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Ask HN: How do I switch from being a passive consumer to an active producer?
699 points by humaninstrument 152 days ago | hide | past | web | 270 comments | favorite
Lately I've realized that I consume way too much. Be it Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, HackerNews, Youtube, etc. Even though I have a job and I deliver value to society on a dialy basis, I feel like I could contribute more.

Another thing that is holding me back I think is the fear of commitement. I have a partially ready youtube channel, with two videos, not listed. I tell myself that I'll open the videos to the public and then start realising videos on a weekly schedule but the commitement seems like a such a burden on me that I don't think I'll be able to keep up.

I also would like to contribute to open source software projects, or write more for my blog, but I just can't force myself to do it. This is kinda a mix of fear (of what?!) and procrastination habits.

Am I pressuring myself too much to make the switch? How did you do it?

I'm going to say something that might be wildly unpopular among ambitious people: If you have a full-time job, you are by far not a passive consumer. You presumably contribute >40 hours every week of creatively demanding, high-quality labor to society.

For most people, the premise of this question is wrong. Procrastination, when you don't obviously have a lot of available time and effort, is a symptom that most of your creative energies are already spent elsewhere and are unavailable for other high-energy pursuits. I commend the effort to organizing your remaining free time to produce something of societal value, but for most people this is an exercise that will in the long run lead to burnout. Your mind is already subconsciously telling you this.

I know some people who have energy levels that allow them to sustainably burn the candle at both ends, but they are a small minority. I am quite envious of this group; they appear to have a big leg up in accomplishing great things, but there appears to be a component of either genetics or upbringing that leaves only a small portion of people with this capability.

If you are not in this minority and you strongly desire to produce more creative output outside of your full-time job, there are two options: You can set small goals, e.g. spending 3-5 hours a week of dedicated time towards your pursuit, or putting everything else in your life on pause for a year or two while you go at it with all your effort. The latter course of action will likely not be sustainable, and you have to listen to your mind and body when it's had enough of it.

My preferred choice would be to get a job that pays enough to sustain your lifestyle but has much smaller hours (e.g. 60% or 40% of a full-time position), if this is at all possible. Most places, sadly, it isn't an option. If you can organize this, you free up a significant portion of your creative energy, which can then be used for other ambitious goals.

The guy wants advice on "how", not some words to make him feel better about not doing stuff, so let's give him that.

> for most people this is an exercise that will in the long run lead to burnout. Your mind is already subconsciously telling you this.

I want to point out that this is one of the reasons why people never start things. Let me share my experience as someone who has started, AND burned out, multiple times. Hopefully this helps people change their beliefs.

1. Yes you are right that you will burn out if you push yourself too hard, but this only happens if the result is not satisfying enough compared to the effort you pour in. From my multiple experiences where some I succeeded and some failed, I only burned out enough to give up when things weren't going well despite the effort I put in. I guarantee you you WILL NOT burn out if your thing goes well.

2. Another mistake people make is thinking that burning out is like dying, and you can't recover. This is why people want to "save it for the best" and don't commit 100%, because they "want to be able to commit 100% only when they truly really come across the perfect opportunity". But the thing is, these people NEVER end up doing anything because of the law of inertia. "The perfect opportunity" is an elusive thing, and the more you wait, the higher the bar goes up, which means you will never meet that perfect moment.

3. Burning out is a phase, not the end. I've burned out multiple times, and stopped working for a couple of months to several months (and did nothing but entertain myself). But eventually you recover and can't wait to start a new thing. This never happens to people who wait for the perfect moment because they don't even know what it feels like. They think there's only one chance.

4. Don't try to bend the spoon. It's impossible. Instead, only realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you will see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is yourself.

> I guarantee you you WILL NOT burn out if your thing goes well.

I strongly disagree with this. I'm a compulsive person, I used to say yes to everything, I enjoy everything. I don't think I ever spent effort towards something that wasn't rewarding in some way or other.

However. Stress is stress and it can be negative or positive. Stress makes you perform better, adrenaline pumping, your senses sharpen. It can all be in a positive loop with great feedback, everyone loving what you do, amazing results, and still you end up burnt out.

My stress manifests physically, "skipped" heartbeats, adrenaline rushes when waking up in the night, I even got atricular fibrilation (AF) and was hospitalised to be "reset" through one of those heart machines you see in ER. I was convinced there was something very wrong with me. Heart problem? Doctors did test after test, and nothing.

I learnt my lesson, I know how to recognise the signs now. I can manage it by just taking care of myself.

But guess what, every single thing I do is fun, positive, great feedback.

I disagree as well. I actually gave a whole talk on the topic. Burnout has nothing to do with whether an undertaking is successful or not. If you look at Christina Maslach's work on the measurement and factors that lead to burnout you will see that the success/failure of the effort is not a significant antecedent to burnout.

For anyone interested in a (potentially) helpful framework for how to evaluate opportunities and avoid burnout, you can watch my talk here - https://vimeo.com/202061452

Are you 100% sure that it was positive stress that got you into the ER? I myself distinguish between stress (=anxiety of not meeting goals in time), and positive motivation (=joy, and not the caffeine one). Sadly, I haven't had much of the second type in recent years, but it's something I'm working on. It sounds as if your HPA axis gets super worked up and your body enters fight or flight mode, causing your heart to go crazy. That's what kept happening to me until I actively took care of the underlying stresses or beliefs I have while coding ("I'm not gonna make it" / "I won't have the time to finish it" / "I won't finish this task today but I desperately want to"...). I didn't get heart symptoms, but rather fatigue and anhedonia.

Just some thoughts on caffeine, since I think stress in programmers is often caused by it, or covered up: I only very rarely have caffeine, and rather do vitamins if I need to be more stress resistant (Vit C, D, K2, Pantethine and sometimes B vitamins). That way I'm not fooled by the motivation that comes with caffeine, which somehow covers up what I really want to do. If I have caffeine I get giddy about the thought of writing this and that tool, while I couldn't care less when off caffeine.

Quite certain it is positive stress.

It's hard to describe, but I can quite easily get "into the flow". This is where I focus on a single project, time cease to exist and I just become one with the code. I can focus on coding for hours and hours without break. In fact, lunch and toilet breaks are irritating distractions. I can go to sleep at night uneasy about something I'm not exactly sure about and suddenly the solution strikes me when I'm half awake in the shower next morning.

I don't use much caffeine, a bit of coffee in the morning, rarely in the afternoon – however I do know that coffee and alcohol makes my condition worse.

It's totally engulfing and extremely productive. This _is_ the mythical man month that people talk about. Only. For me it takes a toll. It's not about any underlying stress like "I won't make it in time". My work is luckily such that I don't have much pressure. It's being "in the zone" that is the problem.

The "flow state". I love it yet mustn't overdo it.

I'm no doctor, but your description plus your use of the word "condition" makes me wonder if what you experience is hypomania.


I don't think you need to label this as a condition. I can remember when I used to get into those states. Sadly, it was an artifact of my youth.

I probably would be able to get back into that state if I somehow managed to get all my responsibilities squared away for large periods of time-or alternately, convince myself thoroughly enough to ignore them.

Have you talked to a therapist? Experiencing everything as positive sounds like a possible form of alexithymia.

Well, it's great that you found out your boundaries! Most people never do things that push their comfort zone and never find that out, and live their lives wondering what it would have been like.

Sounds like you have a medical condition for dealing with stress, but most people don't have that kind of condition, so obviously if you have that kind of condition you should watch out for yourself, health is everything.

Cortisol levels can deplete for anyone, the rates and levels vary per person.

I've been in plenty medical investigation for this. I'm quite sure there isn't anything physically wrong with me.

Also. The fact that I can control it by observing the signs my body gives me...

> Another mistake people make is thinking that burning out is like dying, and you can't recover.

Speak for yourself, buddy. I'm still trying to overcome medical issues from my last bout with burnout, including sleep disturbances and stress-related gastritis, and so far the medical profession hasn't had much luck in dealing with any of them.

Burnout and the stress that goes along with it can absolutely do lasting damage to your body.

You just answered a question that has been on my mind. I did not even realize these were affects of stress.

I highly recommend "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living" by Dale Carnegie. It's helped me manage stress.

Oh now my recent state makes sense. I very recently had an endoscopy after vomiting blood, turned out my stomach lining that had become so inflamed it had slightly torn and had started to bleed. I couldn't really think what it could be, I don't really drink, my diet is good, I exercise daily and I don't get much in the way of negative stress. The only change recently in my life was taking up helping a friend code their app, again not exactly stressful but it did consume the rest of my free time I had outside of work, seems like even a slow burn out can cause health issues.

Have you checked for H.Pylori?

Yes, all clear, it wasn't an ulcer, just really bad gastritis which the doctor suggested was from stress.

Yeah sure, this can happen. But for most people that's not what burnout means. Mostly it's having a project you want to start but every time you think about it you think "I'll have more time tomorrow, I'll just watch TV now", or "Ugh I can't concentrate on this, I'll take a break". And before you know it 6 months have passed.

That is more common, and that you can recover from

Just curious. How long has it been?

> Just curious. How long has it been?

About four years now.

cocktailpeanuts, one question, how would you describe the feeling of burnout?

You can't. Because it's impossible to describe how hard it was for me in words, you would have to experience it yourself.

When I say "burnout", I don't just mean mental burnout. I've even been in situations where I went completely broke, lived homeless, and much more sensitive details I can't talk about on a public forum.

Of course it doesn't have to be all life threatening to qualify as a "burnout". I've been through more moderate burnouts where I just couldn't keep up mentally. I started doubting humanity (I still haven't fully recovered from this and don't think I ever will).

But overall, these are things you can't just describe. Even if I did, people who've never been through one will never understand.

Thank you for your reply.

I have been close to burnout before, so I have some idea what it's like, I was just curious what it was like for you.

I can't quite figure out something you said earlier...

"But eventually you recover and can't wait to start a new thing."

...when compared to...

"I still haven't fully recovered from this and don't think I ever will"

Do you find some value in lessons you've learned from burnout? That's the only way I can think of to understand both statements together.

I don't really want to recover actually.

What I meant was I got to know more about how the world works, and the world is a messy place the more you know about it. So basically what i meant was the world let me down a little. It is impossible to "unknow" what you already know, so that's what i meant when i can't recover, which is a good thing (although some people may decide to take it negatively)

So in my case there have been no downside and only upsides. I regret 0% of the decisions I made and the "burnouts" have been just part of the experience. Just like how when you date someone and you go through all the fights and perils, and it feels like hell when you're living it, but in a couple of years it's all good memory (not talking about weird cases like an abusive partner)

Have you ever had brake fade in a car? It's like that, but inside your mind. Everything starts feeling mushy and mental processes don't get the results they used to.

Very good. Added that you'd had to have that brake fade in your car while you really, really, wanted the car to stop.

I will counter with one (older person's, I guess) observation of a bunch of my friends who are now in their early to mid fourties and late thirties. The one's who focus on making a career and accomplishments, be they for social value or greater equality for all or the justice in society being more balanced, etc. etc...... anyway, they end up at my age, when naturally, the larger group starts to drift apart a bit, looking around alone with their accomplishments being their only companion. That's great if you are only driven by business success/societal accolades. Super awesome and congratulations. You've figured out what makes you happy and I commend you. That isn't most people. Take some of that spare time and energy and go out, meet some people and have some fun. Blow off some steam. Have some sex. Meet four or five significant others. Pair them down to the point where you're both (or whatever) are happy. Build a life together. And stop rushing around. I know a bunch (most) of friends who are on their third or fourth spouse because they were in such a hurry to get things done, they never took the time to figure out who their significant other was, who their friends were or why they liked them or who, in fact, they really were. Don't fill the hole inside of yourself with hollow accolades and useless trophies. Take some time to figure out who you are and what is really going to make you happy. Experiment with different things. Fail. Try something else... You know. Live your life. Have fun. Now. That being said. I doubt this will be an overly popular sentiment. But when their friends start dying, they'll see them all start saying the same sorts of things, and none of them are, "I wish I'd spent more time working." P.S. If you want to figure some stuff out and do some good, go volunteer at an eldercare facility. That can be you in 50 years (I'm guessing at ages here, forgive me). Sitting in a home, alone for the most part, wishing people would visit. Building a happy life with strong relationships is important to the society at large. Trust me. Society without happy people without friends is fucking terrifying.

> But when their friends start dying, they'll see them all start saying the same sorts of things, and none of them are, "I wish I'd spent more time working."

I hear this a lot. But I'm not sure if this is always true. I chose an education path that required a much greater amount of work than other paths I could have taken. I would spend weekends working on homework and projects when others were out having fun. But as I start my career, it seems to have paid off (so far). I have a better work/life balance than many of my friends due to sacrificing some free time earlier in life.

Now I wonder: if I work hard in my 20s, can I retire a decade earlier that I otherwise might have? Or (more likely) can I save up enough that I can start spending my time working on projects that are entirely self-driven? Saving and working hard early in life can also result in a lot more time to spend with family later on. In other words, there is a tradeoff between voluntarily working harder earlier in life and effectively being forced to work hard later in life. Sure, you could be struck by a meteorite today, and you would never reap the reward from all of the work that you put in, but the much more likely scenario is that if you don't put in enough work in the front end, you will end up working 9-5 at 70 years old. So I can see many possible situations arising later in life where I think "I wish I spent more time working".

You seem to have missed one very valid option, the middle road, you don't have to trade free time now for free time later, there is in my opinion a happy middle ground to be had (like most thing life, politics being the primary one).

Sure you could argue that you get more free time later if you give up free time now but then you enter into the difficulty of quantifying the quality of the free time. When you are young, active and healthy you might be able to enjoy your free time more or perhaps having more money later in life allows you to do things you enjoy more, either way I feel balance is the key.

