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Ask HN: Weekend wasted again
100 points by vaibhav228 on Oct 23, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 74 comments
Hello All,

I decide to do something over the weekend may be a small project or learn something new or prepare for interview, but Saturday and Sunday goes by and I do nothing but to browse internet, facebook, youtube and going through links.

At the end of Sunday, I feel like, I wasted my weekend and get little bit depressed.

If anyone has gone through process, can you please share how to got out of this loop on every week end?

Not sure what HNs opinion of this will be....

I used to have similar issues. It was mostly down to procrastination and overwork/stress.

Weekends were really bad since I was so busy/stressed from the week that I would get into an attitude of "i'll start doing it in an hour" and eventually it was so late that it was too late to get any work done. I had a lot to do, just very little impetus to do it now.

Fixed it by starting to smoke pot. Not even kidding. I set a timeline for my weekends for when I was working and when I was done. When I work, I work. When I'm done, I go smoke. Basically every weekend for a few months.

I've probably tripled, if not more, my weekend productivity by giving myself a defined period of work and a defined period of relaxation and a reward for getting there.

What you do is called unscheduling. It is a method of time boxing where you define your me time as the highest priority thus creating a sense of urgency and reward for your work time. You could as well decide to go for a run at a certain time instead of smoking pot. Pot is just easier because you will shut down automatically thus releaving you of the duty to care for your mental hygiene through other means.

I wholeheartedly agree with setting goals for personal time, scheduling downtime and time with family, and pot. I caution however, as a non-24/running clock disorder/non diurnal individual who worked at night a lot in military and medicine, make sure you're strict with yourself about time and perhaps sey up a digital or analog reminder, a mental trigger to remind you of the currently active task. Plasma Workspaces are one way I stay on track and schedule driven RGB ambient lights which indicate my work mode so if I space out on engineering more disease resistant rice or using phages to kill Zika, I get an unmistakable reminder of what I -should- be doing, and also when to take breaks. Yarn on your finger, persistent Android notifications or whatever would also work.

When this sort of thing happens to me it is usually because either I didn't have a concrete plan on what I was going to do beyond describing it as "useful" (or the project wasn't really interesting), or I had been deprived of relaxation due to being very busy for more than a week and the mind is "reclaiming" its time.

If the reason is latter, I wouldn't worry too much. But in order to make my weekends or off days productive, I try to sneak in a small share of web browsing on working days - it basically works like rest/sleep. As for former, I let the interest or necessity generate naturally and not force myself to do something useful and think its a crime to relax.

> I try to sneak in a small share of web browsing on working days.

I personally find that the time I spend distracted on the internet does not rejuvenate my brain. To actually do this I need to sleep, go for a walk, build something physical, or hang out with friends. YMMV, but you should take some time to examine yourself and discover what genuinely refreshes you.

> YMMV, but you should take some time to examine yourself and discover what genuinely refreshes you.

I hope by 'you' you mean 'one'.

yes, generalized you.

'The Royal You'

The solution might be how you spend your weekdays, finding out what you "really" enjoy doing and how you approach the weekend project.

If your stress level steadily rises from Monday to Friday, you'll need the weekend to wind down. This is the first problem to solve. Do fun things in the week days to wind down before the weekend (ideally wind down every day). What are fun things? I can recommend some ideas, but its different for everyone, but getting some form of physical execise is a BIG plus. Walk, run, swim, play... whatever floats your boat.

How to approach the weekend project? This is what works for me. Breakdown the weekend project into really small pieces. I don't mean you make a project plan for the weekend project. Just find the first one or two mini goals, something you can accomplish in an hour. Hit the mini goals. If you don't feel motivated to hit the mini goals. Find out why and iterate. Maybe try a 15 minute goal. Maybe a different project. The point is make really small nudges in the direction you want to go. If it doesn't work, find out why and fix it. When small nudges start working, it'll build up momentum and will eventually become a full weekend project! Have fun! That's the whole point of weekend projects!

I have ADHD, so I've done this a lot. :)

First take a look at this from a few days ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12734671 on a book: Deep Work. Basically just some of the tactics ADHD people have been using for ages.

The whole world seems to have developed some mild sub clinical ADD thanks to social and phones. So first off don't be surprised you're struggling.

