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Productivity Is About Attention Management (nytimes.com)
939 points by gotocake on March 31, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 186 comments

There's a general misconception between being productive and being effective.

One can fill their days by completing many mindless tasks and consider themselves as productive, but in the end hardly any of those tasks really matters.

On the other hand, another person may only complete one or two tasks in a very short time during their day but these were critical tasks that could generate much higher values. This subsequently makes the person more effective than their peers.

The output values must be weight in determining if one is really productive. Effectiveness triumphs mindless productivity.

This is quite similar to the cognitive and decision fatigue principle which indicates that each of us only has a limited pool of cognitive resources and so we must be very selective in choosing what activities we engage in.

To remain highly effective, not just being productive, particularly for a project manager, it's imperative to spend time only on tasks that require critical decisions to be made, and to delegate the rest. When you take on more tasks than you can handle, like some are misunderstanding this may help them appear as productive, it will undoubtedly affect the quality of each of your decisions and the project will suffer.

> This is quite similar to the cognitive and decision fatigue principle which indicates that each of us only has a limited pool of cognitive resources and so we must be very selective in choosing what activities we engage in.

Watch out — many of the studies which displayed “cognitive fatigue” (I assume you actually mean ego depletion) have not been replicated successfully.


The general idea even in a loose, more metaphorical sense, holds however. 'Mental fatigue' is well established, and your volition along with mental faculties generally become harder to exercise the longer they are used without break.

The specifics are disputed, but we needn't be so specific for the advise to hold.


> But that story is about to change. A paper now in press, and due to publish next month in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, describes a massive effort to reproduce the main effect that underlies this work. Comprising more than 2,000 subjects tested at two-dozen different labs on several continents, the study found exactly nothing. A zero-effect for ego depletion: No sign that the human will works as it’s been described, or that these hundreds of studies amount to very much at all.

Could you please clarify this for me? I assume that I did not understand the concept of ego depletion before but how is this related to the banal observation of real-life things... like when I do not have the willpower to follow my exercise routine after a really hard day at work or feel unable to focus when I am tired... this would not be "ego depletion" or "cognitive fatigue"? To be honest, those things seemed so obvious and "common knowledge" to me that I did not understand why even invent special terms - what am I missing?

Endurance is not disputed. We understand the bottlenecks of physical endurance, but mental bottlenecks are is still poorly understood. That study rejected the ego depletion hypothesis for mental fatigue.

I have chosen a poor example and formulated my question in a misleading way. I do not work physically and I am more likely to lack willpower when I am mentally tired even when it is related to other things than physical exercise - for example I am trying to reduce my sugar intake and I am more likely to just give up eat some chocolate after a tiring (mentally) day. That is what I thought was the kind of obvious thing - that when people are mentally tired they tend to just watch a movie instead of originally planned language learning. This is what's disputed?

I am asking because either I do not understand the ego depletion concept or something that seemed really obvious to me is disputed, which would surprise me.

Just speculating, but could it be that your mind is grasping for an explanation, came up with the ego depletion idea, subjected it to a reasonable amount of questioning to ensure that it wasn't completely flimsy, and then you went with it? Kind of a "thinker thinks and prover proves" type mechanism?

Ego depletion is one hypothesized aspect of metal fatigue -- no one is doubting mental fatigue.

How about we simply agree that people do in fact get "tired" and have limited energy and thus must prioritize what to do.

But that argument is no more effective than stating that people have a limited amount of time and thus must prioritize what they do. We all know prioritizing is key to being effective. The question should be about whether one effectively prioritizes to generate positive momentum toward their long-term goals. With that in mind, I better get off Reddit and get to work.

I don't have a citation for this, but I read something recently about a study where people who had been introduced to the concept of decision-making fatigue experienced it, while people who weren't aware of it didn't.

The mind is a wacky thing, I think we know a lot less about it than we believe. One idea I like which seems to have some real world support is that your mental models make all the difference -- if you believe that something's hard and unpleasant, your belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and you'll experience distress when you do it. If you're able to somehow reshape your beliefs, that distress may diminish. Cognitive behavioral therapy is based on this model and has a strong clinical track record.

I had recently read that too, but it was more specifically about the idea of willpower rather than decision-making fatigue per se. Here is the article where I had seen this, though going back to it, I don't see citations to the studies it's mentioning:

> If ego depletion does turn out to be wrong, it’s striking how seemingly well-established it became before more rigorous investigations dispelled the assumptions it rests on. The story of its rise and fall also shows how faulty assumptions about willpower are not just misleading, but can be harmful. Related studies have shown that beliefs about willpower strongly influence self-control: Research subjects who believe in ego depletion (that willpower is a limited resource) show diminishing self-control over the course of an experiment, while people who don’t believe in ego depletion are steady throughout. What’s more, when subjects are manipulated into believing in ego depletion through subtly biased questionnaires at the outset of a study, their performance suffers as well.


EDIT: It appears the studies are cited at the bottom of the article.

That's very interesting. I'd love to see an experiment where people were taught THE OPPOSITE of ego depletion.

If a group of teenagers were taught that every time they exercise their willpower it becomes stronger, in a very immediate sense, would we see their self control actual improve over the course of day.

I certainly experience mental fatigue. I have a hard time believing that if I didn't know about it, I wouldn't experience it.

We're very good at convincing ourselves of something. Can you be sure it's not just fatigue? (different from willpower fatigue)

Really? Dammit. Everything really is a lie.

Maybe not everything but pretty low replication rates for most psychological experiments.

IMO that matter is extremely fluid and dependent on many factors. Just consider the fact that lots of the experiments are done with available volunteers which at Harvard or Stanford or Yale are white uber rich privileged young adults. And that’s only one of the many factors.

Another one is the pressure to constantly publish research in order to move forward or be anybody in academia.

Reminds me of when I was a kid and raced the same track over and over something like 1000 times on a game to get enough money to buy the fanciest car in the game rather than building my skills enough to do races where I would actually make decent money on each race and only have to do 5 or ten to buy said car.

On one of many playthroughs of the original Phantasy Star, I saved up 15K for the Diamond Armor by killing low level baddies and then breezed through the game until the end game.

Well, you didn't get to "cheat".

When we were kids, my cousin figured out a way to make Fallout 2 playthrough much easier. From the starting location, he would immediately head down to a particular late-game location in which you could acquire a Power Armor (the second-best armor in the game). He avoided getting killed by high-level random encounters by discovering that you could escape almost any of them if you mashed "A" key during loading screen - this would guarantee you started the turn-based combat before the random enemy could spot you, and 99% of the times would let you escape. After reaching the target location he'd acquire[0] the Power Armor, and start a quest chain that let you acquire Advanced Power Armor (the very best armor in the game). After that, the game was much easier.