If i can suggest a reframing:

Do you really want to spend your most productive, healthy and free/uncommitted years working too much just to have more time when your body is starting to weaken and many of your dreams start to become impossible?

Do you want to spend less time with your children for the chance to have more time for your grandchildren?

Just curious, what kind of a career do you have?

B.S. chemical engineer -> Ph.D. chemical engineer -> data scientist

The "working a lot" was mostly the last couple years of my Ph.D. where I would frequently pull all-nighters to finish everything I needed to, but I'm glad I did that now. It's not nearly the optimal path for rapid wealth accumulation, but it's a good balance between having work that I enjoy and having enough leftover time to work on startup projects and hang out with my family.

Anyone who builds accomplishments without building lasting and deep relationships with people around them has done something wrong in the process.

Early in life, I had a small amount of artistic success (music). Though I probably couldn't have gone big with it, I did enjoy some amount of regional fame. Hard work, definitely an accomplishment, and I built several friendships out of it that have lasted over two decades (as well as lots that did fade away in time).

Similar thing with a startup I cofounded several years ago--the problem we were solving had me out in the public eye for a while, and I ended up building friendships with lots more people...people I'm still friends with.

And you know, if not for the relationships I build, some of which turned into lasting friendships, I wouldn't have had the success in the first place.

Nothing goes anywhere in life without people around you, helping you out. If you don't treat those people as the most important part of whatever you're doing, you're doing it wrong.

>Anyone who builds accomplishments without building lasting and deep relationships with people around them has done something wrong in the process.

This is one of the fundamentals of leadership, and leadership starts with leading your own life. One of the other fundamentals is awareness -- self-awareness and awareness of others, which these comments seem to be touching on.

I, for one, wish I'd spent more time working, earlier in life, so I could've saved enough to make work optional now. Nothing like having a whole day free, to give you that "I wanna start a project" feeling.

>But when their friends start dying, they'll see them all start saying the same sorts of things, and none of them are, "I wish I'd spent more time working."

The issue here is we do not know the true spectrum of outcomes with and without working. I assume many people who say "I wish i worked less" on their deathbeds presume that all the trappings of their work would come with.

I would trust it more if people paired what they'd give up with what they want to gain. ie if they said "Putting my daughter through college wasnt worth it, I wish i worked less". Or (more realistically) "I wish I spent less money on luxury, so I would have had more time with people".

Also a note of caution, any time you're wasting time thats marginal time you will be begging for on your deathbed. "I wish I had one more day with my wife (or kids)" -- today could be that day, instead of wasting it, use it up fully.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree with a lot of what you say.

That said, OP is looking for advice on how to do things, not a pat on the back for living a stress-free life, which is why I provided one.

im not sure the drifter-bro-waster life of idle leisure is that satisfying. Your telling me people at the top of their careers, yan le cun (deep learning etc) are not having constructive, exiting, shared, social fun? you think hans zimmer has an isolated boring life? stress in any case has more to do with context and attitude than it has to do with the profession you practice.

James Joyce considered himself to be "a rather useless man with alcoholic tendencies". Being at the top of one's craft does not equal happiness.

Being at the bottom of one's craft doesn't equal happiness either. Accomplishments in a field are not a replacement for a healthy outlook, but they have their merits.

The crux of the problem is overlooking how work can be "positive" too. 9-5 can be pure drudgery that drains every ounce of your energy, but if you can find work that is fulfilling, putting additional hours won't exhaust you; in fact, I think it'll recompense your lost spirit at job. I would go far as to say that, expending your time in watching TV, video games, social media is more wearing than people realise. I have seen myself exhausted on days where I managed to do nothing at work; and highly motivated, when I achieved something significant.

> The guy wants advice on "how", not some words to make him feel better about not doing stuff, so let's give him that.

Why don't we just tell him what he wants to hear instead of actually giving him good advice? Give me a break.

I really appreciate this comment, mostly because I feel an immense amount of pressure to use my remaining time to do something "amazing" or keep up with the insane rate of frontend changes. I feel the core issue is that as developers/engineers, we spend a lot of time doing things that companies want, which can be at odds with skill growth, professional development or other things that are actually really important to making ourselves better. If I want to learn something new or improve myself, it's done on my time, not the company's. I guess this does make some sense, because they hired me to build things, not to study, although allowing me to spend some free time doing interesting things is known to provide large dividends.

I think the solution to this is the 20% time rule, but Google only really does this.

This is a great point. Something "amazing". That may not be possible to do on your own. But there are some tricks you can apply to achieve that anyway:

1) Do non-amazing things that can build up to amazing things. E.g. help other projects with simple maintenance jobs like triaging tickets, reviewing pull requests, writing docs for things you know, discussing with people in IRC and mailing lists. By this you will learn things automatically that make other tasks later on easier. Another way to build up is to learn simple tools like linux, vim, git, etc better and more indepth. That enables you to handle more complex tasks with less effort and produces value in itself when combined with teaching others. The last example I can think off immediately is pg's doing non-scaling tasks. Really work with people and treat them very individually. Thereby you don't just build a following that can give more impact to what you are doing, you also really learn what other people need.

2) Don't build alone. We programmers hate all these meetings, but truth is, that few people are that good that they can do "amazing" things alone. Usually this is achieved by having a group off slightly above average people, and letting them cooperate. Organize non-meeting things that brings people together, like a lunch with your local docker group. Then use these opportunities to make small progress in complex tasks. Send everybody home with a small thing they need to do that together will be a huge step, but trust everybody to figure out what that thing is by talking not by commanding. Doing that a few times will lead to amazing results automatically.

PS: AFAIK google also doesn't do the friday projects rule anymore.

> I think the solution to this is the 20% time rule, but Google only really does this.

Google doesn't really do this either anymore.

Why was it discontinued? Seems like a win-win to Google and Employees. I thought gmail came out of this 20% time...

Just judging from comments here, it sounds like officially it's still running but unofficially that 20% time had better not detract any actual work hours from any of your official work. So really it's "work 20% overtime on whatever you want, and the company will own it" which doesn't sound very motivating to me.

Some smaller companies and startup still do this. They need to in order to attract good talent. Toss that in with the fact that they sometimes pay better (for the same reason) and a fairly decent balance can be had.

For anyone interested, as someone that currently works 75%:

At my last career change, I applied for a full time position, but asked if the employer would consider hiring me at 75%, with a matching reduction in salary. I work full time days, but am not paid to work Fridays plus a full week each quarter.

Pros: the time off itself has been brilliant; I spend that extra time learning computer vision programming in Go, and took a part time class to become a certified master gardener (massively recommended, best $150 I ever spent(1)); it also leaves time for recreational fishing, hiking and hunting.

Cons: It's a strain on my career, it's not just that I work less, but the fact that I'm gone as much as I am has somewhat limited which tasks I'm able to take on properly; it's also, at least for myself, psychologically problematic since I lead a team and the rest of the team is full time.

All-in-all, I think the career drawback is by far outweighed by both the quality of life and skills I've gained; I'm not sure if it's sustainable as the company grows from a small startup to a more regular company. For now, I'm very much enjoying working part time.

(1) http://mg.missouri.edu/

I did this too for about 5 years, except I took 2 weeks off each quarter. I learned Scala, programming language theory, did papers on finance and logic, etc. The job I have now is based on some of the open source work I did during that period.

When I took time off to work on interesting stuff I found I was more practical and sensible in my main job. When I designed solutions I was very business focused. I didn't need to use the latest tech or do novel work, since I could do that in my own time. The day off each week kept me fresh and interested without needing to get that from my main job.

I did that as well for some time. Consider not taking a whole day off, but but taking off two hours here and two hours there. This way you seem much more available but may actually be even more flexible in how to spend your free time. Of course that requires a lot more flexibility on your part. But the payout in time and career success is worth it.

I wrote an released some open source software in my spare time. I just stopped watching 2 hours of TV a night and coded then. I would got to the pub 2 hours later than my mates, I would miss popular TV shows (X-factor or whatever) but it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it.

But I do think there are people who just feel the need to make things, they just get on and do it.

People who question how makers find the time.... hm, it's like I question how people have the time to watch endless Netflix shows. Where do you fit that time in? Oh, you aren't making a hydrofoil in your back room? OK, that's currently what's taking up a lot of my spare time.

I think humans were designed to enjoy making things. As soon as you start using your hands and brain and try to make something that no one else has -- enjoyment happens.

The other day I had the option of buying some rope on eBay and getting free splicing. Wow. Challenge accepted! I purchased the more expensive non-spliced rope and spent a week learning all about splicing. It's amazing how many new places around my house a bit of spliced rope came in handy.

Don't get me started on how many hours of YouTube videos I watched on rope making. I spent many a happy hour at a friends garden making string and rope out of nettles. He thought I was a bit nutty, but he used the string to tie up his beans. His kid used some of it to make a den.

I'm getting distracted. Everyone enjoys making (kids love lego) you just have to accept that you are re-inventing the wheel and not to worry about it. You won't get famous. You'll just enjoy life more.

There is definitely something here; some pursuits feel like they come naturally (i.e. feel like they replenish rather than cost energy) while others are more of a chore that require a deliberate application of energy to perform. Perhaps some creative people have certain interests that are just so engaging they could spend most of their waking hours doing them, but that these activities are very specific.

My feeling has always been that the time component isn't the deciding factor. Of course you spend a significant number of hours every week doing non-work-related activities, but although the number of hours spent is identical, watching an enjoyable Netflix show isn't nearly as demanding as building a hydrofoil in your garage. At least that's the case for most people; maybe you are one of the few for whom building boats is a great passion and naturally spend your effort doing that.

I've always found that there are only a few weeks a year that I'll naturally be able to spend doing demanding creative labor outside of work. And at those times it'll be pretty specific, e.g. some programming project that for some reason seems unusually interesting. Apart from that, I can certainly turn off my other natural energy-replenishing interests for a while (reading, computer games, movies, conversations with friends, biking/working out), but it is not sustainable and will lead to burnout and depression if I ignore my body's signals and don't stop in time.

Eventually I've found that it's healthier to just acknowledge and be proud of my significant contributions in my full time-job, and consider this a human limitation. I don't think it's healthy or constructive to feel guilty about not being as energetic and capable as (a small number of famous) other people.

My experience worth people who work a lot in their spare time is that their productivity at work drops. Basically, former in the pub socialization is replaced by in the office socialization. Their tv watching is replaced by more browsing at work. Effectively they do 60% position, but are able to switch to full time productivity when needed.

There are positions where it is ok (slow company) and there are situations where you have to do it (when you need to learn something new).

So basically, my advice would be to find company that is not much demanding and then produce whatever you envoy producing.

I've seen the very same thing. I wondered why one particular guy I know managed to be relatively productive at his leisure with personal projects when development was also his FT job. He let it slip, effectively, that he was not so productive at work and even neglected it in favor of personal projects. This must be common practice in creating that mythos of the tireless programmer with a strong involvement in open-source.

Indeed, although it takes two to tango. Impossible to know the relationship between said person and their management. I take my inklings to start new things while employed as an indicator that I need to talk to my manager. Help doing more work should be a good request, and 'in a month' or so is an acceptable answer. If they don't help me out I start feeling restless and perhaps start that project on the weekend. If they don't respond to my progress then I start feeling unappreciated/underutilized, and express this. If it still goes nowhere, time to move on. Not moving on at this point is where the problems start, as you go into a reactionary mode and "aren't yourself" anymore.

I also second the joys of a part-time job. One of the most productive periods in my working life was when I had a job that was 30 hours a week. I worked 6 hours a day -- so that forced me to get out of bed, shower, and become fully human -- and then in the evenings I had enough time and energy to make real progress on my artistic goals.

I even found that the pay cut wasn't a 25% pay cut, but more like a 10% pay cut, because with the extra time I had, I did more shopping and meal planning, and spent less money overall on conveniences. I could afford to do things the "inconvenient" way.

I wish more companies in tech considered offering part time jobs. I know there would be a lot of people interested in those jobs, and they would be super loyal employees because they would be psyched to have the chance to have a real life.

Yeah, I asked for a reduced position without luck. (a development/programming position)

> I know some people who have energy levels that allow them to sustainably burn the candle at both ends, but they are a small minority. I am quite envious of this group; they appear to have a big leg up in accomplishing great things, but there appears to be a component of either genetics or upbringing that leaves only a small portion of people with this capability.

Why isn't there more research on this? A huge number of people would like to be this way—consistently delivering Musk-ian type efforts week after week. But how do you do it? The "feel good" self-help articles about waking up early and other nonsense are clearly wrong, otherwise everyone would be super productive by now (I think these articles mistake correlation for causation). But I'm not convinced it is entirely genetic—I know people who have gone from extremely lazy to extremely hard working. What caused the change? Can it be replicated? I'd love to be able to push myself for 16 hours a day, every day, and while I keep finding little techniques that help me achieve more productivity over time, I wonder if there exists some technique that provides a huge boost in productivity. I just don't know what it is.

If I had to guess, I would think that increasing hours of productivity is a skill like any other, and it requires ramping up slowly over time. If you've never run before and go out and run 20 miles one day, you'll burn out and injury yourself. But if you add a few miles every week, eventually 100 mile weeks become normal and you don't really become tired from them (speaking as a former runner). I wouldn't be surprised if productivity works the same way.

> consistently delivering Musk-ian type efforts

I bet Elon Musk has a number of advantages, such as: not doing laundry, not preparing meals, not washing the dishes, not going to the grocery store, avoid driving to work (either have a chauffeur or a very short commute)… Basically, not doing any work but "work".

He's rich enough that he can pay somebody else to do everything he can't be bothered with. That frees him to take care of his companies and have other creative ideas.

