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Procrastination is about managing emotions, not time (bbc.com)
1375 points by clouddrover 31 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 361 comments



I'm just starting to get a handle on this now that I hit 30. We look to successful people to see how they manage their time, thinking that by copying their routines and habits as inputs, we will be also be able to yield some of their success as outputs; however, we will never be able to copy the procedure that returns that output (consciousness, mindset, motivations, neurology, purpose, talents, traumas, upbringing, values).

Ultimately, I think the answer comes from ridding yourself of distractions, and asking yourself the question - "What do I want out of life?"

If you can answer that question, you will also be able to manage your time efficiently, because you will always be directed toward that purpose.

Without knowing your individual purpose in life, you will go through life checking the boxes that biology and society put before you.

With that said, it can be hard to settle with realization that you aren't personally driven to do anything that will make you an idol among your peers; you can finally stop trivializing everything in your life and just enjoy it, enjoy the process, enjoy the journey.


> we will never be able to copy the procedure that returns that output (consciousness, mindset, motivations, neurology, purpose, talents, traumas, upbringing, values).

This particular claim feels too pessimistic to me. Sure you obviously can't copy someone's upbringing or traumas (nor should you), but in general these traits are trainable. Someone else might have a leg up on being born with greater charisma or focus, but those are generally trainable things with effort.

> Ultimately, I think the answer comes from ridding yourself of distractions, and asking yourself the question - "What do I want out of life?"

I agree with this claim generally. You won't rid yourself of all distractions, but you can engage with them efficiently and prioritize what matters.

> Without knowing your individual purpose in life

Purpose isn't a goal like "be able to deadlift 400lbs". It's more of a goal like "improve my weightlifting". It's a moving goal post and at times you'll have it more in view and other times less in view.

> it can be hard to settle with realization that you aren't personally driven to do anything

Sometimes people do have drive to do a thing, but more often they're chasing what they genuinely enjoy and that is what gives them the strength to push through difficulties. Don't feel like you need some deep world changing mission statement - it's probably enough to act with genuine, directed enjoyment and curiosity.


> it's probably enough to act with genuine, directed enjoyment and curiosity.

This is true, but I think you are seriously underestimating how difficult this can be, and how easy it is to lose track of what it actually, genuinely is that gives you enjoyment.


That's the more important point here. Figuring out what gives you enjoyment and motivation is HARD and we shouldn't beat ourselves up if we haven't figured it out yet. The process of figuring it out is messy and chaotic but so long as we're making some progress we should be kind to ourselves.


I would go a step further and say it's just another form of making the exception the rule. People will point to a handful that came up out of poverty and say "Look! They did it, everyone else could too but they are just lazy. It's their choice to live in poverty." That sort of thinking is thoroughly rejected in large segments of the population now. Well, it's not really a stretch at all IMHO to extend that to most things self-help and growth wise.


> If you can answer that question, you will also be able to manage your time efficiently, because you will always be directed toward that purpose.

I have answered that question, and I still procrastinate by negotiating myself out of progressing towards that goal, and then regret doing that but do it again the next time. It may be a valid solution for some, but it's not one size fits all (same as all of the solutions proposed). The real trick is to try all the proposed solutions, and find what works for you.


You make some good points; I also think we can (and need to) learn from others.

As I wrote in another somewhat related discussion (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22096571) recently: To me, the most important thing is to fit one's career in with one's overall purpose and goals in life. Like, to make sure the ladder of success is not leaning against the wrong wall (Covey). I've written much more including a link to the 7 habits wikipedia page (a simple site, no ads or JS): http://lukecall.net/e-9223372036854588981.html , in what I hope is a very browseable/skimmable format.

Edit: Also I have written about how the purpose of life translates to tasks, activities, etc. And it helps me very much to have a daily routine and thought habits that help me fulfill my goals, which I have been working on for a long time. I guess I would feel somewhat lost without those things, and others.


> I think the answer comes from ridding yourself of distractions, and asking yourself the question - "What do I want out of life?"

I think focusing on the far out end-goal/meaning of life, is actually just another fun distraction. ...as are most time-management tools.

Generally speaking, we know exactly what we need to get done, and the problem isn't figuring out the end goal, it is gaining the emotional strength to tackle the work we just don't want to do.

There is a time for future planning (2yr/5yr/10yr/etc...) - and that's something we should all schedule for a future planning session.

At 40, I'm still working on it. One thing I've noticed is the social component. Working alone is occasionally more efficient - but we are social creatures and being able to share your accomplishments and refine ideas with your teammates (whom you like and have a good friendship with) creates an ENORMOUS positive reinforcement.

tldr: Be an important part of a highly interdependent and high functioning happy team. There's just nothing else like it.


> Generally speaking, we know exactly what we need to get done

I don't agree. I still don't know what I really want to achieve in life. I have a better idea but honestly a big part of that better idea is realizing the things I thought I wanted aren't things I actually want.


Thinking about what I want to achieve in life reminds me that I should buy a lotto ticket more often.

What I want from life isn't associated in any way with what I do to earn money and it's my need to earn money that stops me from living the life I want.


As the society advances and problems are solved for us, we are left with the most central core problem, ourselves.

Related to concepts like 'agency', 'impulse control', 'willpower', 'restraint', 'free will', 'delayed gratification' are connected to our status and self image. If you think humans as AI systems, we are facing issues with our reward function. Short term reward seems to overrule long term planning and goals if the outside pressure is not there and we have a choice.

Is this something without technical solution or can we learn to reprogram our reward function with biofeedback, brain implants, meds or application in Apple watch?

I think the subject deserves a Black Mirror episode and few startups.


“The ideal timeframe to use for the reward function” is an instance of an age old question about what’s really important in life. Most people agree that taking lots of heroin and dying in a matter of months is suboptimal. Most people also agree that living a life of utter sacrifice in pursuit of some higher goal might not be good either. You might be working on something pointless. Some self interest is actually beneficial to society in general. In order to validate that you’re doing something worthwhile. It’s also debatable how to value the opportunity cost of missed fun now, against future fun. Especially if the future fun is experienced by someone else.

Conscience, selfless love for our children, culture, and religion are varying levels of patch on this simple human brain chemistry. I don’t think technology adds anything fundamentally new.


In addition to everything you said, there is also optimization issues of your goals. Eg, I like to think of myself as a very long term focused person (over the last 10 years, at least), but my ambitions outweigh my energy. So I have to balance in short term "play" as a way to destress and enable long term progress.

The fact that we're not robots in that sense makes this even more complicated as we can't just choose our long/short goals and stick to them, we often have to set them up within the context of what we can actually achieve.. which I think is often less than people think.


If robots had a complicated feedback loop that would force them such complicated requirements such as taking care of them selves too, they would face the same challenges.


"Especially if the future fun is experienced by someone else."

I'm always reminded of the commercial where the young man saves up his money and works hard so his much older self can fly first class somewhere. I always think the same, this could be some other version of himself, does it make sense to give this your future self?


That reminds me of a quote from Machiavelli that I recently saw on HN: "Severities should be dealt out all at once, so that their suddenness may give less offense; benefits should be conferred gradually, and in that way they will taste better."

This advice may also apply to one's own spending and activity choices.


Reminds me of the story in Invisible Cities - a young man dreams of the perfect city that contains all of his favorite things. By the time he arrives at the city of his dreams, he is an old man and sits off to the side with the other old men, who have moved on from the dreams of their youth.


“The pennies you save will be the dollars your widow’s husband spends.”


“The ideal timeframe to use for the reward function”

One can punt on this. One can live for today under the constraint of no heroin, etc. Actually I think devs have a lot of exp with these types of problems as managing tech debt is a very similar problem---weighing (mutually interactive) actions at different timescales.


I think about this a lot from time to time.

> facing issues with our reward function

I would say, we are facing issues with our CULTURAL reward function.

For very long now our culture have deified those few people that can overcome, achieve and excel. What if the point to our existence isn't to overcome our obstacles to productivity in "getting things done" - but instead to go out, explore, create, drink, eat & be kind to each other within a relatively small community of people. I'm not saying that I know what that looks like, but I know I've wanted to run into the woods and never come back, a good few times now.


You don't have to imagine. You can do a real cultural economic comparison to other countries: Italy, Greece, Russia, Spain (and others) are countries that index more on your proposed value system: socialization, family, quality of life over hard work.

China, Japan and the US index very highly on the productivity side of the spectrum, China probably significantly more than the US.

Some of those QOL-indexing countries also have high unemployment rates and relatively lower GDP per capita.

Unemployment + GDP are probably the wrong things to optimize for. Personally I believe Unemployment is overloaded as our optimization function for economic health, where median wage increase is more representative of livability.

One question I have (and genuinely can't guess at): if you are unemployed in Greece, on average, what exactly is your quality of life?

All that said, there are countries that strike a healthier balance with strong economies: Germany, Canada, UK.

Zooming way out, my take on productivity generally is: human pressure to push our productivity is inevitable because we still need to solve some very hard, expensive problems: (1) Our history of industrialization has led to unsustainable environmental impact. This may require 10-100x the engineering focus & coordination we've ever had before. (2) Disease still has significant impact. (3) We still need human labor to harvest and transform resources (agriculture, metals) (4) We still need human labor to generate more "life necessities" supply: electricity, housing, water / plumbing.

One could argue that for (3) & (4) we can be more like Germany and we'll still do great. Also one could argue that if we increased taxes / shifted government spend to subsidize housing development (vs. home ownership) we might also be fine.

Edits: grammar


>Unemployment + GDP are probably the wrong things to optimize for. Personally I believe Unemployment is overloaded as our optimization function for economic health, where median wage increase is more representative of livability.

This is likely well known, it'd just be awful if the official measure of QOL put pressure on employers to raise wages. Better to measure something more abstractly valuable.


What if, for some of us, it's neither? Not just getting arbitrary things done, with $things being a free variable. And not just living a life in maintenance/standby mode - the "drink, eat and be kind" part. To me, the latter sounds empty, and the former sounds pointless - because the whole point is that free variable. The things we do.

One of the nice and addicting things about videogames is that they tend to set a goal in front of you that you emotionally care about, and then let you achieve it step by step through wits and skill. The goal is relevant, achievable; the steps and the outcomes have clear impact on your progress towards that goal, and the feedback is pretty much immediate.

This is in contrast to our modern lives. There are almost no large, social-scale goals that are achievable by individuals or small groups. There are goals in the smaller communities, but smaller communities these days are less present and more fluid. And even among the goals affecting you and those close to you, achieving them tends to feel either like following a tutorial (no point in having agency), or like a game of chance (work, love). The feedback is distant, failure and success both turn your "gameplay" upside down.

I'm not totally convinced of this, but I have this feeling that the problem of our cultural reward function is that today, it's mostly defined as "do whatever you like, be whoever you want to be". Maximum freedom, but minimum direction.


>set a goal in front of you that you emotionally care about, and then let you achieve it step by step through wits and skill.

This reminds me of the concept of achieving a flow state. Find a meaningful goal that forces you to be focused while on the cusp of exceeding your skill level. One that is both creative and allows you to progressively increase your abilities. That seems to be an integral part of finding purposeful "work" that helps one find purpose. I also think this is why people are drawn to "craftsman" type hobbies like woodwork, brewing, and programming.