Understand that web browsing and social are variable reward machines. Click a link and you have another new snippet to read, or video to see. Each one gives you a reward and a small dopamine boost. Now compare with preparing for interview, or thinking about a side project. Where's the rewards? Later. Maybe not even today! It's a luxury cheesecake vs diet fruit portion question.

Look at the pomodoro technique and break tasks up with small rewards. 25 mins productive, 5 mins social (if you can stop at the next beep). Get a cheap $5 kitchen timer to sit next to you. If your willpower is lacking, add a browser extension to set limits on social cheesecake sites. If the phone is main distraction add an app to silence notifications, or remove the strongest distractions - the social ones!

Same goes for desktop on your laptop - remove the candy, set it up for productivity. Maybe separate logins - one for productivity, one that permits you near the fun stuff. :p

For god's sake don't keep todo lists and such on your phone. Turn phone off, use a notebook, post it or pad, or text file on the laptop! Otherwise you're now holding the crack, and hoping not to be tempted. Just 5 minutes, I can handle it...

Accept that your attention will wander, and get used to checking in and trying to bring it back. That timer helps. If you struggle add another timer to beep every few minutes - as a checkin. Don't get depressed if you trip up. Forgive yourself, and try again - you're building a new habit, and that will take time and many mistakes.

Last, lots of exercise, fluids, healthy eating and breaks away from keyboard will keep you fresh.

This entire thread is worth checking out: The "I want to do everything but end up doing nothing" dilemma: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9049208

Entire thread is very good source. It has lots of links. Liked the pomodoro technique. Thanks

Sorry I can't shed much light on how to get through this. I'm stuck in the middle of it as well, ending my weekend being frustrated and angry that I wasted it. I don't believe that lack of enthusiasm is necessarily at play here. However, I used to be very good at this, putting in several hours of work and several hours of learning/projects over the weekend. Things that I believe (but haven't tested) helped me then: Feeling accomplished during the week, not sleeping in on Saturday, optimizing my home work environment for productivity, and setting very small/realistic goals.

To that last point, I believe both of us could benefit from the "GTD" (David Allen) approach. In particular, utilize the "Clarify" step to write out 1-3 small things you want to do each day. Instead of setting yourself up to "build a small thing" or "learn a subject," split the day's tasks into easy stuff like "init git repo" or "read first chapter of intro to Go."

But, if your week burns you out (my main motivation for a lack of will on the weekends) you may be better off resting. Schedule your downtime in addition to your learning/project time. Give yourself time before and after your project to zone out and click links aimlessly. And, if it suits you, get a buddy to be accountable with. Someone who's going to ask you on Sunday evening if you've taken at least one step toward your goal. Hope this comment helps.

Maybe the problem is not where we search for it. There is a theory that willpower is a limited resource [1]. If this theory is true, it means productivity hacks cannot work, because the problem is not in our weekends, it is in our weekdays: in our work that demands all of our willpower, in our relationships, social interactions, or in our inability to relax.

I read an article some time ago that I cannot find. It stated that extreme procrastination is the result of a form of drug abuse: we need our daily dose of fb, youtube, etc to keep us functioning, but that takes all the time, and when we realize we wasted another day, it makes us sad, and the cycle begins anew. It is also no secret that these sites are designed to be addictive.

This article might help you too (well, the original, but I couldn't link that because, most likely, the author of the original essay procrastinated the renewal of the web page for too long, and it cannot be reached): https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/sep/07/change-...

[1] https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/willpower-limited-resource.pd...

Genuine question here. Why is it that some lack the discipline to just do things that they want to do?

Its a common theme that appears in most books (heck Just Fucking Ship is a whole book on this) and I have noticed this over time with different people but never understood it.

Is there a psychological reason behind this? Is it something that needs to be overcome with the ways listed here? I guess what I am asking is why is that many cannot just decide to do something and do it without trying to hold themselves accountable using techniques.

> Why is it that some lack the discipline to just do things that they want to do?

If I find myself unable to do the things I want to do, I have to ask: do I really want to do these things, or do I just want to want to do them?

Let's say I'm convinced I need to learn a new programming language / library, and study to interview for a new job. But is this new language or new job really the thing that's missing in my life?