On the other hand, think of the work of the average housewife. She would do most of the house chores and taking care of the children, and would plan all of it. All that on top of a 40 hour work week, plus commute. Let's see: 8 hours at work times 5 days, 2 hours of house work per work day, then 8 more during the week-end. Add, say, 30 minutes of driving to work (and 30 minutes back), and we get 63 hours of work per week. And that's a conservative estimate.

Just try asking her to do personal projects on top of that.

One quibble, by definition a housewife doesn't have a full time job (taking care of the household is a full time job). Otherwise good point about outsourcing everything that isn't work.

Some days I feel fucking great. Like I can take on the world. Do anything. I'm motivated, want to get things done, and feel like I can do it. There's not a hint of fog in my brain, not a bit of fatigue in my muscles. It's awesome. I leap out of bed, think "damn, I feel great!" and just go.

But... it's also only 5-10 days a year, and seems to hit more-or-less at random (though sunny, long, not-too-humid days seem to make it a lot more likely).

I imagine the people who seem to have an easy time doing lots and lots of productive stuff have a lot more days like this per year than I do. So figure out how to feel that way, say, 50-100 days a year and you're on the right track, I'd say (for a shortcut, see the other post about drugs). Unfortunately, I'd guess there's a strong genetic component to it.

What you described could be symptoms of undiagnosed ADHD. The brain fog, only 5-10 days of random great/motivated days.

Contrary to popular belief, people with ADHD can be very smart and successful without even realizing they have it. Check out the ADHD subreddit and TotallyADD.com.

My boss said once "you're like a rollercoaster. When you're at your best, you're on fire. When you're at your worst, I consider letting you go."

Thankfully my "best" has, I hope, outweighed my "worst".

This comment is exactly how I've described myself for the past two years (first two years of my career). I say it like a joke, but a part of me is worried that I won't be able to fix it.

So how did you 'fixed' it? I'm feeling the same.

"But how do you do it?" Drugs is a consistent method. I did it for years.

Aye - energy drinks were mine. I ended up almost ruining my body by the time I was 30, so that I could have the energy to pursue all of these side projects that I felt like I "had to" work on.

I think side projects are good, particularly if you're passionate about said project. But don't ruin yourself for the sake of them! You can't experience the benefits of your labor if you're dead.

I hope that younger people can learn from my example. When I was young, I felt invincible: I wasn't seeing how the things I was consuming to keep going were harming me in real, material, and permanent ways.

I'm not saying don't work on side projects, but if you have to abuse a substance (even legal ones) to burn that candle, please think about your future and give yourself a more sustainable timeline.

> I hope that younger people can learn from my example

Thanks for sharing. Would you mind going into a little more detail for the curious? For example, how many (and what type of) energy drinks would you typically drink per day, and what harmful effects did they cause?

Ah, just saw this, sorry for the delay!

I was a 2 cans of soda a day drinker, and any given day if I felt like I didn't have enough energy one or both of them would be replaced with an energy drink (usually red bull). There was also a ~6 month period in my life that really did a number on me, where I was working a day job and continuing that aforementioned standard, but then I went to work at night on a project a friend of mine was starting up. In that night shift, I'd drink probably 2-3 large cans of this terrible stuff called "Unbound" to keep me awake. I don't know if they even make it anymore. I'd sleep for about 3 hours a night, and get up and repeat it.

Just before I turned 30, I found that I couldn't keep my eyes open, I'd fall asleep sporadically. In retrospect, I believe it was some pretty intense adrenal/caffeine tolerance combined with other health issues that were starting to develop. One day shortly after I turned 30, I woke up and my vision was so blurry that I couldn't see street signs from across the street. I went to a doctor, and it turns out I had developed diabetes. I was 313 pounds by that point, inflated by my long nights spent focusing on work instead of my health and very poor eating/drinking habits. Before that sudden exhaustion just before I turned 30, I felt like I could go at that pace forever. But it was like my body pushed the brakes hard.

The slightly good news is that I've turned my life around a bit. I quit both soda and energy drinks, switched to black coffee, I'm down to about 225 pounds and my blood sugar levels are normal - but only because of quitting both energy drinks/soda and almost abstaining entirely from carbohydrates. It's something that I'll have to watch for the rest of my life now.

Anyways, yeah. Don't do what I did. You'll feel invincible until you suddenly wake up one day and don't feel invincible anymore.

Assoc: Paul Erdős a mathematician who used amphetamines most of his career.


I notice a hive-mind of looking-down on "ordinary work" even if it's not really challenging, and is actually isn't less purposeful than open source projects that get to the HN front-page.

'Coolness' is an unmeasured and a dangerous motivation.

It's not a hivemind, it's people expressing their frustrations. In this industry, it's easy to feel safe in terms of income, so naturally people seek fulfilling needs from higher up the Maslow's pyramid.

And a typical programming job is not really doing anything useful for the society except maybe extremely indirectly. At best, it's not actually harmful.

Personally, I've been through plenty of webdev jobs, and almost always, it was building a copy of something that already exists and is better, so that our company (or our customers) could compete in the same space. If I ever met a potential user of such service and my bosses weren't looking, I'd actually direct them to the original competitors. It would be dishonest to do otherwise. It's jobs like these that can make one feel they don't contribute anything useful to society (making your boss richer by building a copycat product in a global market is hardly useful for people other than your boss).

Essentially, companies/products like Google (AltaVista, Lycos, ect.), Facebook (Friendster, MySpace, etc) or Slack (IRC, Skype, etc)?

IMHO, it's very rare to be working on something truly unseen; and if you are, the chances are numerous people are working on the same thing at very this moment, just in a different flavor. Aren't these incremental improvements part of the natural selection?

IMHO, you should strive to find meaning not in the external, but internally; you should start somewhere, however basic it is (fixing your bed and cleaning your room, before trying to change and help the world). Jordan Peterson talks about that in great detail - highly recommend his lectures (they're available online).

Outside of tech, there are plenty of pretty mundane businesses that do lots of social good. In tech this is harder mostly because everything has almost global availability by default. But still, you don't neccesarily have to work at one of the big five to have social impact.

As for finding meaning within, I see this as a cop out. If you extend it to the limit, the most meaningful life is that of doing nothing and enjoying your inner self. It's not the kind of life I'd personally find meaningful.

Writing just another automation tool, application, website is hardly helping the planet. Making some billionaire company owner more wealthy even less.

Let's be honest: less than 10% of software jobs are producing something meaningful.

Meaningful | interesting | paid.

Pick one. Pick two if you are both very talented and lucky. Pick three if you are Torvalds.

the biggest problem with ordinary work is the rote schedules most such work entails. Just having to be in the same building for many years from X am to Y pm Monday through Friday, except for M weeks vacation, is itself pretty depressing to many people

> 'Coolness' is an unmeasured and a dangerous motivation.

As is curiosity, but we have little problems with people motivated by it in tech?

Oh no, we have big problems with coolness in tech.

He was comparing coolness, an "unmeasured and a dangerous motivation", to curiosity, which is similarly unmeasured and dangerous. ie, both are unreliable motivators and yet the industry idolizes both.

It's a form of virtue-signalling, much like making sure all of Hackernews knows you eat strictly paleo and only have as many possessions as can fit in a single rucksack.

Most weeks I expend about 40 hours (mostly remote) working as a software developer in order to pay the bills. At the same time I'm spending between 10 and 40 hours working on my own startup as I don't want to be an employee forever. I also have a young family and I really do my best to fulfil my obligations as a parent, as is fair and right.

A day for me does not stop from the moment I wake up (7am) to the moment I get into bed (11pm) and weekends are no different. Sometimes I feel like the entire world is crushing in around me, sometimes I wonder if it's all too much, but then I get back to it and I keep moving forward.

I've been doing this for about two years now. There are definite ups and downs, where my energy and ability to produce (code, or business related output) is greater, and lesser. Sometimes I feel really shitty for not doing more than a few hours side work in a week. Sometimes, when I have taken a weekend off, I have felt guilt.

It's tough. You find you are doing essentially 2 full time jobs, 7 days a week, almost 52 weeks a year, but I was raised to work and to work hard, while I am young, while I can.

I think if you want to do something like this, you have to have a solid reason. If you have a family, even more so, you have to make sure it's fair to them too.

I wish I knew why I feel the urge to work 24/7, why I feel guilt if I don't work, and whether this is actually a problem?

Alas, it's time for me to get back to it.

> I feel guilt if I don't work ... this is actually a problem

Yes it is. Volunteering out of enthusiasm != volunteering out of guilt/shame.

Whoa, I kinda feel the same way, always feeling I gotta be working something. Always balancing work and life. Lugging around my laptop everywhere in case I can do something productive on it. I quit my job recently, trying to focus on my side project, but also been busy getting engaged and married soon. Always feeling I don't have enough time or not focusing or getting enough done. GLHF!

So true.

I'm blogging one a week about dev stuff and it takes 2-4 hours depending on the topic.

I met a few devs with family and children, and they were blown away by my commitment.

> I'm blogging one a week about dev stuff and it takes 2-4 hours depending on the topic.

I'm so jealous! :)

I publish a new post once every couple of months. Some posts take really long to prepare, like 40 hours (and more) of work long. The biggest problem is that it doesn't really show - for that much time my posts should be each as long as "Steve Yegge's Best Of" anthology.

I'm not even sure it's worth it as a learning experience, but at least it's still fun. I'm being told that my writing quality improves, too, so it's not that bad overall. It's still irritating that every time I try to write a post in a short amount of time it somehow spirals out of control and becomes 3 full days of work...

> I try to write a post in a short amount of time it somehow spirals out of control and becomes 3 full days of work...

Writing, especially when you want it to be good writing backed by solid evidence (or a solid plot), is not an easy thing. I liken it to programming: the language is rather poorly specified in comparison, but the planning and researched required to do it properly is at least as arduous.

Oh! Please don't feel bad about that. Writing short is harder than writing long. But it's worth it because it respects the time of the reader.

As an analogy, think of those radio talk show personalities that can go on for hours every day just running their mouths. It's impressive, but what they're doing is glib entertainment, a way for people to fill the hours while driving.

These days the world is filled with quickly-made, quickly written stuff. Nothing wrong with that, really. But I love it when I come across people who are doing something different.

Steve Yegge gets away with it because he's Steve Yegge. There's definitely lots of people that write blog posts that are too long, and if you're just starting and don't have name recognition yet, I'd say it's better to aim for a reasonable length that most people will at least get through.

Well, sometimes I try to prepare stuff workdays. But I mostly write about stuff that comes to mind on the day of blogging.

If it's Sunday and you need to write your post, you aren't picky with topics, haha

Yeah, some weeks between work, family time, and other commitments I'd be lucky to get 2-4 hours of free time all to myself.

That sounds like hell, and I fear I'm heading there pretty quick myself...

I think this is important. Someone else mentioned that this isn't helpful for what he asked, but I think it is - I think it's important that we understand that working is not passive. If you're working 40 (or in some of our cases, 50, 60, 70) hours a week, you are devoting a significant portion of your life to creation.

I agree with the points others made about how to avoid burnout, find things you're passionate about etc... but I hope the question asker understands that what they're doing does have value. The value may be labor - which, indeed, is undervalued in society compared to actually being the controller/owner of the product on which work is being performed - but it is creating value just the same.

Now, if you reach a point where you want all of that value to be creating to be yours and not mostly someone else's, or if you find you have energy to spare to start working on side projects, then you may be ready to move from putting labor into other people's products to putting labor into your own. But there's no shame in working hard and earning a paycheck, and devoting the other time in your life to doing whatever it is that makes you happy. (and if what makes you happy ends up being creating a side project that turns into something where you control your own product, that's great!)

It's interesting -- I have sort of been coming to the same conclusion myself. I work full-time and have a family. I have ideas for side projects and learning new stuff but on any given day, after work and activities with kids I usually don't feel like spending the hour or two of spare time I might have on something that takes a lot of mental engagement. Sometimes on weekends, if there isn't a lot else going on, I'll spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon on that sort of thing, but beyond that it generally doesn't happen.

Of course I then feel bad that I'm not getting things done that I want to do, but have lately been more inclined to think that I'm already at capacity and it just isn't going to happen unless I trade off something else. So now I'm evaluating whether I would really get more reward out of pursuing these extra activities at the expense of something else, or if I should stop even thinking about it and just enjoy what is already happening in my life.

Job is rarely utilizing all your capabilities, in fact rather forces you to spend too much time on things you hate and would do differently or even not do if you weren't forced by your employers. Your advice is for people that are happy to be defined by their job, not by their accomplishments and potential fulfillment. The rest of us with some ambitions and drive have to do/study things on our own with the hope we can go ballistic on those ideas and make some part of our world better.

On what basis can we make the assumption that full-time jobs do in fact contribute to society? In this current world it's not an easy question to answer.

My approach is: many, but not all do; use your own judgement. If you can land a job that you believe is doing a service for the society, all the better for you. If you can't, it's fair to seek alternatives.

If nothing else, they contribute to your paying for your own life, rather than the rest of society having to support you.

No to mention the increased input into the local economy.

That allows others who may be doing something more directly for society to continue doing so.

I think there's something of a catch-22 here where it's much easier to get a low-hours job when you've already put yourself out there and have something like a blog that you can point to.

One thing I'd suggest is speaking to your employer and saying you'd like to take some time off to travel (preferably if you can spin this as needing to see family or something that would make them look like a dick for saying no to) but that you'd like to continue working while you're doing so and can commit to keeping all your current tasks going and bill say 40 hours per month.

I think many employers are paying full time salaries but only really need like 40-80 hours of work per month but they can't just pay for those hours so they pay a full time salary and the remaining time gets filled. Suggesting they can get 40 good, accountable hours per month can be a win win.

