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Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware

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Software development happens in your head. Not in an editor, IDE, or designtool. You're well educated on how to work with software and hardware, but what about wetware--our own brains? Learning new skills and new technology is critical to your career, and it's all in your head. In this book by Andy Hunt, you'll learn how our brains are wired, and how to take advantage of your brain's architecture. You'll learn new tricks and tipsto learn more, faster, and retain more of what you learn. You need a pragmatic approach to thinking and learning. You need to Refactor Your Wetware. Programmers have to learn constantly; not just the stereotypical new technologies, but also the problem domain of the application, the whims of the user community, the quirks of your teammates, the shifting sands of the industry, and the evolving characteristics of the project itself as it is built. We'll journey together through bits of cognitive and neuroscience, learning and behavioral theory. You'll see some surprising aspects of how our brains work, and how you can take advantage of the system to improve your own learning and thinking skills. In this book you'll learn how Use the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition to become more expert Leverage the architecture of the brain to strengthen different thinking modes Avoid common "known bugs" in your mind Learn more deliberately and more effectively Manage knowledge more efficiently

251 pages, Paperback

First published August 15, 2008

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About the author

Andy Hunt

32 books356 followers
see also Andrew Hunt

Andy Hunt is a programmer turned consultant, author and publisher.
He co-authored the best-selling book "The Pragmatic Programmer",
was one of the 17 founders of the Agile Alliance, and co-founded
the Pragmatic Bookshelf, publishing award-winning and critically
acclaimed books for software developers.

Andy started writing software professionally in early 80's across
diverse industries such as telecommunications, banking, financial
services, utilities, medical imaging, graphic arts, and of course,
the now-ubiquitous web.

Source: Amazon.com

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 257 reviews
Profile Image for Veselin Nikolov.
521 reviews75 followers
June 18, 2012
Turn yourself into a robot in five easy steps.

- Switch off your Phone, Skype, Email
- Zombie yourself by silencing the internal voice in your head
- Doodle, write notes and mind maps
- Buy a second monitor and code with vim on screen one
- Breathe

The book is amazing. It explains things that I do to get focus and solve puzzles since kindergarten.

It is also boring and kind of sad. It implies that you need to be a zombie robot to succeed and become an expert. I'd love to disagree but I'm afraid they might be right.
Profile Image for Rod Hilton.
150 reviews3,126 followers
August 1, 2009
Andy Hunt's "Pragmatic Thinking and Learning" is a programming book only in the most liberal definition of the phrase. Sure, it's geared toward programmers, but the fact of the matter is that this book would be useful to anyone.

The book essentially covers two topics. The first topic is how your brain works. This is interesting, to be sure, but the book really shines when it comes to the second topic: how to use your brain, knowing how it works.

Andy talks about very light cognitive science, and he puts it into extremely digestible terms. I never felt lost, but I never felt patronized either. I emerged from reading the book with a far better understanding of the brain in an academic sense.

But more importantly, I understand exactly what the limitations of my brain are. I understand what my brain is good at, and what it is not so good at. I understand why I think of programming solutions in the shower. I understand what makes the difference between retaining what I read and not.

This book is essentially a toolkit for electro-shocking your brain. It teaches you how to nurture the creative parts of your brain, and how best to utilize the differences between the different aspects of your mind. It teaches you how to manage your focus on different tasks and how to avoid incorrect and biased thinking. In short, it teaches you how to use your brain the way it's truly meant to be used.

This is not a book you can skim through. The information is exactly as dense as it can be, and no denser (no surprise considering that the author understands the limitations of the brain very well). It is the perfect balance of curiosity-satisfying academic knowledge and real-world pragmatic knowledge.

Since reading this book, I have noticed a fundamental change in the way I treat and understand my brain, and I have found solutions to problems far more easily than I used to. I hate to use a cliche'd phrase like "life-changing" but, yeah, it's kind of life-changing.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to turbocharge their mind, programmer or not. But I recommend it even more highly to programmers.
Profile Image for Jeanne Boyarsky.
Author 30 books67 followers
April 24, 2011
I borrowed a copy of “Pragmatic Thinking & Learning” by Andy Hunt and enjoyed the read. In addition to referencing ideas from Bert Bates and Linda Rising, there was a good mix of concepts and concrete techniques.