Ah, videogames were so much more fun when we were kids, and didn't have that much time pressure.


[0] - I'm fuzzy on the details here; it probably involved attempting to steal it from the shop and reloading game on failure. I later improved this step by just buying it for money, after exploiting a "repeatedly steal merchandise from a guy and sell it back to him" infinite money generator bug that was available near the starting location.

Here is what you do: 1. Max theft or whatever and small arms (whatever it's called) 2. Walk down to the trading post. 3. Attempt to steal the Bozar rifle. Reload until you succeed.

Not sure how you could get power armor early.

> Not sure how you could get power armor early.

In San Francisco. It was (AFAIR) in the lower left corner of the map. Like I described, you could get there easily straight from starting location, if your "A" mashing skill was good enough.

This was me trying to get the Zonda in one of the Gran Turismo(3?) games. Raced a mustang around the Daytona track sooo many times.

Gran Turismo 2, 200 lap races.

Oof, I remember those days when my cousin and I would switch every few minutes to complete those races.

Hey! My cousin and I did the same. We still talk and laugh about it to this day.

>it's imperative to spend time only on tasks that require critical decisions to be made, and to delegate the rest.

Nobody ever points out the privilege in this statement. Someone has to be the unfortunate grunt getting delegated to, instead of delegating. If a delegator depends on the grunt, can we really attribute super high productivity to the delegator but not to the grunt? That certainly seems to be implicit when CEOs receive 100x more than the average worker. Perhaps they would be equally competent as delegators given the same opportunities some x years back.

I feel like it's really self-serving, too.

"The important work is the work that I, specifically, am good at. Other work that I do not find compelling is unimportant, and should therefore be delegated to less important people."

The routine work done by "grunts" is critical to keep any organization running, whether it's a Fortune 500 company or a family of four. Lots of jobs (customer support, widget assembly, laundry, dishes) are unglamorous but vitally important.

You don’t have to rise that high to delegate. If you’re working on your own, you can hire good contractors who charge $10-$15 an hour. Barring that, systems work can also be a form of delegation: building a system to automate low value tasks is a way of not doing them.

Alao no one ever completes all the tasks they have. So deciding which are the most necessary to do is crucial.

The people who delegate and eliminate well at these low stages are more likely to progress to more delegation. Yes, some people still have no ability to do any of that, but I doubt it applies to most people on this forum.

Honestly though, you have to climb the ranks somehow. For someone, that delegation is their "break" into the work they want to do.

> There's a general misconception between being productive and being effective.

Indeed: "There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all." -- Peter Drucker

For anyone who wants to read more on the difference between productivity and effectiveness you highlighted, I recommend Stephen Covey's classic "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People":


It's funny that the author ends with a bit of a knock against the book, and mentions that there should be an 8th habit:

> I’m pretty sure there’s an eighth habit of highly effective people. They don’t spend all their time reading about the seven habits of highly effective people.

Turns out, Covey came up with an 8th habit years ago: 'The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness ... The 8th habit essentially urges: "Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs."' [1] I need to read both, but it seems like Covey's 8th might cover not being obsessed about the first 7.

BTW, my kids' elementary charter school has actually incorporated the 7 habits into its curriculum. It will be interesting to see how the graduates do over the course of their careers.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Covey#The_8th_Habit

What makes it even more complicated is that in a big org, knowing which tasks are important changes over time and with managers and manager's managers.

Surviving and thriving over time requires constant reevaluation.

"What makes it even more complicated is that in a big org, knowing which tasks are important changes over time and with managers and manager's managers."

No, they don't. There is only one task in your job, to make your boss happy. Strangely, this is rarely achieved by good job performance but often by social skills or idiotic metrics. "How to manage your boss" is worth a read.

This is indeed called managing expectation.

There are various strategies one can "manage" their boss in return so that their expectation always remains at an optimal level, allowing them to easily satisfy their boss or even exceed all their expectations.

Everything can be manipulated, hacked, or "managed" as we professionally call it, as long as things continue to be operated by human. Even the largest corporations are susceptible and WILL succumb to this. Facebook and fake news are real evidences.

Their weaknesses just need to be identified so it can be exploited. External forces can even join together with more resources combined to execute their plans. It's not very difficult to identify weaknesses for many targets today, GREED and PROFIT.

Many corporations today only focus on their quarterly growth reports and would do absolutely anything to satisfy their investors. They don't even pay attention to their own customers, let alone those external forces.

Spontaneously two former superiors or mine come to my mind. Both unprofessional on an epic scale, they nearly tanked complete companies. Yet they succeeded in the only metric that counts: They made they superiors happy.

Your boss is the main person to make happy, but they are far from the only person. You also need to help your business partners, your manager's manager, and others.

My boss is the boss of 30 people and he can't really tell in detail who is doing good work and who not so much. The bar is higher than that.

Small suggestion: don't use the term 'boss'.

I have a manager, but I don't have a boss.

If your boss is happy, feel free to call them manager. When that manager becomes unhappy with you, you’d better be prepared to deal with a boss.

Companies that strive to improve their effectiveness can develop a methodology to apply this principle from top to bottom.

A good manager will identify the optimal point for each of his team members. This optimal point will serve as a target performance ceiling for managers to motivate and encourage their staffs to work toward to. If we try and push them over this point then we will begin trading output quality for needless productivity.

For someone at the top, it’s important to determine the optimal point for your organization’s current equilibrium state as well. The goal is to always operate within this state, but slowly and incrementally move the equilibrium point up over time as your organization develops and increases its capacity.

Depending on each industry, the degree to which this principle will affect organizations will vary. For example, it would be more decisive to those who produce creative content as their main output since the negative impacts can be very noticeable and highly detrimental, whereas a manufacturing business relying on human labor can be quite flexible in re-adjusting their capacity.

> "There's a general misconception between being productive and being effective."

Put another way: Focus / attention doesn't help if you're putting such energy into the wrong things.

It starts with problem identification.

The Five Why is always a great tool. Here's a tongue in cheek site it threw together a couple years ago to help :)


At work they’re doing some half-assed metrics based on scrum story points, which is fine, I do about as many as anyone else, but it doesn’t really capture that the entire project we’re working on was almost entirely my idea and that a lot of the backlog that everyone is working from was generated by my ideas. I spend 80% of my day reading and thinking and maybe 20% coding at best. I used to think that if I spent more time coding I’d be more productive, but I don’t think I could spend more time coding and still produce anything worth while. I enjoy coding 2-3 hours a day. I absolutely hate coding 7-8 hours a day. I do better work when I’m enjoying it.