Worked for me at least.

I agree. That's why at the start of the year my side project was learning advanced Haskell topics. And now I've said f'it I'm not enjoying that and I'm setting up a Shopify store instead. Polar opposite side project!

No coding aka brain burning required and I get to create something super quick with minimal brain power and potentially profit which if I do could buy me more time to spend in it.

I would add that if you can find some overlap between your daily job and any personal goals you've set, you could potentially be using your good creative energy for two things rather than one.

Uggh, no. What's that saying about how eloquent one can be about a thing if one's salary depends on it?

Wow this is really good advice thanks :)

Can you cite any credible source other than subjective reasoning for creativity being a limited resource that we spend during a dayjob and have almost none left to build something at home?

Because the fact that daily work exhausts people and drains their energy is some kind of complex nuanced issue that requires dedicated research to verify?

Obviously it depends on how demanding/time consuming the daily job is, but that's a standard observation with millennia of empirical evidence.

I swear, it's like people can't even tie their shoes anymore unless there's a long-term study (and preferably, meta studies) to prove them that tying one's shoelaces is good.

It isn't a "complex nuanced issue", talking about the depletion of some non-existent entity (creative energies? srsly?) is at best a failure of self-expression and at worst spiritual nonsense.

I guess people get defensive because of this very frustration of being wrong and unable to correct themselves at the same time.

It's not creativity, it's mental energy. Most people don't have the capacity to even work 40 mentally demanding hours per week, let alone double that. Just look around at your colleagues and ask how many are really working hard eight hours every day for five days straight. I know I'm not. My best output comes in shorter stretches of flow a maximum of a few hours long, and often not even every day.

My biggest tip: minimize what you do.

Since you want to do more, I know this sounds crazy. But when I set up a personal kanban system, it really changed my life. You establish a backlog of what you want to do. Then you limit the amount of work in process (WIP). That gives you a very small number of open tasks to switch between, which means you end up increasing your focus and being forced to finish things. (Or at least clearly admit that you're quitting a thing.)

This process is, honestly, pretty unpleasant at first. Being a passive consumer pays off right now. There's always a new article, a new tweet. When you're bored, you just skip ahead. Real work is frustrating and pays off very slowly. So you're going to spend months just breaking yourself of your quick-entertainment habits and learning to put up with the frustration of longer scale.

If you really struggle, consider trying out the pomodoro system, which involves fixed periods of focus with breaks. E.g., 25 minutes of work with 5 minutes of break. When I'm feeling really resistant to production and just want to fuck around on the Internet, I'll tell myself, "Ok, one pomodoro of work on the project." I'll set my countdown timer and just fucking do the work for 25 minutes, no matter how much I don't want to. Often after that, I get into it and it's fine. But that first wall of resistance can be brutal.

The other thing that really helped me is taking up running. Pick a race, like a 5K. Train for it and do it. Then pick another race. The main trick to running successfully is not giving up. You learn to put one goddamn foot in front of another. Some days it's a joy and some days you hate it, but that ends up not mattering so much. You slowly learn that your feelings are just these things your brain does. You can notice them without having to obey them.

+1 my wife and I set up a kanban board in our house for tasks we needed to accomplish so we could easily see each others priorities and current efforts. It was game-changing. We are able to get more done with much lower stress.

++, I'm in the middle of a project that was supposed to be a quick 2-3 weekend deal. It's now taken much longer than I originally hoped, and I'm constantly tempted to give up/set it down for another few months but I know I just need to reformulate a plan and finish it instead of starting other things and having 2-3 half assed projects.

Would you mind explaining his you do this?

Any software you use? Modus operandi?

I personally recommend physical boards when possible, especially for people just getting started. E.g., my startup-sized kanban board is here:


You can happily use, e.g., sticky notes on a wall by your desk or inside a cabinet door. If you really can't do that, software can be ok, but it's easier to develop bad habits with software. With a physical system, certain things are usefully hard.

When I'm starting someone out, my standard columns and WIP limits are:

  * to do
  * soon - max 5
  * on hold - max 3
  * working - max 3
  * done
The "to do" column is the backlog. "Soon" is the things that I'm doing next. When I start on something, it goes in "working". If I'm blocked on an external dependency, it goes to "on hold". Items never go back to "to do".

When I've finished an item and want to know what do to next, I'll first look in "working", then "on hold", then "soon". If all of those are empty, it's time to think about strategy for a few minutes; I'll look at everything in "to do" and promote a few to "soon".

Hopefully that's enough to get you started. The important to remember is that the board is supposed to mirror (and shape) how you think about the work. If somebody happened to randomly ask you "Hey, what are you working on now?" it should generally be what's in "working". If somebody asks what you're doing today, it should be the stuff that's in "working" and "soon".

If you have different categories or WIP limits in your head, that's fine, go ahead and represent that accurately on your board. But every month or so look at the board, think about how you work, and tinker. E.g., I might say something like, "Things felt really chaotic this month, so I'm going to try dropping the WIP limit on "working" next month.

Does that help?

Thanks. That helps.

Is there any place or book where I can read more about the "personal kanban" principles.

Basically, I don't want to overdo it either. Want to understand the principles before jumping in.

As cotsog says, there's a whole personal kanban literature. I personally haven't read any of it, but I hear good things.

One tip, though: Be careful of focusing too much on the theory.

In my experience, a lot of task management methods fail to take root because the person is supposed to follow the system. However, the system doesn't really fit the person, so what is begun in hope ends up gradually falling apart. Doing a kanban approach right is about paying close attention to what's actually going on and then tuning the system.

As an example, take WIP limits. When I start teams with kanban approaches in work settings, they often want to pick high WIP limits, because a) they currently are doing a bunch of things, b) it seems macho and achievement-oriented to have many balls in the air. But they also want to follow the system, which says "minimum WIP". So they will either pick a high limit, and so get no benefit, or pick a very low limit and get frustrated with all the chaos that a big process change causes.

The approach I instead suggest is to just lay out the board to match what's really going on. Inevitably, they have a lot of WIP, so that's what the kanban board should show. If that's 10 things, it's 10 things. They agree that's a lot, so we might set a WIP limit of 8. If that works, we'll drop it a little more. And then again. At some point, it will get uncomfortable, and that's when things get really interesting, because it's exposing a problem in the workflow. Do you change the WIP limit back? Or do you say, "Hmmm, how can we remove the blockage?"

There's no right answer, really. It's about paying attention to the details of the work and your experience. Kanban boards aren't really a solution. They mainly make your workflow visible so you can notice problems and fix them. The magic isn't in the board. It's in your willingness to iterate.

WeKan is a free software KanBan program like Trello, and is what powers https://todo.cyphar.com (I even have some boards public so I can show people my priority list in projects I maintain)

Thanks. If you have some information on my question above on the books on "personal kanban", can you help please?

How much spare time do you have, what are your living conditions like, your energy levels, hours of sleep, computer speed, monitor size, task management approach?

I ask because you need to:

A. build an environment conducive to producing.

B. practice discipline.

Like you, I had some half-baked blogs and projects that were doomed for failure. After way too much wasted time it was obvious that I wasn't living a lifestyle congruent with my goals. No successful person ever prioritized Facebook over their project. I was lying to myself and had to snap out of it.

So I began applying a version of the Broken windows theory* - which argues that if you prevent small crimes it discourages large crimes - to my life. (In this case the smaller crimes were procrastination and the larger crime was not getting my shit together like I know I ought to).

The rules were simple:

1. Everything I did had to align with my goal to produce. I got a faster laptop, dual screens (this makes a difference, trust me), began sleeping well and eating well, rationed consuming to 2 hours a day, stopped drinking (hangovers are dumb...for now at least).

2. Apply discipline everywhere. I made my bed first thing each morning, the apartment was always spotless, I worked out every day. Even began doing stuff like not using auto-correct on Chrome - fight your lazy brain and spell the word correctly dammit. The idea was to practice discipline as much as possible so as to train it like a muscle.

End result: I learned how to code, built a product, quit my job and am now at 500 customers.

So you can do it. It's just going to cost you - dates, meetups with friends, a slight drop in Facebook-notification-induced-dopamine. But, I assure you, the joy from creating something that people enjoy eclipses all of that.

This approach is geared more for an all in lifestyle change. If you just want to be a better blogger, even a fraction of the above will do.

Worse than the fear of commitment is the tinge of regret. Took almost a decade to figure that one out.


This resonates well with my experience. In sports training, many top athletes will use 2-3 month cycles broken in 3-4 sections that focus on specific adaptations. Endurance, strength, power, etc.

For long-term goals, the most important section -- base conditioning -- aims at slowly building up your body's training capacity. If your body can withstand one more hour of workout without injury or sickness, then over time these gains will accumulate. As opposed to strength training though, it can take many months before there is a tangible difference.

I feel as though for the brain, and creative work in general, the situation is very similar. With months and years of "training", it too can withstand to work for longer hours. The parent's comment on creating the proper environment is certainly key.

The larger idea behind very focused practice of specific skills is called "deliberate practice". Professor/MacArthur Fellow Angela Duckworth has done great work behind this (see her book, "Grit").

> End result: I learned how to code, built a product, quit my job and am now at 500 customers.

Fantastic! Congratulations :)

What can you share about the product?

Thanks! It's a calendar and planner that found a niche. I'll post to 'Show HN' soon.

Thank you very much for the well written post and sharing your results and thoughts.

please also share your "learned to code" story when you show HN (or separately, whatever). would help me a lot. You are where I want to be.

Will do!

I would ask if you think uploading videos to youtube that you feel obliged to produce for the sake of being 'productive', is really contributing to society.

We have a glut of online content. For every tweet that illuminates, there are 9 that constitute meaningless chatter, background noise that serves only to obfuscate the good stuff.

The freedom that the internet has given people to communicate is a wonderful and empowering thing, but the idea that we must 'produce' something to be contributing to our world is just wrong, in my opinion.

If you have free time, why not do some volunteer work in your community? Most countries have, for example, charities that help connect lonely elderly people with others to meet, say, for coffee once a week. I would say that represents a contribution of significant value.

This. Can you learn something so intensely that there's a purpose for you to produce, other than 'I don't feel like just enjoying and celebrating the creative works of others'?

Anyone who's really locked into the nasty treadmill of staying creatively relevant, truly loves a good fan or good consumer. Somebody's gotta do the experiencing, sift through the chaff, find the gold. If you're working in the creative sphere, odds are you can't even do that because keeping up a genuine creative output is too heavy of a commitment.

I think this is the future knocking at our doors. One day energy and goods will be all produced by robots and machines, and we will all be consumers by vocation, whose job it is to sift through the noise and find the signal. As we can see in this post, as soon as we're comfortable with that we're already unsatisfied, and want the celebrity of being informationally significant.

And that becomes the equivalent of a struggle for survival. Once survival is taken care of, it's beneath notice, and importance becomes everything. (or if you like, expressing informational generosity)

>Somebody's gotta do the experiencing, sift through the chaff, find the gold.

And if you're good at that, you can put the gold you found together, and become a content producer too...

The freedom that the internet has given people to communicate is a wonderful and empowering thing, but the idea that we must 'produce' something to be contributing to our world is just wrong, in my opinion.

Isn't that the definition of contributing?

Not at all. Contributing is giving. Producing is making.

I disagree on the basis that you (currently) can't live life without also having a job or being rich. Just because you give your time to your job doesn't mean you're contributing, and having a job doesn't inherently make someone a contributor.

It's only true in the very narrow sense -- you're contributing to the economy by producing taxes and buying things. But the entire point of the question was that they wanted to avoid being just that.

I get that it probably makes people uncomfortable to be classified this way, but it's better to just embrace it. I haven't produced or contributed much myself. I'd like to, but I haven't, and I'm fine with that. But it'd be mistaken to pretend I have.

While I agree that most info out there is spam, I disagree with the conclusion that we should minimize the output.

Reason being that I think we are already far far beyond a point where decreasing output would do any meaningful impact. Therefore I think we need more, better filtering, to get rid of all the spam. The same way as with email.

So true.

And even if he wants to contribute in a field he's good at, like programming - creating your own project is often just an exercise in vanity, when you could do a lot more good, behind the scenes, as part of a larger group working on something more of value.

Here's some shared experiences that may be applicable to your case. I am a 43 year old that struggled with procrastination all my life. Even then, I did achieve some impressive things, in various ways, over the years. Wrote a book to learn x86 assembly and got it published quite successfully when I was 21. Led the technical team of a AAA team. Built and sold a software product online for 11 years, 6 figures sales. But then I failed many times in achieved my creative goals. I think I just wasn't looking at things from the right angle.

With creative stuff: writing, music, etc... I had to find another way. Technical projects tend to be big. Don't be wrong, something like "publishing a youtube video every week" is a huge amount of work and very scary, involving time, energy, creativity, and the very logical fear of nobody giving a shoot about it.

What worked for me creatively was to bring projects down to the smallest expression. I wanted to write short fiction stories, I decided to write "tweetstories" in 140 characters. I wanted to do storytelling, did a lot of stand-up comedy, 5min sets. For music, short piano pieces. Make it such that the amount of work is not the problem. And then you will find what the real issue is.

For me, I had to accept producing bad stuff. We sometimes don't produce stuff because we're scared to produce bad stuff. And there's no way around it. You can't choose to be a good artist, but you can choose to be a bad artist. And that's the only way. Watch Ira Glass's video on creativity, he describes it perfectly.

Good luck. This is very reasonable stuff to struggle with.

No one else can answer these questions for you. If your rationalizations don't make sense, they're covering up for deeper fears you may be reluctant to face.

Imagine starting work on these things right now and notice how you feel. Investigate from there.