Favorite three concepts:
1) Dreyfus model – novice vs advanced beginner vs etc. And why it matters to us
2) Extended analogy between human brain and computer
3) Why certain models of learning work better than others

Favorite three suggested things to try:
1) Block out time to learn and fight for it
2) Make learning new facts a game
3) Write 3 pages every morning before breakfast to see what right brain thinks before fully awake

I also liked that Andy noted writing on paper is different than typing on a computer. I think this applies to paper vs e-books as well. Different strengths.

Overall, the book was surprisingly interactive and each chapter has actions to try or take away. Really emphasized to the point of “stop and do this now.”

While I have to give the book back to its rightful owner, I have a whole page of things to try/follow up on which is exciting.
Profile Image for George.
59 reviews15 followers
May 15, 2020
Clearly a lot of people love this book. I wasn't one of them, but I don't think I'm the target audience. So this review is more of a comment to help people discern whether or not they're in the target audience.

"Pragmatic Thinking and Learning" is a book about how to learn and think better. The gimmick is that the "Pragmatic" series of books is about computer programming, and this book is written in the style of one of their programming books - although it's not exclusively written for programmers, and you don't have to be a programmer to read it.

I am a programmer, so in theory I should have liked this. But I've also read a lot of books already on the general topic of "thinking and learning better", and I couldn't find anything in Pragmatic Thinking and Learning that I hadn't heard elsewhere. For some people, this might be a great introduction, but if you've already had an introduction, you probably won't find of much of value here.

On top of that, it's written in a simplistic style that reminds me of a "For Dummies" book, and it feels like it was written to be skimmed by people who don't read a lot of books and prefer summaries to the full thing. That's fine, but it's not for me.

This is a great book for the right person; hopefully the above should make it a bit clearer whether you're the right person or not.
Author 2 books110 followers
December 10, 2015
Short review in Russian:

Есть книги, которые постоянно задвигаешь в своем собственном to-read списке, поскольку польза от них не очевидна в краткосрочной перспективе.

Я купил книгу Ханта в бумажном виде в одной из своих первых командировок в Штаты в 2010 году и она пролежала на полке все это время. Казалось бы, подходы к самообразованию, интересные моменты о работе мозга и советы по повышению КПД в вопросах изучения чего-то нового, должны всегда иметь высокий приоритет. Но это не так. Всегда есть что-то нужное по работе, что-то вышло новое и интересное, что-то … да что угодно, с чем ты уже хотя бы немного знаком. Отход от привычных тем изучения – дело непростое, и именно по этой причине чтение этой книги постоянно отодвигалось. Хотя и зря:)

Энди Хант известен прежде всего, как один из авторов «Программиста-прагматика» и «Агильного манифеста». Он совсем не мозгоправ, не эксперт с мировым именем во всяких ваших GTD и прочих трюках с продуктивностью. Поэтому его книга не является бестселлером Нью Йорк Таймс и вряд ли ее цитируют на каждом углу. Но книга весьма толковая и добротная.

Во-первых, автор явно потратил немало усилий в изучении того, о чем он пишет. Возможно, он не стал экспертом с мировым именем, но явно стал «продвинутым» по школе модели Дрейфуса.

Во-вторых, в ней просматриваются программистские корни автора и некоторые советы/проблемы/аналогии весьма уместны. Чего только стоит ассоциации кратковременной памяти с кэшем проца, долговременной памяти с винтом, ну и анализ контекст свитчинга между задачами на примере проблем переключения в кернел-мод и других проблем параллельного программирования.

В-третьих, в книге много ссылок на другие статьи и книги, что позволит, при необходимости, углубиться в нужную тему в случае необходимости.

В-четвертых, в книге довольно много практических советов, которые можно проверить прямо сейчас. Есть отдельные секции с вопросами по теме, которые можно провалидировать на себе или своей команде. Вроде того, как настроить свой рабочий стол, чтобы максимально сохранять фокус на задачах, как разгребать мыло, чтобы не было от него тошно или как начать заниматься чем-то новым или научиться медитировать!