Maybe what I really want to do is make some music, or explore my neighborhood. Maybe part of me knows I should be going out, meeting girls, getting married, and starting a family.

When you try to make yourself work on things that don't address your real needs, you end up with priority inversion. If you find yourself saying "I can't do anything until X is done, yet I can't make myself do X", that could be a sign to say "Fuck X, what I really want to do is Y."

And then some of us look back over two decades of half-finished projects, and think, "Wow, many of these Xes were really cool, I wish I had just sucked it up and finished a few of the Xes, even though at the time all I wanted to do is start yet another project like Y".

The real issue is that some humans have a harder time integrating their short-term and long-term desires.

It's always possible to revisit a decades-old project and pick up where you left off. If you don't have the time or motivation to finish it today, you can hardly blame your past self for making the same decision.

Leaving your abandoned project in a somewhat "working state" can go a long way to facilitate this.

There's plenty of reasons. They can range from things like Depression, Anxiety, ADHD or Executive Function Disorder.

It can also just be a matter of not encountering tools or techniques that they can apply to their daily life. As great as a book or system can be, it doesn't really do any good if you can't figure out how to apply it to your own life.

Saying that people lack discipline can even be counter productive. It is incredibly exhausting to hear that you're undisciplined while you're simultaneously fighting to accomplish a fraction of things you want to do, much less need to do. Once you've heard this enough, it can seem futile to even try, and you can start to wonder if there's something wrong with you.

I've personally experienced this while dealing with ADHD and Depression in my life, but, as my grandfather used to say "Different strokes for different folks"

If this is not a problem for you then good for you : )

For some of us it is a constant struggle.

My biggest contributors for this specific thing (weekend procrastination) are probably:

* fear of investing a lot of time without being able to finish (I get interrupted all the time outside of work). This might sound stupid, but it is really draining me to the point where when I was younger and not married I'd go to bed shortly after work, wake up and go to the office in the middle of the night just to get something I wanted to do done.

* fear of failure, coupled with perfectionism, leading to hesitation while I wait or even more dangerous, search for the perfect solution. I worked my way towards "sloppiness", telling myself it is only a draft, I can always get back to it later etc. Helpful resources: "Cult of Done" http://www.manifestoproject.it/bre-pettis-and-kio-stark/ as well as "The Now habit" by Neil Fiore.

Now for anyone who doesn't struggle: there is nothing here (unless you want to be a good boss that happens to magically make people like us output more good stuff in shorter time while enjoying work).

Other way round: how do the rare few self-motivate themselves to do things on their own, persistently? How many people fully plan their day, rather than just doing adhoc or conventional things? Not many.

Why is it that some lack the discipline to just do things that they want to do?

Because levels of motivation matter. A lot of times, people want to have things, not necessarily make them; it's the difference between being interested vs driven to do something. E.g. A person wanting and daydreaming about having a wooden scale model yacht may want to design it but not actually want go through the building process.

There is also the issue of discipline and temperament: A person driven by nautical design or related toys may not go far if they often lack the discipline to finish what they start and/or get bored easily.

Ultimately, successful side-projects require a combination of factors, not just desire.

People actually do what they really want to do. If that is different from what they say they want to do, then you have your answer.

But what people want to do can repeately make them miserable. "want" is not that simple of a word.

The problem is that if they don't do it, I can't say they really want it. I can see being obsessed with something like that, but that seems separate somehow.

Can you say that they "desire" it then? How about saying that they "believe it would make them happier"?

I think they're doing it wrong if that desire makes them miserable.

Many people live in ways that they find frustrating.

Because there's really two different "wants". We "want" to be productive but we "want" to screw around all day browsing the web/playing video games. The former requires focus, effort and discipline while the latter requires none. How rewarding they are is commensurate with the amount of effort.

I started volunteering. Most Saturdays I'm out early in the morning building a house with Habitat for Humanity. Then I go home and nap, feeling content that I did something worthwhile with my weekend.

After that, it's easier to actually work on computer-y things. Don't fool yourself into thinking that you can do thought-heavy things all the time. You need physical activity! Mind and body must both be healthy in order for either of them to work at the highest levels.

1. Set the daily goal

2. Identify steps required to reach it, write them down. It's better to do it with pen and paper, no to-do apps or anything like it.

