Thinking about your thinking: 7 ways to improve critical thinking skills

Man looking at sunset

© Unsplash/Chetan Menaria

When I was in 7th grade, my U.S. history teacher gave my class the following advice:

Your teachers in high school won’t expect you to remember every little fact about U.S. history. They can fill in the details you’ve forgotten. What they will expect, though, is for you to be able to think; to know how to make connections between ideas and evaluate information critically.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my teacher was giving a concise summary of critical thinking. My high school teachers gave similar speeches when describing what would be expected of us in college: it’s not about the facts you know, but rather about your ability to evaluate them.

And now that I’m in college, my professors often mention that the ability to think through and solve difficult problems matters more in the “real world” than specific content.

Despite hearing so much about critical thinking all these years, I realized that I still couldn’t give a concrete definition of it, and I certainly couldn’t explain how to do it. It seemed like something that my teachers just expected us to pick up in the course of our studies. While I venture that a lot of us did learn it, I prefer to approach learning deliberately, and so I decided to investigate critical thinking for myself.

What is it, how do we do it, why is it important, and how can we get better at it? This post is my attempt to answer those questions.

In addition to answering these questions, I’ll also offer seven ways that you can start thinking more critically today, both in and outside of class.

What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.

– The Foundation for Critical Thinking

The above definition from the Foundation for Critical Thinking website is pretty wordy, but critical thinking, in essence, is not that complex.

Critical thinking is just deliberately and systematically processing information so that you can make better decisions and generally understand things better. The above definition includes so many words because critical thinking requires you to apply diverse intellectual tools to diverse information.

Ways to critically think about information include:

  • Conceptualizing
  • Analyzing
  • Synthesizing
  • Evaluating

That information can come from sources such as:

  • Observation
  • Experience
  • Reflection
  • Reasoning
  • Communication

And all this is meant to guide:

  • Beliefs
  • Action

You can also define it this way: Critical thinking is the opposite of regular, everyday thinking.

Moment to moment, most thinking happens automatically. When you think critically, you deliberately employ any of the above intellectual tools to reach more accurate conclusions than your brain automatically would (more on this in a bit).

This is what critical thinking is. But so what?

Why Does Critical Thinking Matter?

Most of our everyday thinking is uncritical.

If you think about it, this makes sense. If we had to think deliberately about every single action (such as breathing, for instance), we wouldn’t have any cognitive energy left for the important stuff like D&D. It’s good that much of our thinking is automatic.

We can run into problems, though, when we let our automatic mental processes govern important decisions. Without critical thinking, it’s easy for people to manipulate us and for all sorts of catastrophes to result. Anywhere that some form of fundamentalism led to tragedy (the Holocaust is a textbook example), critical thinking was sorely lacking.

Even day to day, it’s easy to get caught in pointless arguments or say stupid things just because you failed to stop and think deliberately.

But you’re reading College Info Geek, so I’m sure you’re interested to know why critical thinking matters in college.

Here’s why:

According to Andrew Roberts, author of The Thinking Student’s Guide to College, critical thinking matters in college because students often adopt the wrong attitude to thinking about difficult questions. These attitudes include:

  • Ignorant certainty. Ignorant certainty is the belief that there are definite, correct answers to all questions-all you have to do is find the right source (102). It’s understandable that a lot of students come into college thinking this way-it’s enough to get you through most of your high school coursework. In college and in life, however, the answers to most meaningful questions are rarely straightforward. To get anywhere in college classes (especially upper-level ones), you have to think critically about the material.
  • Naive relativism. Naive relativism is the belief that there is no truth and all arguments are equal (102-103). According to Roberts, this is often a view that students adopt once they learn the error of ignorant certainty. While it’s certainly a more “critical” approach than ignorant certainty, naive relativism is still inadequate since it misses the whole point of critical thinking: arriving at a more complete, “less wrong” answer. Part of thinking critically is evaluating the validity of arguments (yours and others’). Therefore, to think critically you must accept that some arguments are better (and that some are just plain awful).

Critical thinking also matters in college because:

  • It allows you to form your own opinions and engage with material beyond a superficial level. This is essential to crafting a great essay and having an intelligent discussion with your professors or classmates. Regurgitating what the textbook says won’t get you far.
  • It allows you to craft worthy arguments and back them up. If you plan to go on to graduate school or pursue a PhD., original, critical thought is crucial
  • It helps you evaluate your own work. This leads to better grades (who doesn’t want those?) and better habits of mind.

Doing college level work without critical is a lot like walking blindfolded: you’ll get somewhere, but it’s unlikely to be the place you desire.

The value of critical thinking doesn’t stop with college, however. Once you get out into the real world, critical thinking matters even more. This is because:

  • It allows you to continue to develop intellectually after you graduate. Progress shouldn’t stop after graduationyou should keep learning as much as you can. When you encounter new information, knowing how to think critically will help you evaluate and use it.
  • It helps you make hard decisions. I’ve written before about how defining your values helps you make better decisions. Equally important in the decision-making process is the ability to think critically. Critical thinking allows you compare the pros and cons of your available options, showing that you have more options than you might imagine.
  • People can and will manipulate you. At least, they will if you take everything at face value and allow others to think for you. Just look at ads for the latest fad diet or “miracle” drug-these rely on ignorance and false hope to get people to buy something that is at best useless and at worst harmful. When you evaluate information critically (especially information meant to sell something), you can avoid falling prey to unethical companies and people.
  • It makes you more employable (and better paid). The best employees not only know how to solve existing problems-they also know how to come up with solutions to problems no one ever imagined. To get a great job after graduating, you need to be one of those employees, and critical thinking is the key ingredient to solving difficult, novel problems.
Critical thinking AE Mander

7 Ways to Think More Critically

Now we come to the part that I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for: how the heck do we get better at critical thinking? Below, you’ll find seven ways to get started.

1. Ask Basic Questions

“The world is complicated. But does every problem require a complicated solution?”

– Stephen J. Dubner

Sometimes an explanation becomes so complex that the original question get lost. To avoid this, continually go back to the basic questions you asked when you set out to solve the problem.

Here are a few key basic question you can ask when approaching any problem:

  • What do you already know?
  • How do you know that?
  • What are you trying to prove, disprove, demonstrated, critique, etc.?
  • What are you overlooking?

Some of the most breathtaking solutions to problems are astounding not because of their complexity, but because of their elegant simplicity. Seek the simple solution first.

2. Question Basic Assumptions

“When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.”

The above saying holds true when you’re thinking through a problem. it’s quite easy to make an ass of yourself simply by failing to question your basic assumptions.