В общем, книга очень толковая, точно на твердую четверку. Она вряд ли будет интересна народу в теме. Если вы уже прочитали пяток книг про GTD и прошли курс Learning How To Learn, то нового в книге будет не много.
Profile Image for ΔRT.
58 reviews36 followers
June 12, 2016
Initially, I read The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master written by the same author and it was a treasure for me. I found conceptual thinking and down-to-earth approaches in one book which is rare. Therefore, I was lured by this book from the very beginning.

So, what about this one? Currently, I use 4 criteria in evaluating read book.

Level: 9
(a) The level of the author is high despite the fact that he is not neuroscientist or psychologist. Especially I like that the person with very pragmatic approach advises developing things that to some extent are very contrary to ordinary tech mindset (more on that in the book).
(b) The author expects reader to be on a particular level to fully grasp all the content and references.

Transformation: 7
Ideally, every book I read should change my outlook in one way or another (be disruptive if you want).
This one is more about the compilation of different familiar concepts that are formed in a very cohesive system. But when you mix it with tech background (like it is in Andy's case) you get some interesting intersections. You can meet not only SMART, MindMapping, MultiMonitors and other popular concepts but also things like InnerGame, Constructivism and others (that were new for me).

Actionable: 10
I try to read books that are relevant to my current interest and need and can be applied right now. That is why I expect a book to be a catalyst for actions.
Every chapter has "Next Section" block and in general Andy's approach is very, well, pragmatic (:
Strong A.

Density: 10
I adore terse authors for their respect of my resources (time, energy, etc.).
Again Pragmatic approach wins here. 10 out of 10.

Bottom line: If you are interested in self-improvement and especially if you somehow connected to IT (or at least share pragmatic outlook) I advise you to read this book. You will be rewarded with a system of learning and thinking that for sure enrich your wetware in a pragmatic way.

Here is a tiny part of my mind map of this book: https://coggle.it/diagram/Vx76BWFxk80...
15 reviews3 followers
April 23, 2009
I just finished reading Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware. The book is geared towards anyone who wants to learn and think better. It has plenty of specific details for software engineers.

The book does a lot of build up to get you to understand what it means to be an expert, what are the levels of skill and how the brain works for better and worse.

The best part of the book is the last few chapters. He puts the theory aside and gets to the low level practices along with some tools. The theory is good, it's a good build-up but I wish more of the book was made of pragmatic advice. The publishers provide forums and it looks like there are more pragmatic next steps there.

He covers mind maps. I have tried drawing some for video lectures on a technical topic I'm learning right now. I'm happy with the results and plan to use it as a way to coalesce thoughts and take notes while reading a book or watching a lecture.

Another practice he recommends is using a personal wiki. I love wikis, I use them a lot for work, I even wrote a file based wiki in Python once. I installed didiwiki on all my Ubuntu machines, it's file based so you need no database running. It's also very lightweight and has an embedded HTTP server; ideal for my Asus EEE net-book. Another benefit of being file based is that I can just version control the files (using github) and I have access to the wiki data on any computer I use and while I'm off-line.

Overall, I highly recommend the book. I absolutely tore through the book, that's a good sign.
Profile Image for Jonathan Fretheim.
19 reviews2 followers
February 5, 2011
Despite the nauseatingly gimmicky subtitle, I gave this book a chance because of how many rave reviews and references I've seen. There were a lot of tips, tricks, perspectives, anecdotes, metaphors, etc., about thinking and learning that were worth being exposed to. Certainly some I'd seen before, but a lot of new ones, too. The chapter on the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition (a sequence of five discrete levels beginning with Novice and ending with Expert that can be applied to someone's "expertise" an area) was really illuminating. That chapter gave me a lot of clarity about jobs I've had in the past, how group dynamics worked (and how they probably could have worked better given a framework like this to think through at the time).