3. Take the first step right away, do not postpone it.

4. Log your progress and time on each step. Archievements and failures too.

5. At the end of the day look through your log, asess your achievements on 10 grade scale, set goals for tomorrow.

This is what I have done : using password generator to have a password I cant remember + 2fa . Auto destruct cookies in browser . It actually prevents me from trying to login to fb , gmail etc as its too much work . After some time now I have a control over my urge to login . And start working friday night or early saturday morning .

This is great!

I usually block sites in my /etc/hosts file. It's not a ton of work to unblock them but it's enough that when I go to facebook and it doesn't load more often then not I will alt-tab back to my editor or something productive.

I use Leechblock, which lets you block sites at certain times of day, on certain days of the week, group sites to enable/disable them as a group, etc.

I ban the time sinks like Reddit and Facebook till after the work is done whenever that is. But it's unrealistic to keep working all day without browsing internet even for a little while if you're addicted to clicking links. To solve that I allow myself visits to a number of sites that are updated (with new links/stories) less often. Vice and Snapzu, for example. I let myself visit them as many times as I want for as long as I want during work. Since these are "slower" kind of sites, you'll start spending more and more time with your own work rather than chasing clicks. By the time work is done and Reddit is unlocked you'll be so exhausted you'll only spend a little time on it. After a while this breaks your addiction to Reddit. The best part is you don't have to time your work time vs leisure time.

I just finished 'Deep Work'. It's a book from Cal Newport that I think it might be helpful in your situation.

Here's the link: http://calnewport.com/books/deep-work/

I was doing OK until the election news started getting superheated. Weekends, evenings, weekdays, all chopped up now. Hoping I can get things back together after 8 Nov, but worry I'll be susceptible to the the next new major news story. Damn you Nate Silver!

https://freedom.to/ can block http://fivethirtyeight.com/ on both your phone and your laptop. Unlike /etc/hosts, your less diligent self can't unblock it until the timer is over.

I'm going to answer this two-fold and relate it to what I'm going through. Feel free to shoot me some advice as well.

On the surface, you clearly don't have passion driving what it is you want to do. I can relate to this because I'm learning to code. It was a struggle until I found Codewars, at which point I was able to easily turn on some music and sink hours at a time solving coding challenges. Turns out that the skill of solving these things doesn't transfer to.. anything. I struggle to sit still going through any tutorial and I still have no idea how to build things. So, on the surface, find something that motivates you.

Digging deeper, this inability to finish anything I start seems like a personal issue. I've worked a lot harder than this before. I think there are facets of my life, and probably yours, that need to be put into order first.

There's a satisfaction with life that I've had before and currently it's missing. I'm unable to stick with anything because I immediately seek cheaper forms of satisfaction. I think attaining a more genuine satisfaction with myself would eliminate this urge. Maybe you feel similar.

Also it obviously sucks to do things alone. Meetups, even when they lead to nothing, are still a big source of motivation. Personally I notice my productivity correlates with how often I'm going to meetups.

The benefit of any productivity hack / book / app is ephemeral before you are back to your "mindless" browsing (I wrote about it sometime back [1]). It's a great business isn't it? Write a book / app about procrastination — something that everyone is looking to "fix" and start raking money. You can write daily / weekly / monthly goals for all you want but a "guilt-creating" laundry list of tasks doesn't really help.

Although, I do have my share of procrastination but I have gotten a lot better than I was an year back when I used to spend all the free-time on movies. This weekend, I read lots of New Yorker articles, a small book, and finished writing an article. To an extent, I think I can do better by working on a small side-project but then again, there is always room to feel guilty.

You just have to hate wasting time and gradually, things will get better. There is no secret sauce towards working; if we had Facebook wouldn't be a multi-billion dollar company.

[1]: https://shubhamjain.co/2015/06/28/why-productivity-tricks-do...

What you need is basically to become more aware of the value of your time.

Every day you get 86400 minutes offered to you. You can either not do anything with it or use it to accomplish your goals.

Time is on of the only things you can't buy. Every one is equal on this level, this si the most precious and the most volatile ressource everyone has.

But first you must define your goals precisely.

So stop whatever you are doing, get a piece of paper and write what you want to accomplish within 1 week, 1 month, 1 year.

