#030 | Feb 6th, 2020

Maker Mind

The mindful productivity newsletter

Let's meet!

Hello friends!

I was supposed to be in Asia this week, but my work trip was cancelled because of the coronavirus. Since I was stuck in Europe, I decided to make the most of it and took the time to connect with fellow entrepreneurs. My favourite event was yesterday, where I had dinner in Paris with Dr. Megan Jones Bell (Chief Science Officer of Headspace) and other mindfulness/mental health nerds.

My highlight is the conversation we had about how digital health apps should be vetted the same way foods making health claims are. I know some startups are tackling this issue, but I wish there was a trustworthy label for digital health apps already.

Connecting in person can be incredibly powerful. And because I want Maker Mind to be more than just you reading my articles, I'm going to start experimenting with more ways to get to know each other. The first one will be a very small live event in London (at my new place!) on March 4th. See all the details here.

This week, we will have a look at the urge some of us have to turn hobbies into side hustles; an introduction to divergent thinking; and a beginner's guide to Roam with 5 easy steps to get you started—especially if you don't know where to start.

Bonus: Another highlight of this week is that my proposal for my Masters' research project was accepted and I found a supervisor! The topic will be "Education and neuroscience in the workplace: pathways to develop work performance and mental health"—can't wait to share more with you.

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Brain food

A round-up of my neuroscience-based articles about creativity and productivity.

001 // Don’t pin the butterfly: not all hobbies need to become hustles

A couple of years ago, I got really interested in pu’er tea—a kind of fermented tea produced in China—which can sell for thousands of dollars. I tried some, liked it, read about its history, and then… My mind started racing: why is it so hard to buy pu’er tea in Europe? Maybe I could import it and create an online shop?

I was trying so hard to pin the butterfly. Sometimes, ideas and passions are best left alone, given enough space to expand, travel, and connect with other ideas and passions. But our worship of entrepreneurship has made us run after viable businesses, profitable ventures—the kind of activities where time spent translates into money earned.

While most people are aware hobbies tend to make us happier, they are also scientifically proven to make us healthier. For instance, researchers found that hobbies are associated with lower blood pressure and a lower body mass index. The impact is so important, hobbies are considered part of the psychosocial predictors of survival for patients who went through breast cancer surgery. In another study, having a hobby was associated with better heart functions. Hobbies seem to help us live a calmer life, which reflects on the body.

Especially for people in high-pressure, demanding jobs, hobbies can sometimes feel like a necessity. “Something I’ve learned, actually from a collection of Earnest Hemingway quotes about writing, is the importance of disconnecting from the current task and entire thought patterns around building a business. Hobbies do that for me. They occupy my attention and keep me from endlessly working on a business problem, at least consciously” explains Tyler Tringas, founder of Earnest Capital.

Hobbies are also a way to shape our identity. Dr Patricia Linville from the psychology department at Duke University found that the narrower our vision of self, the more prone we are to depression and anxiety. She calls this concept “self-complexity”—our perceived knowledge of ourselves, based on the number of distinct aspects we believe we possess. Goals, relationships, and activities are all part of a network forming our sense of self.

Read more

002 // Beyond facts: divergent thinking

When trying to solve a problem, we often tend to look for useful facts that may guide us to the “correct” answer. This type of thinking—called convergent thinking—works great when the problem we want to solve is clear and requires a reasonable solution. But for bigger, more complex problems, convergent thinking may be too limited. By focusing on existing facts to get to a specific answer, we are likely to miss some interesting solutions. Divergent thinking is all about exploring many ideas based on a question, creating unexpected connections, and encouraging spontaneity.

Research has found that divergent thinking is linked to playfulness and creativity. Children who play more tend to display traits such as nonconformity, curiosity, persistence, and a willingness to take risks—all important characteristics in the quest of innovative solutions. This results in increased levels of creativity in teenage years and adulthood.

While convergent knowledge is based on prior knowledge, divergent thinking is based on imagination. It happens in a more spontaneous, non-linear, free-flowing way.

Read more

003 // A beginner’s guide to Roam Research

By this point, most of my readers know how much I enjoy using Roam for research. But many messages I get are about how to get started. People are convinced this is an amazing tool for note-taking, thinking, and metacognition, but the interface can be a bit confusing at first. So here is my super-simple beginner’s guide to Roam Research. It’s nothing advanced, and you’ll need to poke around to do more complex stuff, but I’m confident it will be enough to get you to understand its beauty.

To make the most of this tutorial, you’ll need to have a research topic in mind. I’ll prompt you again later to think about it, but the more interesting the topic is to you, the more you will enjoy your first experience using Roam. If you’re not feeling inspired today and still want to go through this tutorial, here are a couple of topics I used myself:

  • Consciousness
  • Black Death
  • Growth mindset

As you can see, these are topics large and complex enough to give you lots of opportunities to wander around and create new pathways. Whatever topic you choose for this tutorial, make sure it’s broad and feels exciting to you.

Read more

Brain candy

Didn't get enough? Even more goodness from around the web.

Until next week... Take care!

Founder, Ness Labs.

P.S. If you liked this, please forward it to a friend! It would mean a lot to me. Were you forwarded this email? You can subscribe to the newsletter or explore the past editions.
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