>I'm not totally convinced of this, but I have this feeling that the problem of our cultural reward function is that today, it's mostly defined as "do whatever you like, be whoever you want to be". Maximum freedom, but minimum direction.

This is right on the money as far as I'm concerned, see the throngs of men flocking to people like Jordan Peterson.


There is this concept, Hero's journey:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero%27s_journey

The fact is that society benefits and advance because some humans do extraordinary things, for example the Guthemberg's printer, crossing the Ocean,antibiotics, diodes, transistors, computers, going to the moon...

Society rewards you because you give the society. And it is a good thing, because the cultures that do that improve, and the cultures that not collapse.

I am in Spain right now which has a more socialistic culture, "subsidizing everything" and punishing the productive(progressive taxing). In lots of ways the society is collapsing because of that,everybody wanting to be subsidized,lots of unemployment, debt skyrocketing and productive people leaving to other countries.


> I think the subject deserves a Black Mirror episode and few startups.

This is the probably the most HN solution to a problem I've ever seen posted. And just so we're clear: I don't mean that in a good way.


Startups to save the world and Black Mirror to lampoon the naivety of their techno-utopian worldview. The yin and yang of today's culture.


Part of the problem is that making the "right" decision requires knowing the future.

Sometimes procrastination is actually valuable. I've had many situations where I've been putting something off for a long time, and then eventually it turns out I didn't need to do that thing after all. Doing it would have ended up being a waste of time.

The problem is that you can't predict which things are important to do early and which ones you should wait on.


What you're describing is more like general uncertainty of the future. Procrastination is when those uncertainties have collapsed into pressing realities that need to be handled. And then you don't do them anyways.

Putting off learning a new framework because you're not sure if it will be useful isn't really procrastination. Not preparing for your interview tomorrow is.


In my procrastination in 95 percent of cases this is definitely not it. I usually will not find out that I did not have to do this unless I do it. I am talking about entrepreneurship mostly. So just do it to find out asap.


> Short term reward seems to overrule long term planning and goals if the outside pressure is not there and we have a choice.

Short term reward overrules long term planning on the opposite extreme of situation also: when you have to struggle to make it through the next day, which is a situation that many still face today. And operating on a short term reward basis for long enough ends up cementing that way of thinking, whether you are doing it as a result of comfortable boredom or persistent struggle.

IMO, there is a Goldilocks zone of balanced security and still unfulfilled needs wherein people are incentivized to think longer term with respect to both themselves and society.


Don't forget to add the "Facebook Effect" where everyone else does everything just perfectly, and most everyone is scared of experimenting by "trying" something that might not work out.

We need to re-define what failure is.


is it real ? by watching youtube videos of people with various skill levels (including grads, phds, old gurus) I am quite motivated to try and have no notion of failure or fear of it in my mind (and I'm the kind to be afraid to fail)

it's surprising how two platforms can breed two opposite sentiments. Culture I guess.


It's one thing to watch experts you don't know excel at things.

It's a very different thing to get the notion that your peers/friends on social media have everything worked out while you're struggling due to their selective sharing.


Oh i see it's différent kind of relationship/competition indeed


>Short term reward seems to overrule long term planning and goals if the outside pressure is not there and we have a choice.

I think the emphasis is wrong here. Short term rewards overrule long term planning when there isn't room for long term planning. In modern society, it's not that long-term planning isn't emphasized enough, nor that internal will towards it isn't strong enough. To the contrary, we're bombarded with messages encouraging instant gratification. You'll notice that many long-term initiatives are bolstered by offloading either the physical effort or the cognitive load onto others: construction and farming are highly-mechanized and specialized jobs; retirement planning is done by experts, as is healthcare; education is a matter of enrolling in a program that figures out timing and curriculum for you.

Of course, this paradigm favors individuals who have wealth.

The idea of community is neither a panacea nor a platitude; it's a structural schema for offloading personal effort onto people who are concerned but dispassionate, routing around both issues of money and of direct biological impetus, thereby reducing the individual and collective load. Any workable solution to a systemic problem such as this is going to include other people, so we need to stop looking at it as a per-person engineering problem.


I'd be happy to go back to when we didn't have solutions. Call me crazy but I take some pleasure in maintaining good old ways that have balancing benefits for us all in the group. Granted I don't mean having to walk 10 miles with a 50kg bucket of water on my back .. but something that enforces some long time walk, physical exercise, simple team work. Even if that's just to make a shed and not a new k8s cluster to do whatever.


This is the main way people deal with modernity: hobbies that mimic the surface characteristics of "the old ways".


Were people in the old times happy and satisfied, because I would argue it is in human nature to never be satisfied because it makes us evolve. We can only counter this by hacking us chemically.


yes, which I find quite sad if not more


Sad in what way, seeing someone develop an 'old way' craft and apply it? Or that it is not more intertwined in the fabric of society?


In the fact that our society is selling us something so fake people have to relive past good stuff on the side.


I for one appreciate modern medicine and the internet. I also practice hand tool woodworking as a hobby, and while it scratches an itch to be more physical and present I’m in no way a Luddite.


I would much rather have extreme physical exertion be an optional thing that I do to make myself feel good than a thing that must be done else my family and I starve. Let's not lose sight of the fact that being able to take "past good stuff" comes with the incredible luxury of leaving a lot of past bad stuff in the past.


Well, the article states that a solution to procrastination is therapy (cbt, act, or whatever flavor you choose). Procrastination is a manifestation of general anxiety and your brain can be reprogrammed by a combination of reframing your thought process and medication if needed.

Supervised exposure therapy is probably the best biofeedback you can get.


> If you think humans as AI systems

Humans are not "AI" systems but infinitely more complex. Which is why, among other things, humans are capable of driving a car safely while "AI" is not.

I for one would feel disgusted with myself if I were to discover that I'm nothing more than the output of a reward function. YMMV.


The human "reward function" is likely more complex than current AI - and not always particularly logical (though vaguely correlated to survival of your own genes!) - but it's probably naïve to assume that we're anything more complicated than a very advanced automaton trying to optimise a reward function...


I think it's MUCH more naive to assume we are just a very advanced automaton trying to optimise a reward function.

What we don't know is infinitely larger than what we do know.


It seems logical we would be exactly that. This is how we would evolve during natural selection. It all makes sense. What reason would there be to be otherwise? It seems like human, wishful thinking to me that we are more than this. Since people want to think they are more than advanced automaton it is likely that this theory is based on imaginary foundation.


Would a human evolve in isolation? I think we are interconnected with many systems in unknowably complex ways.


The system is complex, but I would argue against it being unknowable. We do not know all the details right now, but it is possible we will know them in the future.


I'm reminded of the The Heisenberg uncertainty principle.

It's evidence that knowing some things requires not knowing other things.

It may not be possible to know everything.


> What we don't know is infinitely larger than what we do know.

Yes, but that unknown, by your own description is infinitely larger than us as individuals, who have a limited time and space of existence.

Unless you want to argue for a fictional contract between human existence and a "universal" or divine purpose (as most spiritual or religious systems do), the infinite unknowns don't pertain at all to the question of whether we are just very advanced automatons.


Where do you take that "infinitely" from? Why do you assume that what we don't know is actually "infinitely" larger?


Is a domain of unknowable unknowns not a sort of singularity (systems theory), and therefore a kind of infinite?


I didn't encounter that concept, so I don't know. That said, I'd argue these are unknown unknowns, but they're not unknowable in principle (except perhaps in areas where incompleteness theorem applies).


But then again how do we know they are unknown and not unknowable?

omg speaking of infinites... this rabbit hole may never have an end. LOL Cheers.


There are many physics ideas that are unknowable in principal due to the laws of nature. Back to the singularity.


The required knowledge to fully understand how our brains work is very obviously not infinite.


I think it's dreadfully naive to assume there's a single, identifiable reward function.


You can always map lots of small reward functions onto a single large one.

For a fictitious example, total_reward = sin(time_of_day) × dopamine_reward + (oxytocin_reward / adrenaline_reward)


How do you even add them.. it's like asking what is the utility of the statue of liberty plus the utility of NAFTA?

Just because it's a mathematicians/economists wish doesn't mean it's correct.

Why did the drunken man look under the streetlight for his keys? "Didn't loose them here, but that's where the light is"


> How do you even add them.. it's like asking what is the utility of the statue of liberty plus the utility of NAFTA?

You add them by asking how much each part of the utility function makes you want to do a thing.

As TeMPOraL says, for your specific example you could do that in dollars, but perhaps a more emotionally affective example than USA icons would be asking how many oranges someone would need to offer you to convince you to have a hand amputation without anaesthetic: if you’re well fed, it’s ridiculous to even ask as even a lifetime supply of citrus fruit won’t come close, but if you’re literally starving to death you might well choose to lose a hand to gain anything edible.


If you start by assuming a utility function exists, you can have it do anything you want.

But we haven't quite solved every problem in the world by creating a utility function, have we?

Why is that? Could it be that some domains resist mathematization because the objects are incommensurate?

Why don't we just create utility functions to solve politics?

We cant, because politics is unsolvable in terms of well-defined mathematization and it could very well be that human intelligence is like that too.


If you agree that starting from the assumption that a utility function exists leads to being always able to define one, then you can’t simultaneously take the position that there can’t be two incommensurate things.

You could argue that utility functions are “too powerful” on the grounds that being able to explain anything is equivalent to being able to explain nothing.

> Why don't we just create utility functions to solve politics?

What do you mean by “solve”? I reckon the utility function of politics is approximately “democracy” in many cases.

> it could very well be that human intelligence is [unsolvable in terms of well-defined mathematization] too

That’s equivalent to saying “whatever human intelligence depends on isn’t limited to the laws of physics” as the laws of physics are written in maths, and as we invent new maths for new understanding of physics, that new understanding is also available for modelling our own minds, as they are physical objects. A similar argument also applies if we have an immortal soul. ;)


> If you agree that starting from the assumption that a utility function exists leads to being always able to define one, then you can’t simultaneously take the position that there can’t be two incommensurate things.

> What do you mean by “solve”? I reckon the utility function of politics is approximately “democracy” in many cases.

I don't understand what you're getting at here and I feel like it's missing the broader point I'm making anyways.

I think this conversation ends here


> How do you even add them..

In dollars. It's literally what currency is for.

Of course there's no one set of dollar values for most items. They very much depend on a context. But in a particular, well-defined context, you can very much convert both Statue of Liberty and NAFTA to dollars and sum them up to something that makes sense in that context.

> Why did the drunken man look under the streetlight for his keys? "Didn't loose them here, but that's where the light is"

Well, drunk people tend to have problems calculating expected value.



Not a single reward function, but multiple. Although for each decision/action you could in theory calculate a single value that represents the weight toward making that decision. This value comes from multiple systems.