A quick, worthwhile read. It's a given that thinking and learning are what you have to do all the time to keep up in a technology-fueled field, but they are also things everyone should probably make a conscious effort to think about every so often. This book was a nice vacation for me to think about how I learn, how I could learn, how I solve problems, etc. There are definitely some concrete things from the book I've put into practice already that are paying off.
1 review
December 17, 2016
A good book to read for all the workaholics specially for a software professionals but not restricted to only those.

All the nine chapter in the book are very informative and well written, my personal favorites are
1. Debug your mind
2. This is your brain &
3. Manage Focus.

I liked the concept of how Andy points out to SMART practices and also that portion where he writes about Lizard Logic. With lizard logic I was able to explain to myself of different behaviors I have seen at my work place and connect each of them to one or more persons with whom i have worked with.

I have collected lots of one liners/excerpts from the book, to mention a few...

1. Humor is neither a waste of time nor a harmless diversion; instead, it reflects an important ability necessary for thinking, learning, and creativity. It’s all about connections.

2. You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.

And many more, but restricted to mention only 2 , don't want to overload this summary with those extracts.

Overall a very good read and good start to me as a "Book reader" or "I read books" or whatever it is called to those who have just started reading non curriculum/technical books :P ;).

212 reviews7 followers
December 10, 2012
This is definitely one of the best books I've ever read.
Andy takes research from cognitive science, neuroscience, psychology, sociology, behavioral science and everything else you can think of to show you how to be the best person you can be.
This book is filled with interesting facts, and to-do lists that challenge the reader to take immediate action.
Random tidbits:
The notion that our brain cells can die but we can't create new ones is now known to be false. It turns out that you need to be happy and stimulated, and the lab rats they use to test this sort of thing are anything but in their cages.
Having trouble focusing? Practice meditation. It's relaxing, and you'll find benefits in all aspects of work and studying (and the book has a how-to).
Feel like you're doing a lot, but not really? Set up different workspaces on your computer. Make one for email/facebook/chat, and another for working, another for music, etc. Make it a real commitment to switch between tasks, and you'll stay focused and get more done. Switching tasks is expensive.

I seriously recommend this book to anyone and everyone.
Profile Image for Ivan Ivanov.
20 reviews
June 15, 2020
This is a great book for the knowledge-workers.

I loved the final chapters on learning deliberately, gaining experience, managing attention and beyond expertise.

I’ve treated learning and reading like I am a computer and I can read/learn something now and use it after several months. It turns out this approach is not very effective because our brains are not designed for this.
47 reviews1 follower
January 8, 2010
I have a lot to say about Hunt's ideas in this book, unfortunately I'm not inclined to go into all the theory, chipping away at it. But I don't want to avoid the theoretical arguments in his book altogether, just for the sake of preserving what's useful about his practical tips for improving memory and creative thinking skills.

Hunt correctly observes what is wrong with the programming discipline, and also understands, I think, why programmers are not encouraged to be experts, let alone competent in their field. But after correctly observing symptoms, and offering you a diagnosis as the causes, the treatment is all wrong. That doesn't mean this book isn't worth a read if you read it for the treatment: practical tips on how to improve your memory and retrieve more potential from creative thinking and problem-solving. Just don't make the mistake of thinking that the treatment attacks the cause of the problem.

Of course, if you actually are closer to being competent or expert in your field, you might ultimately wonder *why* improving your memory and especially why developing your creative side should make you a competent and possibly even expert coder where logic, rationality, and linear thinking are supposed to reign. What does art, rock climbing, music, and tennis have to do with anything? You will wonder these things, at least according to Hunt's theory, because you *are* competent, possibly even expert. You will wonder them because a sign of competence and expertise is looking at the bigger picture. You don't just do things -- like try to improve your artistic side -- because the rules said you should. You do them because you are always thinking in terms of the bigger questions. You wonder *why* you should and you contemplate various answers and arguments. So, if you wonder why, then you have to buy Hunt's theory.

I wasn't always sure I bought it. I could see where Hunt was going, but he seemed to have lacked an in-depth knowledge of certain of the supporting struts for his framework. Otherwise, as a UI/UX developer, I certainly think that creative thinking is often sorely lacking in linear, rational, logical thinking that often dominates the worldviews of coders.