It's a matter of definition. I guess some people define productivity as effectiveness.

I think I define them in a big blurry overlap. Somewhere in there is the guy who leaves the communal kitchen in a mess because he is too busy, and the countless people who wont prepare properly for a meeting or respond to admin style requests.

I guess those form the category of selfish-effective and selfish-productive people.

Yeah, but in order to make effective decisions there are tonnes of tiny little tasks that you have to take on in order to do that. The idea that you can just go by gut is ludicrous. There is a glacier of work beneath the water that needs to be done in order to make effective decisions. Solving high class problems without doing your homework is an effective way to leading a project to disaster..

"complete one or two tasks in a very short time during their day" these are the people that ruin teams.

Also, the difference between a startup succeeds and one that fails is very simple - execution and productivity. Grand ideas don't solve customer problems. Yes, attention management is important obviously, but that's a part of time management. You also have to grind to solve all the problems that come up.

The whole thing is nonsense wishful thinking that you can just make the hard work disappear.

From my own experience, (so take it with a pinch of salt!) the difference can be a constant loop of reflection and evaluation - is this the most effective thing to do now? And taking time to actually evaluate why I'm doing what I'm doing.

I do this twice a day at work, if weather is nice i will take a 10 min walk to reset myself. I like to close out all my fuckin tabs, take stock of WTF happened in the first hours of work, then refocus path. A 10 min walk helps refresh things. Typically go out after about 1.5 to 2 hours of time at the desk.

I've started an audio book on essentialism. "I can do anything, but not everything" struck out at me.

What's the book? Would you recommend it?

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

I'm only through the first chapter. Might be a good read, but harder to implement. So far it's, you gotta say no to things that aren't important. How often has your boss asked you to do unimportant things, and would you be able to say no to any of them? Maybe try to push it off to someone else... But to say no would be harder.

Thank you!

Just use the term efficiency because than effort and impact covered.


> To remain highly effective, not just being productive, particularly for a project manager, it's imperative to spend time only on tasks that require critical decisions to be made, and to delegate the rest.

This mirrors Andy Grove's practice (detailed in his book High Output Management) of focusing on "high-leverage" activities, where "leverage" he defines as the ratio of output/impact versus time spent.

There was a post recently about a mindset where you'd try your luck in life sorting options by ROI. I found that interesting because I spend aeons on things that will be almost useless right away, instead of doing that maybe simpler, maybe less exciting but a lot more rewarding in terms of comfort. I guess my brain should be rewired from artistic perfectionist pride to capital (cough) pride.

Indeed, and we should all keep what you say in mind. But in order to be effective you first need to be productive. A lot of people struggle with focus, motivation and energy to do things.

There are many tasks that are both relatively mindless and important.

My favorite anti-productivity introspections:

- Remember that you are going to die. Time flies, have you noticed? Is that status symbol that you are pursuing really that important? Is it ever going to make you happy?

- There is more wisdom in one of your cells than in all self-help and management books combined. Maybe you can't focus for a good reason? What could that reason be?

- Remember the last time you felt glad to be alive? Was it related to being productive?

No need to thank me.

I can feel intensely alive and happy after having produced something, be it a nice piece of code, a short story that people might want to read or a meal that my friends enjoy. There are other surefire ways I can trigger happiness in myself (sex, drugs, exercise, to name some) but the resulting "high" feels more artificial to me.

I often feel very happy after catching a perfect surfing wave, or after flowing an effortless line down a mountain biking trail.

In either case, nothing was produced, and often no one witnessed it.¹

1: https://memegenerator.net/instance/63056532/courage-wolf-cli...


I also get a lot of joy from all of the things you describe.

The fact that the pleasure you get from sex or exercise feels artificial in comparison to writing a piece of code might be something worth thinking about. Is this really how you feel, or is it how you were programmed to feel?

I guess what I mean to say is that sex and exercise (not to mention drugs) are more like quick fixes. You can just do it and feel happy for a while. On the other hand, producing something involves more investment and when this investment pays off, the resulting "high" feels more earned or deserved. To my mind it also feels less buzzy or chemically induced (although I am well aware that triggering your reward centres by making something is a chemical process as well).

It sounds like you are talking about visceral happiness vs reflective happiness. Two distinct kinds of happiness according to some researchers (i.e. Martin Seligman).

I like this, I think this sort of investment gives you(me) a foundation for happiness feelings to sit upon. Which otherwise can deflate quickly if it comes at the end of an unproductive(ineffective) day

There is an investment in exercise you just need to set goals. I went from never running 4 miles to completing 55km mountain runs. Then switched up and went from 800lbs powerlifting total to a 1300lbs total and still looking for more.

No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training…what a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable. - Socrates

when you say programmed, do you mean biologically, or culturally?


Eh, that is strange. I do feel happy and energized from productive work (even "house work" or "a hard day's work" that's not inherently creative) but I've never felt like an entirely different person after having produced a nice piece of code, or stopped feeling physical pain, things like that. (And I do like feeling "energized" more than "high" in general so I'm definitely not knocking productive work here, but people who try to argue that doing something productive is some kind of transcendental euphoric experience need to stop smoking the ink of their Tim Ferriss books)

Sex drugs and exercise all rely upon natural or endogenous biochemistry. They may feel artificial but theoretically anyone could feel that way quite quickly, since it is inherently latent in our biology to experience those phenomena.

> - Remember the last time you felt glad to be alive? Was it related to being productive?

Actually, yes. Is that weird? I can't be the only one here who loves their job.

You're not alone.

I love creating things. Software, metal models, lego models, house improvements... I just love creating things, big and small.

Sure, there are parts of all of those things that suck and I work to get through them and on to the good parts, but there's nothing else in life that gives me a high like creating something.

Everyone loves creating things. It's part of or human nature. It's one of the things that makes life magic again. Not "being productive". "Being productive" is code for doing shit you would rather not do. If you wanted to do that stuff, you would just do it.

Sure, even the stuff we are the most passionate about entails tasks that we would rather not do. We all get that.

For example, right now I want to work on a research project, but I have to fill some forms first so that I can keep having medical insurance. I would rather not fill the forms, but I will just do it so I can go back to the magical stuff.