What makes you think we are anything more than the output of a reward function? Dopamine and other hormones function as our reward system and are so fundamental and drive effectively all of our behaviours and our learning from the moment we were born.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reward_system

https://academic.oup.com/endo/article/151/5/1978/2456493


The fact that it disgusts him, and that you in turn might appreciate the irony of the reward system actually hating itself is pretty strong evidence that there's more to the human experience than biologically reinforced operant conditioning.


> is pretty strong evidence that there's more to the human experience than biologically reinforced operant conditioning.

I'm not sure that follows. The reward system can't produce output by itself. It requires an input. Any input. It requires an environment, a context. And one of the possible outputs is, well, his point of view. But that doesn't invalidate the reward system. It just shows how unpredictable it is.


There are layers upon layers in that reward system, although everything should be explainable. So how did the reward system come to a point that it does not want to believe it will die at some point and for that reason it had to create several imaginary stories such as religion etc? I wonder if it maybe has to do with group dynamics? In order for some conscious systems to be controlled by more powerful entities they would have had to been fed delusions in order for their reward systems to be happy and not feel cheated upon. Eg reward system wants to maximize survivability and when it is controlled by other systems in power it has to be led lies that after death it will be better so all in all the reward system gets so skewed that eventually it is likely to believe any other type of delusions as well. Such as for example that itself is not a reward system and if it was it would hate itself.

So in the end are all delusions defense mechanisms for that reward system to accept that things are unfair, this reward system might not be able to achieve the desired goals so it has to adapt itself? But why can't this reward system just hibernate without delusions?

Edit: actually I think coming to hate itself as a reward system is part of societal pressures. Society pressures each reward system to do common good for that society and creates morals. These morals have been created in a manner that one has to be something more than a selfish creature or otherwise gets shunned so reward system will create all those thoughts in order to avoid having to face selfish desires vs societal pressures head on?


Why? That only suggests that the reward system can hate itself. It's not out of scope, much like a computer being able to self-diagnose some of its workings isn't a weird thing.


> I for one would feel disgusted with myself if I were to discover that I'm nothing more than the output of a reward function. YMMV.

Well we use different words for it, but I’m not sure I understand the alternative? The brain is a physical thing, and it’s (in the broader physiological/hormonal environment) making the decisions. “Reward function” sounds reductive, but obviously it’s a much more complex phenomena than all current human created AI. We’re not just minimizing a sum of squares, if that’s what you mean.


> I for one would feel disgusted with myself if I were to discover that I'm nothing more than the output of a reward function. YMMV.

Very interesting and heavy statement to say in this context.

(I think your comment should be upvoted just to bring this honest description of how feelings and self-image interact with our thinking)


Why be disgusted over something that honestly seems pretty obvious. (unless there are delusions in my logic)?

What else could there be other than particles interacting with each other?

And if there are particles interacting with each other how could it be anything else than a reward system? What is the alternative?

Even if there was something non physical like a soul what leads decision making for that soul?


I sympathise with your feelings of disgust, as I hated the idea of hypnosis and psychological research since I was a teenager. Perhaps “disgust” is the wrong word for me, as I felt understanding works take away the magic and wonder and mystery of what it means to be able to feel like I exist.

I still don’t like the idea of being able to modify my own low-level preferences in a meaningful way, but I have come to accept that pretending it’s not a thing can make it unreal.

(Also: AI is about as good as humans at driving cars, despite the computers in self driving cars being nowhere near as complicated as even just the bits of your brain that are involved in driving).


Ironically, disgust is part of your internal reward system.


Have you seen humans drive cars?


Humans are capable of driving cars safely. Many people go their whole lives without ever being at fault for a single accident. Some drivers, especially professionals, practice defensive driving at avoid or preempt accidents where they would not have been at fault. My own father, for example, has been the "n+1" car in an n-car pile up on more than one occasion, as he was the only one leaving a safe distance. He avoids all distractions and pays attention to the behavior of other cars on the road. He gives advice like, "don't just look at the brake lights - look for the car to pitch forward because that means it's braking hard and you should be too." Another time I saw him avoid a serious accident even though he was in the passengers seat simply by telling the driver, who had just taken their foot off the brake after the life turned green and was about to enter the intersection, "wait, stop, that guy's going to run the red light." Note that this was before the other car had actually done so - he just noticed it was slowing down. If everyone drove like that, cars would be safer than airplanes.

So it's not a cognitive issue. Almost anyone can learn to drive a car very safely, they just choose not to.


Ha, you do have a point here, of course. But for comparison, have you seen "AI" drive cars?


> I think the subject deserves a Black Mirror episode and few startups.

I can't tell if this is sarcastic or not


I went 35 years of managing to be a capable, but never exceptional, achiever -- in high school, college, and in my career. I've also been a terrible procrastinator all during that time.

It was never evident to me in school because I'd get the same grades as the kids working substantially harder than me. However, once I got into the workforce, and it took me many years to realize it, that performing to the "mean" was not where I wanted to be.

The turning point for me was finally getting an ADHD (particularly the attention side, as an adult) diagnosis and being treated for it. Once I started on Adderall, I finally saw myself able to put in the same efforts as others and it felt like I was able to get ahead of others in terms of performance.

Besides the chemicals helping, just being able to focus better made it easier for me to figure out what systems I need to in place to ensure I'm staying on top of things and being productive. You often hear this advice but for someone who has a difficult time starting things, the idea of "building systems" is overwhelming.

I'm not sure I'm at the point where I'm confident enough to taking the pills but I'm pretty sure if I did, I'd be better off than I was before I started.


Just as a counterpoint...I was successful throughout school and college but crashed and burned as soon as I moved to a new city for a software job at Amazon. Later, after quitting due to mental health issues I got a diagnosis for ADHD. I took vyvanse for about five or six months, but it didn't really help with my ADD symptoms and it gave me heart palpitations and made my anxiety worse.

After a lot of introspection, I realized that I was actually choosing to be disorganized, bad at managing my time, etc, because I didn't see these things as a priority. I've been working on my executive function, treating it as a skill that is possible to learn, and so far it's going well.

I got some really good advice from my therapist, who told me to stop saying I "should" do things and instead be honest with myself about whether something is actually a priority to me. She pointed out that whenever I tell myself I "should" do something and don't do it, I'm training my brain to ignore my own decisions. Before, I think my mindset was that I have default behaviors, and doing something productive takes effort - now I remind myself that I'm making a choice even when I default to my old habits.


I'm not sure this is much of a "counterpoint". Medication isn't the only solution to ADHD. In fact, it's often recommended that ADHD be treated with medication AND therapy, which often involves working on things like executive function. Also, there are different types of medication for ADHD. If you only tried Vyvanse, it's possible that a different type of medication would help without the negative side effects. You wouldn't say you're allergic to all antibiotics if you had a reaction to a single antibiotic.


After spending 4 years around people high on prescription amphetamines in an engineering school, here’s my impression as someone who was mostly sober: (during the day anyway)

They look (to me) like they just make that effect where some people get hung up on certain classes of ideas way stronger, if it happens to be video games you won’t get anything done but if it happens to be math then you’ll probably get very good grades.

The problem with using them as an adult is that success as an adult has more to do with effective socializing and less to do with ability. People high on these things are the worst to be around. There was one guy I thought I hated the whole time I was in college and he got off this stuff and it turned out he was an awesome person sober! Most of the other people I know who were on the drugs are similar.

I’m not saying amphetamines are bad but there not magic either. Personally I think the psychoactive effects of chocolate and coffee are plenty for most people and it’s all about managing it.


This comment is a non-sequitor to the parent. You appear to be referring to neurotypical people abusing amphetemines ("people high on .."). GP is referring to using a prescription to manage an actual disorder.

They're not the same thing, at all. Please do not commit the offense of saying that there's no such thing as ADHD, "everyone has trouble doing ..", etc.


The offense is when we drug kids for not wanting to sit at a desk, or not wanting to concentrate on something they're not interested in, or not performing under a certain teaching/learning model.

We put kids (and then adults) in the wrong environment and "fix" them with drugs so they conform to it.

Maybe we should change the environment or model instead. Different people thrive in different environments. A good thing, not something to be suppressed. It's a failure of our current time that we try to force "neuroatypical" into typical, instead of embracing this neurodiversity.


The actual offense is making handwavy statements like 'we're drugging kids for not wanting to concentrate on things they're not interested in'. ADHD is not as simple as that. And for people affected by it, even interesting things are often physically impossible to concentrate on - it's incredibly frustrating and a debilitating condition to live with without medication (depending on severity, of course). A different environment wouldn't solve the problem.

Aside from all that, I agree that forcing everyone to conform to the narrow range of 'normal' in general is less than ideal, but since this is the way current society is structured down to its very basis, the idealistic idea of turning that on its head is probably not very helpful to those presently impacted by it.


I don't know much (anything, really) about this so please don't construe my comment as one of any judgement. I'm really just curious to learn more.

A quick search shows that 9.4% of kids are diagnosed with ADHD.[1] (It's also the exact same percentage of total population with diabetes, which society seems to treat as an epidemic [2]) Of those kids, over 60% were on medication. Maybe I'm naive, but that seems like a lot. Do you think there are really that many kids who have "a debilitating condition"? The source lists a "behavior or conduct problem" as the number one reason to be diagnosed. That...seems a little suspect to me at first blush, but again, this isn't something I have much knowledge about.

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html

[2] https://www.diabetes.org/resources/statistics/statistics-abo...


I absolutely think there is a such thing as ADHD and these people were prescribed the medication to manage it. There was one person who I think managed to get a prescription despite being “normal” and I didn’t notice much about him that changed but we also didn’t hang out much after that.


> I absolutely think there is a such thing as ADHD and these people were prescribed the medication to manage it

Then why do you claim they were "high"? No, they're more toward "normal" than they would otherwise be.

Claiming ADHD people are high, while you are "sober" is a pejorative which diminishes the fact that ADHD exists and needs treatment, and is usually intended to embarrass and denigrate those that have it.


Because amphetamines make you high, whether or not they are treating a disorder.

I have ADHD. I have taken quite a few medications for it over my lifetime, as have many of my friends. Clinically indicated amphetamine treatment does not mean the patient will not become high, or that the patient will remain sober.

It is an issue with which anyone taking these sorts of medications will be well acquainted. It's why many folks suffering from ADHD will sometimes not take their medication.


I think swiley is being a bit cheeky by applying the term "high" to those who are officially, medically stimulated. But you may be erring on the other side, giving too much weight to the official narrative that blesses "medical" speed and condemns "street" speed.

The real difference between medical and rec speed is dosage and route of administration. Big doses, taken nasally or intravenously, are abuse; small doses, taken orally, are medication.

But to concur with swiley, speed doesn't magically stop being speed when an ADHD diagnosis and a Trademarked Drug (TM) enter the picture.


I'm not sure what you consider to be "high" on amphetamines. I take 20mg Adderall XR and don't feel high. It is amphetamine, so of course you could take more, or take IR, to get more of a rush. As someone in their late 30's, that personally has little appeal to me and I'm past the stage of my life where I'd desire to use amphetamines for that purpose.


I think it was just an expression he used for effect.


Can you provide a little elaboration on "the worst to be around"? What makes it like that for you?


I don’t know, they’re less self aware and extremely assertive? They’re usually way louder.