But is it really the case that you can address some of the problems Hunt identifies in his book by doing so. In other words, if one of the problems is that programmers aren't motivated to become competent or experts is because they are beat down by companies that treat them like interchangeable parts, then how will taking art classes or learning how to do mindmaps change anything? If another problem is that coders aren't paid well enough to stay in their jobs as coders and, instead, have to migrate into management, consultancy, or teaching to make increase their salaries, how will any of these practical tips for improving memory and creative problem solving actually address that issue? The answer is: they won't.

Hunt correctly observes problems: lack of competent and expert level coders, lack of organizational infrastructures to attract and nourish such people, a dead end career and pay structure, and the endless reorgnizations, quality assurance programs, metrics-based development initiatives, etc. etc -- in short, the endeless search for the One New Big Thing that Will Change Everything Once And For All. All of this combines to create organizations which do one thing pretty well: they herd race horses as if they were sheep, and race sheep as if they were horses -- to borrow Hunt's memorable and apt metaphor.

But Hunt's antidote only treats the individuals suffering in those organizations -- if it does even that. In fact, I'd argue that if everyone adopted Hunts ideas, it's be a huge distraction from the real problems Hunt identifies. Instead of looking outside yourself, to the organizational imperatives -- pay, lack of career structure, endless search for silver bullets, etc. -- you end up looking at and improving yourself. Which is great, but likely going to make the individual code even more frustrated. After all, the organization is still hearding race horses as if they were sheep.

Still, the fact remains: how can you change an organization, sitting in a cewb with the rank of Software Engineer IV? You can't, really. You can't get your organization to pay software engineers better -- not all by yourself. And even if you could, the problem Hunt thinks he identifies is a problem that exists in the *industry* and not just in your organization. In short, the problem with Hunt is that he comes up with a Grand Theory that explains that the root of the problem existing in very social institutions and organizations; however, he tells us to solve the problem by giving us tools to improve our individual skills.

Which is pragmatic, I guess.

After all, how could we possibly change the pay structure across an industry. Much easier to focus on developing your skills. And it is, which is why I'd recommend this book. I don't think Hunt explains the reasons particularly well, and I don't have the time to write the book he should have written. In the meantime, being of a pragmatic bent, I say: take a look at this book. check out some of the exercises and see if they work. Pick and choose what works for you and discard the rest.
January 12, 2023
Not much new info but picked it up for free and was an easy first book of the year to restart the reading habit.
Profile Image for Rob.
Author 2 books376 followers
June 22, 2019
Would recommend to anyone who is interested in learning the meta-skills around thinking, learning, and focus.

A bunch of the material in here is stuff that I’ve already heard of and tried and/or actively practice. (That was validating.) There was some of practices in here that I hadn’t really heard of before — the Pragmatic Investment Plan in particular felt like a revelation. The book even had me hive Mind Maps another try, with good results.

Big takeaways for me: consider your skills along the Dreyfus model scale; approach situations with a Beginner’s mindset, even if you believe yourself an expert; be aware of the biases/heuristics that you use, and be prepared to reevaluate your choices in light of them — but don’t chose yourself too much for what is otherwise your intuition at work.
Profile Image for Inna.
10 reviews1 follower
April 22, 2013
Great book! I like the tools described in it and using them, I like not only the description of R & L modes of our brains however practical examples how to use them and switch between.
During reading the book, I found out some bugs in me and will continue refactoring of the wetware to have them fixed in the nearest next versions :).
10 reviews
September 16, 2019
Książka napisana przez programistę, gdzie dużo analogii odnosi się do informatyki. Dla mnie bonus. Tematy opisane zwięźle. Sporo punktów, w których autor zachęca do zrobienia czegoś. Dobre podsumowania rozdziałów i liczne przypisy. Nie ma tutaj nic przełomowego, to porządny zbiór różnych modeli i praktyk, jakie autor uznał za warte opisania.