If most of what I do requires a Pomodoro-hell-clock, 3 lists and a process that takes 10 chapters to explain, just to discipline myself into doing it, then maybe I made some bad choices along the way. But hey, maybe it's just me. I am just inviting people to take a pause and reflect. :)

I can't even imagine having that kind of feeling related to my job. Especially not if it's about coding. At least not if it's about typical B2B or B2C software.

What do you do for a living if you don't mind me asking?

I run a company called TalkJS (https://talkjs.com). We're a toolbox that lets our customers build a proper chat feature in hours instead of months.

This means lots of API design and I love to do API design. I get a deep sense of flow and purpose when dreaming up a tool (an SDK, a library, a language, a set functions or data types; whatever) that lets other programmers do a wide variety of things.

Admittedly the other half of my job is business & marketing related. I like it too, especially since "sales" in our case mostly means talking to other programmers, and so does "management". But not as deeply as the code work.

It also helps that since we're a remote-first company I can choose from where I work and I stop when I notice I'm too stuck or "my brain is full". We don't really do the typical startup-burnout-marathon.

Not OP, but being a researcher in CS is a job that gives me that feeling (not always of course, but often enough)

I am the OP and I am a fellow researcher. I also love my job (most of the time). One of the reasons I love it so much is that it affords me freedom to think deeply about things that I care about without being in a straight jacket of constant schedules, meetings, two-week sprints or whatever else is prescribed this week by the High Priests of Productivity.

Greatest "productivity" hack for me: having a door that I can close.

My point is that "productivity" is a shallow value, and that turning yourself into a robot will not make you or the world any better.

Speaking of academia, the "cult of productivity" and obsession with status is damaging science. It's not me who says that, it's Nobel Prize winners. For example:


I think it is a lot about values, see: https://markmanson.net/personal-values

"For the last few years, I’ve had an idea for a satirical self-help article called, “The Productivity Secrets of Adolf Hitler.” The article would feature all the popular self-help tropes—goals, visualizations, morning routines—except expressed through the exploits of Hitler."

Being productive for the sake of productivity is a fetish here, but not necessarily something fulfilling.

Personally, I do feel the happiest when I am productive. But in my case, the easy part is to focus on things I consider worthwhile, the hard one - being productive. YMMV.

Thanks for your answer, I had a laugh with the Hitler thing.

I clicked your link. I don't mean to be argumentative for the sake of it, but let me point out something that goes to the core of where we might disagree (or more, where I might disagree with a majority of people here). The article includes the following statement, in big all caps:

"You are what you value"

No I am not. I am also not my profession, not what I know, not my memories, not the clothes I wear or the music I listen to. I am a human being. If I close my eyes, and calm down, and manage to quiet my mind, all of the former stuff drifts away. "I" remain. I encourage you to try, but FFS don't take this as some "meditation technique to increase productivity" :)

Yeah, I also do have a problem with "You are what you value".

Though, perhaps from a different perspective. I do think I am a sum of my biology and experiences (much in the spirit of Daniel Dennett), rather than "a ghost in the machine". Values are a part of that, nothing more, nothing less.


As a side note, I know you may cringe at "found meaning of my life... and thanks to that I am 23% more efficient" (and in general, people adopting Buddhism Zen into the American cult of Business).

Good in theory, but less than ideal in real world. A lot of getting good deliberate practice even when you don't "feel like" it.

like how the 7 year old Djokovic said "Tennis for me is a duty" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdOS0zCsJsg

> The real world...

cites #1 tennis player in the world as an example.

For the vast majority trying to shuffle Jira tickets faster or optimize your vim keybindings for the nth time, they would do better to listen to OP.

>Remember the last time you felt glad to be alive? Was it related to being productive?

Actually, studies show that in the long run, being in flow makes you happier than being free from work. At work, it's usually the "non-work" things that kill it (tedious boring work, people problems, rigid hours, etc).

These days going on a hike in a scenic area makes me glad to be alive. But I enjoy it mostly because my "free" time is heavily constrained due to work. If I did it 3-5 hours a day, I would not use it as an example of being glad to be alive. But for many, working on something of their choice for 3-5 hours a day would make them happy. If you enjoy certain areas of SW, I can guarantee you'll enjoy doing that much more than the hike that made you happy. (You'll still enjoy the hike, but not that much more than you do now). Ditto artist, etc.

Last Friday at work I solved some annoying headaches I had in Emacs using Elisp. It took under an hour, and would impress no one (I'm new to Elisp). That made not just my day but my whole weekend.

Of course, if your work is such that there's no hope of flow (e.g. you neither enjoy nor are challenged by any aspect of the whole industry), then you're screwed.

I've always focused on being efficient, not productive. I want to get my work done as fast as possible so I can return to enjoying life.

I've been wondering whether framing it like that (work vs life) is making things worse. I do it myself too, but what if those 8+ hours a day could actually also be leisure? Coworkers with young kids actually joke about coming to work to relax.

Are you portuguese? Wanna hang out in Lisbon?

You killed it

For most of technical works i do, concentration only happens AFTER i figure out what i need to do to solve the problem.

Else most of the time, the "researching phase" is the most daunting task.

I have the exact same problem. When I know what needs to get done, even if it's tedious, it's not so bad to put my nose to the grindstone and work through it. But when I'm not sure how to approach a task, suddenly every distraction in the world is more appealing.

You often see the suggestion to break up big tasks into smaller, baby step chunks to avoid this analysis paralysis. Doesn't help when I'm not even sure what to do yet.

I struggle with this too, and two things that help me are:

1) Start screen recording software and dictate your thoughts as you go through the research/brainstorming phase. Don't often go back and view the recorded sessions, it's the act of recording and speaking out loud that helps.

2) Comment driven development. Stub out functions just with comments, write deeper comment blocks inside a procedure where you have a rough idea of what needs to happen. I paste in table and API definitions as comments too, to avoid having to flip to a different screen which inevitably leads to distraction. Once the program is completely laid out in comment form, and compile/runs with just "STARTING" and "STOPPING" displaying, then I start implementing what's in the comments outside-in (from highest to lowest level). I run the program frequently while doing this, each successful compile/run is a small dopamine hit. As I'm going through, remove any comments that are duplicated by code - all that should remain are comments explaining "why".

I also the second approach a lot and it's helped my focus immensely. Sketching things out in comments and detailing / changing as you go along first helps curb that initial perfectionism of feeling like you need to write the right code on the first try. YMMV, of course, but worth trying out.