I've recently started treatment with lisdexamphetamine and I feel like sometimes there's certainly a sense of being less restricted than when I'm not using it. And sometimes I feel a sense of (maybe unsubstantiated) confidence that I don't have without it.

Sometimes that's for the better, and sometimes it might be for the worse. I also feel very interested in doing good work, and learning more. Which means I'm not the most social person on our team, although I think I'm well enough liked, I'm not after-work friends with that many of them.

The social aspect is probably the most important aspect of success at work (moving up, political support, getting that money etc), but for now I'm really enjoying being able to focus my energy on a task and not get distracted by every little sound,thought or movement happening around me.


Your comments echo my experience in every detail. I, too, did not meet a shadow of my potential until I received an ADD diagnosis as an adult.

After taking Adderall for the first time, I immediately began keeping a systematic journal of notes (and creating other structures for myself). I remember walking to a store to get the notebook the very day I took the first pill — it was like a revelation.

Over the years since that day, I have transitioned to different ADD medications, but have found that I am not able to adhere to my structures when I am off medication. This is a non-trivial insight, as much well-meaning ADD advice is at the level of “create and follow structures” —- it is precisely this that medication allows me to do.


I've taken ADHD medication once in high school, and I hate how _good_ it was. It makes it so much easier for me to be the person I want to be, to accomplish the things I want to do. But I'm also adequately capable sober; I don't want to become medicated and then feel like I can't be productive unmedicated.


If you had a nutritional deficiency, would you avoid taking a supplement? Cause that's what the ADHD medication is doing; regulating dopamine and norepinephrine, which are usually deficient in ADHD brains.


> You often hear this advice but for someone who has a difficult time starting things, the idea of "building systems" is overwhelming.

Interesting. Elaborate please.


> ADHD (particularly the attention side, as an adult)

I take it that means hyperactivity wasn't one of your symptoms? I have the suspicion that I suffer from ADD (you basically described the same life I've had), but the hyperactivity part makes me unsure of myself.


460-375BCE - Greece - Hippocrates on people who couldn't focus but were good at reacting to events - attributed to an "overbalance of fire over water"

1693 - Scotland - John Locke - in "Some Thoughts Concerning Education" - discussed a class of students who "could not keep their mind from straying"

1798 - Scotland - Sir Alexander Crichton - "The Disease of Attention"

1800s - Various - Medical Textbooks of the time - referred variously to conditions “nervous child”, “hypermetamorphosis”, “mental instability”, “unstable nervous system” and “simple hyperexcitability”

1902 - England - Sir George Frederick - describing the same systems named the condition an “abnormal defect of moral control”

1937 - USA - Charles Bradley - first began experimenting with prescribing benzedrine (an amphetamine) to Children initially for headache and noted that it greatly improved focus in those who previously had not demonstrated that ability, but could not explain why stimulant drugs could induce a calming effect.

1944 - Switzerland - Ritalin developed (Methylphenidate, Rita from his wife) as a safer replacement to benzedrine

1968 - USA - DSM-II lists these by now well recognised and medicated symptoms as "hyperkinetic reaction of childhood"

1980 - USA - DSM-III - changed the name to "Attention Defecit Disorder"

1987 - USA - DSM-III (3rd edition) - changed the name to "Attention Defecit Hyperactivity Disorder"

1994 - USA - DSM-IV - refined the disorder into it's currently diagnosed form with 3 different types of ADHD, namely: Inattentive Type, Hyperactive/Impulsive Type and combined type.

2013 - USA - DSM-5 - refined to acknowledge that the 3 different types are not in fact types, rather presentations that can change over the course of an individual's life.

or...

maybe it's a newly invented fake phenomenon

ps - not a response to the comment preceding :)


The DSM-V describes three kinds of ADHD: 1. Predominantly inattentive 2. Predominantly hyperactive/impulsive 3. Combined

So yes, you can be diagnosed with ADHD without symptoms of hyperactivity


If you have a suspicion that you have ADD, I'd highly recommend you to talk to someone who specializes in adult ADHD and get their opinion.

I got diagnosed with ADHD 10 years ago at age 26. It's nice to get a confirmation, like "yep, the reason you threw a book at a kid in kindergarten and couldn't explain why (sorry Narek) was cause of poor impulse control related to ADHD," but it's not a satisfying conclusion. I mean, I still threw a book at a kid for no reason...

You can have ADHD and not have all of the symptoms - I can focus on a sigle task for a long time just fine, but I have a hard time sitting still in a chair (even when I'm gaming, I'm constantly shifting around in my chair, sitting on my legs, moving my legs, tapping, etc.)

It's good to put your feelings and emotions into context, but at the end of the day, you're still on the hook for your behavior and your success, and a lot of people use a mental condition as an excuse to never improve or never make hard decisions or take hard looks at their behavior. Don't fall into that trap - ADHD shouldn't define who you are or your behavior, it's just one aspect of the inputs into your decision making process.

I will say that being aware that I have impulse control issues has definitely helped me slow down - I used to have a crazy automatic mouth - I'd just say whatever popped into my brain from my subconscious. A lot of times it's hilarious, many times it's just plain freaking mean. Knowing this was an issue has helped me sort of hijack the wiring from my brain to my communication centers and has given me enough time to not say obviously stupid things. At first, it was me starting to say something, cutting myself off, then giggling and saying "don't worry about it," to teammates when they looked at me like I was a nutjob. As I've practiced more, I can let many thoughts pass without expressing them and just get a little bit of amusement to myself without offending anyone.

Another thing I've kind of owned is the hyperactivity - sometimes I just have to get up from my seat and walk around. I'm up and pacing before I even know what's going on. Getting a remote job has been pure heaven in this regard - I can dance around, or pace and think without bothering anyone. But when I worked in an office and needed to get up and stretch, say during a meeting, I'd jut do it. A lot of times, people would follow suit and realize they were kind of cramped, maybe fading a little bit, and a little bit of activity is just the pick me up you need in an afternoon meeting. The point is - take something that might be a detriment (needing to dance around all day) and turn it into a positive - "let's have a stretch break in the meeting!"


For further reflection I highly recommend "Scattered Minds" by Gabor Maté. Exceptional book by an exceptional physician.


NB for anyone considering this: Maté's hobby horse is that mental illness comes primarily from emotional trauma. If that's what you need to hear, great, but nowhere near being an explanation of the scientific consensus.


As someone with acute ADHD and prolonged childhood trauma, Gabor Maté is a godsend and I'd recommend this book as well.


Hyperactivity affects only 50% of people with ADD. Check out this video where Daniel Amen shows 7 types of ADD, maybe you will recognize your patterns. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWnJ4wjVu9k


What do you mean when you say hyperactivity makes you unsure of yourself?


If hyperactivity is one end, I'm on the complete other end. And I always associated ADHD with being hyperactive.


Oh, I misunderstood.


I have been remote working for many years. And I have done a handful of office working. I would have considered myself (probably wrongly) the worst procrastinator. It seemed like most of the people I worked with were able to get things done better than I could.

And I have been on the "overwork" part of the spectrum where I'm all about working until burnout.

It's about emotions, yes. But that's not very specific. This is one of those subjects where 10 different people could give 10 different explanations and nobody would be wrong. It's a rat's nest of issues. A bunch of threads tightly wound to create a mess of a problem.

Fixing a procrastination problem probably takes more of a gut feel than an attempt to understand it.

I don't know what causes it, but most of the time what fixes it is focus.

Why do students cram? Because time constraints strip away the BS and they're only left with figuring out a strategy for studying.

What are my best strategies to stop procrastinating? I'm out of money. Time is running out. I have a gun to my head.

Getting things done is sometimes like trying to reach through a heavy fog to snatch a pin head size blinking orb of light. The moving swirling fog distracts and makes you lose site of the blinking thing you're trying to keep in sight.

What you have to do is mentally banish the fog and go straight for that blinking thing and grab it.

Another issue for me is a failure to commit. The more I think about all the stuff I want to do, the less I'm willing to put the effort into doing one thing. Possibilities are more interesting than reality. Even as reality kills off possibilities, I can always spin up more. Reading HN is like a staging zone where I'm not having to commit to anything. I'm not getting anything done, but at least I'm still keeping all the possibilities in play. It's like a dude who likes to play the field rather than settle down and get married. ;)

As I mentioned above, certain realities I can't ignore. Paying bills is a major one.


"I have been remote working for many years. And I have done a handful of office working. I would have considered myself (probably wrongly) the worst procrastinator."

Same here.

I have the feeling the trick is to get guidance but not too much.

I have many "startup ideas" but I never execute them.

I hate it if I get a manager above me that makes too much decisions for me.

But working with some nice people who let me do my job without imposing some working hours, tech stack or whatever on me and only give me some interesting problems to work on and I stop procrastinating.


>The more I think about all the stuff I want to do, the less I'm willing to put the effort into doing one thing. Possibilities are more interesting than reality. Even as reality kills off possibilities, I can always spin up more.

Well put. I suffer from that as well. Setting aside the maddening aspects of that, it does have a bright side:

If you spend years weaving together complimentary possibilities, and the rate at which you spin them up is greater than the rate at which they die—you can come up with some really interesting composite ideas that over time will seem more compelling to execute.


>Fixing a procrastination problem probably takes more of a gut feel than an attempt to understand it.

The article mentions mindfulness and I think it can replace the gut feel as a way to understand the root cause of procrastination. One can literally observe what is happening in your mind and body and what is happening around you before, during and after procrastination events and work from there to address anything you want to change. Learning about and practicing self-compassion [1] should, IMHO, help deal with it as well.

1: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/b357/87b9b21486d00458e85f8b...


I really like your "catching a firebug in the fog" analogy. Beautifully put


Dr [David] Burns is one of the people who helped popularize Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in his book, “Feeling Good”. It’s cool to see these ideas becoming validated through studies. I’m not very familiar with ACT, but as an offshoot of CBT that includes a mindfulness component, it sounds fascinating.

Burns talks about the “do one small thing” strategy in his books, and (anecdotally) it can be very effective. When you’re at a point where even the small step seems impossible, he has tips on drilling into the underlying emotions. Ultimately, your brain sees the discomfort associated with not working on something as outweighing the discomfort of actually doing it. Often, this is a cognitive distortion — which CBT aims to help one sort through. And sometimes the task really isn’t worth doing.

I know I go on a lot about meditation in my comments, but (again n=1) it can help clarify thoughts and emotions — particularly the kind of cognitive distortions that lead to self-destructive habits. Now I’m curious to learn more about ACT...


Sharing a 10 year journey here that involved both CBT and ACT. This may be oversimplifying it but I see various philosophies in order of how low they strike at the root. Obviously the implicit advice I'm giving is to go as low to the root (bottom of the list) as resonates with you:

* CBT: challenge negative ways of thinking

* ACT: be aware of thinking (don't overthink thinking), and commit to a direction.

* Mainstream Zen: very similar to ACT without the purpose/commitment component. After all, what's the purpose of purpose?

* Vipassana: super involved with awareness of present starting with a breathe practice. (Mindfulness bootcamp if you can't seem to inquire.)

