Juan Alonso's personal blog » Self improvement http://slnc.net Fri, 13 Jun 2014 02:20:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Deliberate Practice Cheatsheet http://slnc.net/deliberate-practice-cheatsheet/ http://slnc.net/deliberate-practice-cheatsheet/#comments Sun, 30 Oct 2011 17:24:02 +0000 http://slnc.me/?p=6203 If you have read Talent Is Overrated by Geoff Colvin and you want a quick summary of what and how to do deliberate practice you might find the following cheatsheet handy:

deliberate_practice_letter.pdf (53Kb)

These days I keep a printed copy with me at home and at work.

Feedback strongly welcome.

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Four sentences emails http://slnc.net/4-sentences-emails/ http://slnc.net/4-sentences-emails/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2011 21:12:16 +0000 http://slnc.me/?p=6028

Why is it bad?

  • Opening my inbox and seeing all those email sitting there and looking at me is frustrating and makes me feel guilty.
  • It’s also time wasting because less than 1 out of every 20 emails I receive are so contrived or life changing that I need to read them multiple times.
  • A consequence of being a time wasting activity is that I lose time that I could spend in other activities that I enjoy more like continuing my Division by Zero webcomic.


Use at most 4 sentences in all my emails, no exceptions no matter what topic or recipient. If I need to communicate more information I use a different medium like a Google Docs document or a blog post and I add a link to it in the email.


  • I spend less time in my inbox.
  • My recipient spends less time reading my emails and frees her to do more interesting things.
  • With 4 sentences I need to get to the point and I can’t conceal my “agenda”. That reduces one of the biggest problem with communication: misunderstandings.
  • It makes me think hard about what I say and the way I say it. I can’t spend the same effort with emails that are paragraphs or pages long.


  • Your emails will sound less personal than before because you send out less information.
  • If you use email to communicate with friends that you don’t communicate with through other medium you are not going to be able to keep them as informed about you as before.


Spending the same or more time on email wasn’t an option so the only other options were:

  • Using less than 4 sentences: not feasible for me. I usually spend one full sentence saying “Bye” or “See you” and generally another sentence with “Hello,” or similar. In practice, I have about 2 or 3 sentences, instead of 4.
  • Stop responding to some emails. Gladly I’m far from receiving so many emails that I have to do something that harsh.

Things to keep in mind

After several weeks using this approach I found out the following:

  • I still feel like I sound personal which was one of my biggest concerns.
  • This works for any other messaging system like Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • I have to be careful not to start replacing periods with commas.
  • 4 sentences is the limit, not the goal. If you can use less sentences do it.

At the beginning I added http://four.sentenc.es/ to my email signature to let people know why my emails were now more succinct. If 4 sentences is not the right number for you there are 5, 3 and 2 sentences versions available.

Do you have email under control? Do you use any other technique?

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More interesting people http://slnc.net/more-interesting-people/ http://slnc.net/more-interesting-people/#comments Mon, 07 Feb 2011 08:35:10 +0000 http://slnc.me/?p=5198 This is the second post in the series about people that I have found interesting while browsing on the Internet.

Cal Newport

Cal is the author of Study Hacks, an inspiring blog full of tips about how to study more efficiently, the value of focus and preparing since college to lead a balanced and fulfilling life. He is an MIT Computer Science postdoc and he has written 3 books about his blog’s topic. I love his treatment of the importance of focus.


Chris Guillebeau

Chris has travelled to over 150 countries (and is now travelling to an average of 20 countries per year) and lives and writes about the art of non-conformity which he defines as “the refusal to accept established customs, attitudes, or ideas”. His blog, 3×5 is full of tips and life hacks.


Garr Reynolds

Garr is an American living in Japan who loves good design, good presentations and jazz. His blog, PresentationZen, is one of the first blogs that I started reading and that is still on my RSS reader.


Ken Robinson

Ken is a very inspiring speaker passionate about the value of creativity and education. He was knighted by the British and has written several books about the topic. I have written about him before and I recommend his books: The Element and Out of Our Minds.


Mark Sisson

Mark is a big proponent of primal living, that is, living like our ancestors did. He is 57 years old and looks like this. If you’re interested in knowing more you can check out his Primal Blueprint 101 or his health and fitness blog: Mark’s Daily Apple.


And you, what are the most interesting people that you have found recently?

