Over at the members forum of commoncog.com there's a weekly thread where everyone posts the various productivity or personal growth experiments they're working on and follows up later with the results.

As part of that, I started keeping an experiment backlog of things to try at some point, and thought it might be useful to post it here.

Some of these would work on a week timescale, others would be longer.


1. Do a blub study

Ben Kuhn wrote a good essay about these .

"Sometimes people ask me what they should learn to become a better programmer... I always feel a little bit embarrassed and boring when I instead suggest going really deep on what you already know: your main programming language, web framework, object-relational mapper, UI library, version control system, database, Unix tools, etc. It’s not shiny or esoteric, but for me, building a detailed mental model of those (and how they compare to alternatives) might be the learning that’s contributed most to my effectiveness as an engineer." - Ben Kuhn

2. Try the Feynman technique

Came across this in an article by Scott Young on Cal Newport's blog.

Could also combine (1) and (2) and do the Feynman technique on a blub studies topic.

3. Try Hemingway's advice to always know what's next

I came across this in a writeup by Tyler Tringas. Hemingway:

"The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it."

This would be more of a true experiment (i.e. as opposed to an aspiration). Doesn't seem like it'd make that big of a difference but if it's Hemingway's most valuable advice might be worth trying.

4. Spend regular time in nature

The other day we had some people working on our house and me and the dog had to be out for a few hours. Normally I'd have played golf or something, but Charlie tagging along restricted my options.

We ended up going to a park and sitting on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. This was peaceful/relaxing enough that I could see benefits to doing it on a regular basis.

Experiment: spend at least one hour a week alone (or with Charlie) in nature.

Variations: try reading, doing nothing, writing without an internet gnf connection, listening to music.

In Progress

Read 5 books on a single topic

Slava Akhmechet recommended this in a substack post and said it's how he reads.

"A single book is a pinhole view of the world set up by the author. You have no input into its contents, and therefore cannot change the orientation of this view. But you do choose the books you select. That means you can stitch together multiple pinhole views into a unique lens to examine the world— one that no one else will have unless they use the same list of books to stitch together the same lens." — Slava Akhmechet

I'm in the middle of this one at the moment. My experimental topic is Singapore. I'm on book two of LKY's autobiography. After that I'll read Liberalism Disavowed and then 2-3 of:

Run with a weighted vest

Started doing this regularly recently.

Past Experiments

Run immediately after dropping kids off at school

Initially tried this to see how I liked it. Turned out to be quite a lot, and now I do it most days weather cooperates.

Start the day off with 4-6 Pomodoros

Plan each day out the night before