* Morita Therapy: same as ACT but with a step toward questioning the thinker

* Advaita Vedanta (or I've heard Dzogchen Zen): challenge the thinker/contemplator/meditator. "Who am I?" root out the original thought of a separate self. Recommended: Ramana Maharshi, Papaji, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Mooji (or Cloud of Unknowing if your Christian).


Thanks for the details! Now I'll be busy a few hours researching all these, therefore procrastinating :)


ha, shortcut: skip to the end


EDIT: your → you're


I spent two years with a fantastic psych in the bay who studied under Burns. She used a combination of 50% ACT, 50% Burns CBT and it was very impactful. Workbooks for homework were The Happiness Trap and the Feeling Good Handbook.

Fundamentally changed my life for the better.


Would you mind sharing the name of the psychiatrist? I'm looking for one.


Vandana Aspen, draspen.com.

I found her by searching Psychology Today's listings and looking for therapists who specialized in CBT and little else.


Who was it?


This is an excellent book. Also consider Behavioral Activation (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behavioral_activation), which is a somewhat competing theory that essentially says that doing is what really matters and that what you're thinking is much less important.

Just getting yourself to do things might be the key. Easier said than done, of course, and it's almost just a restatement of the procrastination problem.


When I was younger and living alone this used to be cleaning my apartment on Sunday; always. No matter how much I procrastinated on other stuff during the week or month, or how I felt, I would always clean on Sunday. Created a nice little bit of "responsibility continuity" so to speak. Mixed with a few other life-admin rituals throughout the week this always helped maintain a base level of discipline through ups and downs.


Ken Burns -> David Burns


Fixed, thanks :)


If anyone wants to learn more about this topic, I wrote an extensive overview of specific reasons why people procrastinate: https://solvingprocrastination.com/why-people-procrastinate/

It covers all of the most common reasons for procrastination, such as abstract goals, a disconnect from the future self, anxiety, task aversion, perfectionism, and fear of failure.

In addition, there's a comprehensive follow-up article, which explains how you can use this information in order to overcome your procrastination: https://solvingprocrastination.com/how-to-stop-procrastinati...

It describes a system you can use for overcoming procrastination, as well as various specific techniques you can implement, such as breaking large tasks into actionable pieces, scheduling tasks based on your productivity cycles, marking streaks of successes, and visualizing your future-self.


I think this seems to fall into the exact trap he is talking about. You say it's about emotions, but then you launch into a bunch of time management techniques.

You talk about emotions but seem to have missed the crux of the problem, and then all the techniques you start with are all time management techniques (which he's already said don't work). You do have some emotional advice, but it never head-on confronts the problem.

That it will be uncomfortable to start, but that's ok. It passes.

Nowhere in your guide is this advice of how to just get started:

The next time you’re tempted to procrastinate, “make your focus as simple as ‘What’s the next action – a simple next step – I would take on this task if I were to get started on it now?’”. Doing this, he says, takes your mind off your feelings and onto easily achievable action.

That's about managing emotions.

Your first advice is to start making huge lists of goals, steps, etc., which can be another form of procrastination. That might be useful once you've stopped procrastinating, not now when you're procrastinating. His advice wasn't to get a list of your goals done. It was to simply to pick the smallest task you can think of now. Realise it's going to be uncomfortable, but that's life and it'll (usually) pass in minutes. That's about getting started.

Nowhere do you explain, as the article does, that it's about being able to tolerate uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.

As a persistent procrastinator that's just got 4 hours of solid work done with the simple little trick described in the article. It worked. Yours doesn't, I've done those lists many times before. Realising that yes, it's uncomfortable, but just do the first small task you can think of, your advice is too BIG. Too MUCH. Start simple, and then build those other things.


Ultimate issue it does not tackle is lack of real reward.

Usually when we do something that is not strictly required of us it's for a reward. (Including mutants who like solving problems just for the sake of solving problems.)

Abstract rewards are obviously not rewards. They're hypotheticals.

Most of the time we do not get rewarded for work, much less proportionally to effort. This of course over time ruins self-control on tasks.

(It's good that caring for kids is hard wired in most.)


I understand what you're saying, but I'm not sure I agree.

Both articles discuss the concept of rewards extensively, though sometimes using different terms, which is what might have led to your conclusion.

For example, in the 'why people procrastinate' article, this falls under reasons such as 'lack of motivation' and 'rewards that are far in the future'. In the 'how to stop procrastinating' article, this falls under various tips for increasing how rewarding tasks feel, such as 'gamify your behavior', 'create streaks', and 'visualize your future self'.

Also, two important distinctions to keep in mind with regard to this:

- Goals and rewards are not necessarily identical. For example, you might have the goal of exercising three times a week, and get a reward of being complimented on your physical change by others.

- There is a difference between goals/rewards that are abstract and goals and rewards that feel abstract. For example, even a concrete reward can feel abstract if it's far in the future.


The main problem I had with the article is lack of actual solution for this perception.

It only provides a general rule which does not work because you cannot change a reward for a task, and self deception taxes the other systems responsible for procrastination.


You can reward yourself for completing a seemingly arbitrary task. Every morning after completing my Anki flashcards, I force myself to lean back, smile, and feel proud for completing an exercise in discipline, even though I don't _really_ care about the cards. This alone is enough to maintain the habit.


This is enough because you have self-directed control remaining - you're pushing from lack of reward towards short term unrelated reward, but this deception long term causes struggle with self-efficacy, especially when the small short term reward loses its potency.


There's a saying. A cat get satisfaction from stalking, chasing, catching, softening, killing and eating the prey. The system wouldn't work if it only got satisfaction from eating.

People can get satisfaction from things like receiving admiration (depends hugely who gives it) and thus be motivated by it.


I hope the cat analogy is helpful to someone. I can't help pointing out an inaccuracy though:

> The system wouldn't work if it only got satisfaction from eating.

Many predators only hunt when they're hungry, and it works fine for them. Housecats are an exception. Humans have bred them to be "good mousers", meaning they don't stop killing when they're no longer hungry.


That's a good point. Wild animals tend to be a lot more determined and energy conserving. A dog runs around wildly while a wolf goes in a straight line. Many domesticated animals do tend to behave like juvenile wild counterparts. Wolf cubs play - even if that doesn't solve any immediate problem for them (it develops them).

But for example many wild animals collect food and stash it for later use. Tits, squirrels. Again, I assume they don't really plan months ahead, but just fill an urge to stash stuff.


In my case, there is a tangible reward for many things, but if it's long term (i.e. and reward will only be realized years or even just months out) I probably wont ever do it. Ots a huge problem for me atm.


I strongly recommend taking a look at first three sections in the article I linked above: 'Abstract goals', 'Rewards that are far in the future', 'A disconnect from our future self'. They will give you a lot of insights into why this is an issue for you, which can later help you find a solution.

Also, here are two techniques I discuss that you might find helpful:

- Try to find ways to reward yourself for making progress on your way to your end goal. For example, you can create interim goals that are closer in time and reward yourself for making progress.

- Try to visualize your future self achieving the long-term rewards that you're interested in.


The problem is in statement:

"reward yourself"

How does that work? Any kind of this short term reward can turn into "short term reward sensitivity", "impulsiveness" and other problems also associated with procrastination in the same article.

Plus you're literally trying to deceive yourself which never works long term.

Visualization can help, but it also loses potency quickly.


Yesterday I had a bit of a talk with myself about my behavior pertaining to procrastination.

I am addicted to:

- YouTube

- Gaming

Worse, I have quite a runway due to low living expenses.

I came with a new idea today, I hope it helps anyone else.

I need to get good at generating my own feelings. This is why I play games and watch videos. I do it to feel something.

In order to do that I need to stay as close as to the activity itself while doing it myself.

I came up with the following replacement rules:

TouTube —> tell a story to myself. Yesterday I started a story about an alien who is a cat (and I wasn’t thinking about the show Salem even!). This cat/alien has seen humans for 5000 years.

Games —> digital product design. Yesterday I imagined how it is to design a newsletter, in terms of aesthetics and UX.

I hope this idea might help anyone. I sure haven’t read it anywhere.


I had a similar conversation with myself recently. In the spirit of sharing coping mechanisms...

What I found helpful was to dig deeper into why I enjoyed playing the genres of games that I do.

My favourites are MOBA/ARPG/MMORPG and there was quite some overlap in what I was enjoying.

Stuff like:

    - MOBA
        - Skill based gameplay
            - You get better over time
            - You get to play with/against people better than you and learn from them
            - There exists an optimal strategy for each encounter you can discover
        - Team based gameplay
            - Work with others to secure objectives
            - Win/lose as a team
            - Sense of camaraderie
            - Ability to be altruistic
        - Winning/Losing streaks
            - Easy to track
            - Easy to turn into a short-term goal "Win the next game"
        - Short turnaround time
            - Games last between 15-30 minutes
        - Little downtime between games
            - Very easy to get back "into the action"
Now I'm trying to organise my programming activities to give me the same sort of satisfaction:

    - Programming
        - Skill based gameplay => Skill based progression
            - You get better over time
            - Join a slack/discord and ask questions to learn from others
            - There exists an optimal strategy for each task you can discover
        - Team based gameplay => Community
            - Join a slack/discord
                - Sense of camaraderie (E.g. "We're all gophers!")
                - Ability to be altruistic (Help newbies)
            - Start something//Contribute to open source projects to work with others
        - Winning/Losing streaks => Commit streaks
            - Easy to track on github
            - Easy to turn into a short-term goal "Commit once today"
        - Short turnaround time => Short coding sessions
            - Setting a timer for 5/10/15 minutes and following a tutorial
        - Little downtime between games => Try to minimize distractions
            - Move straight from one tutorial from another
It's been working well for me.


I actually reached the same conclusion as you after playing a lot of League of Legends. Why do I play that game instead of working on my projects? Because of all the reasons you mentioned, but most importantly because I am good at it and feel like I progress by getting better with each match. There's also the satisfaction of winning, especially when the odds seems against you.

I am also trying to find the same feelings while working, but getting the same rewards takes a lot more time than while gaming. Also, it's a lot easier to feel that you are bad at it or that you are not learning as much, or that maybe you are working on the wrong thing when programming than when gaming.

Also, I am really missing a real-life leaderboard. I am pretty competitive and seeing others that are way better than me motivates myself to work hard in order to get to their level. I am always looking for success stories and seeing actual numbers from great projects. I found that IndieHackers is a good place to find motivation from others' work.


This is known as the "gameification" of goals, and its been known to work quite well. People gain more satisfaction when they can quantify progress.


Hmm...

What if you'd create like a software "game". Aka, a data structure and algorithm Hacker Rank thingy and then pair up with one other person over voice chat to solve the problem.

I like how you're gamifying coding by putting it in the context of what motivates you about games in the first place.

I'll look up some JS communities.


> This is why I play games and watch videos. I do it to feel something.

I do the same. And it's a real pain, because after playing enough games or reading books everything gets repetitive. I feel sooo bored whenever I play a new game.

That's why I wanted to join OSS project, preferably game. It is fun to create stuff that actually works. Well, maybe modding community is the way.


