassed that. But am I much more happy than when I was at Villanova? Not really. Don't get me wrong - the first few years in American was hard. But most of the hardship aren't really financially related. 

Professor Santos went in details about why each one of the items won't make us happy - a good job, good stuffs, good grades. I encourage you to watch those videos if you want an in-depth understanding.

Okay. Now it's established we were just wrong about what makes us happy. The question now is, why? Why are we wrong? 

2. Why Are We Wrong about What Makes Us Happy?
Week 3 of this lecture "Why Our Expectations are so Bad" tell us exactly that. Professor Santos calls them the "annoying features of the mind".

Two of them make a lot of sense to me:
  • Our mind doesn't think of absolute so we constantly compare ourselves to others.
  • Our brain gets used to stuff quickly. 
First off, lots of debate going on around social media and its impact. I've been following Cal Newport who wrote a book called "Digital Minimalism" which I highly recommend. He talks about how we stay focused in a world with lots of social media distractions.

Here I have another story of mine that quite impact my thoughts on social media. Back in 2013, my first year out of school and start working. It's easily the worst year of my life. Things went wrong on every front - some within my control, most weren't. For example, I visited Chicago and got mugged on the subway, 11 in the morning. Terrifying experience.

At that time, I still shared somewhat regular updates on Facebook. I'm never one to whine in public so I didn't share many updates like the one above. Most posts are just about my weekend mini explorations. One day in 2013, I got a Facebook message. It's from an acquaintance from my undergrad in China. She was studying in Italy and was having a hard time adjusting to the life there herself. In her message, she said "I've been following your Facebook posts and am sure you must have a great life in the U.S. How do you manage to be so put-together?" (roughly translated from Chinese to English by me). This really struck a nerve. I wasn't "having a great life". Quite contrary, I was living the toughest year. But I can totally see how she came to that conclusion by just reading my Facebook posts. Unconsciously I "misled" her and probably added to her unhappiness to a degree.

Shortly after that, I deleted the Facebook app from my phone. I still have the account, which I logged in once in a while and see what friends are up to. I no longer post as often as I used to.

What is enlightening from the course is finally an explanation to why we compare to the "unreality" on social media. It's because we can't think in absolute. Professor Santos used vision illusion to explain this one. The famous "which circle is bigger" test. Just like it's hard for eyes to see absolute, our brains can't think absolute either.

Another important lesson I learned is "hedonic adaptation" or hedonic treadmill - it's the simple fact that our brains get used to stuff pretty quickly. This works both ways: we return to a stabilized level of happiness after experiencing either major positive or negative events in life. For example, I'll be very happy the moment I drive a new car out of the lot, and I'll be cherishing my new car weeks or months after it. But that happiness won't be sustained. My mind will be used to "having" this car. Because I'll always have this car. My level of happiness will be adjusted and stabilized. I won't wake up a year from when I bought the car and be super excited about the car anymore.

This is the key reason why good stuffs won't give us lasting happiness. Professor Santos suggests it's almost always better to spend money on experiences than things, simply because experience won't last forever. 

More to come in Part 2, where I shared the good habits I learned from the lecture, and what are the things that actually make us happy!

Friday, June 7, 2019

First Post on the New Microsoft Surface Pro 6

I came home today from a week-long business trip in Orlando. What waited for me was a pleasant surprise - a brand new Microsoft Surface Pro 6!

Two weeks ago, I came across the new Microsoft Surface Go and thought it was a nice portable tablet. However, I have a desktop, a Macbook Pro (which my husband uses for leisure primarily) and an iPad Pro at home...There is no hard need for another tablet/laptop. Therefore, even I quite like the Surface series after checking them out in store, I simply couldn't justify the purchase.

I was so happy that Steve bought it as a birthday gift. But at the same time I wasn't sure if I should keep it. It seems extravagant given it's more of a want vs. need. Recalling back in college, my mom bought me an iPod MP3. I used it to listen to English exclusively for 6 months and scored high on TOEFL exam before using the iPod for listening to music at all. justify keeping the Surface Pro, I decided to give blogging another try. It's such a coincidence that I was planning to pick it up anyway. Blogging is a great way to capture and share my thoughts on the books and podcasts I read and listen to.

Let's see how I do!

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