How to Be an Effective Engineer

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Crux of The Effective Engineer talk by Edmond Lau:

  • Optimize for learning – small improvements compound over time.
  • Invest in tools & automation – automate anything that you do more than twice a year.
  • Validate before you implement – test your ideas for features and designs before investing the time and effort to implement them, you don’t want to work on the wrong thing.
  • Keep it simple – complexity is a compounding tax on productivity and communications.
  • Work with people that value learning, invest in tools, test their ideas, and simplify things.

School-Caused ER Visits

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Crux of The Danger of Back to School by Peter Gray:

  • The number of children’s psychiatric ER visits falls drastically during the summer vacation.
  • In Connecticut Children’s Mental Center in Hartford, it falls from an average of about 140 visits per month to about 70.

Deliberate Practice Doesn’t Matter Much

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Crux of Actually, practice doesn’t always make perfect – new study by Alfie Kohn:

  • The popular idea of 10,000 hours is disproved by research: “the amount of deliberate practice in which someone engages explains only 12 percent of the variance in the quality of performance.”
  • The effect of practice depends on the domain: “Practice explained 26 percent of the variance in achievement for games, 21 percent in musical accomplishment, 18 percent in sports, 4 percent in college grades, and less than 1 percent in professional success.”
  • Other factors that do, in fact, contribute to performance: “how early in life you were introduced to the activity […] how open you are to collaborating and learning from others, and how much you enjoy the activity.”
  • It is possible that the amount of practice is a result of intrinsic motivation, and that it is this motivation that affects the performance more than the practice.

Durable Learning Requires Taking Breaks

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Crux of Ditch the 10,000 hour rule! Why Malcolm Gladwell’s famous advice falls short by Katie Mcdonough:

  • “Rapid fire practice leans on short-term memory. Durable learning, however, requires time for mental rehearsal and the other processes of consolidation. Hence, spaced practice works better. The increased effort required to retrieve the learning after a little forgetting has the effect of retriggering consolidation, further strengthening memory.”
  • “The learning from interleaved practice feels slower than learning from massed practice. (…) But the research shows unequivocally that mastery and long-term retention are much better if you interleave practice than if you mass it.”
  • “learning gained through the less challenging, massed form of practice is encoded in a simpler or comparatively impoverished representation than the learning gained from the varied and more challenging practice which demands more brain power and encodes the learning in a more flexible representation that can be applied more broadly.”

Antibiotics May Cause Obesity

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Crux of The Fat Drug by Pagan Kennedy:

  • In the 1950’s it was discovered that antibiotics causes domestic animals to put on more weight, and since then farmers add antibiotics to the feed in order to fatten their animals.
  • Antibiotics may have a similar effect in humans, contributing to the obesity epidemic.

Chronic Pain Can Be Relieved By Unlearning

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Crux of Yoga Offers New Hope for Chronic Pain by Kelly McGonigal:

  • If you repeat something many times, it becomes a second nature. This applies even to pain: “Through the repeated experience of pain, the nervous system gets better at detecting threat and producing the protective pain response. “
  • “The best way to unlearn chronic stress and pain responses is to give the mind and body healthier responses to practice.”
  • “Relaxation specifically has been shown to be healing for chronic pain. It turns off the stress response and directs the body’s energy to growth, repair, immune function, digestion, and other self-nurturing processes.”
  • Detailed instructions for pain relieving relaxation are given in the article, here is a small part: “Imagine that the breath is dissolving or massaging the tension and pain. […] try moving your attention back and forth between the uncomfortable area and a more comfortable area. […] Switching back and forth like this can teach the mind how to give the uncomfortable sensations less priority.”

Naps Are Good, But Not All Naps Are As Good

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Crux of The Perfect Nap by Sumathi Reddy:

  • “For a quick boost of alertness, experts say a 10-to-20-minute power nap is adequate for getting back to work in a pinch.”
  • “For cognitive memory processing, however, a 60-minute nap may do more good, [because] slow-wave sleep helps with remembering facts, places and faces. The downside: some grogginess upon waking.”
  • “90-minute nap will likely involve a full cycle of sleep, which aids creativity and emotional and procedural memory, such as learning how to ride a bike.” Usually there’s no grogginess afterwards.
  • “the ideal time to nap is generally between the hours of 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Napping later in the day could interfere with nighttime sleep.”

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