That done, try planning your week ends so that you get shit done and eventually your accomplish your 1 week, 1 month, 1 year goal.

Helpful to keep to you schedule : identify your "time stealer". All those things that wast your time like useless tv, uninterested facebook posts and so on. Realize that every minute you spend doing something you consider useless is wasted.

Then, most important, try getting some rest BEFORE being tired : that way you won't procrastinate in the "I might rest just a little while before i get to it" spirit.

I hope this can be helpful to you. I just spend the last year trying to get out of the loop you're talking about so I know exactly how you feel about it. I'm succeeding one little step after the other.

It's a lot of discipline, but I can tell you the trip is worth the effort.

One thing to avoid though is that when you become aware of how much time you have wasted and you feel yourself fill with regret. This can lead you to try to mentally escape and thus to treat youtube as a bottle of booze.

1440 minutes in a day :)

Indeed, my bad

My tools for combating this:

- https://freedom.to/

- Have a specific plan in mind, not a generalized "learn something new"

- On Tuesday, post on facebook asking a friend if they want to do a work-along day on any hobbies. Then hop on appear.in together or hang out in person.

- Keep yourself well-fed and well-rested.

The best thing I did was get a hobby that got me out of the house. For me it is drone racing, but it could be jogging, swimming, or even go fly a kite.

Once I get back into the house, I've burned off some energy and can focus on my side project. For whatever reason if I sit in front of the computer all weekend I have a hard time getting started.

We all require some sort of forced schedules. Don't beat yourself too much about this.

Next weekend try this:

For every 55 min of YouTube/Facebook etc, put in 5 min of serious work. Just 5. But be disciplined about this schedule. Time yourself so that you don't do a minute more of the work!

Learn the schedule habit first.

I would reverse the times... limit 5 mins of facebook/youtube for every 30 mins spent on side project.

That sounds like a good idea to start with..

Get kids! You'll never have a single moment to yourselves ever again. Problem solved :D

I become productive based on deciding I'm going to do something.

Pause on that word: decision. We all have impulses, wishes, desires, etc. But you're only ever going to progress when you stop, think about what you want, be realistic with if you can actually achieve that with everything else going in your life - then DECIDE that you are going to do it.

Once you've decided, that is when you follow through every time (if you've done the first steps correctly). Then it's basically autopilot and you don't ever feel like procrastinating. I dunno - works for me.

In the past, I have followed through with what seemed like good decisions at the time. As the years went on, I started to have doubts that they were not-so-great decisions, but I continued to follow through anyway, because of my awesome willpower. I definitely got some things 'done', but in some instances, they were at best a colossal waste of energy, and at worst, actually ran counter to my true goals.

Life is a process of self-discovery and adaptation. I actually agree with you, that simple 'decision' carries immense power. But if that power is wasted or ill spent, then future uses of that power carry a pall of distrust, which makes the power harder to use.

I cannot find the quote right now, but it is something like: "Some have inside themselves a volcano, and some have a glacier. Neither should take advice meant for the other."

I have a volcano in my heart, and I can spend many lifetimes spewing forth lava in all directions, for the ultimate good of no one. My lifelong struggle is to learn how best to focus that energy.

But be careful if you are a glacier, that you don't tell a younger version of myself to just start spewing in any direction. Likewise, I won't tell you to stop and make sure that you're moving in the right direction before you take any steps at all.

1)I get up early in the morning on weekends (relatively early like 7). I have sleep at a sane time on the night before to do this, instead of staying up and watching netflix till 3 in the morning on the night before.

Waking up at noon ruins the day for me. YMMV

2) Limiting the things you want to do. I had this nagging feeling that I should read all the interesting articles that come across in HN etc. I solved but installing a "save to wunderlist" chrome extension. I tell myself that I would read it later (which rarely happens).

> which rarely happens

If you genuinely feel like you want to keep up with news, switch to podcasts. Then, get your news while you tidy your flat, do laundry, or buy groceries.

Side projects are hard to get around to sometimes -- I don't try to force it, because it's much worse to waste your time and build bad habits than it is to just admit that it's not happening today and make the most of your time.