Some of the greatest innovators in human history were those who simply looked up for a moment and wondered if one of everyone’s general assumptions was wrong. From Newton to Einstein to Yitang Zhang, questioning assumptions is where innovation happens.

You don’t even have to be an aspiring Einstein to benefit from questioning your assumptions. That trip you’ve wanted to take? That hobby you’ve wanted to try? That internship you’ve wanted to get? That attractive person in your World Civilizations class you’ve wanted to talk to?

All these things can be a reality if you just question your assumptions and critically evaluate your beliefs about what’s prudent, appropriate, or possible.

If you’re looking for some help with this process, then check out Oblique Strategies. It’s a tool that musician Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt created to aid creative problem solving. Some of the “cards” are specific to music, but most work for any time you’re stuck on a problem.

3. Be Aware of Your Mental Processes

Human thought is amazing, but the speed and automation with which it happens can be a disadvantage when we’re trying to think critically. Our brains naturally use heuristics (mental shortcuts) to explain what’s happening around us.

This was beneficial to humans when we were hunting large game and fighting off wild animals, but it can be disastrous when we’re trying to decide who to vote for.

A critical thinker is aware of their cognitive biases and personal prejudices and how they influence seemingly “objective” decisions and solutions.

All of us have biases in our thinking. Becoming aware of them is what makes critical thinking possible.

4. Try Reversing Things

A great way to get “unstuck” on a hard problem is to try reversing things. It may seem obvious that X causes Y, but what if Y caused X?

The “chicken and egg problem” a classic example of this. At first, it seems obvious that the chicken had to come first. The chicken lays the egg, after all. But then you quickly realize that the chicken had to come from somewhere, and since chickens come from eggs, the egg must have come first. Or did it?

Even if it turns out that the reverse isn’t true, considering it can set you on the path to finding a solution.

5. Evaluate the Existing Evidence

If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants.

Isaac Newton

When you’re trying to solve a problem, it’s always helpful to look at other work that has been done in the same area. There’s no reason to start solving a problem from scratch when someone has already laid the groundwork.

It’s important, however, to evaluate this information critically, or else you can easily reach the wrong conclusion. Ask the following questions of any evidence you encounter:

  • Who gathered this evidence?
  • How did they gather it?
  • Why?

Take, for example, a study showing the health benefits of a sugary cereal. On paper, the study sounds pretty convincing. That is, until you learn that a sugary cereal company funded it.

You can’t automatically assume that this invalidates the study’s results, but you should certainly question them when a conflict of interests is so apparent.

6. Remember to Think for Yourself

Don’t get so bogged down in research and reading that you forget to think for yourself-sometimes this can be your most powerful tool.

Writing about Einstein’s paper “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” (the paper that contained the famous equation E=mc2), C.P. Snow observed that “it was as if Einstein ‘had reached the conclusions by pure thought, unaided, without listening to the opinions of others. To a surprisingly large extent, that is precisely what he had done'”(121).

Don’t be overconfident, but recognize that thinking for yourself is essential to answering tough questions. I find this to be true when writing essays-it’s so easy to get lost in other people’s work that I forget to have my own thoughts. Don’t make this mistake.

7. Understand That No One Thinks Critically 100% of the Time

Critical thinking of any kind is never universal in any individual; everyone is subject to episodes of undisciplined or irrational thought.

– Michael Scriven and Richard Paul

You can’t think critically all the time, and that’s okay. Critical thinking is a tool that you should deploy when you need to make important decisions or solve difficult problems, but you don’t need to think critically about everything.

And even in important matters, you will experience lapses in your reasoning. What matters is that you recognize these lapses and try to avoid them in the future.

Even Isaac Newton, genius that he was, believed that alchemy was a legitimate pursuit.

Conclusion

As I hope you now see, learning to think critically will benefit you both in the classroom and beyond. I hope this post has given you some ideas about how you can think more critically in your own life. Remember: learning to think critically is a lifelong journey, and there’s always more to learn.

How has critical thinking helped you in and outside the classroom? Are there any important tips I missed? Share them in the comments or discuss them in the College Info Geek Community.

Sources:

Study suggests French coronavirus may be ‘local’, was spreading before arrival from China

pasteur institute

© REUTERS – CHARLES PLATIAU
A sculpture representing Louis Pasteur is seen outside the Pasteur Institute headquarters in Paris amid the Covid-19 outbreak France, April 20, 2020.

The Covid-19 virus which has been ravaging France may not have originated in China, according to a study published by virologists at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. The French strain may have been circulating locally and unrecognised before the global outbreak accelerated.

Tests on samples from 97 French and three Algerians infected with Sars-CoV-2 suggest that the virus may have been around in France before the pandemic started.

The sixteen-page study, by researchers affiliated with the prestigious Pasteur Institute in Paris, was first reported by Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, and says that already on 10 January, France implemented “strengthened surveillance of Covid-19 cases,” five days after the World Health Organisation issued the first “Disease Outbreak News” on a “pneumonia of unknown cause” which was first reported by China on 31 December 2019.

Genetic analysis of the samples revealed that the dominant types of viral strains in France belonged to a “clade” or group with a common ancestor that did not come from either China or Italy.

“The French outbreak has been mainly seeded by one or several variants of this clade … we can infer that the virus was silently circulating in France in February,” write the researchers.

The earliest sample in the French clade was collected on 19 February from a patient who had no history of travel and no known contact with returned travelers.

The scenario “is compatible with the large proportion of mild or asymptomatic diseases,” in France, say the researchers.

However, “current sampling clearly prevents reliable inference for the timing of introduction in France,” making it impossible to go one step further and conclude that the virus existed in France even before it was discovered in China.

If this were to be established it would have huge implications, and may feed into the propaganda war between China and the US.

Currently, China maintains that the “origin of the virus is unknown” while the US insists on the Chinese origins of the disease to such a point that it wants to sue Beijing for economic damage caused by the virus and lockdown measures aimed at stemming it.

SOTT FOCUS: COVID-19 Hoax Pandemic: Doctors on Front-line in California Explain Why Lockdowns Are Unnecessary: “Millions of Cases, Tiny Number of Deaths”

COVID-19 Doctors Erickson

Doctors Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi

Covid19 being logically reviewed by two ER doctors with huge experience in immunology and microbiolgoy, in California but based on nationwide statistics.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif., (KBAK/KBFX) — Doctors Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi of Accelerated Urgent Care are calling for the county to reopen”

PLEASE WATCH. “Millions of cases, small amount of death”

Dr Erickson COVID19 briefing:

Does isolation, sheltering in home still make sense?

“The hospitals, the ICUs are empty..they are shutting down floors..”