Or, ignore the feeling, and go work on your dreams anyway :)

Best wishes

Also, an important thing to realize is that everyone is bad at stuff in the beginning. In the words of Jake the Dog, "Suckin at something is the first step towards being sorta good at something!"

Or (can't remember where i got this) "Every artist has 10,000 shitty drawings in them, it's best to get them out as quickly as possible."

Deliberately making something bad (because it will probably end up sorta bad at first, whether you want it or not) can help you overcome the delusion of "it has to be perfect or people will judge me!"

Aim to fail because failure is an essential part to success. You keep sucking until one day you wake up and realize things are going really well. You have to make it to that day though. The only real failure is giving up.

Another useful perspective to have is to start thinking in terms of other people's needs.

Eg. instead of "how can I make a million dollars" ask "how can I provide a million dollars in value?"

Thinking in terms of people's needs is also beneficial to relationships and mental health, ie. noticing the needs of those around you, how you are / aren't meeting those needs, as well as your own.

This way of thinking helps me make decisions in my life.

This reminds me of a quote attributed to Van Gogh. No idea how accurate it is, but the sentiment is great.

> "If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced."

(ofc: Replace PAINT with anything you like!)

From one of Vincent's letters to Theo:

“Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring at you like some imbecile. The canvas has an idiotic stare and mesmerises some painters so much that they turn into idiots themselves. […] Life itself, too, is forever turning an infinitely vacant, disheartening, dispiriting blank side towards man on which nothing appears, any more than it does on a blank canvas. But no matter how vacant and vain, how dead life may appear to be, the man of faith, of energy, of warmth, who knows something, will not be put off so easily.”

Having been a similar situation myself my advice for you would be to first of all stop blaming yourself for being lazy, or not doing enough. I don't know if you are but it's easy to fall into that trap.

My most unproductive period was when I was trying to do too much, all sorts of things, with insane deadlines. It really had an opposite effect on me wherein I started procrastinating a lot and then felt guilty for wasting another day. Weird part was that I wasn't even having fun with my time. It was just a weird state where I was working without actually accomplishing anything.

Anyway, I got my mojo back when I just said fuck it and said goodbye to those imaginary deadlines and started doing the so called time wasters like watching Netflix, reddit, hn, etc 100% guilt free. Instantly without the pressure and guilt, the quality of work and more importantly stuff started getting done again. It may be a unique case but try it for a few days. Maybe it'll work for you too!

Curiosity, and fun -- selfish fun.

You're giving yourself not just too much, but the wrong kind of pressure.

Find something that's more fun and interesting to you than browsing Facebook, something you'd rather be doing, and something that scratches an itch or helps you learn something you want to know.

Don't do it for social value, don't expect to give more than you take, and don't commit to it. Do something for yourself, and those things will happen naturally as a byproduct when you find the right thing that you care about so much more than Instagram that you can't bring yourself to browse Instgram.

Finding the thing is your job at this point, so don't stick to one of the things you listed until you try them all and try many other things too. Try boating, or woodworking, or exercise, or eating, or volunteering at the homeless shelter. (If you want a blog or vlog, you need stories to write/video about, after all.) Find something you enjoy before you even think about commitment.

There's almost nobody writing blogs or open source software or posting videos to YouTube that are worrying about their contribution to society -- they are doing it because they love it, they like participating in the activity for reasons that primarily benefit them -- and only occasionally and secondarily do they benefit others -- and that's okay!

This should be #1 comment. Nailed it. If "commitment" is holding you back, simply don't commit, but create something without external validation.

I think it also helps to think less in a constant stream of content, but more how TV shows are organized: Seasons and episodes. So you basically start this "show" of 10 videos about X and then you're done with it. No eternal commitment necessary.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

~~Marianne Williamson, A Return To Love

Do it :)

>Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

Is this actually true? I am fairly certain I fear inadequacy more than power. I've talked to and read people, including artists, writers, and programmers, who expressed fear of not measuring up to standards -- others' or their own. It seems very common. I have rarely heard someone express fear of becoming too powerful, too influential, etc. Moreover, when I did, it was by people who were already successful and, crucially, their primary worry was that they wouldn't be able to use the power or influence well (i.e., inadequacy again).

You are correct. That quote is complete feel-good mumbo jumbo.

If want to deliver value to society, just stop. It's a bloated overweight out of control monster. It's already way too much, don't feed it. Don't contribute to it, it's not the sort of thing we want to encourage. We don't live in times of scarcity anymore, we live in times of too much of everything. If you feel otherwise, it's because you're a dumb ape who only understands not enough, because that's all your evolutionary history has taught you.

I have to admit that I'm leaning more and more towards a similar view.

There's a (rapidly growing) Ocean of content out there and any one's contribution looks more and more like an insignificant drop in that Ocean.

Consumers care less and less about what the content is, as long as it excites their input sensors in satisfactory ways.

Content is functionally "attention grabbing" and there are many industries involved and competing in this space, so when you say "I want to produce content", you're actually saying, "I want people to pay attention to me, so that what I say becomes a canvas on which others place an ad and pay me for this" (that's if you want to make money, otherwise it's just 'pay attention to me'.

Because of technology, content does not die by being forgotten, but is stored in this ocean and continues grabbing attention long after it has been produced, so the ocean of content grows, while while human's capacity to consume it is constant.

This is a big realization I had recently. A lof of influences led up to it but the basic thought went like this: Why am I trying to make something if I don't have anything to say?

When I asked myself, "What is my message?" I came up empty, or with parroted nonsense that I don't actually believe in. So now, my mission is to just live and enjoy the things I truly enjoy and maybe eventually I'll have something interesting to say. It is no longer my goal to create media. I don't want to say "I want to make a y or write an x." Instead the goal is to say, "People need to know about x."

There's an ocean of content nowadays, but masterpieces are still scarce.

Having been there myself after becoming a single parenting dad, I can recommend a few things:

- instead of consuming, try producing small things. Personally I started out writing a daily diary. First thing in the morning next to coffee is writing. That gives a good impression of what you actually did. - figure out what you actually like, what picks your interest in an amount that it can pull you off of procrastinating. I would recommend learning something completely new. I went off learning a new language, looked into two new programming languages, and started doing something that is the opposite of my day job.

If you want to try out Open Source:

- find projects you actively use. Improve them. Even making a README nicer is a start. - find something that you can Open Source. Personally I went with pushing out a new OS project every week and do that for two months now.

In the end it is very simple: you have to reach the point where you are fed up with just sitting in front of social media, etc. That mostly means realizing that doing has more value for improving ones self.

Stick with it. And that is the hard part.

Parting words: if you lack discipline and fall back to procrastinating, reserve fixed times in your calendar for activities.

Best advice for the end: enjoy yourself. Be you. Do what fulfills your inner self.

The people I know that are most good at self-motivating production have two traits that seem almost opposing:

1) They are unsatisfied with what already exists

2) They aren't afraid to fail

#1 gives them a reason to get started and #2 makes sure that they finish.

People without #1 lack direction (If there isn't an open-source project that is both the best in the field, but missing something you deem important, how the heck do you pick what to write?)

People without #2 either spend so much time trying to make their creation the best that they never publish it, or end up giving up once they realize that they aren't going to write the "perfect" book/blog/code.

I will suggest that you are not able to do more because you just don't have it to give. Your job and other responsibilities are taking all you've got already.

That said, it isn't hopeless. You can do some of the following things to squeeze more out of life:

1. Improve your diet and overall fitness level so you have more energy.

2. Improve your sleep habits so you have more energy.

3. Streamline your life (such as reducing how much material stuff you own) so that you can free up time and energy that is currently accounted for.

Additionally, you can do creative/productive stuff in your free time if you will stop applying job-like metrics to it. If you want to blog more, start some ridiculous blog that is easy to post to and then just post crap. Keep it short and don't give yourself a schedule. This idea that you need to updated a youtube channel weekly is crazy talk. You can update it once in a blue moon and if people like what you do, it will get some traffic (maybe not tons) and it will add value to the world.

I am medically handicapped. I have multiple blogs. NONE of them has a schedule.

My most successful one gets a few hundred page views a day and is sometimes updated as little as once a month. In fact, it was officially abandoned at one time for about six months with a "BYE!" post informing visitors it was abandoned and I resumed it when I realized it was getting traffic via organic search because people had need of the info. It is a niche thing and will never be big, but I do it whenever the fuck I do it and people benefit from it and say nice things about it and it even occasionally makes a smidgeon of money.

We are always looking for answers in some 'advanced' system. Forcing ourselves to do something 'hard', to prove to ourselves that we are doing something. May be a simpler system is good enough.

1. You can better focus on producing, when your needs to consume gets satisfied. Techs such as Facebook, Instagram are designed to keep you hooked, give a hit on every use, but never lead to satisfaction. Trick is to go back to basics. Spend more quality time with people around you. The human bonding fulfils the needs that these tech claim to replace. With this alternative, your passive consumptions will automatically decrease.

2. Contribution to the society does not have to be via creating content on web platforms. Technology is an enabler, it should not be confused as something to do with the goal. One does not contribute to 'open source', one simply contributes to a 'mission'. May be, you are afraid of commitment because you do not have a goal, something that you would personally want to achieve for yourself in your contribution. But your focus is on the means to achieve it. Eg. Writing blog post, creating videos. Simplify it down. Write down your short term goal. Focus on working towards achieving it. You may realise that you do not need these platforms.

Don't contribute out of guilt. You'll never make anything good that way.

At certain points in your life, you'll be inspired to build something for its own sake. THAT will be something worthwhile to contribute. Until then, chill out.

Want to increase your odds of that happening? Train your creativity. How do you do that? Play!

Play with things. Fuck around. Use it in ways it's not meant to be used. Break it! Have you ever seen kids keep themselves occupied by using things in weird, wrong, and probably useless ways? Do that!

Do things that nobody else is doing, not for what riches it might hold (because it probably won't), but for the pure joy of play and exploration, not caring about the judgments of everyone who will inevitably shake their head.

Randomness breeds novelty.

For your Youtube channel, I'll advise you to prepare a few more before launch: this way you'll be able to skip a week or two easily... which should lessen the fear of not being able to keep the pace. Also you can choose a two weeks release schedule which is easier to keep (video is a lot of work).

Having deadline helps a lot to start and finish projects. Procrastination can also be change in productive procrastination: instead of making you video you can write a blog post. For example, I'm right know programming a game I wanted to start for a long time instead of writing a research paper (and oh, commenting on HN).

Finally I use visualisation before starting something. Instead of just thinking or writing down "write the blog post about XXX" I envision the final product for some time and how it will affect positively my life. Then I have more motivation to actually start it!

It's a combination of several things like 'fear of failure', 'fear of success' and procrastination.

1. Just build something very very tiny thing and sell it for less than 5 quid something like $1.99.

2. Repeat until you see some success and get motivation.

3. While doing this just be in the same tribe who's making things like you. Talk to them and share your experiences with them. Grow with them, together.

4. The momentum automatically move you to the next level.

5. Finally find a mentor who's been in this journey before and embrace his/her advise.

Let me know where can I buy your first tiny product and I will buy no matter what it is.

Good luck!

Hi, I would like you to buy my first product for something like $1.99. Where can I send you a link in private?

I schedule out my time.

For instance, Wednesday and Friday are dedicated to nothing but writing blog posts. I tend to spend half the time researching and the other half writing.

By the time Wednesday rolls along, I'm pretty eager to start writing. I usually keep a buffer of a month's worth of posts.

Then the rest of my time is spent producing content of other types (courses, etc.) and consulting.

Luckily I don't use FB, IG and barely use Twitter. HN and Youtube still soak up a pretty decent amount of time, but I use various browser extensions and other tactics to keep myself in check. In fact, I blogged about that[0] a few months ago and this combo works better than anything I've ever tried.

[0]: https://nickjanetakis.com/blog/how-to-overcome-procrastinati...

I write books and sometimes blog. I keep a file for notes and ideas for future writing. This process might provide you with kickstart material for the times when you are motivated to spend an evening writing.

For open source projects, choose something that you are really interested in and start a public git repo. Whenever you are motivated to work on your project for an hour or two, then add a feature. My friend, it is all about one thought at a time, one keystroke at a time. If you are not enjoying the creative process then stop and start up again on another day.

Through my hostsfile I block everything of which I habitually consume and feels like "junk information", such as Reddit. You notice it is junk when you have spent some time there, look back and think "what have I learned" and the answer to yourself is "nothing", then you can do away with it, as it's a time waste.

I block these websites because habit takes you there when you're bored. The dns failure is simply a reminder that you were about to waste time, and you can put it to better use.

There is nothing wrong with consuming information, what you put into your mind eventually comes out in creative expression. In my case I can't force myself to be creative when I don't feel like it, but when the creative impulse is felt, my raw materials (the contents of my mind) are better ingredients.

>> Lately I've realized that I consume way too much. Be it Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, HackerNews, Youtube, etc.

Maybe easier for me to say since I don't like social media much, but really the mindset is wrong.

There is a HUGE difference between using FB, YouTube, Twitter, etc, for product promotion -vs- consuming content. You are sort of consuming, but the mindset and results are very different.

>> Another thing that is holding me back I think is the fear of commitement. I have a partially ready youtube channel, with two videos, not listed. I tell myself that I'll open the videos to the public and then start realising videos on a weekly schedule but the commitement seems like a such a burden on me that I don't think I'll be able to keep up.

This is wrong as well. You are confusing "commitment" with "consistency" or rather, attempting to reach some undefined metric of consistency. The only "consistent" thing you have is either "do it" or "don't do it." It doesn't matter if you post once a week, once a month, or every day. Just get started.

The first step is always the hardest step, and this goes for your project, blog, YT channel, whatever. Just doing it once is enough to get those first steps past your fear.