>to feel something

This is a phrase I hear in American discourse a lot. What does it mean?


The question is a bit odd if you are human, but let me explain this in short terms.

Modern lifestyle has stripped many of us of essential, real problems. By far not all, of course, but definitely the generally well-paid IT crowd on HN.

So instead of hustling to survive like a maid in 1929 Berlin (I am watching Babylon Berlin right now) what's left over are luxury problems, especially if you're in the double income no kids crowd. What the Internet calls "first world problems" but even less "important". Just pull yourself together after all, right? (the answer is no, this will of course break you, or anyone, in the long run but that's a huge off the rails discussion).

What side project can I have? How can I fill my day with something useful instead of gaming? There is a profound emptiness for some people. The vast majority of jobs aren't as amazing as you are supposed to pretend in interviews. You stop feeling useful and doubt your place in society. Educated, trained but not applied to something that makes sense.

Do I have to feel guilty about gaming because I am not productive after 6pm or should I invest time to develop myself because HN tells me to? After spending 8 exhausting hours at my job that lines someone else's pockets?

This is where your mental game is played after the "real" problems are not a threat anymore. It's hard for struggling hard working people who bust their asses to pay rent to understand. I know because that's been me. I have seen both sides.

Going to bed anxious because some huge bill just arrived. Now I am going to bed thinking: "what am I even here for?"

And I actually enjoy my job. But in the end I am doing something shallow, something useless. Not advancing humanity or something.


Holy crap, reading this is creepy since I don't think there's anything to add or subtract that could make it more fitting for myself. I've been feeling like this for a few years now, yet I could never articulate it as well as you have.

I make about 3 times what a regular developer makes in the UK and, when I got this job, I felt like I 'made it'. That was very short-lived, as I succumbed to the meaninglessness you describe. Don't get me wrong, I love not being worried about money as much, but something just doesn't feel right. Like, is this it?

Working on side projects feels maybe a bit shallow as well. I will probably not be advancing humanity in any way, not to mention that even making any revenue from them is relatively far-fetched, despite what IndieHackers might suggest. Therefore, I am stuck between working all day long for the unlikely chance that I might 'get rich' with some startup (and then what?) or slide into the comfort of gaming/hobbies/relaxing. Both have pros and cons, both take something from you, be it stress or time wasting. Life is hard.


You're going to love this video on YouTube aptly titled "Meaning is a jumper you have to knit for yourself": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psaCM1j9LEM

Also, Exurb1a has an excellent channel fraught with articulate video's about existentialism.

Then there's this. You're summarizing how much our non-working life has become a zero-sum game:

> Working on side projects feels maybe a bit shallow as well. I will probably not be advancing humanity in any way, not to mention that even making any revenue from them is relatively far-fetched, despite what IndieHackers might suggest. Therefore, I am stuck between working all day long for the unlikely chance that I might 'get rich' with some startup (and then what?) or slide into the comfort of gaming/hobbies/relaxing. Both have pros and cons, both take something from you, be it stress or time wasting. Life is hard.

Here's the hard truth: You have conditioned to feel guilty if you don't spend your time either producing or consuming.

Here are some blatantly false beliefs that tie into this:

Side projects are only successful if the yield either revenue or attain a vague notion of "impact". Satisfaction of whatever pass time you choose is a function of the amount of money you invest in it (buy the latest gear, invest in increasingly expensive experiences). Professional success is working at a FANG company, selling your startup after VC funding, entering the motivational speaker circuit, being a "thought leader",... "work hard, play hard" etc. etc. You have to "optimize" how you spend time in order to "maximize" your output. Which could be anything ranging from running 5 miles, meditation, writing a blog post and catching up on e-mail between waking up at 4am and breakfast, to monitoring your sleep cycles over reducing your meals to protein shakes to "not waste time eating".

You end up losing something along the way: Yourself. The things that define you as a unique human being. Having your own particular needs, desires, dreams, aspirations and wants that nobody else has.

For instance, you start running 5 miles each morning before dawn because "running invigorates you for the day to come." Well, yeah, sure, but are you actually taking this on because the idea truly resonates with you? Clicks with who you are? Or are you just waking up each morning, secretly resenting the entire thing, because some "thought leader" marketed the idea of "running = road to success" in such a way that you honestly started to believing that?

Your time is yours and yours alone. Nobody else is living your life. Sure, nothing of significance happens if you don't put in the time and effort. But that notion doesn't equate that whatever you have to do needs to answer to modern day ideals such as "useful", "successful", "productive", "rich", or whatever. Nope.

If you want to learn a language, play the guitar, write a novel, join a choir, make a stroll through the park each sunday, cook a nice meal, make photographs, sketch a drawing, read a book, play a game, go travel, etc. etc. etc

... then you should do that first and foremost because that's what YOU want to do with YOUR life...

It's awesome that Elon Musk did build up Tesla and SpaceX practically from thin air. Really awesome. And he likely enjoys doing that and he derives enormous purpose and satisfaction from those enterprises. But I am not Elon Musk. And I certainly do not aspire to become like Elon Musk.

Turns out that success and purpose are measures you have to define for yourself first and foremost. They can be literally anything, as long as they resonate with who you are. You don't have to build rockets in order to feel success. Just baking your own bread and sharing that with a friend can bring intense happiness and purpose. If you're only willing to accept that for yourself.

Everything else is above all sly marketing.


> Exurb1a

I am familiar with him and fond of his videos, generally speaking. How much of his 'teachings' I can apply is a separate matter.

> Here's the hard truth: You have conditioned to feel guilty if you don't spend your time either producing or consuming.

True. Despite not being a huge fan of consumerism, I am convinced it is shaping my decisions one way or another. Since our whole system is built around this, there's no telling where the need ends and the mindless shopping begins. For example, if I get a tear in my favorite T-shirt, I'd probably buy a new one, while my grandmother would have tried to repair it.

What is definitely true is that I have conditioned myself to produce. Part of it might be simply societal pressure, part of it might be my personal ambition to 'be someone', but I think a lot of it is the realization that all the dreams I had as a child are slowly becoming crushed by the realities of adulthood, my limited energy, my limited brain. Because of all this, I realize that my existence is not special in any way. I am just some other soul lost in the crowd, not glowing in any way. Some day I will die and the world will not have been better or worse because of it.

Funny you bring up Elon. For all the criticism he is getting lately, I can't help but think of him as the person I want to be. This guy dares to not only think about a future with space exploration and hyperloops in it, but also does something about it. Say what you will, but there are not many people on the same level of audaciousness as him. With that said, I will never even be close to what Elon is and accepting this is hard.

The more I read and learn, the more disappointed I am with the world. I feel like apart from maybe 2-3% of the population, the rest is strictly concerned with how they can impress their friends at an upcoming party, sports, how good or bad the new Avenger movie is, how to remodel their kitchen and so on. The whole world is driven almost entirely by advertising, PR, marketing, influencers. It's driving me mad at times, thinking about how little true achievements are celebrated. Just a random one - China just released some pictures from the moon and seeing them gave me chills. I believe few people would care at all about this.

And I just don't know if this is the way things eventually end up or if the world could have been vastly different with just a few different twists of the historical timeline.


> Because of all this, I realize that my existence is not special in any way. I am just some other soul lost in the crowd, not glowing in any way. Some day I will die and the world will not have been better or worse because of it.

The notion that "humans are special" and "individuals are special" is exactly part of the problem. We are conditioned to believe that we are special, the carrot being that consumerism/producerism makes us "special", whereas "not being special" is perceived as "something very bad".

Why exactly is that?

Thing is, the existential angst you feel is exactly the stuff that has sparked the Great Age of Philosophy starting with Immanuel Kant and David Hume.

Without going into details, try to turn your thinking around on this one. Why would it be bad that your existence isn't "special" as far as the Universe is concerned? I can assure you that none of the famous dead are laying awake, fretting over whether or not their lives have mattered in the course of History, for instance.

Some people even go so far as to deconstruct their own Self by continuing this line of reasoning. Ego Death is a thing (and it doesn't necessarily involve the usage of LSD).

Turn to yourself instead and construct meaning for yourself. If you want to feel purpose, special and a sense of self, the best thing you can do is validate your own Self. Who you are, what you like, what you dream of,... regardless of what society expects from you. It's called "self love".

> I will never even be close to what Elon is and accepting this is hard.

And I can assure that Elon Musk isn't happier or unhappier then you are. You are not Elon and and Elon isn't you.

He has to deal with the crushing pressure of a few companies that are highly demanding. He has to deal with the complexity and the ethics. He has also to deal with the demands of a very large family (I don't know how much his own kids actually see him, for one, or what their relationship is like)

My point is that the image of you have of Elon and walking in his shoes are two very, very, very different things. And the latter might be far more and harder then you are bargaining for.

There's a difference in being inspired by him and applying his level of audaciousness to your daily life in a sensible manner; and trying to emulate him in a way you can't possibly hope to attain. Guess what will yield the best chance for happiness and purpose?

> I believe few people would care at all about this.

Are you sure? As that your (irrational) beliefs talking, or have you actually done a survey across a representative sample of humans, excluding your own biases, in order to determine this?

I have travelled across the globe a few times now, and having met many, the optimist in me tends to believe that most people do care if you talk with them in earnest. It's just not the image we tend to see as powerful people have invested in a system that games our biases, fears and desires again and again.


> Well, yeah, sure, but are you actually taking this on because the idea truly resonates with you? Clicks with who you are? Or are you just waking up each morning, secretly resenting the entire thing, because some "thought leader" marketed the idea of "running = road to success" in such a way that you honestly started to believing that?

Thanks, I needed to read this.

Ironically, one of the few areas I don't have this with is running. For one of the unique things that defines me is a talent for it and I run whenever I'm alone and traveling on foot since I'm an impatient fellow.


All this boils down to finding a purpose in life. At the risk of sounding sexist, I feel this is a burden that largely falls on men only. Women can find purpose through children or being dependent on their man for purpose. It is truly the burden of man to find purpose.


Yep, IMO that sounds sexist. I think especially the second thing is sexist (dependent on a man). I can point to counter examples. There might be a trend in some locales? I wouldn't know. But the way it's written it sounds a bit like it's inherent to the woman (being dependent on the man for purpose), that's why it sounds sexist.

Just pointing it out how it sounds and why it sounds to me that way (I didn't downvote). At the risk of sounding controversial, that's okay (I like to hunt after big sexist issues and this isn't one of them, e.g. convincing men why to be a feminist and what's in it for them).

But I do really appreciate the insight that the biggest biological difference between men and women (ability to give birth for a relatively short period of time, IMO) does put them in a different existential starting position right from the outset. Because they need to deal with this. I'm 30 now and I'm slowly beginning to be like "oh yea kids, that's a thing." (men have it easy that way, IMO)


Two assertions:

One. Men can have kids up to high age, yes, but after 35, quality declines and the probability that their children will have face disorders and disabilities increases.

Two. Having children to leave a happy life isn't an obligation. It's an option. Most parents love their kids to bits, but will also grudgingly admit that the drudgery of parenthood is probably the most grueling thing you can do with life. And let's not discount the fact that it's literally playing lottery: disabled kids happen too, and you have to be willing to accept that. If you don't have kids yet, think very hard about why you would want to become a parent; and please be extremely critical towards your own romantic notions.