“When I talk to ER physicians around the country, what is happening – well because Covid has become the focus, people with heart disease, people with cancer, hypertension and various things that are critical are choosing not to come in, based on fear”

“So, what that is doing is forcing the health system to focus on Covid and not focus on a myriad of other things that are critical.”

“There are a lot of secondary effects to Covid that are not being talked about”

Two months ago the response was based on fear not facts

“Typically you quarantine the sick. We have never seen where we quarantine the healthy, where you take those without disease and without symptoms and lock them in your home”

“Over the last couple of months we have gained a lot of data.”

A widespread viral infection similar to flu

“California numbers from yesterday – [..] 12% of Californians were positive for Covid. The initial models were woefully inaccurate, they predicted millions of cases of death, not of prevalence or incidence but death. That is not materialising.”

“What is materialising in the State of California is 12% positives.”

“You have a 0.03 chance of dying *from* Covid19 in the state of California”

“0.03 chance of dying of Covid in the state of California. Does that necessitate sheltering in place? Does that necessitate shutting down medical systems? Does that necessitate people being out of work?”

96% of people in California who get Covid, RECOVER with no significant continuing medical problems

“We are sharing our own data. This is not data filtered by someone, this is our own data”

“The prevalence number goes up and the death rate stays the same and gets smaller and smaller and smaller”

“What I want you to see is millions of cases, small amount of death and you will see that in every state”.

“New York State – they have been in the news a lot. Their numbers are critical.”

“39% of New Yorkers tested positive for Covid19 – this is public data online” (those who were tested – 649,000 people)

19,410 deaths – out of 19 million people. A 0.01% chance of dying from Covid19 in the state of New York. They have a 92% recovery rate“.

“Millions of cases, small amount of death” (repeated)

“Is this significantly different from Influenza A and B and if not, why has our response been what it is?”

“USA. This is a big one for us. 802, 590 cases as of 22nd April 2020. We have tested over 4 million. That is double any other country, Germany is at 2 million.”

“Gives us a 19.6% positive out of those who were tested for Covid 19. 64 million is a significant amount of people with Covid”

“[Numbers] are similar to the flu. If you study numbers in 2017/18 we had 50-60 million with the flu. Similar death rate.”

We always have between 37,000 and 60,000 deaths in the US, every single year. No “pandemic” talk. No shelter in place. No shutting down of businesses, no sending doctors home

* * *
This covers information provided up to 11:00 in the video. I believe it is shockingly logical and should allow us all to see through the lies being sold to us by our governments to ensure the “new normal” is nothing more than the imposition of a brazen feudal state, transforming us all into slave nations and doubling down on maximum pressure against “enemy” states such as #Syria and #Iran. Supported by the WHO and UNICEF as prominent UN agencies – just as the UN has done already in Iraq and Yemen.

Soil in wounds can help stem deadly bleeding

dirty hands

New UBC research shows for the first time that soil silicates — the most abundant material on the Earth’s crust — play a key role in blood clotting.

“Soil is not simply our matrix for growing food and for building materials. Here we discovered that soil can actually help control bleeding after injury by triggering clotting,” says the study’s senior author Dr. Christian Kastrup, associate professor in the faculty of medicine’s department of biochemistry and molecular biology and a scientist in UBC’s Michael Smith Laboratories and Centre for Blood Research.

The study, published today in Blood Advances, found that the presence of soil in wounds helps activate a blood protein, known as coagulation Factor XII. Once activated, the protein kicks off a rapid chain reaction that helps leads to the formation of a plug, sealing the wound and limiting blood loss.

While the researchers caution that there is a high risk of infection from unsterilized dirt, they say their findings may have implications for the future development of novel strategies using sterilized dirt to help manage bleeding and potentially understand infection after trauma.

“Excessive bleeding is responsible for up to 40 per cent of mortality in trauma patients. In extreme cases and in remote areas without access to healthcare and wound sealing products, like sponges and sealants, sterilized soil could potentially be used to stem deadly bleeding following injuries,” says Dr. Kastrup.

The study also uncovered that the mechanism by which soil silicates activate Factor XII and promote faster clotting is unique to terrestrial mammals, or those that live predominantly or entirely on land.

“This finding demonstrates how terrestrial mammals, ranging from mice to humans, evolved to naturally use silicates as a specific signal to Factor XII to trigger blood clotting,” says Lih Jiin Juang, the study’s first author and UBC PhD student in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology. “These results will have a profound impact on the way we view our relationship with our environment.”

The scientists’ next plan includes testing if the response of blood to silicates helps prevent infection from microbes in soil. They will also look to test if silicates from the moon’s surface are able to active Factor XII and stop bleeding.

“If moon silicates activate Factor XII, this discovery could prove useful in preventing death among people visiting or colonizing the moon, and it would provide further insight to identifying materials that may halt bleeding in very remote environments with limited resources and medical supplies,” says Dr. Kastrup.

Possible ‘coronavirus-related’ condition emerging in UK children

Doctor

© GlobalLookPress/West Coast Surfer/moodboard 32

A serious coronavirus-related syndrome may be emerging in the UK, according to an “urgent alert” issued to doctors, following a rise in cases in the last two to three weeks, HSJ has learned.

An alert to GPs and seen by HSJ says that in the “last three weeks, there has been an apparent rise in the number of children of all ages presenting with a multisystem inflammatory state requiring intensive care across London and also in other regions of the UK”.

It adds: “There is a growing concern that a [covid-19] related inflammatory syndrome is emerging in children in the UK, or that there may be another, as yet unidentified, infectious pathogen associated with these cases.”

Little is known so far about the issue, nor how widespread it has been, but the absolute number of children affected is thought to be very small, according to paediatrics sources. The syndrome has the characteristics of serious covid-19, but there have otherwise been relatively few cases of serious effects or deaths from coronavirus in children. Some of the children have tested positive for covid-19, and some appear to have had the virus in the past, but some have not.

The fact that very few children have become seriously ill with the virus or died, compared to adults, remains the case.

The alert was issued to GPs in North London by their clinical commissioning group. It has been sent to doctors more widely and is confirmed in a separate “urgent alert” issued last night by the Paediatric Intensive Care Society.

The alert to GPs, marked “significant alert” states: “Please refer children presenting with these symptoms as a matter of urgency.”

Both messages said: “The cases have in common overlapping features of toxic shock syndrome and atypical Kawasaki Disease with blood parameters consistent with severe COVID-19 in children.

“Abdominal pain and gastrointestinal symptoms have been a common feature as has cardiac inflammation. This has been observed in children with confirmed PCR positive SARS-CoV-2 infection as well as children who are PCR negative. Serological evidence of possible preceding SARS-CoV-2 infection has also been observed.”