And don't confuse myth with reality. Every overnight success story took 10+ years to write, and the back-story is a graveyard of failed ideas and plans.

Your transition -- consumer to producer -- is one I've been through a few times. But I didn't realize it in the moments it happened for me.

(I produced written-word stuff; tech tutorials etc).

Each time I went through ramping up my output, I did so because I realized people were benefiting from what I produced. I did realize people were reading what I wrote. It was the knowledge I was doing somebody some good that motivated me.

You asked for advice, so I'll give it. Open up that YouTube channel, as soon as possible. Add more videos when it makes sense to do so, not because of a self-imposed schedule.

If the subject matter of your YouTube channel is relevant to your workplace, see if you can work out some kind of lunch'n'learn project so you can present it. You can also invite colleagues to present their stuff in the same lunch'n'learn series.

This next bit of advice probably sounds impossibly artsy-fartsy. Let your muse -- your motivation -- find you. Don't force yourself to crank stuff out just for the sake of cranking it out. Your job has enough of that.

As for finding the time.... what are you doing reading Hacker News? :-) :-) This point applies much more strongly to FB and other media outlets who measure "engagement" -- who get paid for stealing your time.

I made one change that made a difference: Cancel all-you-can-eat subscriptions, including Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. When you must opt-in every time to consume content, it makes it easier to instead dedicate your time to creating content.

I disagree. Some of the series I consumed through​ Netflix/HBO Now changed my perspective​. That's a fair exchange of my time.

I challenge you to interrogate what sort of perspective changes happened. I used to think the same: that the occasional Netflix series binge was opening my mind to a new perspective on X topic. But after deeper consideration, I realize the perspective changes were still on-par with shifts that could/would happen from other pursuits, like learning a language or just meeting new people. And this perspective wasn't earned through more "screen time"...something we should all be trying to reduce.

I think similarly with video games. However very, very few of these ever has a considerable impact on improving my wisdom or changing perspective. It would be crazy for me to subscribe to something like Humble Monthly Bundle with this realization.

Might be worth to ask yourself if you really need to subscribe to have access to this content to reach the same outcome. Or if you can replace these experiences with something else or try them à la carte.

Yes. I also started to get cds/lps again and quit spotify. Automatically you consume less with the extra effect of slightly better quality and more active listening :-)

As an extremely dedicated procrastinator, the most insightful idea I have found regarding this topic is something called "The Procrastination Doom Loop"[1]

I'd also highly recommend a book called "The War of Art"[2] which was written by a procrastinator who eventually made good.

I'm still struggling with procrastination, but my personal feeling is that the key is probably to create a routine where you just execute your productive work during a set block of time everyday, much like a job. This is just so you don't have to decide whether or not to do the work "now" which will break the procrastination doom loop. Good luck!

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/08/the-pro...

[2] https://www.amazon.com/War-Art-Through-Creative-Battles/dp/1...

It may come across as a simplistic answer but here it goes: just get comfortable making mistakes and being wrong. When I first entered this sphere, one thing that immediately struck me was the worshiping of brilliant ideas/code and the perfectionism that comes with it. In my opinion, less is gained when there is a culture that causes the majority of people to first doubt and second guess themselves while the people who have established a reputation raise their hand and continue to dominate the discussion. I like to believe the we live in a meritocracy, and that the best ideas inevitably make their way to the top, but that is stifled when our western obsession with flawless individualism gives pause to our intuitive and creative thoughts.

If you have good intentions and find yourself in good company, you should have nothing to fear. It really is a matter of "just do it". Thought without the possibility of action is imprisonment.

Ask yourself what it means to be consuming? Is it the same as depending on something other than you to tell you what to do? Is it not the same as asking people how to become a creator?

You don't need to become a creator. When you stop depending on outside agency, and just be, creation comes quite automatically.

It is hard to stop consuming. Because you believe that there is something in the video, the book, the blog, your friend's post, that is going to give you something. But what is the value of these things?

You can only give up consuming when you see the vapidity and the emptiness of what you are consuming. And you can only do that when you question what you are consuming. Question it's relevance. It's meaning.

Have you consumed this post and the replies? What now? What is it's value? Has this post changed you? Will you now at this moment, stop reading and delete all your social media accounts and go work on your project?

Then ask, what do you mean by contribute to society? What is society? Is it your friends? Does making an app that makes their lives easier, give you the feeling that you are contributing?

Or do you mean Society at large, where the problems are vast like hunger, disease, poverty, inane war and violence. Or is it solving the crippling effect that the education system has on generations of children world-wide making them into passive consumers, by years of exposure to images and ideas, not reality and learning.

Finally, what is your need to contribute? Is it a way to make yourself look better in your own eyes? By becoming a popular writer/anarchist/whatever. Or is it that you see the need for real work that needs to be done to fix the broken world we live in?

Stop consuming. Learn what is worth doing by looking at the world, with skepticism. Understand what is needed. Depend on yourself. Then the creation will come of its own.

I am like that too. I need to push myself towards creation every single day, otherwise I slip into the consumption trap (still happens once in a while).

This is what helps me:

- Think backwards. How many years do you have left? How many days? Time is running, we only get to live once

- Stop consuming in the morning. Instead of checking emails, news etc on your smartphone, I get up and write down all the things I want to do the day. Then I start working on the top items

- Enjoy traction. Once you release something you'll get hooked on the data. How many people like my post? What's the feedback I receive. When I see that there is traction, I get excited and I enjoy interacting with the community

Btw: You are already contributing :) Look at the feedback here.

If what is holding you back is fear, then perhaps I can make a recommendation to break it. Start with meeting like-minded people! Whether it's volunteering, meetup groups or tech events ... just pick one.

While it sounds nerve-wrecking - it was for me - actually, it's a low commitment activity. You're not trying to prove anything. You're not even expecting to make new friends. But watching other makers in action, and listening to what they say can slowly build up that push for yourself to become one.

It's different to reading and watching interviews at home because when you're out there, it all becomes personal. If I read about a guy who dreams of the next guitar picker, I'd probably roll my eyes and move on. But actually meeting one who is excitedly showing his prototype, and talking about his dream and motivations, that's endearing and actually inspiring. I may not see the guitar picker to ever change the world but I add this to my mental stock of maker stories, and this helps me to keep going.

Lately, I've found that it's much easier to slide into my project and focus on the real essentials. The more I go out and meet people, the more confident and articulated I get, and my idea gets refined further. And yes, inevitably you do make new and quite interesting friends :)

When it does become too much, then just step back a bit - remember, this is supposed to be low commitment!

Edit typo.

I followed two rules to shift from a consumer to a producer:

1. have a fixed amount of time to read HN, Reddit, Twitter, Email

2. have a release schedule

The first rule helps me to keep the consuming time to a minimum. Only once in the morning, after lunch and after work I check the recent (!) updates on all necessary platforms. It can be hard in the beginning, but at some point it becomes a habit.

The second rule helps me to stick to producing. I blog about web development and self-growth and therefore I have a backlog of ideas to write about. Once a week I post an article.

I just want to say thank you all for your responses. You guys are amazing.

Identify a problem, and develop a solution for it. Don't let anyone, even yourself, hold you back from solving that problem. It can be a problem at any scale. With sufficient motivation and commitment, you can solve just about anything.

It sounds like part of the problem is not wanting to commit to just one of those tasks (assuming that releasing YouTube videos weekly would make it hard or impossible to also contribute to open source software, and write for a blog, etc.). If that is it, then I'd simply say "don't worry about it". A YouTube channel with 2 useful videos isn't a failed channel, it is 2 more useful videos on YouTube. Most visitors won't care whether or not you have 0 more or 100 more videos, or blog articles, so long as you can solve their current problem (whether that is entertainment, or instruction, or whatever).

Make sure to find something you enjoy doing so it's not just more work.

Don't confuse "being productive" with "seeking numeric social validation". For example, why would you make more videos? Is there content which you once wished were freely out there and can now provide yourself, or would you just feel better getting 100 views and 10 likes on a video you made instead of reading a book?

What I do is to publish short things that I may want to read latter in my blog. Sometimes someone else find them useful, if so great. But the main consumer of my blog is me. I usually use it as reference for some little problems that come over and over. And, sometimes, I do send links to my blog when someone else has a problem I blogged about in the past.

Doing this I publish about 25 articles every year. Wanna take a look? Is at https://aurelianito.blogspot.com (warning: content is written in Spanish)

And lately I also do some YouTube screencasts about go, the game. The trick for me is to commit to upload whatever happens in the screencast, no preparation at all. Check them out too. http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLTQoyI2lMoFO2bGa2b6Sy-...

If you find something you truly love to do, it will never really seem like "forcing" anything and your high commitment level will just happen.

My take is that you really haven't found this love in your life yet. You are trying to pigeonhole other peoples passions (like youtube vids and OS projects) into yours. That will never work long term.

For me, it was music; I loved it so much that you couldn't stop me from playing, and pretty much all available time outside work was spend practicing and playing in my band at the time.

It was the ideal social lubricant as well, as being a gifted "nerd" 35 years ago was a totally different thing then it is now. Literally, at work and school I interacted with the math kids that were often picked on and made fun of.

Playing and practicing live music not only soothed my soul, but gave me self-esteem and a ton of social status. And it hardly ever seemed like "real" work

I think that is the key for a sustainable hobby commitment.


Just embrace being a consumer. You're already doing it a lot and probably enjoy it in some way. If producing was really that important to you, well, then you'd be doing it.

There's nothing wrong with just consuming. It's how most people live and odds are that you're not that different.

I'm a proud consumer and non-producer (outside of work).

Don't put too much pressure on yourself. You don't need to commit on anything. Upload what you have, and little by little your channel/github will grow. It doesn't have to be perfect.

I can share my experience. I post some guitar videos on a youtube channel, maybe two or three times a year, whenever I feel like it. It doesn't seem like much, but it's been 7 years now and I have about 20 videos now. It's not going to change the face of the world, but it's satisfying. I can follow my progression, it's an additional motivation to practice, and some people find them useful.

Same thing for github. Whenever I write some code, I put it there. Better than lost on my hard drive and it incentives me to write better documentation. Even if nobody cares, it's still useful for me. I regret now that I didn't do it back when I was a student (pre-github).

Don't start with "How", you'll most probably give up after some time. Always start with "Why?". If the "Why" part is a strong enough reason for you, you will find a way to accomplish it. If it's not, well, you'll find excuses and give up on it sooner or later !

This is correct. All the other people saying "Just make stuff, just publish, don't worry" are not helping at all.

Since I find these book recommended on HN a lot, I guess it's my turn to share them as well.

The War of Art [1] and Do the Work [2] both are excellent books about making things and why it's hard. I found them motivating not only because of the solutions in the books but also just because someone describing the problems I have with creating, so clearly, is helpful to read. It's nice knowing you're not a crazy person and that these are problems a lot of people go through. They're also very short and easy to read. So give them a shot.

[1] http://www.stevenpressfield.com/the-war-of-art/

[2] http://www.stevenpressfield.com/do-the-work/

Other way round: you're feeling a desire to contribute, but you're not seeing an unmet need. Start by finding an audience, even if it's just one person. Maybe you actually want to make a different kind of contribution such as through volunteering.

What I do is to publish short things that I may want to read latter in my blog. Sometimes someone else find them useful, if so great. But the main consumer of my blog is me. I usually use it as reference for some little problems that come over and over. And, sometimes, I do send links to my blog when someone else has a problem I blogged about in the past.

Doin this I publish about 25 articles every year. Wanna take a look? Is at https://aurelianito.blogspot.com (warning: content is written in Spanish)

Oh! The key for me is no commitment. Just do the first video/ blog post and work from there. If I take a year off it is fine.

Do you have something interesting to say? Or do you just feel pressure to "make stuff"?

If you're an interesting person, people will want to hear what you say. And the only way to become interesting, is to be interested.

Get out into the world, stop consuming the things you consume so much of, and consume things that can actually change your perspective. What do you truly care about? Figure out what that is, and read/listen to as many books as there are on the subject. Buy a handheld mic and interview people. Have something to say that you couldn't possibly imagine not making YouTube videos about. Now, stop reading pointless comment threads. Like, permanently. :)

Your time is limited. You spend time consuming, when you want to spend time producing. So, stop (or at least decrease) your consumption.

Start small. Put online what you learn. If you learned something today, you might teach someone else tomorrow.

You're having trouble creating/contributing back because you're not sure what other people need from you (when you find them, it'll be like someone opened your faucet for creativity). Try doing a sales safari※ for an audience you want to help and see what happens.

Find people with expensive problems† and help them solve those problems with your words, a software product, or consulting.



So there is another possibility, it can be that you are more excited by the idea of creating videos than doing it. Perhaps there is some other venture you are both interested in and motivated to do.

I read /r/gamedev semi-frequently, and this seems to be by far the most common issue there. People just want to have created a game, but the actual process of creation (long and tedious slog, with little chance of payoff) is too much for them.

Well, perhaps you could think in this way whenever you browse your Facebook feed, Youtube, etc.: Why am I watching other people enjoying their lives when I could live my own? I get to live only once. Every big XYZ person that I watch has gone through this stage and so can I.

It's all about how you fight your mind. That's why they say compete against yourself. If a toddler never took the effort to walk during infant-hood, the toddler would never be able to walk. It is only when you get uncomfortable, does learning happen. You do it for the sake of learning, not for producing immediate results. Try to learn to enjoy the stage whenever you have acquired something new, let it be anything small. Trust me, you will reap the benefits of your hard work when you take it this way, rather than forcing yourself to do something. Results may take months or years and hence you need to be patient. More over, there is never a chance for regret if it's something that you genuinely want to do.