> it's literally playing lottery: disabled kids happen too

The odds are definitely in your favor compared to mega millions though.


Thanks CaptArmchair!

(seriously though, thanks :) )


Once, during an existential crisis, I saw an opportunity to become a step-dad, and I did. I suppose you could say that I talked myself into making it my primary purpose in life. That wasn't hard, though--working hard to make sure a kid without a father has a reasonably happy early life is about as close to perfectly meaningful as you can get.

There are a lot of problems in our society with being a step-father, and though I'll say I did a great job, I rarely hear from said kids. That's life, but what I did is "in the bank" in my way of thinking, and it's perhaps my proudest accomplishment.

For philosophical reasons, I don't think most (if any) people should have kids. But once they're here, they're as worthy a cause as anything else I know of.

(Unfortunately, too old to do it again, and meaning has become a struggle again.)


> Women can find purpose through children

Why can't men? What's stopping you from finding purpose through being a father?

Gender roles are enforced and affirmed if individuals aren't willing to challenge them and push back in the first place.

Another truth of life is this: You can't always have your cake and eat it at the same time. Everyone gets the same 24/7/365. What you choose to do with it is what matters.

If men and women choose to assume traditional gender roles, then that's because individuals aren't challenging their own beliefs. And by behaving in a traditional gender roles, they implicitly perpetuate the notion that men need to spend their lives in the service of their jobs rather then their children. And that the lot of women is the opposite.

Change starts with yourself.

> being dependent on their man for purpose

Which is, really, hugely unhealthy behavior in itself, regardless of gender. (Yes, many men equally end up doing the same thing: sticking it out with a partner they may resent because they believe that living for your partner is the only purpose in life.)

The same is true for the idea that "children give my life purpose". Think about it. What if the sole reason why you exist, is to give your parents purpose? That sounds incredibly deprecating the lives of your parents, and it places a crushing amount pressure on what you decide to do with your life.

> It is truly the burden of man to find purpose.

It's the challenge every living human faces.

Moreover, so many are looking for purpose in the wrong spots: outside of themselves. They derive from external validation. That is, be perceived and told that you are a good employee, a good sportsman, a good husband, a good father, etc. etc. They look for markers such as wealth or fame to get validated in who they are. And they get depressed if they don't get the validation they crave, especially when they put their standards to unattainable high bars.

The real challenge is simply to learn to live with yourself. To be able to spend a day on your own, with your own thoughts, in your own body. To be a kind and loving friend to who you are as a person.

This is something you can only attain through time, practice and self-awareness. Your own mind is literally a house you build for yourself to live in. The ideas and beliefs you absorb are the bricks and mortar of that house.

If you are careless to the building materials, I can telly you that living in your own mind won't be very pleasant. Invariably, there will be times in your life when you will be alone or on your own. Like, when you move out to live alone, or when you divorce, or when you travel alone, or when you are old and alone. If, by then, you aren't able to live with your own thoughts and feelings, well, life will be a struggle.


I needed to hear this. Thank you so much!


Thank you for this comment, it's a real value addition to the discussion for me.


This is quite a good description of it.

I'm so tired of existing. I don't have a brain that's wired in such a way that I'll ever really create something worthwhile.

I am equally unlikely to ever find a partner who would want children with me.

Why even maintain this existence...?


The pain you express here is one I recognize, I'm sorry. For me the answer is simple to say and difficult to execute - if I don't value the world I am in, create a world that I do value. Creating worlds is awesome, literally Godlike. And very, very hard work that I try to be patient watching me flail at.


Kindof reminds me of that one poem about changing the world:

When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.

I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.

When I found I couldn't change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn't change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.

Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.


See my other comment. There are a lot of single moms in the world, and if you can get past that, likely a lot of them can get past whatever you think is unappealing about yourself.

(I'm not a fan of marriage, however. It's neither necessary nor advisable.)


Edit: that's it. I'm writing a dating guide soon. I'm seeing this too often on HN.

--- original post ---

> I am equally unlikely to ever find a partner who would want children with me.

I've had this issue for 6 years (between 16 to 22). I was heavily involved with the pickup artist community at the time. I wouldn't call myself a pickup artist, since what I do isn't picking up women and it isn't an art. I just used whatever good advice they had lying around and used it. After 6 years, here are the cliff notes (I studied psychology as well, so you can bet this has some science behind it).

- The most important advice: only take advice you understand or are curious about and test whether it works for you. If it doesn't, that's completely fine. Advice in getting relationships does not have a one size fits all solution. Maybe this will be the case in the future, but for now, no one figured it out yet.

- Learn cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Read David Burns Intimate Connections and Feeling Good.

- Learn Mindfulness Meditation and other forms. Read Search Inside Yourself by Chade Meng-Tan.

- Finding a therapist is always a good idea. They can second those books and they can second CBT.

- Strength + cardiovascular exercise helps (strength for body posture, running for mental sharpness). The best way to get into this IMO is to simply lift a weight a couple of times until your heart starts beating a bit faster. Then when it is beating faster, notice how you're feeling slightly more in ecstacy than before (other than some slight muscle fatigue).

- Fix your fashion. A good fashion doesn't win women over. It is appreciated though. A bad fashion does let them run away. If you don't want them to run away, stay safe, have a good fashion.

- Read up on assorted mating theory and try to find women that are compatible with you personality-wise, and ask yourself where they'd hangout or how you'd recognize them. I was into artsy types, so anyone who looked like an artist, I'd introduce myself to. I have a high openess to experience, artsy people tend to as well. Do a big 5 personality test (no mbti/myer's briggs nonsense).

- Be careful with pickup artist advice. It's toxic and sexist as hell. The sexism is bullshit.

- This stuff is hard work. I have a friend who has slightly better looks than me (I'm not a pretty person, I'm average at best), but he has no initiative. His dates / relationships are far and few in between. I do think he's enjoying life though.

Those are my biggest tips, most are also quite science-backed.

Some personal findings:

- Getting a girlfriend won't fix your life. You need to take care of your own problems. The only thing it does, it enriches your life.

- You need to come from a place where you feel like you don't need a girlfriend, but it would simply be nice or fun or adventurous (or whatever positive emotion you can think about). The best way to do that is to cater to every single need that you have as much as possible without needing someone else to help you with it.

- You need to make your intentions clear as soon as you know them. I sometimes do it when I see a woman. I do steer clear from cliche's. If I think she's hot as hell, I try to mention that in its most eloquent form (e.g. I'd say she has a nice fashion sense, amazing energy and cute -- I would then go into specific detail). This makes things a lot less complicated. Be respectful about it. I always asked for permission to kiss women, verbally. This goes straight against pickup artist literature, but I found that it worked enough of the time and at least I had a good feeling about it to get verbal consent.

- It is a numbers game. You need volume, but if after a 1000 approaches you haven't even felt a real connection and kissed someone, you're doing something wrong and you need a coach. The problem: most coaches suck. The only one that I know is good is called Ratisse (personal experience but I was already nearly complete in what I needed to learn).

- You can be yourself. Except, you must also be: positive, optimistic and playful. Other than that, you can be yourself.

- You'll have more success approaching women by yourself than with friends. Reason: you're less threatening by yourself, and convey more open body language. The hyper charged version of this is traveling alone (warning: it can be tough at times, just meet people at hostels. If you don't know what to say then just introduce yourself to a group of people at hostels with "hi my name is <name> what are you guys doing in <place/country>?" And have a story ready as to why you think the country/place is genuinely amazing, don't fake the story, just tell a story from the heart. This does the trick often enough.).

- Try to come up with a method of dating women by focusing on your strenghts. Do this as fast as possible. My weakness: lack of humor. My strength: a shit ton of fantasy. My solution: approach women with fantastical stories that I'm making up out of thin air.

- It's the inside that counts, not the outside. The outside is fun, so are drugs or video games. But a good personality means guaranteed amazing sex no matter how she looks, so IMO looks are irrelevant even from a hedonic perspective. I've been with good looking women, but the best sex I've ever had wasn't from a good looking woman. The most amazing intimate moments didn't have any correlation with looks either (sometimes they were good looking). The only thing I had was that I became less insecure after having slept with a few good looking women (and ultimately realizing it was all nonsense).


This sounds serious, please consider seeking mental support and health care.

Even if you don't make it to the top of your value pyramid, life should offer you something.


I do all the treatments and drugs and recommendations, it doesn't change anything, but thanks for your concern.


Does procrastination often lead to depression?


It's hard for me to say as it's a box that I am inside of.

However, it is near impossible to even muster a desire or motive to stop procrastinating when there seems to be no value in anything I'm doing except distraction from the anguish of dragging myself through Life.

Likely it's a feedback loop, the start of which I am not clear on.


I like to think that Maslov's Hierachy of Needs has a deeper meaning than just describing that you shouldn't buy an iPhone before you have food in the fridge or whatever.

The sort of emotions and problems being felt at the higher levels of the hierachy are just as important to the psyche as the emotions and problems being felt at the lower levels of the hierachy.

Even if it is "first world problems", not being fulfilled in the right way can be very distressing.


When examined and compared, Maslow's Self-Actualization -- the top of his pyramid of needs -- and Nietzsche's Will To Power are practically the same thing. Both exist to, in some part, address the emotional problems at the top levels of the hierarchy, as well as the more practical implications of personal growth.


At the very least, to prevent boredom. Probably also something like, having an immediate sense of purpose. Or just experiencing strong emotion.


It means instant gratification.


To feel excited, engaged.


> I need to get good at generating my own feelings. This is why I play games and watch videos. I do it to feel something.

I'm also videogame addict.

I've found that listening to game music/soundtracks (mostly instrumental) while programming really helps me achieve the similar feelings and even motivates me to get stuff done.


Are you listening to music just from games you've played, or game music in general?

I do listen a lot to music from games, movies and series for that emotional boost, but it always has to be something I've already played/watched and engaged with emotionally in the past. The music doesn't generate new emotions in me, it pulls on the past experiences. Listening to arbitrary soundtracks wouldn't work on me.


Ah yes, I'm heavily into chillstep and liquid dnb.

My favorites:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiLCHmyAgEU -- this dnb year mix is a bit too explosive but a lot of my favorite tracks are in there.

Chillstep, no good mixes but I've got some tracks I really like to get you started (if you're into this sort of thing).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6Hy0G0R3AQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKKERJpFuvo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWeL8bHij08 -- he's a professional violinist and chillstep producer (aka the violin is real)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCXuOvvWLQ8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcsgA7Laxfg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_jcLeUsBa4


di.fm has a chillstep channel that is my go-to.


I also listen to music from games/movies I've never played/seen.

Sometimes I do get the emotional boost from music I've never heard before, but most of the times it is from games I played a long time ago.

I'm guessing that music plays a large role in the emotions passed when playing games or watching movies.


Have you heard the album "Sun" before? It's by Thomas Bergersen, and it's quite amazing. I'd recommend Empire of Angels if you just want to listen to one song.