PICS advised “early discussion” of possible cases “with regional paediatric infectious disease and critical care teams”.

Simon Kenny, NHS England’s national clinical director for children and young people, said: “Thankfully Kawasaki-like diseases are very rare, as currently are serious complications in children related to Covid-19, but it is important that clinicians are made aware of any potential emerging links so that they are able to give children and young people the right care fast.

“The advice to parents remains the same: if you are worried about your child for whatever reason, contact NHS 111 or your family doctor for urgent advice, or 999 in an emergency, and if a professional tells you to go to hospital, please go to hospital.”

Experimenting with Homeschooling offers an opportunity to cultivate the virtues of independence & original thinking

homeschooling

I was homeschooled for eight years, from age 11 through to college, before it was a novel way for tiger parents to show off their dynamic commitment to their children’s education. Now, if millions of parents and families are suddenly going to be homeschooling their kids for the coming weeks (and, let’s be honest, quite likely beyond), it’s worth trying to think about how to do this in a manner as smooth, healthy and wise as possible.

Learning at home is quite different from learning at school. It requires us to reorient how we think about learning in general, and how we approach the process with our children – maybe even with ourselves, too. Historically, education has been the province of parents. But the question of how kids spend their time, and learn, and grow, is one to which society as a whole should pay more substantive attention, instead of leaving it to the professional advocates and their tired debates about charter schools, unions and uniforms.

Homeschooling is at once traditional, radical, empowering, frustrating, revealing and, most importantly, not quite any of the above. That’s because it is, by its nature, highly dependent on the individuals involved. Spending very long stretches of time with my parents (I’m an only child) was both the most trying and also the most positively formative part of being homeschooled. Finding my own motivations to overcome setbacks was the most difficult. Browsing whatever ideas and subjects piqued my curiosity was the most rewarding. For this and other reasons, try not to compete with all your friends (online and off) about how much your child is hitting the proverbial books. Not only is it morally and intellectually detrimental – it teaches kids the wrong lessons about what’s important – but homeschooling is one of the best opportunities you’ll get to indulge in more substantive and important comparisons in the first place. Try to use this opportunity for something genuinely alternative.

There are four essential points that all those currently experimenting with homeschooling should bear in mind. First, it takes time to find your rhythm. This might sound obvious, but the first (overly ambitious) schedule, or the second (pared-down) one, or even the third that you come up with, is unlikely to be a smooth fit. And you’ll realise this only thanks to all the frustrations, failures and annoyances that you and your kids encounter.

Learning what works very often requires first finding out what doesn’t, and then adapting. Because we’re all human, change is almost always hard. Don’t simply impose your ideal schedule on your kids, and then get frustrated when they (and you) can’t live up to it. I found mathematics hard, so for months I avoided it. Then, in order to get it done, I made it the first thing I did each morning – and my fear lessened and my understanding of it improved. I still spent way too much time getting through trigonometry. It will take not only time but multiple failures and slip-ups to work out how to arrange it all satisfactorily. Expect to experiment, make mistakes and reorder your priorities – several times.

Second, talk to your kids about what they want, and what works for them. (Yes, they want more television; no, that’s not what I mean.) Many educational systems fall into disrepute because of how poor they are at soliciting, engaging and stimulating student interest. Students are often discouraged from participating in their education. After all, how many of them get to choose the books they read, or what science they pursue? Ask your kids what interests them, and be sure to do so repeatedly, since their answers will change the more that they learn. Maybe they simply want to sleep later (which research shows would be good for their physical, emotional and intellectual health in every way). Perhaps they’re bored with geometry and trigonometry, which, honestly, often get taught as though they’re numbing agents. (Algebra is usually more interesting before it also becomes too rote in high school.)

Worry less about their plug-and-chug skills, and give them a sense of the ideas and proofs on which modern mathematics is actually based (which are not above anybody’s head), and on which there are many recent, accessible books: for example, Love and Math (2013) by Edward Frenkel and The Mathematics Lover’s Companion (2017) by Edward Scheinerman. Or read some classic short stories with your kids, and show them how you’re affected by the literature you hope they learn. If you find that, actually, you don’t like the stories you chose, try to explain why. Doing so would teach your kids so much more than any predictable, moralistic and, frankly, boring age-appropriate young adult novel ever could. I recommend Isaac Bashevis Singer’s short stories – clear, lucid, powerful and somehow both appropriate and inappropriate for the whole family.

Third, perhaps the hardest aspect of homeschooling is the parent-student relationship, and the countless difficulties it faces. Of course you’re finding homeschooling tough – you’re trying to do it alongside your day job! We’ve probably got the Western workaholic culture to blame for that, which largely separates the roles of parent and teacher. Education in schools today is mostly treated as the acquisition of facts and techniques. That’s what schools test for, after all. However, bare facts and techniques aren’t what deeply shape most people when they are students, nor later, in their work careers. Beyond basic literacy and numeracy, the most decisive learning comes from what kids see their parents, elders and friends doing, day in and day out.

What books and magazines do you leave lying around? What subjects and ideas do you discuss with your friends when you see them? How do you treat the other people you encounter, and what kinds of interactions take place? Children learn chiefly by emulation, and the examples you provide every day in small ways, the books you have on the coffee table, the websites you visit, and the work you bring home and talk about – whether you are a lawyer, a dentist, a nurse or a bus driver – provide more instruction than most classes. Your children’s education depends less on which workbook you choose for them than on what you talk about at dinner. In my house, for instance, the radio was often on and tuned to everything from Amy Goodman on the Left to Rush Limbaugh on the Right, with lots of National Public Radio in the middle. I learned more about politics this way than I might have in an average high-school civics classroom.

The fourth and final point, since you’re probably still wondering which textbooks or workbooks to get, I can assure you that no single work for any subject will even come close. The first history survey that my father, now an old New-Leftist, bought for me was Howard Zinn’s iconoclastic A People’s History of the United States (1980). It was an eye-opening tale of American’s depredations, and I couldn’t stand it. I didn’t hate the politics of it, but rather the monotonous tone of the work. My father, no matter his political opinions, encouraged me to read other views. In other words, Zinn’s partisan History was stimulating precisely because it was part of an open-ended education. Sometimes a bit of partiality and fervor is actually quite healthy.