You might have watched Cristiano Ronaldo playing an old man's prank. Even though he played like a professional on the streets, nobody ever cared until he finally revealed himself. The lesson being, nobody ever cares whatever you are unless you you make a name for yourself. So go upload that youtube video of yours'. You are just building your foundation. There is nothing to loose. Regret is poison. Never consume it.

For me blogging worked best when blogging on a subject I just turned novice in. I'd write as if writing for myself 1 year ago. This worked out really well. Positive feedback made me write more. Now I've become more expert on that subject and I don't want to write simple tutorials anymore (it feels too much like work). I also gained a fear of being wrong, as I realized how deep and nuanced the subject really is.

As for Youtube: seems like you fell into the trap of planning too far ahead. Most channels never work out. Even if you stick to a weekly schedule, viewership will only steadily rise. Why not release your current videos, try a (bi-)monthly schedule and see where it goes?

Fear of commitment is a rationalized excuse your brain makes to avoid burning calories :). Or it's to avoid a setback: you put in all this effort and it did not work out. People avoid relationships for fear of commitment too, without ever giving it a shot, or asking if the other person also wants commitment.

For open source or research I give myself very small timeframes. You can think about it the rest of the week, and have a very productive hour or two coding or writing.

As for procrastination, check out "productive procrastination". It helped me get stuff done, when even more important stuff needed to be done :).


"but I just can't force myself to do it" Actually you can. I used to tell myself what you just said but then when I reached the dead end of lack of powerful motivation I did understand that I had to force it.

In Greece we say "The beginning is half of everything" and my problem is beginning something. Sticking to it is not a big issues assuming I do not take a large break for it , say a few days or couple of weeks . Then I have to force myself to start again. Which as you imagine happens ofter. But when I do it , its easy to continue, no pressure involved and makes me happy.

So yeah starting something can be a pain in the ass and you need to punch your way through this phase which fortunately does not last long.

Forcing yourself to start doing something is a good idea. But forcing yourself to keep doing it can be an indication that it does not make you happy or you simply do not like it. Dont do that. Pick something you really like. It does not have to be amazing, just something you like doing.

Whats the worse it can happen if you pressure yourself ? Will you head explode ? Will you be very unhappy ? Will you fail ?

Heads do not explode, happiness is not permanent and failure is part of life and improvement.

I think if you pressure yourself hard at the right time can easily solve your problem.

In the end you will realise that motivation alone is not enough always to overcome fear of failure, boredom or confusion. See pressure as your first product, self motivation. Actually self motivation is best thing you can produce. The second best, is motivating others.

Okay, I believe I can say something about that, because I've just finished my 9th novel in German - where only one [1] is (self-)published so far, though -, have published a little hobby music album [2], and also used to sell a little shareware program [3] next to my full-time job. So I'm definitely not super-productive but still relatively active, even when most of my projects never see the final daylight.

In my experience, if you find something that you really, really like and manage to reserve the necessary spare time, then you will become productive automatically. That could be anything, from sword smithing to rocket construction. If your projects persistently fail or die, then you're perhaps already too busy with family or daytime job, or maybe what your doing is not really the right thing for you. Just do it for the fun, never for money or fame.

Self-advertisement: [1] http://richard-loewe.de [2] https://ericspace.bandcamp.com/releases [3] http://peppermind.com

The process from consumption to production can be gradual and organic. Highly I'd recommend getting some sort of blog service and posting when you can about various topics. It does not have to be anything massive or even focused, but over time if you did, say, one post a week, you will find that things add up, all those little dust motes of posts can become a mountain all together (as the Japanese proverb goes).

As someone who works a lot on the computer, producing what is essentially sequence of bits, I had the same thoughts a few years back.

What helped me alleviate this feeling of consumerism was to pick up DIY projects at home. I resolved to fix everything at home, even if I failed at it or ended up costing me more than if I'd just called professional help the first time. But, over time, I became good at it and the sense of satisfaction you get from building/fixing things with hand is wonderful at alleviating the overbearing sense of uselessness that I'd otherwise feel, clicking on 'never-ending reddit' or refreshing Facebook endlessly.

A few sample projects (fixes really), if it's of any help, that I've worked on:

1. Completely dismantle my bicycle and fix it back. I can now fix any problem that it has on my own without having to take it to a bike shop.

2. Fix a flat tire on my motorbike.

3. Leaking taps and pipes are a forte now.

4. Compost pit to convert organic kitchen waste to organic fertiliser for my garden.

5. Gardening; this takes a lot of time and I'm really not into it but when I get around to it, it gives me the most joy.

6. Fixed a DIY rack for my DTH + Playstation console

I can definitely relate to this. Here's how you do it. You just do it. Period. If you have two videos ready, make them public. It's the intention that counts. If you want to help people learn, or contribute, don't get bogged down by how people will judge you. It is an extremely exhilarating feeling when someone reaches out to you and lets you know that they found your content useful. The moment you make the switch from being a passive consumer to an active producer, something switches within you. I started putting out videos on tensorflow a few months ago. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-EvyKpZjmQ This was the first time I had done anything like this- my goal is not to get subscribers, or views or anything, it is just to put out content in a form that I would have liked to consume. I have a three and half year old and there have been times where he is literally sitting on my head while I am trying to make the videos. It's all worth it. Just take the next step.

Also, it's actually better if the videos are not polished, because they're more authentic. Scooter Braun, Justin Bieber's manager, has talked a bit about this. For reference, Justin's first YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQOFRZ1wNLw

Over the last 9 months or so I have slowly moved from never blogging, releasing videos, or doing anything like that to fairly consistently releasing educational articles related to Go at https://www.calhoun.io , writing a book (+ videos for a complete course) teaching web development with Go, and releasing a few screencasts teaching algorithms with Go.

I say all that to tell you that I didn't just magically start writing every day. I started slowly. Some days I was too worn out to write, but I would try to push myself to spend 10m doing SOMETHING nearly every day.

Maybe that was writing up some quick code to see if it would make an interesting article, or maybe I would take an article idea and turn it into a rough outline, or maybe I would turn a small section of the outline into sentences and paragraphs. It didn't matter as long as I tried to build that habit of doing something.

At first it was hard but it got way easier. And 10m a day really isn't a big commitment.

As you figure out your own process you will find there are many small pieces you can work on each day that slowly help you turn whatever you want to do into a habit.

So my advice is to start with small goals that you can achieve and build on them. Maybe instead of one video a week you should try one every two weeks. If you get an extra video out, great, but if you don't you won't feel like you failed.

And regardless of what you do, don't feel like you have to do something. There are several great blogs out there that aren't regular but only have articles pop up when the author feels particularly inspired. That is okay too. A regular schedule helps build an audience but it def isn't necessary.

I've recently taken a step in this direction by being really deliberate about my media choices and designing around them. For example, as a consumer, I realized I was obsessive about looking over r/Politics and forever updating news sources of sometimes dubious quality, which distracted from all productivity for me at times. I've decided to order print editions of the New Yorker, and focus on long-form pieces from ProPublica as a rule to scratch that itch.

I feel like part of the solution to reducing consumption at the very least is to realize what the initiating triggers and needs of your consumption are, and trying to find a way to sate them in a way that allows you to chunk a time to engage with high-quality solutions to your consumption needs -- and then that frees up more time to be a creator.

As for the active producer part -- the only insight I've really gathered is that you want to commit yourself to something big and imposes costs on yourself (i.e time already dedicated to that project) to make yourself follow through (i.e use the sunk cost fallacy to your advantage).

We all function differently, let me give you an example. There's the kind of people that don't need much help doing things, they don't need advice or productivity tools, or reading motivational articles that are actually only an excuse to avoid starting things. These kind of people will tell you that if you really want to do something you won't need to spend your life procrastinating, because if you want it so much, the energy to do it will come out natural. This might not have happened to you because you haven't found the right thing to create. But not everyone is like that, not everyone knows what they should be prioritizing. Some people need inspiration, for these kind of people I would strongly recommend collaborating with others. Work with others, get inspired by commitment and sharing ideas. For some people the problem of not having energy to create things is related to not having small social rewards that keep you going like fuel. Energizing by others is important and will get you going.

Man, this is me all over. I've spoken to friends about how I feel like on the "consumer vs. creator continuum," I'm far too far on the consumer side. It's just easier to watch Netflix after coming home from work, instead of creating something new.

The commitment is a big deal too. I don't want to start a blog, write two posts, and then abandon it, and I know that's more likely than not. I even struggle a bit with what the voice would be of the blog: would I write about work-related things? Just whatever comes to mind?

I don't have a great answer for you, but accountability and not breaking the chain are the two biggest things I hear: creating something every day, and having a couple of friends checking in on you, for instance.

Oh, and in my case, having just had a newborn doesn't help the situation. My brain is just too tired with the down time I have, frequently, so here I am, writing in an HN comment instead of the course I should be writing, or the other ideas I have kicking around. :-/

If you've just had a child your best approach may be to just accept that for the next few years you don't have time for active production. Your active learning/production right now is learning how to raise a child.

Trust me on this one, you're not going to look back in a few years time and regret spending too much time watching your child growing up into an independent person.

Having a newborn is one of the most precious ways to be a producer. Enjoy that and don't sweat anything else.

I was having similar thoughts/issues lately (a couple months ago), and I came up with a way to be more systematic about achieving goals, etc. I wrote about it here: https://hackernoon.com/an-agile-approach-to-life-7bb2e9ccbc8...

Tldr; Think of myself as a product, and try to use a sort of agile development style to improve myself. I assign myself "sprints" (one or two at a time, one to two weeks each) and basically during my free time when I think "What should I do now?" I just do the sprint and it takes the pressure off. I've still been doing it since I wrote the above post and it's been working pretty well. I've read 5 novels in the past two months or so (EDIT: for context, more than I'd read in the past year), and I've tried a variety of what I call "personal sprints" that include things like "Wake up at the exact same time for two weeks", or "Say yes to all invitations for things for two weeks". I sort of have the mentality now that "The sprint is the law" and it's helped me have a level of discipline that I haven't achieved in the past. It's really fun because it's low pressure and experiment-based ("Let's try making excessive eye contact for a week, lol") and if something doesn't work out, you didn't spend much time doing it anyways.

Another less related thing is that I read that habit forming is sort of like a muscle, and once you form one habit, it can become easier to form others. So for a little while I was doing habit "layering" where I'd have a priority list for habits and basically as long as I did the top thing on my list, I was happy, even if I didn't get the others. Gradually I moved to the top two things, and so on.

Hope that helps.

The only thing in my mind everyday is to get out of my 9 to 5 job. This keeps motivating me. I have started a blog which teaches a programming language. I had a target of 2 blog posts per week. I have given up watching television totally and I work for 12 to 14 hours daily even on weekends. My urge to resign my job and start on my own keeps motivating me. Although I am not able to achieve my target of 2 blog posts a week, I am able to post 1 per week and I guess I will be able to post 2 per week with a little more dedication. One more thing that helped me is the pomodoro technique. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique. I would encourage you to start first. Whether its a youtube video video or a blog post stop making it perfect and publish it right now. Once its out in the hands of the public you will learn a lot from their feedback.

To me, you need come up a schedule a stick to it no matter what. For example when I wanted to do more photography, I started a 365 project [1] to a take a photo everyday and publish it. The first couple of weeks were hard, but after a while I restructured my days, workflow & equipment to suit it.

I'd say, if you want to do YouTube, you should at least do the 1 per week thing. If you are short on time, you can do Q&A/livestream episodes. I'm sure you'd be are aware of Casey Neistat [2], who has said multiple times he wished he'd done daily vlogging sooner.

[1] https://www.flickr.com/photos/richardcunningham/albums/72157... [2] https://www.youtube.com/user/caseyneistat

Here's how I did it. YMMV.

[NOTE: I do have a fairly taxing full-time job and also go to a boxing gym 5 times a week or more after work, and still made the time to be a creator after all that, by forcing myself to adhere the following rules I set for myself. Not bragging, it took me over 10 years to finally get the discipline, just trying to tell you it can be done.]

1) Stop watching the news * , on TV and online. It's hard at first, but can be done.

2) Sign out of all social media apps, and pick just 1 or 2 that you really cherish, so that you are not out cold with nothing to consume. For me, I was able to whittle it down to just hackernews. HN does a great job of filtering out or flagging Political News articles and other click baity / fake stuff. And the quality of articles and stories are very high. I also use the Show HN tab to inspire myself, when I see that everyday, and almost every hour, someone has CREATED and SHIPPED something useful or awesome.

3) Set a small goal of 30 mins per day, or 1 hour per day to work on whatever it is you want to produce. I started with 30 mins a day and worked my way up (6 months later) to now 3 to 4 hours a day and 6 hours on weekends.

I shipped my 1st side-project last week -- soft launched it -- and am about to do a Show HN within the next week to 10 days.

Hope this helps!

[ You'll notice that when you do #2, your real-life interactions with your online friends and fam will dramatically improve in quality. "Catch-up" convos will happen in person in real life, at the gym or elsewhere, instead of mindlessly clicking Like and blowing hearts online on their "Stories" and "Feeds"]

* Related Reading (by Buffer Founder & CEO): "The power of ignoring mainstream news" => http://joel.is/the-power-of-ignoring-mainstream-news/

This sounds very familiar, I'll tell you how I deal with this.

First of all I feel you should drop the wish to deliver "value to society". You are applying pressure to yourself based on a very vague statement: What is value? Who is society? What does a society value? You feel an emptiness, a need to please others and I argue that is impossible to fill the emptiness by focusing on anything but yourself.

There is no such thing as society, there are people, and people have very different opinions as to what constitutes value. So what do you do?

