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Four Kinds of Vampires that Haunt Your Life (and What to Do About Them)

Four Kinds of Vampires that Haunt Your Life (and What to Do About Them)

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    You are surrounded by vampires.

    They circle you, slowly, eyeing your throat, their teeth glistening in the moonlight. Your heart pounds in your chest as they move in, intent on draining your life’s blood for their own unholy nourishment. A scream rises up in your chest as they close in on you, their fangs bared, and then you feel the first pair of teeth sinking into your throat.

    “Hey, Dustin, got a minute? I want to tell you about this awesome party I went to over the weekend. We were sooooo wasted, and…”

    The horror! The HORROR!!!

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    The vampires in this tale aren’t the supernatural beings of myth and legend, the Transylvanian undead doomed to walk the night for all eternity, feeding on the blood of the unsuspecting people around them. No, these vampires move about freely in the daylight, and they feed not on blood but on your time, attention, and yes, your very soul. And crosses, garlic, and holy water have no effect on them.

    And who are these wretched damned? They come in many forms and wear many guises. Often, you will recognize them not by their own actions, but by their effect on you: the tapping foot, the ignored gestures of impatience, the tightening of the chest as your time slips away, the forced laughter at yet another of their stupid, mean-spirited, or just plain pointless jokes.

    There are many kinds of vampires that threaten you daily. Here are four you have probably encountered recently, and how to dispatch them to the realm from which they emerged.

    1. The time-sucking fiend

    The time-sucking fiend seeks only your time – the more of it they can consume, the stronger they get. They drop by the office with hour-long explanations that could have been summed up in a five-sentence email, they call at all hours “just to say ‘hi'” and simply won’t let you hang up, they CC you and everyone else they know on every email (especially the ones that promise a gruesome death if you don’t follow suit) – and when you actually need them, they’re nowhere to be found.

    Like summoning a demon, dealing with the time-sucking fiend relies on powerful boundaries – and also like summoning a demon, you can only count on yourself to maintain those boundaries. While you might have heard business leaders extolling the virtues of an “open-door” policy, you have to realize that an open door is an invitation, and you hopefully know better than to invite a vampire in! It’s better to limit your open door to specific times and schedule the rest of your work around those times.

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    But the most powerful weapon in your arsenal against time-sucking fiends, your wooden stake, is to just say “No”.

    “Hey Jan, got a minute?”

    “Oh, sorry, I really don’t. I’m hard at work on this report/email to a vendor/chapter of my novel/game of Solitaire. If it’s important, why don’t you send me an email or we can schedule 10 minutes later this week to discuss it.”

    Asserting your unavailability and then taking control of the situation is the key, here. Never leave the time-sucking fiend at a loss for what to do next; instead, offer an option or two (never more) so they feel like their issue will be addressed. But never back down – your time is yours, as long as you treat it as such.

    2. The humorless hellhound

    The humorless hellhound didn’t quite follow the joke you made at lunch today, and wants you to know it! Besides taking up your time, the humorless hellhound sucks the fun out of life, demanding an explanation of every off-hand comment you or anyone else makes, and complaining about being made the butt of a joke by someone else. They’d never get offended and confront the person who offended them – that’s what everyone else is for!

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    Be firm with the humorless hellhound – simply say “It wasn’t important” and steer the conversation back to topics of substance or, if there are none, walk away. Neither defend nor condemn others with whom the humorless hellhound has a problem; your only response should be “Take it up with them”.

    Note: Often people who make offensive remarks hide behind the mask of humor (very often these people are vacuous horrors; see below), attempting to deflect attention from their own offensiveness by saying “aw, it was just a joke!” Those who stand up to jerks like that are certified Van Helsings, not humorless hellhounds. Learn to tell the difference – it could save your life!

    3. The vacuous horror

    The vacuous horror is an idiot, and he or she doesn’t care who knows it. Their pleasures are simple: drink to excess, bed hot chicks or dudes, get sooooo high, play their music sooooo loud, party sooooo hard. Or at least talk about those things – and talk, and talk, and talk talk talk. They don’t want your time, or not just your time, they want your attention – and somehow, your jealousy, as if you should envy their pseudo-wannabe-MTV lives.

    The silver bullet here is to tell them it all sounds pretty lame, but of course, nobody uses silver bullets. Too fatal. After all, you kind of feel sorry for them, all shriveled and naked and weak – they’re like children. Stupid, nasty children, but children nonetheless. Your best bet, then, is to treat them as blood-sucking fiends, carefully limiting their access and steering them towards matters of more substance. A curt “Yeah, that sounds great. Listen, I’ve got to get going…” might be called for if they just won’t pass on to the next world, though…

    4. The detail demon

    While attention to detail is important, the detail demon isn’t concerned with making sure things work, he or she is concerned with a thousand minor points that have no significance or bearing on anything outside of her or his decomposing mind. The detail demon wants to discuss the pros and cons of the serial comma in the corporate stylebook, and s/he wants to discuss it now. For a really, really, really long time.

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    Fortunately, the detail demon is easily dispatched. Like the time-sucking fiend, under no circumstances give the detail demon any control over your time! Instead, ask them to write up an itemized list of their concerns and email it to you (or otherwise deliver it) so you can review them thoroughly. Since most of their concerns will not matter much, you can usually just give them a simple “go ahead” on the changes they suggest; anything of actual importance they bring up actually does need to be addressed, so they’ve just saved you some time! Turning the vampire’s power against them – that’s ninja-level stuff!

    Who’s haunting your house?

    These four aren’t the only vampires prowling the streets and hallways of our lives. For the good of your fellow Lifehack readers, what other kinds of vampires have you run into lately? And more importantly, how did you vanquish these foul, foul beasts? The future of all our productivity may depend on you!

    (Happy Halloween!)

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2019

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More About Note-Taking

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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