Like one’s country, one’s education is, at its core, an ongoing experiment. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks notes, in his introduction to The Koren Siddur (2009), that ‘Prayer is less about getting what we want than about learning what to want.’ If nothing else, for those who usually entrust their kid’s education to others, a few weeks or months of homeschooling is an opportunity to encourage our students to do something novel, different, unexpected – to learn what we could and should want, for them, and for us. As a society, we have become exceptionally bad at encouraging our charges to be idiosyncratic and independent. These qualities are not measured by standardized tests, but are just as socially important as a vaccine for COVID-19. Being stuck at home for a few weeks and months, forced to homeschool, is a daunting prospect – but also a tremendous opportunity to cultivate the virtues of independence and original thinking.

About the author

Mordechai Levy-Eichel is a lecturer in political science at Yale University. He is the cohost of the forthcoming podcast AntiEducation. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

UK’s weekly death toll during Covid-19 is high – but it’s been worse in the past and we didn’t shut down the economy then

Trafalgar Square

© REUTERS/Simon Dawson
Trafalgar Square stands almost empty in London, Britain

The death statistics being used by supporters of a prolonged lockdown, whatever the costs to our jobs, businesses and health, need careful and sober analysis. They raise more questions than they answer.

Coronavirus is being touted as the worst pandemic of modern times, and we are told that excess deaths are reaching record highs. While technically accurate, one week’s statistics demonstrate that this is not the whole picture.

Sky TV economics editor Ed Conway recently produced a chart entitled: ‘The Worst Week Ever? Not quite, but not far off’.’ He is referring to the fact that the total number of deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending April 10 – 18,516 deaths – remains lower than some weeks in previous flu seasons. These weeks include those in January 1970 (20,006 deaths), December 1989 (19,104 deaths) and January 2000 (18,646 deaths).

Conway rightly points out that those previous highs came at the peak of those years’ flu seasons, and we are now in April. Conway claims that there has never been a week at this time of year as deadly as this. He may be right, but weekly figures from the Office of National Statistics only go back to 1970, and so do not include earlier pandemics such as the 1951 flu outbreak, the Asian flu pandemic of 1957-58, or, of course, the Spanish flu of 1918.

And there are other holes in Conway’s analysis. Although there have been an abnormally high number of deaths this April, there have been certain demographic changes over the years that may have contributed to the overall picture. Let us look into what some of those could be.

Demographic shifts

The most obvious demographic change that happens over time is the changing size of the population. In the UK, the population has been growing -fast- ever since the Second World War, and in 1970, when the data began, it stood at about 56 million. Today, it is close to 66 million – a 15 percent increase.

It is important to note that the UK includes Scotland and Northern Ireland, and Mr Conway’s data only focuses on England and Wales; therefore, the difference may have been slightly less than 10 million. But the proportional increase since 1970 would have been roughly the same. And when there are more people in your country -say 15 percent more- there are more people dying every week. Population increase, then, is a mitigating factor as regards to whether we are seeing a record number of deaths.

But healthcare has improved over that time, and people generally have healthier lifestyles now. Doesn’t this suppress mortality? Yes, it does. But that also leads directly to a greying population. And the UK now has an elderly population the likes of which few societies have ever dealt with. Almost 8 million people in England and Wales are over the age of 70. This puts a large swathe of the population in the risk category for Covid-19.

The non-Covid-19 excess deaths

There is one more major factor to consider when comparing this pandemic to previous ones, which did not involve economic shutdowns. There were 18,516 deaths in the week ending April 10, representing about 8,000 extra deaths above the number that would normally be expected for this week of the year. But interestingly, almost 2,000 of those could not be directly attributed to Covid-19 – almost a quarter. The week before that, more than half of the deaths – between 3,000 and 4,000 – were unexplained “excess” deaths.

So what explains these thousands of “missing deaths” in the figures? The numbers are too high to be down to random variation. According to Dr Jason Oke, a senior statistician in the Oxford University Medical Statistics Group, there are only two possible explanations.

The first is that the missing deaths were indeed directly caused by Covid-19, and the victims simply did not match up to the symptoms or test positive for reasons as yet unascertained. This underreporting would be despite the fact that any death certificate that had a mention of Covid-19 is included among the deaths attributed to the virus, even if there was no positive test and it was not marked down as the primary cause of death.

The second explanation is the missing deaths have been indirectly caused by the lockdown in some way. Right now we can only speculate as to how the lockdown may be killing people, and some of the likeliest ways, from lack of regular healthcare to suicides, are touched-on here. Dr Oke says: “It’s going to be one of those two causes … There’s not enough information to know whether this is under-reporting of Covid or whether this is, not a term I particularly like, but one that has been bandied around, ‘collateral damage’ as a result of the lockdown.”

Collateral damage is a phrase that will probably become more familiar before this is over. Economic shutdowns have been presented by some as a trade-off between “money versus lives.” But what is becoming increasingly apparent is they, in fact, pit “lives versus lives.”

The UK’s Office for National Statistics say that they are conducting “further investigation” of the missing deaths, and it will certainly be interesting to see what they conclude. But their head of health analysis, Nick Stripe, has said that it may take months or even years to get to the bottom of it. All that we can say for now is that more people are dying than usual. Exactly why that is, we will have to wait to find out.

By Peter Andrews, Irish science journalist and writer based in London. He has a background in the life sciences, and graduated from the University of Glasgow with a degree in genetics

SOTT FOCUS: Smoke Fags, Save Lives: The Remarkable Discovery That Smokers Are Far Less Likely to Contract COVID-19

smoker china covid-19

He’ll be alright

There’s not much to laugh about these days, but the news that smokers might be protected from Covid-19 is certainly one of them. With study after study showing that smokers are under-represented in coronavirus wards, the renowned French neuroscientist, Jean-Pierre Changeux, is working on a randomised control trial to test the effect of nicotine patches on Covid-19 patients.

This is far from being a crackpot theory. Changeux has explained his hypothesis at length here. In simple terms, he says that nicotinic acetylcholine receptors play a key role in the development of the disease and that nicotine can put a brake on it. If he is right – and the banter heuristic says he is – it would not only save thousands of lives but would also be one in the eye for the ‘public health’ groups who have been claiming that smoking and vaping are risk factors for Covid-19.

These groups are so used to lying with impunity that they wasted no time in asserting that smoking caused coronavirus complications when the pandemic began. In the US, newspapers have been filled with reports that smokers and vapers ‘may’ be at greater risk from Covid-19, a weasel word that requires no evidence. A group of doctors in New York urged governor Andrew Cuomo to ban the sale of all tobacco and e-cigarette products on the false premise that ‘mounting evidence demonstrates the link between tobacco use and increased risk for progressive Covid-19’. Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation has been taking occasional breaks from flattering the Chinese Communist Party to make evidence-free assertions about smokers being ‘likely’ to suffer more from the coronavirus.

