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Hack your brain - Ways to improve your thought processes

Hack your brain - Ways to improve your thought processes

As developers we are always looking at improving and optimizing our workflows, but why don't we also do that with our thoughts? This talk will explore ways to improve those thought processes through looking at techniques like mindfulness, having a growth mindset, implementing new habits like how you do a sprint and even why speed reading might be for you!


May 17, 2019

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    Hack Your Brain
    Ways to improve your thought processes

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    You can improve yourself

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    Software Engineer
    Network Engineer
    Product Designer
    Product Manager

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    What's her struggle?
    • Thoughts just keep circling

    • Feels overwhelmed with
    worries and general chaos

    • Everything wrong is
    happening to her

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    A Solution? Mindfulness

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    – Jon Kabat-Zinn
    professor/creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and Center for Mindfulness
    “Mindfulness is awareness that arises
    through paying attention, on purpose, in the
    present moment, non-judgementally”

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    What is mindfulness?
    • Mental habit of paying attention without thinking

    • Logging for your brain

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    Let's try a quick

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    How to practice mindfulness
    • Focus your attention on something

    • Keep your focus, but don't judge

    •Don't strive to hard

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    Might even call this the
    Secret Sauce

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    Am I going to need a lot of

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    There is no perfect way to meditate

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    Do you have to do mindfulness
    meditation in order to be mindful?

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    What can it help with?
    Emotional balance

    Response flexibility

    Downregulation of

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    But wait there's more...




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    How will this help Evette?
    Thoughts just keep circling around

    • Allows her to redirect thoughts

    Feels overwhelmed with worries and
    general chaos

    • Helps with fear and chaos by down-

    Everything wrong is happening to her

    • Helps her find insight and

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    What is the struggle?
    • They have a resolution list a
    mile long

    • Starts and stops trying to
    tackle procrastination, healthy
    eating, exercise...

    • Lots of to-do lists

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    An idea to help? Habit building

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    –Will Durant, writer/historian/philosopher
    (often attributed to Aristotle)
    “…we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence,
    then is not an act but a habit.”

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    What is a habit?
    • Not just "something you do every day"

    • Frequently recurring behaviors, that trigger when a cue
    is encountered

    • Then the behavior is performed automatically

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    Example Habits
    • When you wake up (trigger),
    you brush your teeth (habit).

    • When you get to work
    (trigger), you check your
    email/slack (habit).

    • When you get stressed
    (trigger), you eat cheetos/
    chocolate (habit).

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    How to form a habit?
    1. Identify your goal

    2. Create environmental triggers

    3. Define your reward

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    Identify the trigger
    •Figure out existing

    •Look for something
    already in your routine



    •Eating Breakfast


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    Tips for making a habit stick
    •Find what you like
    about the habit

    •Have a habit buddy

    •Have a way of keeping

    •Make it hard to not do
    the habit

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    Treat your habit like a sprint and have a retro

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    How will this help Dell?
    They have a resolution list a mile long

    • Mark that list off one at a time

    Starts and stops trying to tackle
    procrastination, healthy eating,

    • Habits build on habits, start small

    Lots of to-do lists

    • Make sure the habit is part of a long
    term goal

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    What is the struggle?
    • Avoids Challenges

    • Gives up easily

    • Feels threatened by the
    success of others

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    What is a solution?
    Growth Mindset

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  34. Think of yourself like
    vanilla software
    It is just a starting point, can always improve with
    more add-ons and frameworks

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    Belief ➡ Action ➡ Growth

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    Questions to challenge why
    • Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them?

    • Why look for friends or partners who will just shore
    up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also
    challenge you to grow?

    • Why seek out the tried and true, instead of
    experiences that will stretch you?

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    Fixed vs Growth Mindset
    I suck at math vs Math has been challenging for me

    I’ll never be an artist vs I feel dissatisfied with all of the
    art I’ve tried to make

    I’m not good at handstands vs I haven’t learned how to
    do handstands yet

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    How to put it into practice?
    • Accept you are not perfect, but can improve

    • Change your perspective on failure and criticism

    • Don't focus on the end result, focus on the process

    • Learning fast != learning well

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    If you find yourself discouraged
    Remember, “I’m just not good at this yet.”

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    Imposter syndrome and mindset
    • Just a mindset

    • Like a fixed
    mindset, it might
    be helped with
    focus on growth

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    How will this help Nick?
    Avoids Challenges

    • Embrace Challenges for learning

    Gives up easily

    • Only through some perseverance
    can you learn

    Feels threatened by the success of

    • Find lessons and inspirations in
    others success

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    What is the struggle?
    • Has a long reading list and no

    • Backlog of emails and articles to

    • Wants to stay current in tech
    and business articles

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    A solution? Speed Reading

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    Reading is a three step process
    1. Fixate

    2. Saccade

    3. Process

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    Speed Reading Techniques
    • Skimming

    • Meta guiding

    • Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP)

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    Increase your throughput

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    RSVP Example

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    Note of caution
    speed and
    comprehension can be
    a trade-off

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    A solution? Speed Reading
    Smarter Reading (which might make you faster)

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    Better Reading Technique
    1. Skim before

    2. Improve your fluency to help your speed

    3. Know what you want, before reading

    4. For better retention, think and examine the text

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    How will this help Peyton?
    Has a long reading list and no time

    • Reading time gains will help cut that list

    Backlog of emails and articles to read

    • Skim the ones with less retention
    needed, read smarter with others

    Wants to stay current in tech and business

    • Will be a thing of the past

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    Software Engineer
    Network Engineer
    Product Designer
    Product Manager
    Mindfulness Growth Mindset
    Habit Building Speed Reading

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  55. @tech_christine
    Mindfulness Growth Mindset
    Habit Building Speed Reading

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    What questions do you

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    Mindfulness Resources
    • Timeless Truths for Modern Mindfulness by Arnie Kozak

    • Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In
    Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn

    • https://nickwignall.com/how-to-start-a-mindfulness-practice/

    • https://www.mindful.org/jon-kabat-zinn-defining-mindfulness/

    • https://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/mindfulnessmatters/2016/09/

    • https://counterculturist.net/mindfulness-meditation-beginners/

    • http://bethannvetter.com/meditation-or-attunement?

    • https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/what-does-

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    Habit Building
    • Essential Zen Habits: Mastering the Art of Change, Briefly by Leo

    • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

    • https://zenhabits.net/how-habits-are-formed/

    • https://zenhabits.net/habit-motivations/

    • https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2009/aug/how-long-does-it-take-form-

    • https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-media-psychology-

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    Growth Mindset Resources
    • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

    • https://www.mindsetworks.com/science/

    • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5836039/

    • http://theconversation.com/growth-mindset-interventions-yield-

    • https://fs.blog/2015/03/carol-dweck-mindset/

    • https://hbr.org/2016/01/what-having-a-growth-mindset-actually-

    • https://scholarworks.uvm.edu/tvc/vol34/iss1/6/

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    Speed Reading
    • https://tim.blog/2009/07/30/speed-reading-and-accelerated-

    • https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2015/01/19/speed-reading-

    • https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/BF03197271

    • https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/BF03196973#page-1

    • https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.

    • https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4229

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  61. @tech_christine
    Thank you to 200OK organizers and volunteers!
    And to all of you for attending today

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