Ja wynoszę z tej książki m.in.:
- SQ3R model - do nauki z książek/podręczników
- Dreyfus model - opis 6 etapów zdobywania umiejętności od nowicjusza do eksperta i różnic pomiędzy nimi
- Idea debugowania wzięła się od realnego problemu pluskw w starym kalkulatorze, który dawał złe wyniki
- Zachęta do stosowania mapy myśli, np. przy czytaniu książki, albo planowaniu celu kolejnej wycieczki
- Zalety prowadzenia własnej wiki i systematycznego przeglądania zbieranych materiałów
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Arjen.
195 reviews10 followers
September 20, 2018
I'm not sure if the book is just a tad outdated, or if the target audience is mostly aimed at Americans. Most examples and practises are things I already knew or already implemented myself.
Profile Image for Pablo.
45 reviews5 followers
March 25, 2023
An amazing book. Even having a clue about multiple concepts introduced about neuroscience, how we learn, focus and so forth, I found it pretty useful and worth reading. Andy appears to be a very curious guy apart from a great programmer, which shows off though his references, quotes and ideas presented along the book.

I'd give it 5 stars if it wasn't just an outdated version (15 years old already). That's not an issue for the work on neuroscience, which I think is still quite aligned with current science views, but it is when it suggests technology approaches which may sound quite old fashioned (mostly at the end of the book), even if those suggestions can easily be adjusted to our current daily tools.
Profile Image for Brittan.
9 reviews3 followers
May 16, 2017
I have read this book twice now and I'll probably read it again. Very good tactics for 'rewiring' your thinking. Especially good for engineers but I think others can enjoy it too.
Profile Image for Thuy.
39 reviews9 followers
February 21, 2021
This book would probably be more useful to a college student or recent grad.
Profile Image for Ilya Ivanov.
24 reviews7 followers
October 30, 2016

You know you've picked up the right book, when you just can't stop reading it at 3 AM.

Andy Hunt - the co-author of a well-known "Pragmatic Programmer" masterpiece, tries to debug human brain in order to understand patterns and failures of human behavior.

Core idea of this book in that your brain has two modes of operation:
Linear mode. Performs thinking: verbal, analytical, abstract, rational, logical, analytic.
Rich mode. Performs thinking: non-verbal, intuitive, concrete, non-rational, holistic, synthetic.

Coursera class Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects describes similar modes: focused and diffuse thinking. Definitelly recommend that class.
Focused and Diffuse thinking

These two approaches in decomposing thinking are not quite equal, but share a lot of common ideas.

Our major task is to apply both of these modes if you want to be efficient in you mental capacity both in the work and daily life.

In Depth

In short, following is the main chapters (but not all of them) with my naive summary of the core concept.
Journey from Novice to Expert: describes Dreyfus model and how Rich mode is crucial in getting to the last stage called "expect".
This Is Your Brain: introduces the concepts of Linear and Rich modes of thinking and their responsibilities.
Get in Your Right Mind: how to use Rich mode in order to solve advanced topics. More importantly: how you can help you brain to switch modes when solving some rough problem. Contains a few descriptions and examples of the power of metaphor, ideas on visual sensory in general and drawing in specific.
Debug Your Mind: flaws in our perception, both on the general population and individual levels.
Learn Deliberately: decomposing learning - powerful SMART objectives, SQ3R reading, listening, mind maps, documenting, personal wiki, teaching.
Gain Experience: how to make sure you are not "10 times by 1 year" expect.
Manage Focus: focusing is the key to being productive. Chapter explains how not to lose context, how to avoid context switching, how to manage interruptions, how to practice you attention skills.


Like everything in this word, this book has some disadvantages:
1. Contains highlighted text blocks, which interrupt your reading flow. I think it's a bit counterproductive, since this half-page panel with text just interrupts you reading flow. There aren't too many of them though.
2. I would reorder chapters a bit: first description of the brain and it modes, then Dreyfus model, focus, learning, experience. But this is just my personal preference. Hey, naive personal review with a tiny bits of ideas, that probably fit well only into my head.


I would definitely recommend this book not only for developers, but to the general audience as well.
Profile Image for Jacob Tjornholm.
34 reviews2 followers
November 29, 2016
Initally I was going to give this book a mediocre review. The computer hardware analogies annoyed the crap out me, and (I will just straight up admit this) I didn’t appreciate being lectured on how my mind works. Maybe everyone else’s, but Andy was talking to me personally, and that bothered me a great deal.