Your advice about comment driven development is similar to how I felt when I first started writing unit tests. I'm not even very good at them yet, but trying to write the tests before the code exists is immensely useful in trying to work out what I want that code to actually look like. Before tests, I would often stub out functions with console logs before writing the body, just to get the high level structure worked out before I got lost in the details.

There's probably a few different methods to do this (some of my friends swear by pseudo code, others have personal white boards) so it might be worth trying a few different approaches to get over your writers block more consistently.

Thanks for this comment -- I'll put the second strategy in effect (the first one perhaps I'll leave for later as I currently work in an open plan office).

I wonder if this "comment driven" strategy has potential for applying NLP+code generation. I'm sure this is a common enough thought but I'm not aware of the research, does anyone here have pointers?

What I mean is: use NLP to extract intent (where feasible), and then offer possible implementations of the intent.

Microsoft is investing quite heavily in generating code from requirements. So far, iirc, they're able to generate simple programs no bigger than 10 lines of code. A good start, though: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/blog/learning-sourc...

That second approach has been crucial for me when I start large projects. I usually use a mix of comments, pseudocode, and semi-correct actual code, then go back and fill everything in one-by-one.

From my experience, try having enough projects in your belt that at least one of them has something actionable to do, and work on that while you ruminate on the other problem for a few days/weeks/months. Don't worry about getting anything done soon, prefer getting them done correctly and pick something else up when you get stuck. Also, don't forget that "staring into space for an hour while you think about a problem" is also a valid form of working.

This is my solution, but it feels like there should be a better way.

I have replaced 'staring into space thinking' with taking a walk outside my office.

Unless you are rich enough to have chosen it, or maybe a prisoner, you always have more than one thing to do. Laundry, groceries, complex engineering, it all needs to be done.

I think our minds evolved to track all these things and, probably in a time sensitive way more than projected future value, to prioritize them. For this reason, I think having multiple projects is the natural state as the mind is optimized for this. So maybe this is the "best way" and explains a lot of the strange ways in which putting a problem aside can help solve it.

It's hard to do laundry or grocery shopping while you're at work.

I like to work like this as well. Which is why a lot of technical tests seem quite nonsense. For complex problems I have stuff running in the background of my head for a day or two, weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of the various options. The best solution usually becomes apparent at some random time, like when I am cooking dinner, not concentrating on it for 5 minutes after first seeing the problem. And as you say there is usually plenty of other work that needs done in the meantime.

Figuring out how to approach a task is a problem that can be broken down all on its own. Make a list of possibilities (even if they are “dumb”). Work through them. What happens for me is that either one of them is right or (more frequently) I suddenly “get it” and it’s off to the races.

We're all different... I enjoy figuring out the things, but when it's time to start implementing it I've already lost my grit partially and that's when I start procrastinating the most. Once I move past that milestone and start doing the actual work it gets much easier again.

I found a tactic that tends to work for me for the researching phase. I just use OneNote, but there are some tools under the label "mind mapping" that try to explicitly cater to this approach.

Since research for me usually works like traversing a tree or directed graph, I take notes in that style. Usually one concept depends on another, or one problem must be solved before another problem becomes relevant.

At any point, when I'm wondering where I need to look next, I look at the leaf nodes in my graph, rank them by how important or promising they are, and then I have a TODO list with plenty of notes for context to jog my memory.

I've found that by leaving myself those breadcrumbs, I am much more organized and fluid about "executing" on my research, and when anyone asks, I have a good idea of what I know and don't know.

This absolutely. Right now I'm reflecting on a couple of my own projects that would have been completed much sooner if I had planned things out more effectively.

Don't let your boss jump out from behind a bush and hand you a task and run. Corner them and determine together exactly what the deliverable is. Define terms of reference, get specific details and get them to name the standards, otherwise you'll be stuck trying to guess.

If you are stuck at a critical juncture, list all the options and get your boss to choose the best one (let it be the course of action you recommend).

Absolutely, it can take hours to learn how to do a very straightforward 5 LoC or less task, especially when you start off not knowing what the "task" even is or what your goal/aim even should be. Much of this planning/research is implied in every knowledge job, and the ambiguity and vagueness of instructions/someone else's plans often feel like they are a Valles Marineris away from your input/starting point. Someone can tell me "Just join those values onto our data, easy left join" and 2 weeks later it is finally done.

What the author means by "attention management" is, perhaps, the ability to concentrate for a long period of time.

Personally, for work that i love to do, concentration is rewarding.

For mundane, routine work, I usually go on auto pilot, getting work done, but, doing it while my attention is somewhere else.

For mundane work that requires concentration, my output falls off the cliff. Its here that many tips and tricks ought to focus, but dont. And, frankly, its difficult too, to hack this type of work. Its human nature to be bored out and perhaps nothing can change it.

I used to think like you until I met a coworker. He could not code to save his life, nobody in the team liked working with him. Until one day we had a boring data entry task. He could do it for hours at a time, and barely made any mistake. This experience taught me something.

To each his own I guess. Maybe that person is most comfortable in a semi- auto pilot mode. I have noticed that some people are very much averse to prolonged thinking / problem solving / creative work. These are the kinds of people, who, if stuck in a problem, go to their friends and family for advise and solve their problems. They usually have a lot of people / socializing / networking skills.

I myself am an introvert and love to sit by myself and think of solutions for problems, be it work / life related. I am very bad at networking and usually go to a very very small set of people to discuss any problems I am facing, that I am unable to solve myself.

I don’t think those things are mutually exclusive. I love to sit and think in a problem. I also love to turn off my brain completely and solve sudoku for hours on end while my mind is elsewhere.

That's really interesting, about the sudoku thing. I love to do those puzzles but I go full into the stuff and can't think anything else while solving for them.

What did it teach you? I'm having trouble seeing the relevance.

People have their competencies which may not often be evident.

I do still think that, in the hyper competitive corporate world today, such kinds of people will get shafted regularly until they realize themselves what their great skills are and build on them.

Maybe don't autofire your 0.1Xers?

What's a 0.1Xer?

Amazingly it's hard to find a good link on this topic.

Anyway it's from some study years ago that the most productive people are 10 times more productive than the least productive people. These are called 10x-ers (assuming they exist).

0.1xer is a play on that to talk to the least productive people in a team.

That some individuals are better at concentrating on mundane tasks.

I literally learned how to code to get out of a single boring data entry task.

Probably going to be controversial but I'll say it anyway -

About 10 years ago I had a period of 6 months filled almost entirely with mundane work that required concentration. My gf at the time had a pretty hefty prescription for Vyvanse and well...