Three weeks ago, Public Health England fished around in the emerging literature and found a study from China involving a grand total of five smokers hospitalised with Covid-19, of whom three suffered severe symptoms. From this crumb of evidence, they made the astounding claim that ‘smokers with Covid-19 are 14 times more likely to develop severe respiratory disease’.

The quango should have paid more attention to how few smokers were in hospital in the first place. In a country where 27 per cent of adults smoke, only 6.4 per cent of the Covid-19 cases were smokers. This was not a fluke finding. Awkwardly for the anti-smoking lobby, smokers have been strangely under-represented in all the studies for which smoking prevalence data is available. They made up just 1.4 per cent of the cases in Zhang et al, 6.7 per cent in Wan et al, 3.9 per cent in Mo et al, seven per cent in Huang et al, nine per cent in Dong et al, 10 per cent of cases in Yang et al, 1.9 per cent in Guan et al, six per cent in Zhou et al, and 6.4 per cent in Liu et al. In Shi et al, only 8.2 per cent of cases had any smoking history.

Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos of the University of Patras in Greece noticed this phenomenon early on and put a preliminary study online in late March. It noted the ‘unusually low prevalence of current smoking was observed among hospitalised Covid-19 patients’, which ‘does not support the argument that current smoking is a risk factor for hospitalisation for Covid-19, and might suggest a protective role’.

A few days earlier, a group of doctors from the Royal Glamorgan Hospital had written to the British Medical Journal to point out that nicotine protects against the kind of acute inflammatory reactions seen in Covid patients and that ‘the simple use of nicotine patches should be urgently considered and discussed’. Nobody paid much attention, but evidence supporting the smoking hypothesis continued to slip out.

On 3 April, the US Centers for Disease Control published data on thousands of American Covid-19 cases. Once again, the proportion of smokers was tiny – just 1.3 per cent. Even ex-smokers were significantly under-represented (2.3 per cent).

The most comprehensive epidemiological study appeared a week later. Based on data from 4,103 Covid patients in New York City, a team of researchers found that a history of smoking was associated with a 29 per cent reduction in risk of being hospitalised with Covid-19 and, contrary to the claims of Public Health England, smokers were no more likely to become critically ill with the disease if they were admitted. The authors would have found an even sharper reduction in risk for current smokers if they had split them up from ex-smokers in their analysis, but even the findings as published were striking.

This week, a group of French academics published their study of 343 Covid patients, of whom only 4.4 per cent were daily smokers. According to the authors, the study ‘strongly suggests that daily smokers have a very much lower probability of developing symptomatic or severe SARS-CoV-2 infection as compared to the general population’. This seems to have been the study that prompted Professor Changeux to go public with his research project.

People scoffed when Emmanuel Macron exempted tobacco kiosks from France’s lockdown on the basis that they provide an essential service. Who’s coughing now?

Far be it from me to preempt the conclusions of the professor’s research, but let us consider for a moment the policy implications of nicotine being the only tried and tested prophylactic for Covid-19. We could issue Lucky Strikes on prescription. We could #ClapForOurCigarettes every Thursday evening. The case for closing down Public Health England would be stronger than ever. We could open the pubs, but only to smokers and vapers. We might allow a few non-smokers in to enjoy the possible benefits of passive exposure, but only if they stand two metres apart. There is everything to play for.

The icing on the cake would be if British American Tobacco is first out of the blocks with a vaccine. Everyone who works for the World Health Organisation would have to go unvaccinated on principle and rely instead on herd immunity. Smokers would, of course, be pushed to the front of the queue for vaccination. They paid for it, after all.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But, by God, wouldn’t it be fun?

About the author

Christopher Snowdon is director of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs. He is also the co-host of Last Orders, spiked’s nanny-state podcast.

SOTT FOCUS: 90 Days of Madness: Official Numbers Prove COVID-19 is STILL Benign

hospital war zones

In my first SOTT article published on April 19th, I reported my statistical comparison of COVID-19 infection and death rates based on percentages of whole populations. I generously assumed that the numbers reported by Johns Hopkins University and elsewhere are entirely correct and accurate, fully cognizant that this assumption is extremely questionable.

In my earlier article we learned that, as of 10:00am, April 15th, Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST):

99.994% of China’s 1.4 billion population was uninfected
99.729% of Italy’s 60 million population
99.817% of USA’s 330 million population
99.633% of Spain’s 47 million population
99.842% of Germany’s 83 million population
99.910% of Iran’s 83 million population
99.798% of France’s 65 million population
99.698% of Switzerland’s 8.6 million population
99.858% of UK’s 67 million population
99.979% of South Korea’s 51 million population
99.889% of Sweden’s 10.3 million population
99.974% of Australia’s 25 million population
99.974% of the World’s 7.5 billion population

Now let us compare that with today, April 24th and see how much progress this virus has made in 9 days within the above populations, again assuming static population growth:

99.994% of China is uninfected (no change).
99.683% of Italy (-0.046% change).
99.737% of USA (-0.080% change).
99.547% of Spain (-0.086% change).
99.816% of Germany (-0.026% change).
99.895% of Iran (-0.015% change)
99.755% of France (-0.043% change)
99.669% of Switzerland (-0.029% change)
99.792% of UK (-0.066% change)
99.979% of South Korea (no change)
99.837% of Sweden (-0.052% change)
99.973% of Australia (-0.001% change)
99.964% of the World (-0.010% change)

That is the last 9 days of ‘rampaging’ activity from this coronavirus as a proportion of various whole populations.

Incredible, isn’t it? The world infection rate is ‘skyrocketing’ at just 0.001% per day. It’s almost as if nothing has happened at all. Not that many notice, do they? We’re too busy being both locked up and indoctrinated by propaganda as every jot and tittle of every infection and death and mass unclaimed burial is vomited in our faces daily by the sycophantic mainstream media.