It turns out that I was wrong. This book is actually amazing. It is interesting on so many levels. First of all, I thought that I would hate it. This is interesting, given that I ended up loving it.

Andy Hunt uses a lot of computer hardware analogies, and I hated these (I still do). “Debug your mind”…yikes. Much of the language in the book, I really don’t like very much. Even the subtitle, “Refactor your wetware” seems tacky (and slightly grosses me out).

So why do I still love the book and give it a 5/5 review without hesitation?

It inspired me to change the way I work, and I can feel the improvement immediately. Lots of details in the book are quite unimportant to me - it is the big things that matter.

Being able to focus on one thing at a time.

Being conscious about when and how to take notes.

Some of the points in the book are repeated so many times. Over and over and over again are we told to “consider the context”. This is pretty annoying, but is it necessary? I feel that maybe it is. Of course I’ll never know if I had remembered after just a single mention, but I suspect that Andy Hunt knows exactly which points to keep hammering on and which to mention in passing.

Many of the concepts in the book are very simple, and I feel like a bit of an idiot for not having realized all this on my own. It seems really obvous now. Also, much of this I knew already but had neglected to act upon.

For example: If I am in the middle of a challenging programing task and I receive an email, what should I do? Should I stop working and immediately read the email? Of course not. We all know that it is a bad idea, and that getting back into the programming mindset takes time.

Nevertheless, this is what I have been doing, for whatever reason. And the book has given me the push I needed to break the habit, for whatever reason.

Also, at some point in my life I had decided that note taking was not for me. I felt like I didn’t need them. Much easier to just remember stuff and act on it quickly. And actually I’ve been getting by just fine without using notes.

But boy, have I been missing out. I now realize that I’m just really bad at note taking, so I’ve never understood the value of taking notes. Very simple problem with a very simple solution: Practice. I now take lots of notes (that’s the easy part) and practice organizing them.

What this book has taught me is that learning to take good notes can dramatically increase my ability to organize my life and my work. And at the same time it allows me to focus on one thing at a time without fearing that I’ll drop the other balls - it’s all stored securely in my notes.

Again, this seems trivial to me now. But it’s not always easy to identify your own bad habits.

I think most people would benefit from reading this book. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Rafael Bandeira.
18 reviews6 followers
February 28, 2010
Recommended reading for those constantly seeking for improvements in their day-to-day life, career and profession. Hunt goes right and deep in theories and studies about how the brain operates and how differently our creativity and logistic are and why having both working together is ought to bring betterment to one's learning, focusing and making.

From the several concepts brought to the table we have the Dreyfus Model for talent acquisition, and the R-mode and L-mode studies that go on the differences between our so called Rich-mode, the "part" of the brain responsible for our creativity and problem solving, and Linear-mode, the other "part" responsible for logic and reason, as the main focus.

The book also gears the reader with techniques and tools to take advantage of the R-mode like meditation, morning writing and defocus, and it also helps to create a framework to exercise our L-mode with reading techniques, knowledge management and task tracking tools, and others.

One specially interesting technique presented is the Morning Pages. The idea is to always keep a pen and a notebook close to the bed, and once you awake on the morning the first thing you have to do is take the pen and write at least 3 pages in the notebook. It doesn't need to be formal writing nor it needs to be any relevant content, you just need to put out whatever is in your mind at that moment.
On the book is described a situation where a business man who started using the technique spent some days only writing "blah blah blah...", to only later notice business plans and product models appearing out of nowhere as fresh ideas in his head. Might worth the try.

3 reviews
January 27, 2009
This is one of the better books I have read recently. It is as if the author "Andy Hunt" wrote this book to inspire me personally. This was the perfect book to read around new years. It helped me re-gain my focus and passion about being in technology.

I don't want to get in to too many specifics about the book, since you can read the outline of the book online elsewhere, but generally speaking, the book helped me create a plan for 09, and suggests ways to help effectively execute my plan.