I was shocked at the difference. I could get done in one morning what would normally take an entire week. And I did it about that often, usually a Monday or Tues depending on meeting load and would use my free time to get to other side projects that were important but not my main priority.

I'm too old to have seen the ritalin craze in higher education (I used it a handful of times during all-nighters but it was fairly rare/hard to get), and I don't believe I've touched these types of drugs since, but I do understand their pull when one needs to grind.

Yeah, people feel uneasy with this. It seems that amphetamines work for pretty much everyone at the right dose, and they have very few side effects. I've had a prescription for about 15 years and while I don't take it daily, it's incredibly helpful sometimes.

It's a problem if everyone does it, but that hasn't really stopped me. It's unclear if I'm a rational actor, a bad person, or both.

I was on Vyvanse for a while and it did seem to help, a little, but it had unacceptable side effects for me. Specifically, I started grinding my teeth! When I figured out it was the Vyvanse that caused it, I went off the drug and the grinding stopped. We tried some other drug, I forget which, but it wasn't as effective. I'm glad it worked for you and I wish it had worked better for me. I don't much like my current job and it's a daily struggle to stay focused on it.

It worked for me specifically in that context, but I didn't have a desire to do much with it in ensuing years as it seemed to have a deleterious effect on my creative capacity (important for work I do like) + did have a negative impact on my ability to sleep and made me really hyper.

The grinding happened for me too but didn't bother me much, I just chewed gum. Could see how doing that on a daily basis would be a drag.

The term "attention management" might not apply to everyone, too. I'm most effective when I'm in the zone, which usually comes easiest when I'm listening to music and rapidly flicking between things. My thought process works best when there's a fraction of distraction and when I'm in a playful mood, not when there are no distractions and not when the only thing in front of me is the task at hand.

My thoughts slow down without something there to keep them moving.

No known conditions or attention disorders and doubtful of having one. I just work best in a creative or playful mood, not a concentrated one.

I'm surprised it's so alien and uncommon for programmers, it's not uncommon in other more traditionally creative fields.

Very interesting. Are you in a digital creative field or traditional creative field?

Games development as a programmer. Lots of writing new code. Parents were artists and I very nearly majored in English. There's a lot of lessons I took from traditionally creative fields.

Great to know. Have a hobby game project lined up this year, using Unreal. Creative work is such a rush.

Perhaps but people can develop strategies that work for them. It helps if you can mix the mundane with more engaging work or some procrastination.

This is where time management can be very useful. If possible I prefer short but intense bursts of mundane but high concentration tasks. I've been using timers to help train myself to spend a set amount of time fully concentrating on a task and then reward myself with a break (which could involve more engaging work or if might simply be spending time on HN).

No work is mundane if you can find a higher reason why you're doing the task.

Interesting take on it, I certainly resonate with the "Michigan weather making work the only thing to do" anecdote.

I struggle with productivity, and feeling productive. and when I look back on times when I felt productive the attention thing does stand out.

It occurred to me when I thought of myself as a younger programmer that I used to love the time between midnight and 3AM, there was literally nothing on TV to distract me, the house was quiet, the kids and wife were in bed and asleep. I could spend the time thinking through the problem and then mindfully developing an approach to solve it. These days, not so much.

There is always something distracting in a web browser. Too many times I find I go to check something and poof an hour has vanished as I've followed a bunch of paths that I wasn't intending to follow. As a result my current efforts focus on not leaving a bunch of tabs open on my browser and being mindful about getting done what I came to do for the task at hand and going back to the task. No extra checking of mail or twitter or HN or what ever ...

There's an interesting hack that works for a lot of people, including me- I've even included it in Study Swami: Keep a time log. Just log what you are doing throughout the day (I also log when my concentration breaks). You only need to do it a couple of times and, just like a food log when you are dieting, you will automatically power through your distractions because you don't want an embarrassing log entry.

It really works, and in a couple of days you'll likely have your focus back.

I started doing this "how long can I concentrate for" game in grad school in the 80s, and tried it again a few years ago when I was struggling. My concentration span started at a super-embarrassing couple of minutes at a time. In a couple of days I was back in the hour range, and before long it was as long as I needed. These days I, like you, seldom have tremendously long blocks like 4 hours available. But I effectively use what I can.

Hey, I have enjoyed your comments over the years on HN, so I am happy to have some good advice to share with you: use something like Instapaper or a transient bookmark list to note interesting/useful things but do your reading just a few times a week. I find that this keeps me from link-following behavior that afterwards seemed like a waste of time. Make the saved link reading time special by setting aside reading time so I feel like I am doing just what I am supposed to be doing.

iOS has a feature “save to reading list” that I use to save stories that seem interesting but that I don’t need to read for my current task. However, I haven’t taken to time to learn to access my reading list :)

I use Pocket for exactly this purpose. I save interesting articles from my desktop or mobile browser to Pocket. Instead of reading random junk news or scrolling social media when I have a few free minutes on the go or at the end on the day, I have quality articles on my phone in my pocket.

(Disclosure: I work at Mozilla and Mozilla owns Pocket.)

Busyness is not a virtue. The consequences of your actions being good... that has always been the classic definition of virtue.

Do good things. 1 small action can have massive consequences. Creating something good and useful to others, it does not matter if it took 20 minutes, for sufficiently good actions, if you did 1 a decade, nobody cares how busy you are or if you were "productive".

This is called being constructive. Rather than productive or rather than optimizing busyness (a fake appearance of doing work or "good") instead we just do things that are good. This takes cultures of trust and requires belief products actually benefit people create viability & wealth.

We can define a good action as one that has good consequnces.

Busyness makes nobody happy... it doesn't even make your boss happy. It's just... something you're meant to be, I guess. It's stupid and dumb.

Do good things. "make something other people want"... is a good description of viability, only problem is people also want crack and being a crack dealer is pretty stessful (I imagine) so if you don't want stress or to be to busy and still manage to do great stuff... let's narrow this down. Make something other people want... people want good stuff, don't they? :)

Do good. Don't do not good.

There, simplified everything.

> Busyness is not a virtue.

Funny, I've never heart anyone state it so succinctly. I ought to print that phrase out and paste it on the wall at my desk. (I work remote so it'd just be for me and not for management to judge)

My most effective means of achieving a high level of work productivity is pleasure reading. It doesn't have to be anything deep. It just needs to be something I want to immerse myself in. The mental process I use to completely tune out the real world while reading for fun is the same one I use to reach a high level of productivity for work. Reading keeps it sharp. If I go too long without pleasure reading, my ability to focus on work suffers. Conversely, some of my most significant breakthroughs have occurred within a day or two of a crazy reading binge.