I try to get outside and move every day that I can. I surf on weekends and it makes my life a lot better. Then the day is already in the "win" category, so if I feel like working on something, there's less pressure.

I set a timer that just went off every hour.

And if i was doing something unproductove like youtube facebook etc I closed the tab.

Another thing was that instead of theorycrafting and worrying about O(n) for the smallest projects ever I just went ahead and got something running. Its pretty easy to be disappointed if you cant see your results.

For preparing for interviews you dont really need the internet. Just get a piece of paper and use the cracking the coding book.

Get up early, and try not to do anything before getting started on what you wanted to do. If you have a place you can go to that is not your home to go do it, go there and avoid staying home. If you are depressed like now, because Sunday is already gone, plan to get up at least a couple of hours earlier than you normally would tomorrow, and use those two hours to at least start doing some of what you wanted to do.

You said "prepare for interview". I was doing it a few months back and I didn't enjoy it. One reason was I was thinking in the back of my mind about all the interesting (for me) thing I could be learning instead of the interview prep. I used to devote sometime to study something that genuinely interested me, regardless of whether it was helpful for interview.

Again, this helped me a little bit, YMMV

I sometimes go to the library. I also quit facebook.

What worked for me is, this fall I canceled my smartphone service and bought a flip phone from Walmart. Saves a ton of money, but more importantly, I hardly even look at the Internet on weekends and evenings now.

Failing that, have you considered getting a cabin in the woods? Or maybe a boat? Get as far as you can from an internet connection, as often as you can.

Well this is the latest trick I'm pulling on myself, and I can say it does help, but due to its nature YMMW: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/go-fucking-work/hi...

I find https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/momentum/laookkfkn... and https://freedom.to/ to be better.

The red is harsh and makes you feel ashamed, which makes you want to escape into the world of reading about the Great Boston Molasses Flood.

GFW messages actually have a white background. The shame part is correct though, that's its purpose :).

Shame is one of the most powerful tools to get us to change behavior, which is why it's so naturally ingrained in our brains. But again some people find it too harsh to the point they work less and/or may even have so little self-discipline that they'd disable the add-on; so my "YMMV" message stands :).

Simple. I quit facebook and dont watch TV.

I haven't watched TV for a long time. That means nothing; implying otherwise is to suggest that people where somehow magically more productive without electronic media.

I've watched most Pando Monthly interviews, most Foundation interviews (Kevin Rose), much of Y Cominator's youtube account - after having missed Startup School '16 live I messaged them asking to upload. Not sure if that was why but shortly after they started releasing SS videos for the first time in 2 years (though they've only eeked out 3 videos so far). I actually fell asleep listening to the Startup Radio podcast last night - I'm listening to it currently - and I'm reading novel. And this is just the flavor of the week. None of this is changing the fact that my productivity is close to zero.

The elimination of perceived bad habits just creates a vacuum waiting to be filled by a different vice. It's a pretty common concept of replacing bad habits with good and I think it's smart to take a holistic approach; mixing career related goals with personal ones, and probably going a little heavier on the personal ones.

An alternative would be to go so hard on the career goals that they begin to give you personal fulfillment, but I don't think that's easily attained.

100% agreed on facebook.

TV is more complex, I can definitely waste lots of time trying to figure out what to watch, but, having a pre-made playlist of lots of fluffy TV (think 40+ seasons of law&order reruns all mixed up) provides a good background noise for me to work.

Start working on a project Friday afternoon and well through the night. It sets the tone for the weekend.

So I have found that I do best if I schedule time for slacking off. I generally will do 30 minutes of work followed by 15 minutes of downtime. This downtime can be anything from watching YouTube, browsing HN, or doing some household chores.

Ask a friend to be your 'boss' and make sure you get it done.

Catch yourself off guard and just do something.

Internalized guilt over not being "productive" isn't helpful.

Fix your home environment so that it doesn't encourage you to sloth.

I didn't do it for a year anymore.

But I used to plan such things like trips.

Met with a friend (or alone) and we coded the weekend (or week) away.

I go somewhere where others are working on their own projects. Hackerspaces and coding meetup groups are examples.

I use the wasteNoTime plugin to block websites on safari. Also, hide the plugin so it makes it even more difficult to unblock the website. http://www.bumblebeesystems.com/wastenotime/

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