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How to study for an engineering major http://slnc.net/how-to-study-for-an-engineering-major/ http://slnc.net/how-to-study-for-an-engineering-major/#comments Sat, 29 Jan 2011 08:00:35 +0000 http://slnc.me/?p=3983 Are you going to college and planning to become an engineer? After a few years there here are 5 tips that I’ve got from the trenches:

Be prepared to spend time understanding and think that you are stupid.

I wasn’t born with an engineering mind. I still probably don’t have a full one but I am more engineer than before. And I’m probably not the only one. A big part of what you get from an engineering major is a mindset and that is not something that you achieve by studying the night before. The more time and focus you put in the more you get out of it. When I was studying it was typical to spend about 4h to 8h on a problem and still not get it and that’s frustrating. I am happy with what I have got from and I appreciate it but I swore many times when I still had looming exams and other deadlines what was I thinking when I decided to get into college.


Fully understand the concepts you see.

Anything else is memorizing and you won’t be able to apply the concept or technique to unseen areas. Besides that it’s easier to lose data with a more limited field of application than a way of thinking which is more applicable to other areas. Also depending on your university and your major it won’t be possible to pass a course unless you really understand what’s there.


Plan your study time, do the 20% that results in the 80% and, for best results, get rest, exercise and fun.

You won’t probably be able to fully understand everything in any case. Life is too short and spending 5 years delaying happiness is a bad precedent. Something that worked for me was to do timeboxing with my courses: allocate for example 1h to each course per day and once that hour is gone go to the next course. When you finish if you need to finish something from any of the courses do it now. Failing to plan in this case is definitely planning to fail, you will spend the whole afternoon on one course or problem, you will neglect the rest of the courses, do them harshly, deprive yourself of essential sleep and it will become a difficult habit to get rid of.


Once you understand concepts revise them periodically.

Once you have mastered a concept it is a very valuable possession. If you input those concepts into a flash-card program like Mnemosyne it will take you maybe 15min a week to revise them and they will solidify in your memory. This is also a strategy that worked for me when trying to tackle difficult courses: memorize the definition of a concept even if you still don’t understand it and then later, with the definition in your mind your subconscious will work with it and many times I was able to understand something after having memorized it and let my subconscious work on it.


If you are interested about learning more about efficient and pleasurable college years I recommend you to take a look at Study Hacks from Cal Newport.

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Overcoming your fears http://slnc.net/overcoming-your-fears/ http://slnc.net/overcoming-your-fears/#comments Sun, 16 Jan 2011 19:29:14 +0000 http://slnc.me/?p=5071
This is the little man that lives inside me and tries to keep me in my comfort zone.

A long time ago I used to play as a DM in a roleplaying game called Dungeons & Dragons. I played it during weekends with my high school friends. I loved it. We created stories together that transported us to fantastic worlds for hours, my friends and I were using our creativity to the maximum, we had such surrealistic and fun situations that we ended up laughing so long as to get muscle aches. But years passed, our other interests shifted and we parted ways ending the campaign.

During the last 8 years or so I yearned for playing again but I always had that little guy sitting by my ears telling me things like: “you don’t have time to play, it’s a lot of time, you’re not in a Spanish speaking country, with your heavy accent and your lack of medieval vocabulary in a foreign language how are you supposed to do it? It won’t work, it won’t be perfect, bla bla bla.” And he kept hammering me and keeping me from trying to play again.

But enough was enough, a few months ago, after moving to Dublin I decided I would give it a try. This Stoicism 101 post by Tim Ferriss as well as his The 4-Hour Workweek book and the “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” question inside it helped me overcome that little guy. And boy did I like playing again! It was not comparable to my teenager times but it was at least as fun as in the old times. If you are curious about how it went it’s all more or less recorded on our campaign’s blog: Zhymballa.

Would you like to try something new or something exciting and your fears are keeping you from doing it? I invite you to imagine the worst case scenario. Now imagine yourself in your death bed lamenting never having had the guts to try it. Rate from 1 (just a little bit happy) to 10 (nirvana) how well do you think you will feel by doing it and rate from 1 (just a minor inconvenience) to 10 (you risk dying if you fail doing it) how bad the worst case scenario is. Compare both numbers and decide by yourself. In my case I had at least a potential 7 or 8 happiness against feeling embarrassed in front of some strangers and myself (something I would rate as 1 or 2).