I feel that I read in a wrong way. My productivity and ability to think often plummets after reading fiction.

Could it be connected with vizualization? Do you visualize your characters, setting, predict what's going to happen, etc? Usually my eyes just skim over the descriptions of characters and scenery.

Yes, I think visualization provides the key benefit. When I read something good, my imagination recreates the sights, sounds, smells, and experiences in great detail and tunes out the real world. I lose all awareness of the book's text and everything around me. It's like I "live in the story." This mental state can persist for hours, even in loud environments with high levels of activity around me. After I sleep following some deep reading, I notice a heightened ability to visualize a problem and run mental simulations of potential solutions. It's like I "live in the problem." Interestingly, when I have played video games with similarly high levels of focus, I have not realized work improvement afterwards. In fact, video games seem to degrade my work performance. I think that is because video games generate stress and do not stimulate nearly the same level of mental world-building that good fiction does.

I have never been able to force true concentration. I arrogantly proclaim that I have strong willpower* - I have very little trouble forcing myself to do something I entirely don't want to do, whether it be study, workout, code, whatever.

However, forced concentration completely blocks off my ability to think fluidly, and I memorize very little from reading topics that aren't of interest to me (I am looking at you GCP docs), even if I don't allow my attention to wander at all for more than a second. (Rote memorization still works, but it's very impractical for many topics).

I have lately found that if I force myself to read something I hate for 3+ hours straight, my brain involuntarily starts wanting to know more. But I rarely have 3 hours to just get in the mood.

* Research has shown that people who think they have strong willpower test the worst on willpower, but I am a special objective snowflake.

Haha GCP docs do seem to be well written though, aren’t they?

It seems like folks have their own way of learning how to concentrate effectively on things that may not immediately catch their attention. For me personally, it has been note-taking. Note taking seems to trigger a part of my brain that makes it think that the subject matter is worth paying attention too. Often my notes won’t be points but some doodles/diagrams to visualize what things look like.

Others have pointed out that certain kinds of prescription drugs are useful too, which... tbh I’m a little wary of trying. If they turn out to be too effective my internal logic system might have me using them all the time.

The docs are very well written. I just know I won't use 95% of what I learn before I have forgotten it. I guess it's good to know what is and isn't available though.

I am way of trying Adderall and such as well, for exactly the same reason as you.

Things like trying to paraphrase in my own words help me way more than standard notes, but doing this is also very time consuming, and it's not necessary when I am into the subject.

I think your strat of "doodles/diagrams to visualize what things look like" likely works on the exact same principle which forces the brain to pay attention since it now has to work with the information.

I've tried many different things and I finally have a solution that (I think) works for me:

It's Emacs' Org-mode in combination with Org-pomodoro

- First, using org-capture I would create an org heading with a description of the problem. If there's a Jira ticket I would attach the ticket number (I have a trivial elisp function that converts a regular number into a complete jira-ticket link)

- Then I would start a Pomodoro cycle. If I'm on a Mac - it would create an OSX menubar item with the title of the heading (using Hammerspoon). Org will "clock" me in for the task for the next 25 minutes

- I just realized that I can probably even programmatically switch Slack to "do not disturb" mode while Pomodoro is active

- Activated Pomodoro cycle is like a sacred ritual for me. I do not pick up my phone or check email or (if possible) even talk to anyone. After Pomodoro is done I would take a break, check email, get some water, etc. If I can get done 5-7 pomodoros during a day - I consider it a very productive day.

- Org records everything. At the end of the day I know: exactly how long I worked on every single story, the number of pomodoros I did, notes that I took while working on each story. Whenever I changed the status of the story from "todo" to "in progress" and back to "to do" or when I flipped it to "done" or "canceled", reasons why the story was canceled, etc.

And this is all done with a minimal context switching.

Do you ever find that Pomodoro doesn't leave enough uninterrupted time on your task? When you're knee deep do you ever just skip your breaks?

Sometimes that happens. I try not to skip breaks, they are important part of pomodoro. But Emacs ain't my dad - if I feel like skipping a break or taking one before the end of the current cycle - I just do it. There are days when I simply can't maintain discipline of concentrating focus and taking breaks within intervals then I simply don't use org-pomodoro. I would clock-in on a task and work until I'm tired. I'm not a contractor, I don't need to report my "billable hours" yet clocking in helps me to maintain focus on the task and keep notes. There's a way in Emacs to attach a note onto currently clocked-in task without having to navigate to it.

I generally find pomodoro’s 25-minute work intervals too short for software development, I prefer the 52/17 method.

Yeah, everyone is different. I tried experimenting with 20-30-40 minute intervals and decided 25 is the optimal for me. But it really has to be distraction free. I use brain.fm or instrumental music (no lyrics) or I just keep my headphones on so nobody bothers me. It doesn't sound very challenging, but after five pomodoros I truly can feel it, after eight - I am mentally exhausted. Ten pomodoros mean I either cheated or something else.

As someone who's often asked about my productivity (and who also often feels unproductive anyway), I think this quote from the article gets at the heart of the issue:

>A better option is attention management: Prioritize the people and projects that matter, and it won’t matter how long anything takes.

Progress is persistence + time. Nonzero values of both will lead to results. If you spend 1% of your time on a project which requires a hundred hours of work, it'll be complete in a little over a year. I don't shy away from projects which I know will take years to complete, and as a result they eventually get completed :)

This article was a fun read as it playfully poked holes in some conventional wisdom but I'm not sure I'm left with coherent advice. Deep work doesn't matter? Working in 15 minute bursts is ok? Save rewarding work for after routine? Or maybe match it to my circadian rhythms? Work on what I love? Have a maker schedule?

Maybe the best takeaway is that there isn't really a single coherent ruleset for productivity...

I think it is something along the lines of...

- don't care about time management so much

- care about motivation (think about what can be done with the result)

- choose the right time to have the mental state you require to focus on the task at hand

Somehow your comment reminds me of Mozart. There have been years where he didn’t compose much.

The human mind is an amazing and complicated thing. I think we’re only beginning to scratch at the surface of truly unlocking its abilities. Seems like a lot of these “rules” are simply cargo cult like remedies.

> A fascinating or funny video makes the data entry task seem even more excruciating, the same way a sweet dessert makes a sour vegetable taste yuckier.