Now, since I didn’t list the official death data last time (the numbers are a factor of ten smaller), let’s examine them now. Please keep in mind that this list is based on the top 10 countries as of March 26th when I began data collation. The top 10 has since changed but my data has not taken this into account because I wanted to be consistent with the dataset I started with. By April 15th 2020:

99.9921% of the US population had NOT died of COVID-19
99.9649% of Italy
99.9616% of Spain
99.9758% of France
99.9819% of UK
99.9944% of Iran
99.9998% of China
99.9639% of Belgium
99.9960% of Germany
99.9827% of Netherlands
99.9900% of Sweden
99.9998% of Australia
99.9983% of the World

And now, 9 days later, as of April 24th, we have the following changes:

99.9849% of the US population had NOT died of COVID-19 (-0.0072% change)
99.9574% of Italy (-0.0075% change)
99.9529% of Spain (-0.0087% change)
99.9664% of France (-0.0094% change)
99.9720% of UK (-0.0099% change)
99.9934% of Iran (-0.0010% change)
99.9997% of China (-0.0001% change due to a ‘data correction’ on the 18th April)
99.9436% of Belgium (-0.0203% change)
99.9933% of Germany (-0.0027% change)
99.9754% of Netherlands (-0.0073% change)
99.9804% of Sweden (-0.0096% change)
99.9997% of Australia (-0.0001% change)
99.9975% of the World (-0.0008% change)

That’s right folks. According to the official data, this ‘rampaging plague’ is mercilessly slaughtering an ‘immense’ 0.0001% of the world population every day. That’s why we’re all living in terror as we watch – as in the ‘Bring Out Your Dead‘ scene in Monty Python – body collectors daily patrol the streets in pickups and refrigerated lorries, piling them full of dead bodies to be carted off to the morgue. Except that morgues aren’t even accepting the bodies because they might infect the living, so they’re constructing pyres in public squares and burning them all there…

Oh, wait. I haven’t seen that at all. Have you? Only on TV? I wonder why it is only on the mainstream media that one can see such ‘vicious devastation’ and unclaimed bodies being dumped unceremoniously into common graves? Are they working in ‘lock-step‘ with a secret agenda, an overarching metanarrative they’re all colluding in to push onto us, I wonder? Surely not! Not our trustworthy mainstream media and governments! Surely they have only our best interests at heart!

Now, let us contrast. The global population increases at approximately +1.1% per year, or approximately +0.003% per day in new births, according to the Population Reference Bureau. Read that again. There will be thirty times as many world births today than people who are reported dead ‘with’ or ‘from’ COVID-19. There will be three times more births today than people reported infected with COVID-19.

In fact, if we take the US data from day zero, January 20th (when 100% of the US population was ‘COVID-19 uninfected/dead’) until the writing of this article on April 24th (0.0151% of the US population dead after 95 days of ‘plague’), the average daily death rate, as a proportion of the US population of 330 million, is 0.000159% of the population ‘perishing’ from COVID-19 per day. Of course, I am aware of exponentials, and that some periods had much higher death rate (USA has been plodding along at between 0.0004 and 0.0008% population death rate since April 4th) but that is not the point of this exercise. The point is to look at the bigger picture and ask ourselves if there is actually a devastating pox marauding the wilderness to bereave our world of more hapless victims.

Again, according to the US Population Reference Bureau, the American population grows at approximately 0.3% per year in births only (this discounts migration, which is another 0.42%, for a total of 0.72%), or roughly 0.00082% new population per day. In the 95 days of COVID-19’s ‘vicious rampage’ across the United States, its population has increased in new births by approximately 0.0779%, whereas COVID-19 has ‘culled’ it by 0.0151%, a difference of 0.0628% net increase in population.

Are you getting it yet? I do not have time in my study schedule to make the same comparisons for every other country I have listed above. All the data is readily and freely accessible to anyone in the whole world to do these comparisons for themselves. Why do I, some schmuck part-time bus driver from an Australian backwater have to be the one to point all this out to a mostly dumb, deaf and mute world?

COVID-19, while there may be some actual virus at the root of it, is nothing to be concerned about. Their own data demonstrates that markedly. I just wish more people were actually paying attention to what their data actually says, instead of feasting on the poison of the false prophets in the media.

99.99% of us have and will survive this thing. I cannot say the same for what comes after, however.

About the author

Joshua lives in Sydney with his wife and has not managed to lose a day of work as a part-time bus driver due to COVID-19. He enjoys critical thinking and challenging the cultural meta-narrative.He is currently undertaking a post-graduate degree program researching the interplay between ancient Caananite-Hebrew mythology and plasma physics.

Time management: 6 techniques from the Stoic philosopher Seneca

time seneca

© Quotefancy, Youtube

True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.” ― Seneca

Locked in prison by Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV) in Shakespeare’s Richard II, Richard II gives a haunting speech about his hopeless fate. One line stands out, as it captures perfectly, the reality of nearly every human being — indeed, it sounds like it was cribbed from Seneca’s On The Shortness of Life. “I wasted time,” Richard II says, “and now doth time waste me.”

We think that time is ours to waste. We even say, “We have two hours to kill” or speak of dead time between projects. The irony! Because time is the one that’s killing us. Each minute that passes is not just dead to us, it brings us closer to being dead. That’s what Richard II realizes in that prison cell. Only now is he realizing that each second that ticks by is a beat of his heart that he won’t get back, each ringing bell that marks the hour falls upon him like a blow.

Seneca writes that we think life is short, when in reality we just waste it. The present moment — it is the most valuable thing you own. It is the only thing you have. Don’t waste it. Seize it. Live it. Below are some of the time techniques Seneca used to make the most of his time. Meditate on them. Come back to them often. But most importantly, apply them.

Memento Mori: Remember That You Will Die

“This is our big mistake: to think we look forward to death. Most of death is already gone. Whatever time has passed is owned by death.” – Seneca

Deep down, we all know we’re not going to live forever. But when that thought of our own death creeps to the surface, sparked by a news article or the death of someone close to us, we do everything possible to shut it out. We can’t wrap our brains around the fact that we will cease to exist and that, ultimately, the world will continue to move forward just as it was before we were born. The thought of this inspires so much panic and fear into our hearts that most of us resort to petty distractions. We binge-watch series after series, all in an effort to shut the thought of our own mortality out. Which is also, paradoxically, more wasting of the precious minutes we do have left.

The Stoics, however, made a practice of doing just the opposite. Rather than run from the thought of their own death, they actively confronted it every day. In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius wrote “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” As a reminder that his time was running out and that he shouldn’t put off being a good person, or doing the things he needed to get done. It’s why we created our Memento Mori medallion. So we could have a physical reminder that death is inescapable and a way to constantly keep the scope of our lives in perspective. And to let the thought of our death inspire and energize us to seize every moment as it comes.

Value Your Time More Than Your Possessions

“People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.” — Seneca

What’s ironic about this quote is that Seneca was one of the wealthiest men in Rome during his lifetime. What’s not ironic is that, despite his fabulous wealth, Seneca seemed to be mostly indifferent to it. In “On the Shortness of Life” he wrote “So it is inevitable that life will be not just very short but very miserable for those who acquire by great toil what they must keep by greater toil.” And he also made a point of periodically depriving himself of the luxuries he had available (more on that below) so that his peace of mind would never come to depend on possessing them. By stripping away all the externals as often as he could, he made sure that he most valued the only thing he could truly lose and would never return, his time. Because Seneca knew that if he spent his time on the things that truly mattered; like reflection, bonding with friends and loved ones, important work, then the rest of his life would fall into place.

