Stephen Wolfram Q&A

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Some collected questions and answers by Stephen Wolfram

Questions may be edited for brevity; see links for full questions.

March 3, 2019

From: Reddit AMA

Do you have a “productivity reward function” that helps you decide which tools are most helpful rather than fun technology for its own sake? For many people, technology enables distractions rather than productivity… Do you have any systems to guard against that to maintain focus? Finally, Wolfram Language aside, which of these tools has given you the most benefit, that you would most recommend to others?

My “reward function” is basically “do I actually go on using it?”. I like to make sure I try as much leading-edge tech as possible, because I want to understand it. But when it isn’t really useful to me, I stop using it pretty quickly.

I think the main way I stay focused is that I have so many projects that I want to do, and I’m pretty tenacious about pursuing them. So if there’s a distraction it usually doesn’t have enough “gravitational pull” to snag me. I’ve also just decided there are “distractions” I’m never going to fall into … for example, I never watch television. (Though this has the effect that when there’s a television in a room I’m not used to it, and I find it hard not to look over at it whenever something moves on the screen…)

My main advice about guarding against distraction is to have something to do that you really like doing…

Having said all that, I can sometimes be a procrastinator … though I consider myself a “rational procrastinator”. E.g. don’t prepare a talk until right beforehand, because otherwise I’ll forget what I prepared…

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