For me it's the opposite. I often play videos in the background when I'm performing monotonous tasks and it seems to help me from getting completely distracted and abandon the task altogether.

As a person with diagnosed adult ADD, this is one thing I cannot do — manage attention. Medication and meditation help a little, but I probably will never reach the productive capabilities of a regular person. Sigh.

I'm in the same boat; diagnosed with ADHD-PI (UK, so we don't use the term 'ADD') as an adult. I've improved vastly thanks to medication and good routines but it remains a constant effort, and improvement is a continual process. The book Taking Charge of Adult ADHD by Russell Barkley helped me significantly.

Just bought and read the book.

For me, it was fantastically depressing: basically it says: “OK, so you have ADHD. Sucks to be you. Go through this huge laundry list of these and those things to do, don’t forget to take your medication, find a mentor — assuming anybody would want to deal with you, and who could blame them? — and if you are extremely lucky, and with heavy effort, maybe you can become half a normal man or woman who runs through all of this effortlessly, which you’ll never be. What a burden to society!”

All of this is true perhaps, but now I just want to die.

Whilst I didn't get that exact impression from the book, Barkley is known for being "realistic" about ADHD: he doesn't hide the fact that, depending on severity, ADHD can levy a heavy toll on a person, significantly impacting their quality of life. ADHD sucks, but we can make it suck significantly less through good habits, good routines, healthy eating, exercise and, where appropriate, medication and other forms of psychological support.

It's a cliché, but comparing yourself to others is a bad idea in this domain. I have yet to meet an ADHDer who makes these sorts of "upward comparisons" and derives anything useful from them; they typically just exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness.

Personally, I know I might never be as effective or productive as a person without ADHD is capable of being, but I can be the best version of myself — it's fruitless and unhealthy to ask more of yourself than this, right?

I know this sadness. However, one thing which has helped me has been the opportunity to work with supremely effective people. It somehow lifts your perspective or shapes your intuition. Somehow monkey see monkey do also works for monkey see high-level executive function and execution. I didn’t expect that. I thought it might just make the sadness worse. But immersion helped.

I feel you.

For me, even the most fulfilling projects without constant collaboration and dense deadline don't work.

Though, I learned a bit from the How To ADHD channel: https://howtoadhd.com/

To me, the best life hack for productivity is "Sleep". If I sleep good, the day will be productive enough. If I don't, it might not.

> I’m pretty sure there’s an eighth habit of highly effective people. They don’t spend all their time reading about the seven habits of highly effective people.

I think this is often overlooked. What works for other people might not work for you and the time spent looking for the right way is better spend on doing the tasks.

Ironic to see this post on HN, the place where I go to procrastinate

Although interesting, I think the example is a sign of over self improvement. When your only way to do more work is going to the toilet less often you are overbooked big time and there will be no way to get more productive, no matter what angle you look at it. Quite contrary, you will be less effective (!) on the long run. It is a vicious circle.

The author uses the example as a cautionary tale, not as something laudable.

I gave up on productivity long ago. It depends on the type of work that you do. If I am let's say on the assembly line and everything is already thought of and I have to follow well written guides, then I could try to be productive, avoid distractions and so on.

On my job I have to research complex problems, that you can't simply google them and find an answer. It takes time to design a possible solution, trial and error, a lot of thinking and observing and in the end you feel that you have hit a wall. In such cases I simply need a break and to think for something else for a while. It is also very hard to put an estimate and set a deadline for a such thing, so productivity is the least of my problems.

I really like where the writer is going with this, and I have had similar thoughts on the matter. I believe that a good user experience streamlines the flow of attention and tries to reduce "attention turbulence" for a given task. And I'm referring to more than just smartphone apps and web pages, though they make for great examples.

I wish more people realized the value of human attention. I would even go as far as to say that the reason that the tech industry is so profitable is because of it's ability to provide shortcuts for the attention required to complete a given task.

On the idea that we need motivation, I have been practicing the concept of mini habits to overcome the barriers that the brain puts up when using motivation.


I think keeping a few key concepts like Parkinson's law and Pareto's law as well as thinking about what is actually going to move the needle helps.

...and then there are tools used in organisations (like ours) which track how many hours you been on PC (ON PC time) vs Off PC time (So called "Productivity tracking"). More the ON PC time means you are "highly productive". This metric is also usually taken-up during appraisal discussions and questions are put on one's productivity.

Busyness is not a virtue. The consequences of your actions being good... that has always been the definition of virtue.

„There is an 8th habit of highly effective people. They don’t waste time reading 7 habits of highly effective people.“

He got it.

I liked his book “Power Moves: Lessons from Davis”. After listening to this book I followed Adam Grant for a couple weeks on Twitter. He does have interesting advice on deciding what to focus on.

I am going to add a calendar reminder for a year from now to follow him again on Twitter for a while.

This article is basically about the Pareto principle (80/20 rule) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle

I’ve found a lot of benefit from taking Piracetam or Noopept in the mornings with a daily coffee. I feel hyper-focused in a way that I don’t usually feel with just coffee alone.

Context switching really takes a toll on focusing. It sucks when executives in a company keep having 'new ideas' and switching the priorities.

You can learn about this by observing cats.


I emailed you twice asking you not to do this, but perhaps you didn't see the emails. On HN, it's ok to link to one's own stuff occasionally, in particularly relevant contexts. But you've been done this something like a dozen times in the past couple weeks. That's way overdoing it, and it has become a distraction, as users are inevitably complaining about spamming and taking threads further off topic. Please stop doing this.

Please stop spamming your ads in every half-related HN thread. You are really annoying lots of people.

He did make it somewhat relevant to the article though



An ad is an ad. He pays lip service to the thread but somehow, all roads lead to Pony.

Clearly not a genuine attempt to contribute, right?

Hi Jedi72, I sincerely don’t see how this half is related: this is very much related. Isn’t it relevant that no platform exists that gives you space and time to have attention-full communication? Isn’t that the whole problem? This article and Pony, a solution to the problems described in this article, wouldn’t exist otherwise.

If you want HN to look at your stuff, post a Show HN ️

I considered that but at the same time I would like incremental feedback at this point. But maybe I should do a Show HN. I don’t want to bother people. Should we do a Show HN?

Please see my second email to you. It would be fine to do a Show HN, but at this point you need to wait several weeks to flush the caches here, or it will probably generate more resentful responses. Probably 2 or 3 months from now would be best.

Correct. I misjudged the feedback. See you then.

yes, please do a Show HN.

I will wait a while but thanks for the feedback.

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