The clinical psychologist and professor Jordan Peterson encourages his students to look at their time in monetary terms. How much is your time worth to you? $25 an hour? $50 dollars an hour? Now how many of those hours a day do you waste? Peterson says that the majority of his students reported wasting between 4 and 6 hours a day. Most of them from improper study habits, mindless social-media scrolling, a youtube video here and there, and so forth. If you add this up, by the end of the year that’s between $25,000 and $100,000 a year in lost wages, depending on the number you chose.

If a stranger came up to you and asked you to borrow ten thousand dollars, you would almost certainly say no. The same goes for somebody asking to borrow your car or your laptop. When it comes to reading the tweets of complete strangers for five minutes, ten times a day? We think it’s perfectly fine, we can spare the time. But we forget, under the reign of our impulses, that time is the one thing we can never get back. And the ease with which it can be taken from us is precisely why we have to guard it so fiercely. It’s also why we need to give ourselves “time to learn something good and new, and cease to be whirled around,” in the words of Marcus Aurelius. Because it’s only by giving our time to the things that truly matter, by doing the deep work, that we can truly improve and be at peace.

Be Ruthless To The Things That Don’t Matter

“How many have laid waste to your life when you weren’t aware of what you were losing, how much was wasted in pointless grief, foolish joy, greedy desire, and social amusements — how little of your own was left to you. You will realize you are dying before your time!” — Seneca

One of the hardest things to do in life is to say “No.” To invitations, to requests, to obligations, to the stuff that everyone else is doing. Even harder is saying no to certain time-consuming emotions: anger, excitement, distraction, obsession, lust. None of these impulses feels like a big deal by itself, but run amok, they become a commitment like anything else. If you’re not careful, these are precisely the impositions that will overwhelm and consume your life. Do you ever wonder how you can get some of your time back, how you can feel less busy? Start by learning the power of “No!” — as in “No, thank you,” and “No, I’m not going to get caught up in that,” and “No, I just can’t right now.” It may hurt some feelings. It may turn people off. It may take some hard work. But the more you say no to the things that don’t matter, the more you can say yes to the things that do. This will let you live and enjoy your life — the life that you want.

Put Your Day Up For Review

“Of all the people only those are at leisure who make time for philosophy, only they truly live.”-Seneca

The common thread among Seneca and almost every other great thinker in history was the habit of reflection and a constant scrutinization of one’s character. The key word here is reflection. Because if we don’t make the time, even if it’s just ten minutes a day, to examine ourselves in as honest a way as possible, then we are doomed to continue repeating the same mistakes over and over again. There are many ways to do this but the one preferred by Seneca was journaling late at night. He wrote: “When the light has been removed and my wife has fallen silent, aware of this habit that’s now mine, I examine my entire day and go back over what I’ve done and said, hiding nothing from myself, passing nothing by.” finding that “the sleep which follows this self-examination” was particularly sweet. But he wasn’t the only one that adopted this practice.

Despite having the weight of an empire on his shoulders, Marcus Aurelius still managed to set apart some time for himself to reflect quietly and write in his journal, which is still read by and guiding people today. In it, he prepared for the day ahead of him and reflected on it in the evening. All in an effort to become better, more Stoic, and more resilient with each passing day.

An added benefit of journaling is that you can use it for anything you like. If you’d like to get better at managing your time, for instance, then you can start keeping a log of what you do every day at the end of the day. Paying attention, particularly, to the moments where you’re more prone to waste time or get emotional and to the moments where you fell short on the promises that you made to yourself. In this way, you’ll learn from your mistakes, know exactly where you need to improve, and it’ll be much easier to chart your course towards the person that you want to be. And if you need some help getting started, feel free to check out our article on journaling, it provides a guide for everything you need to know to make journaling one of the best things you do for yourself.

Do It Now

“Lay hold of today’s task, and you will not need to depend so much upon tomorrow’s. While we are postponing, life speeds by.” — Seneca, Moral Letters, 1.2

There is laziness and then there is procrastination. The lazy never do what they’re supposed to do, for a multitude of reasons. It’s too hard, it takes too long, they don’t feel like it. Those prone to procrastination merely put things off. They tell themselves, “Oh, I’m definitely going to do it, but not right this second.” “I’ve got time later in the week.” This is most of us. We care about getting the important stuff done. Often we care so much it eats at us in the form of anxiety. Except we don’t want to do it right now (which only adds to the anxiety, of course), so we rationalize our procrastination and concoct perfect scenarios in our head about our future selves definitely doing it.

Seneca said we should always remember “fortune’s habit of behaving just as she pleases.” Waiting not only increases the chance we don’t do it at all with life’s vagaries tendency to intervene, but we might not be so lucky as to have a tomorrow to postpone to. As Seneca wrote in The Shortness of Life, “Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: It snatches away each day as it comes and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today…The whole future lies in uncertainty: Live immediately.” If you want to make the most of your time, eliminate the sentence, “I’ll get to that later” from your lexicon. DO IT NOW.

What Time Off Is For

“Leisure without study is death — a tomb for the living person.” — Seneca

You deserve a vacation. You work hard. You sacrifice. You push yourself. It’s time for a break. Hop a plane, check into your hotel, and head to the beach — but tuck a book under your arm (and not a trashy beach read). Make sure you enjoy your relaxation like a poet — not idly but actively , observing the world around you, taking it all in, better understanding your place in the universe. Take a day off from work every now and then, but not a day off from learning.

Maybe your goal is to make enough money so that you can retire early. Good for you! But the purpose of retirement is not to live a life of indolence or to run out the clock, as easy as that might be to do. Rather, it’s to allow for the pursuit of your real calling now that a big distraction is out of the way. To sit around all day and do nothing? To watch endless amounts of television or simply travel from place to place so that you might cross locations off a checklist? That is not life. It’s not freedom either.

5 SENECA QUOTES ABOUT TIME MANAGEMENT

“Often a very old man has no other proof of his long life than his age.” — Seneca

“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.” — Seneca

“Two elements must therefore be rooted out once for all, – the fear of future suffering, and the recollection of past suffering; since the latter no longer concerns me, and the former concerns me not yet.” – Seneca

“You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last.” — Seneca

“Even though you seize the day, it still will flee; therefore, you must vie with time’s swiftness in the speed of using it, and, as from a torrent that rushes by and will not always flow, you must drink quickly.” — Seneca