Assuming you are not a sociopath, you have loved ones, and you like to see them happy. Most of all, you'd like to see yourself happy. You have to realize that this is not a selfish goal (or that selfishness is not bad!). A happy person is a joy to work with, a happy person will make his surroundings better. So, what do you like to do? Maybe working with a computer makes you feel empty? I recently made a bunk in my caravan, working with my hands, using wood and tools and creating something tangible is nice and very different from computer related work. Programming, bloging and all that social network stuff is very much in your head.

Some books I can recommend: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, you will get down voted for liking it on HN ;) but to a pleaser such as myself (and you too, mr. "I want to deliver value to society"), it offers an incredibly powerful philosophy for seeing the morality in putting yourself first (as a healthy, non-sociopathic human!). Don't take advice on this philosophy from people who didn't read the book! It helped me a lot. My wife likes a strong me, that knows what he wants because she likes to do things I like. Doing things I like makes me happy and productive and allows me to give back much more! F society (it's to vague)! F the world (it's to big), focus on yourself, the rest will come later :)

(You know what selflessness is? Doing stuff you hate, purely for others, it's unsustainable and you won't be a pleasant person to be around while you do it. Doing something you love and making others feel better in the process is not selfishness, and it is a much more sustainable way to make yourself happy.)

Find out what makes you feel good, calm, makes your head tranquil, and do as much of it as possible. For me it is very specific: "Find beautiful natural waters and swim in them with the kids."

Start with getting rid of the pressure to make society better.

Publish at least one tweet / post / video / commit / GitHub issue / comment per day.

If you want to run a marathon, the most important thing is to run 1k per day. Once you're out in the road, the distance will take care of itself.

99% of the human species blows their time on Facebook so don't feel too bad about it

Delete the smartphone app now. Thank me later.

I just deleted the app and moved several of my smaller group conversations over to WhatsApp (yes, the irony that this is also owned by Facebook is not lost on me). Been contemplating this for a while but you have provided the necessary impetus, thanks.

I did that last year to avoid bullshit generated and perpetuated by people I know. This year, I decided to delete the reddit app to get away from bullshit generated and perpetuated by people I don't know. I still consume some bullshit, but I'm getting there.

reddit is an awesome source of information if you subscribe to the good subreddits (i.e. not crowded ones like /r/pics or /r/worldnews). I’ve learnt a lot from /r/photography and got very good feedback when I posted some projects on /r/python or /r/clojure.

If you can compartmentalize, then it's great, however I feel the danger lies in that for every useful tidbit you don't notice the rest of the time it sucks away from you.

Hey, that just makes me feel worse!

Great question. THink of a class from years back where we studies Vico (16th cent Italian thinker). Verum factum. We can know what we have made. The rest is theology, etc.

I saw this to my preteen kids - when thinking about a job you want to do something where you are making things, not just performing a service.

It is hard to reorient. What works for one person does nto necc work for all.

For me "Extreme Ownership" was helpful (book by Willink and Babin) plus the podcast spun off from it. Some good ideas on how to live a more disciplined and free life.

Sometimes you need a toehold. For me it has been waking up before 5AM and doing something disciplined (somedays just making my bed).

Figure out(decide) what you want to create, and then develop enough skill to be able to do that.

Some epiphanies I have encountered on my path:

- Terminal value - do things you want to do for the sake of themselves. Not to achieve some purpose, or benefit the society, or whatever, understand what YOU value and want to make.

- You don't "find your passion", you choose it. Make a decision on what you want to do with the following years of your life, and then figure out a way to make it work.

- Enjoying the process of creating things is a combination of skillset and value. When it works - programming or writing is supposed to feel like playing minecraft(or whatever is the most engaging computer game you can imagine). You do not force yourself to do it, you do it for the sake of the game. You are driven to make fun stuff, and then you do it because you can.

- Read the book about Flow, and about gamification - understand how your mind works and what drives it. It's all about the reward loop, your brain craves dopamine, and you satisfy this craving by setting clear, small goals and accomplishing them.

- If you feel "fear" I would guess that it's either because of the lack of skill(you dont want to waste time and hard work when you're not sure that you can successfully create something valuable), or because of the "ego" - you care too much about your self image, about what others will think of you or about what you think of youself, you tie your sense of self-worth to the quality of work you produce. To fix the first one you develop more skill, to fix the second you realize that this shit doesn't matter. The only thing within your control is how much understanding/practice you put into your craft, so you learn to only care about that and none of the irrelevant stuff.

To summarize:

1. Find the terminal value your brain craves. What do you want to do with your life, what do you want to make?

2. Follow the path to mastery, give all of your attention to getting good at what you do. That's the only thing within your control, and everything else doesn't matter.

3. Focus on practicing your craft, for the sake of the process. Design a rewarding process by understanding the idea of flow state, and your brain's core drives, and turn it into a habit. Set clear, valuable, attainable goals, break them down into simple steps, and accomplish them. Make this your lifestyle.

And creating cool stuff will simply be a side-effect of this process.

Also don't feel too guilty for "consuming" stuff, it's okay to relax and have fun and watch comedy and be inspired by the creativity of others. Focus your energy on creating more, not on consuming less.

Also, don't worry about following the schedule - it's an unnecessary arbitrary constraint you've made up that will just make things more difficult and add pressure. Moving further matters, following a plan does not. Use it as a tool if it helps, throw it out if it stands in your way.

You just start doing, that's it. Don't overthink just start it NOW! No work is perfect, you have to release it and let people judge so you can improve or abandon but if you release nothing, you will never know.

All the frameworks, languages, libraries, datasets, courses, papers, videos, groups and tools (have I missed any?) are here for us to combine and configure however we like. We might be overwhelmed by their volume and think that we have nothing original to add, but we can still remain creative in how we combine and mix them. All this content is like lego pieces, we can have lots of fun putting them together in new ways. That's why they shouldn't be a barrier, but an ingredient to creativity. The trick is to seek what you enjoy, then creative energy builds up.

I'm partly waking up for various reasons. And right now I just go to meetups, events etc to see what would stick. Fun fact, I expected that event related to my deepest hobbies would make me feel at home but not really (if at all). All in all, it's a human feel thing and a subject.

Also, I realize that existing as an adult outside of a field or shielded by a big company is quite a surprising experience. You have to integrate with people, communities, society and is mostly an altruism thing. It makes you see other working people differently and also adult life altogether.

Get rid of your browser and your smartphone. Avoid GUIs and closed software and anything that involves psychologists or "UX designers." Force yourself to understand what your doing.

> Also would like to contribute to open source software projects, or write more for my blog, but I just can't force myself to do it. This is kinda a mix of fear (of what?!) and procrastination habits

Start answering questions on stack overflow. You can also find a more noob friendly oss project (kubernetes, Django) and start fixing docs, or look for "help-wanted" type labels. Lurk around their IRC/slack channels for a while, and if that doesn't help, lurk moar.

It sounds like you dont actually want to do those things.

I moved and took a weekend-only job for this express purpose. I can't imagine getting anything done under 9-5, 5 days a week conditions.

I've heard of it being done, but for me it's an impossibilty. Even on the mere 2 days of work, I'm unable to do much more than recouperate on those evenings. I would no doubt squander weekends under "normal" conditions. I personally find aforementioned achedule wildly inhumane though.

There is a thing which I constantly have to admit to myself: I will not do all the things I want to do. It makes me sad for a moment, until I realize that the chaotic and unfocused way I drift towards the thing that's currently grabbing my attention is reducing my productivity and the number of those projects I will accomplish.

The only answer is to get focused and prioritize the things you want to do. Make a plan. Create a system.

At the end of the day, it is very difficult for you to find an answer here. But there are quite a lot of interesting perspectives listed down here. It is all upto you and how you consume all these mediums & your time.

Try to follow a different & disciplined routine. If you are able to follow it up for a continuous 30 days, may be you will start producing rather than consuming. Write down your activities on a daily basis.

What you can always do is to give feedback. For example I actively create issues on OSS projects I use. Most devs (including me) have no idea how their software is being used and what corner cases they have with which other devs are struggling. If you want to start your own blog the easiest way is to use Jekyll + Github. It is just 5 clicks away...Contributing to OSS can also be started by simple bugfixing tasks.

Are you actually interested in doing the things themselves, or is the thought of becoming a person that does those things the source of your motivation?

Not everyone can be productive all the time and that is ok.

Also, think what you really want to produce. It could be that your goals are too vague and big.

As soon as you stop thinking of it(blogging, making videos, coding) as a committment you will be at an ease.

The trick is to make a committment for two-four weeks, after that it could become a nice habit.

If it still feels like a burden it is not the right thing for you.

This is something I've thought a lot about in the past. This short vlog episode of mine may give you some ideas: "For Aspiring Creators, Content Means Everything" http://pgbovine.net/PG-Vlog-9-content-means-everything.htm

I code, do ham, wine, gardening cider, bread, pastry, cooking, music, bike fixing, knitting, sometimes write and compose. The secret: being ruined and not having money for buying any of these goods.

Let me tell you, you sometimes you would like to stop having to be an active producer.

It is a rich person problem to not be able to produce in whatever field (intellectual or physical).

I would encourage you to find or build real, fleshspace community. I find that I am more productive and also gentler to myself when I am working in concert with others who are also trying to accomplish something and sharing honestly about their challenges. It might take a bit of trial and error but finding likeminded folks is crucial!

you can always choose to do this. cancel your internet subscription would be the first thing to do. then you will be more productive in your free time. guaranteed.

now that is a radical step but it has worked for me. what is key is creating the right environment to be productive. not everybody can be with 10,000 distractions just one mouseclick away.

> I also would like to contribute to open source software projects

If you'd like, I'm looking for help on https://github.com/GoTeamEpsilon/OpenEMR-AWS-Guide

Send me an email at matthewvita48@gmail.com

...this applies to anyone in this thread as well :)

I recently ditched most social media. Starting contributing to my blog about guitar more. It gets basically no traffic, but I definitely feel like I'm actually contributing something, even if it's for the one lone googler out there.

I force myself into a specific topic that interest me. I think that's the key.

Speaking as a producer, you can also help by paying for your consumption! Patreon is a great service that lets you pay people who create content you like. You could also subscribe to your local paper, or buy a book. That way you would switch to being an active consumer, and producers would thank you :)

somewhere along the line ​our notion of amateur internet content production shifted from a site model to a blog model, and I feel we do not consciously examine that enough. take your youtube channel - why are you bothered by your weekly production rate? the 'channel' (an unfortunate name that plays into this fallacy) does not consist of one latest video, growing more and more irrelevant the longer ago it was posted, it consists of all the videos you have added there, living in parallel, and interesting to different people at different times as and when they are discovered. posting two videos and then nothing for months does not mean you have a dead channel, it means you have a collection of two videos. add to that collection as and when you feel like it; it will only grow over time.

By breaking old habits and putting the new ones first thing in the morning. I did it, made a YouTube channel, and made a video about it. I think the gambling sucks, stop gaming one or stop learning start doing would be most relevant towards you actually getting your channel up.

Read critical theory!

I recommend starting with Guy Debord's "The Society of the Spectacle" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Society_of_the_Spectacle)

I have two cents (eurocents):

Start small, and try to find your boundaries. Then get good enough at it to know you're contributing. This way there is a long term goal you'll always be able to reach, yet a short term check is in place so you don't go too far.

Start taking actions - baby steps. That's it! Keep being a consumer, it's not one or the other, you can produce while consuming it's not a big deal. The only difference between the 2 is "actions". Just do it :)

Consume less.

When you post on Facebook or Instagram you are just doing work so someone else can make money off that work. If you want to actually make something then do it for yourself.

My practice is mindfulness.

Each moment is an opportunity to serve.

I have a full time software-ish job (product manager) and I go in and out of being 'productive' vs. consuming (playing games, watching tv, etc). Here are the things that I've found make my side projects work:

1. Start with something insanely tiny - Every side project software or library I've built were ~4hr hacks just trying to get a basic, basic version of something working to see if I could even do it. Example: I wanted to build a web view of the books I've read, so I just installed nodejs and tried to see if I could even get a list of books from goodread. This would be step 1. Step 2 would be getting my books, step 3 would be displaying them in a browser. That's it. Once I accomplished each step, I set out a new set of tiny steps. Nothing huge, nothing crazy, nothing ambitious. Just get started and prove to yourself that you can do it :)

2. Social Pressure - More than anything, this has been huge for me. My current project is a twitch bot that I'm making for my friends' stream. I started working on it and got a basic version that could respond to commands up and running in a day, then they started playing with it and having tons of fun. Now they make videos and want to show them on the stream, they have new ideas for commands, and one of them is even helping me code it. It's been really great :) Another example of this is building a game with my brother. We started working on it together and it gave us more reasons to talk regularly and a shared purpose. This kept me going much longer than the actual game itself did.

3. Choose tech that know or you think is fun - I know this is not the ideal way to build a project, but what you're grappling with is just motivation. Pick technology that you're interested in or one that you know and you enjoy working in. For me that's nodejs and I've been writing things in it off and on for years.

4. Open source everything - by default every project I start is open source. If it's code, I constantly publish it on github. If it's a video, I post it on youtube. Blog post? Put it on medium or my blog. First, it pushes you to put things out into the world and figure out the details of releasing them (like writing documentation!) Second, every once and a while, they'll stick :) My goodreads module I mentioned above has 2 people who are actively maintaining it as I don't have alot of time/motivation to do so. They're still pushing changes and a few months ago, a co-worker stumbled upon it and used it in one of his personal projects :D Very cool!

Hope this is helpful, I've found alot of joy in side projects, even if none of them will likely ever make me any money or bring me any fame/succcess.

I recommend the book "Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking"

how do i make money instead of spending it? make stuff. when it fails, make more stuff. never stop.


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