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My morning routine http://slnc.net/my-morning-routine/ http://slnc.net/my-morning-routine/#comments Fri, 15 Oct 2010 23:39:39 +0000 http://slnc.me/?p=5173
Heaven is for those who do elbow bridge planks first thing in the morning.

Right after I moved into my current apartment I started doing a new morning routine. Based on my experience the best moment to put habits into practice is when you have big changes in your life. Your subconscious is in unknown territory and it’s really easy to imprint new habits.

Back on topic this is what I’m doing every morning:

1. Green Drink

Prepare my green drink of the day which contains:
– 500ml of filtered or mineral water
– a spoon of a food supplement that contains pulverized wheat grass, barley grass and alfalfa.
– a squeezed lemon (59 cents lemon by the way, fruits are as cheap here as in Japan)

I will then drink it drink through the following exercises.

I will devote a whole post to this topic but the idea is to lower your acidic level and become more alkaline so that you lose fat, your stamina, energy and strength increases and your immune system becomes stronger.

It is difficult to measure the impact of this alone because it’s not the only thing I do to make my body more alkaline but the fact is that my body fat composition has gone down from 14% in June 2010 to 7.2% today. What I do have noticed since I started doing it is that my brain is more sharp in the morning.

2. Exercise to awaken the digestive system

Uddiyana Bandha

After 8h of rest there is nothing like a good gentle massage to your digestive system to get it moving.

What many ads promise: regularity.

3. Pranayama (breathing) exercises

– 3 sets of Kapalabhati with 60 repetitions, 120 repetitions and 180 repetitions.
– 3 sets of Anuloma Viloma (only during weekends as they require more time).

All done while siting in padmasana.

We are breathing all the time. We get a lot of energy out of air. Kapalabhati helps you awaken faster due to its fast cycle of inhalations and exhalations and it alsobrings a lot of oxygen into the body and, specially to the brain.

Having more oxygen in the body and in the brain means a better functioning system and more effective. It also cleanses the respiratory system but throwing away mucus and other substances that might have accumulated during the night. And finally it feels to your brain like washing your face with refreshing cold water in the morning.

4. Short yoga session

– Full body muscle contraction/relax cycles from the toes to the neck.
Sirsasana for about 2 to 4 minutes followed by a few seconds of Balasana.
– Half Spinal Twist (first animation).
Bridge pose.

Again, we are waking up. Besides the nice feeling of stretching in the morning some of the exercises have additional benefits that I won’t go into detail here. I try to cover all major muscles with these exercises but during weekends I practice more asanas.

Standing on your head gets a lot of blood flowing through your brain. The whole body feels lighter after having it stretched, the risk of injuries from fast movements is decreased throughout the day and as I mentioned before it each pose has additional specific benefits. Although the session is not as beneficial as it would be if I spent more time on the exercises it’s better than not doing any stretching at all.

5. Abdominal and pilates super sets

I do 3 sets of the following 2 different routines. I do routine 1 even days and routine 2 odd days and I only rest after doing a complete set of each exercise. E.g. I will do 1 set of oblique crunches, another of crunches, another of side planks, another of elbow bridge plank and then rest for 1min or so (excellent moments to iron your trousers or to make your bed but whatever happens don’t turn on the computer and for God’s sake don’t check your email!).

Routine 1
Oblique crunches: 25 repetitions per side
Crunches: 50 repetitions.
Side plank: 15 repetitions per side
Elbow bridge plank: 15 repetitions.

Routine 2
Legs lift: 25 repetitions.
Crunches: 50 repetitions.
Side plank: hold for as long as you can.
Elbow bridge plank: hold for as long as you can.

The abs exercises because: 1) we have a lot of organs after the abdominal exercises and there is no protection from the front, 2) it helps me to detach from my body (it’s hard), 3) after getting through the whole thing breakfast feels like a godsend and there is nothing like a godsend to start the day. The plank exercises because the effect they have on my back is incredible. After doing them it feels like my center of gravity is strongly set on my waist. Compared to how I feel when I don’t do the plank exercises it is like comparing a strawman with ironman.

Feeling like ironman early in the morning, feeling like I have done something impossible before breakfast (5 more impossible things to go) and looks nice on the mirror.

And some people look at me in awe when I tell them that I don’t drink coffee. Who needs coffee with this?

The whole routine takes me about 40min.

Do you have a morning routine?

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