There are so many great ideas in the book, it is a bit overwhelming to try to incorporate all of them in to your daily life, so it is best to incorporate the ones that work for you. The beauty of this book is that fact that it is not a traditional "how to" type book that you need to follow every suggestion step by step in order to succeed.

To me the book comes across more like a conversation with a friend who you look up to, where they are giving you all the secrets to their success. Where you just absorb all the good ideas, and form a plan for on your own based on their suggestions. For example, one suggestion that I really took to heart was, a new technique for reading my next book which includes using the the SQ3R method along with Mind Maps. I have applied this technique already to my next book, and I can't begin to say how much better it is that my traditional note taking technique.

Even thought I am finished reading it, this book will stay on my desk, and I will refer to it anytime I am in need of inspiration.
4 reviews1 follower
November 20, 2010
I enjoyed this book and got a lot of value out of it. I thought it did a good job of distilling decades of research into easy-to-understand and salient ideas that can be put to use immediately. I really appreciated how the author heavily referenced his research material so that you can easily dive deeper into a particular subject if you want to. The part that made this book really great, for me, was all of the practical ideas that you can start right trying away. I've already begun doing some of the ideas (maintaining a personal wiki, reading tips, and using a flashcard program for SRS) and have found them to be very effective.

The book is very easy to read and I would recommend it to any software developer. The author claims this book can be read by programmers and non-programmers alike. While I think anyone certainly could read this and get value from it I'm not sure if I would recommend it to all my non-programmer friends. Many of the metaphors used to describe the brain and how we think use computer terminology that I think would confuse some people.
Profile Image for Robert.
3 reviews7 followers
April 30, 2010
The authors give the reader a great framework for thinking outside the box and learning outside the classroom. They discuss tools to help with retention like mind-maps and Mnemosyne, tools to help comprehension like mind-maps, tools to help with retrospect such as keeping a personal journal, and tools to help with archival and retrieval like a personal wiki.

This was a fantastic book and a great read. Although it talks some about programmers and their habits (after all the author is one), its contents should be accessible to the programmer and non-programmer alike.

This book along with Getting Things Done have made a noticable impact on the quality of my life, my personal feelings of agency, and my overall happiness.

I highly recommend this book. Especially to the high school or college student.
34 reviews2 followers
November 11, 2010
I enjoy the pragmatic programming series very much, and found that this book was pretty good. I've read a lot of other self-help "how to think better" types of books (e.g. Mind Hacks), and think that this book is on par with most of the others that I've read.

The best parts of the book are the practical discussions at the end. The review of the Dreyfus model of expertise is interesting, but not really what I was looking to get out of the book. However, the more pragmatic suggestions toward the end were great.

I don't know that I learned a lot from this book in particular as it really was a survey of ideas and techniques that I've seen in a number of other books. However, there is a lot of really good material here, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in exploring how thinking works, and how to improve thinking habits.

Profile Image for John Schneider.
178 reviews30 followers
June 7, 2016
Although this work is written mostly for programmers and other knowledge workers, it contains a wealth of knowledge and practices that will enable even the most learned to do more. Written in a clear and compelling style, "Pragmatic Thinking and Learning" succeeds at illustrating how to think better and lear better. I really wish that I had read this book before the completion of my formal education because I am certain that I would have learned far more with the insights this work contains. Implementing this book will be an integral part of my life. Notice the lack of qualification in the previous sentence: I expect to be guided by this book's knowledge for decades to come. I have read hundreds of books, and this one is now on my top ten list of books. "Go read this book" hardly conveys how strongly I recommend this work, but it will have to suffice.
Profile Image for Robert.
107 reviews3 followers
February 5, 2009
This is a very interesting book on how to understand and rewire ones brain...

I came away with a number of valuable insights, largely around the Dreyfus Model of Skills (Shu Ha Ri from the martial arts world) but also extending into Right/Left brain, how to learn, & how to focus.

I saw immediate areas, largely work related, where my 'mental models' were incorrect and deficient and were preventing me from communicating with and motivating/influencing those I work with.

This is a book that will be re-read a number of times, as I can see myself getting more out of it with each pass through.

Very good book.
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