Quite ethereal, and though I've never seen the movie, I love the soundtrack.


I've made a similar realization recently. It seems that I've built a life around consumption. Watching TV series, movies, playing games. I think we're not made for this. There's nothing there to really push us to grow as a person (especially if it's all we do), thus the emptiness (and often loneliness). I've thought about how to restructure my life into one of production instead of consumption, but it's difficult (to find what to produce, and then to get started) and takes so much more effort than passively consuming whatever media teams of people spent weeks/months/years creating.


Good insight, I share your problem. Producing instead of consuming, in my free time, is what I like to do. But nothing seems worth it or I lack the skills and resources to do so. And so I remain where I am. Quit comfortably, all in all, but couldn't it be better?


Does it need to be better? There are many quotes about simply being content in life. I finally realized it's okay for me to spend time playing Call of Duty if that's what I want to do. If I wasn't doing that, I'd most likely be doing some other hobby that may not have any particular value either. As long as I take care of my health, family, and job, my "spare" time is mine.

Edit: Yuck, that sounds worse when I read it back. I do volunteer and donate to charity as well. I'm not completely selfish.


> Does it need to be better?

If you feel fulfilled, then no, maybe not. Many of us are, however, speaking from the perspective that we do feel it needs to be better because we feel empty and unfulfilled.


I agree. I’ve been able to do it one time. And I promoted it on HN with a public facing account (this account is pseudo anonymous + my super hero name, if I’d be one).


hi fellow super hero


Are you in a func? OR DO YOU NEED THE PERFECT FUNCTION?!

Worry not!

Run to the highest hill in the vicinity

And call his name out loud...

into the ether of infinity

ONEFUNCMAN!!!

Whatever func you're in or need. He'll save you.

He always does. He's the best, for he is one func man.


What helped for the gaming part for me is that I went 100% linux on all my machines. Since very few games work great under linux it solved my issue with gaming too much.

I'm still addicted to youtube tho. Haven't really solved that part yet.


> Since very few games work great under linux it solved my issue with gaming too much.

A noble approach, but not true: (native Linux) Steam works great -- I've run it on Fedora and Linux Mint -- and plenty of games run flawlessly via WINE or Proton. Brand-spankin-new AAA games sometimes have problems, but the vast majority of gaming works well.

For example, my latest addiction is Rimworld, which runs natively on Linux via the native Linux Steam client.


i don't think this will work. telling a story is not watching youtube and gaming is not digital product design. the first two are leisure and the other two are toil. sure it might work for two days but i will guarantee you will be experiencing withdrawal symptoms and you will be back to square one after that. you can't just wave a magic want and substitute leisure activity with toil. your mind might want you to, but your body simply won't let you. try watching netflix and reading a book as substitutes. or go rehab by changing your environment to somewhere less digital.


Interesting, did you just start doing it or has been on it for some time?


Just started so in that sense this idea hasn’t been battle tested.

But replacement addictions work quite well with me (eg coca cola —> green tea).

So the fact that this is a replacement scheme as well does give the idea some promise for me.


Hat tip: reddit/r/writingprompts. A poster provides a single line describing a premise and commenters write short stories. It's a great way of getting triggered to be creative.

The difference between gaming / youtube is that writing is producing. You're creating something. And that triggers different parts of your brain making you feel like you're accomplishing something.

Beware though. Writing short stories can become a procrastination in itself! For instance, instead of doing homework, you write a short story.

Managing yourself is also being aware that your mind works at different speeds. Read up on Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow to get the idea. The big challenge each of us faces is learning to live with yourself and striking the right balance.


>Chronic procrastination is linked with mental and physical health costs, from depression and anxiety ...

I would argue that anxiety can actually be a cause of procrastination. It turns into a nasty feedback loop that can go something like this:

Anxious -> Procrastination -> [Depression] -> More anxious -> Repeat

Depression of course depending on the circumstances, but it stands to reason if you're a chronic procrastinator that frequently doesn't get done what you want to get done, depression will often follow in some cases.

I had the privilege of experiencing this cycle first hand due to pharmacological reasons when I was on a xanthine derivative for nine months. Methylated xanthine is chemically similar to caffeine, so being hopped up on that 24/7 was ultimately quite unpleasant. It was common for others to only tolerate the same medication for weeks due to anxiety issues. Once I went off the stuff, the procrastination ceased within days. It was like a new lease on life.

Which is ironic, because even years before that I'd always considered myself a bad procrastinator. No doubt habits and, to a greater extent emotional well-being (as the article states) are considerable factors.

I would also argue hypomanic features and ADHD can play a large role in procrastination as well. Furthermore, I suspect the two are often confused for one another and share similar pathology.


Some people argue that what we're today are calling ADHD should be referred to as emotional impulsiveness. The argument is that lack of emotional control causes all kinds of symptoms, like inattentiveness or irritability (shocker!). Dr. Russell Barkley makes a compelling argument for it in a number of talk and papers. I highly recommend looking it up, you should be able to find some of his talks on YouTube.

I'm diagnosed with both bipolar disorder 2 (rapid cycling, the one that gives you hypomania) and ADHD (inattentive type). It was a lengthy process to be diagnosed since they are overlapping so much, especially the hypomania part. They are also kind of rarely seen as co-morbid disorders, but apparently it happens and both needs to be properly addressed for anything to have any effect.

(If you're suffering from ADHD or BP2 and feel that you're not seeing that much effect from medication or other treatment it's worth checking out. At least people diagnosed with BP2 and medicated, seeing as the medication usually is very effective.)


I'm diagnosed with ADD aswell, and I wasn't like that before school according to memory's and family members, the symptoms of cptsd align these days even more with me, cuz lots of psychosomatic pain now comes with the ADD, I realized my behavior now is cuz I'm afraid, i don't have any close friends, I make myself smaller around people, I feel like a imposter, don't acknowledge praise at work, I'm constantly afraid of something happening to me around people, I may not actually have ADD but lots of unprocessed traumas from childhood


>Some people argue that what we're today are calling ADHD should be referred to as emotional impulsiveness. The argument is that lack of emotional control causes all kinds of symptoms ...

While that's certainly a major component, I believe sensory stimulation also plays a role. Certain video games for example tend to yield considerably higher dopamine rewards in part due to their elevated degree of stimuli relative to other, less stimulating activities.

It's why I can play certain games to a world-class level, and then by the same token attempt to read technical literature but find myself re-reading the same sentence a dozen times over.

On that front, I've found that if I really attempt to immerse myself in a topic in every way I can, while simultaneously convincing myself on the emotional front that learning whatever I'm attempting to learn will be fantastic-it tends to result in better attention. It's as if my mind has a minimum RPM requirement to operate, and the primary challenge is just achieving a minimum speed that gets the blades moving.

>I highly recommend looking it up, you should be able to find some of his talks on YouTube.

Just watched a (partial?) talk of his, thank you. It was quite informative.[0]

He mentioned a steady stream of fast-metabolized glucose [to the frontal lobe] helping tremendously. That's in weird contrast to my experience, as I tend to avoid virtually all refined sugars. In fact, I also fast for 16 hours every day, finding that my mental clarity and focus is best during the fasting period. I've also noticed throughout my life that large-portion meals will often completely ruin focus.

That said, the brain consumes a surprising amount of energy. His findings make me wonder if neurometabolic disorders aren't at play. The talk in question was given in 2012 however; much has happened since. TBI (severe brain injury) and mTBI (concussion) patients often experience attention deficits following injury, and in the latter case it's thought to be almost exclusively a pathology characterized by disruption of metabolic homeostasis within the brain.

>It was a lengthy process to be diagnosed since they are overlapping so much, especially the hypomania part. They are also kind of rarely seen as co-morbid disorders, but apparently it happens and both needs to be properly addressed for anything to have any effect.

I suspect I have both, but never sought treatment. Looking back, I've probably had each for well over a decade. ADHD was suspected early but seemed to lessen in severity over time; treatment not sought due to aversion of stimulant-class drugs. Only recently did I put the pieces together on the BP2 front. However, I meet the diagnostic criteria for both—especially BP2—with basically 15 years of severe deficits in instrumental planning and life achievement to show for it. Granted, my life from adolescence onward was a radical and difficult departure from normal, so even recognizing the aforementioned long-term deficits was a challenge.

Ironically it took me so long to piece together that I've no longer the luxury of taking a gamble on medication for it. In (unknowingly) keeping with Dr. Barkley's advice, I've established an external goal accountability system via way of throwing myself off a financial cliff from which failure is not an option. Fortunately I'm also in the process of constructing what he calls external prosthesis in the form of highly visible time management systems spanning intra-daily, short-term, and long-term goals. Likewise intense regular exercise, a clean diet, intermittent fasting, proper sleep habits, emotional introspection, and purpose.

Historically I always succeed whenever a fire is lit under my ass, so I'm not too worried. The brain is many things, but in often boils down to patterning. Counter-intuitively, habit formation is most difficult in the beginning. Once established, habits—such as focusing on a single insufficiently-stimulating item—become easier. Repetition and discipline sometimes feel insurmountable at first.

As torturous as it can be however, I ultimately view it as a creative gift. Combined with the compulsion towards deep thinking it affords, it's essentially a competitive advantage as far as I'm concerned.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tpB-B8BXk0


I can relate to feeling like it's a creative gift, but the problem is often that it can be hard to communicate your ideas to others. They are often very complex (from the outside point of view) and can be hard to follow (since they are disorganized, scatterbrain). They look like abstract ideas, but they're not. Being able to break them down into more manageable pieces is something I struggle a lot with.

Like everything in neuropsychology it can be hard to nail down conclusive answers. Reduced intake of sugar can have other positive effects that outweighs other negative effects, etc. I think this is the you-do-you area, where you just need to find out what works and what doesn't. Overloading yourself with sensory stimuli, like gaming, often have the same effect as taking medication.

I would try to get treatment for bipolar disorder, it's a very manageable disorder. The medication is really good and has few side effects. At least compared to what you're used to in this field. Identifying bad patterns can be so helpful, and some of them aren't that obvious. The effects can lag behind for many days.


Fascinating point about caffeine as a methylxanthine. My experience with caffeine is that it can help kickstart me into doing something I have been putting off, but easily overcompensates by making me start too many things at once and thereby worsening symptoms of ADD.

I suspect this is related to caffeine's dopaminergic action (dopamine regulates anticipatory training): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caffeine#Effects_on_striatal_d...


Yeah, that's the same story with me. Normally I don't even consume caffeine for that reason.

On the occasions I do have it and attempt to accomplish something that requires focus, it elevates energy but worsens focus considerably, even in minute amounts. It's at best a fun way to spin my tires, and at worst the harbinger of productivity destruction.


> anxiety can actually be a cause of procrastination. It turns into a nasty feedback loop

That matches my experience. I've not been diagnosed with anything (I'm way too working-class for that), but the worst times of my life were due to this self-reinforcing loop of doom.

The worst part is that the first instinct is to address the procrastination, assuming that "doing" will reduce the causes of anxiety and the latter will just disappear by itself. That's not the case, or at least it wasn't for me - I had to take anxiety under control first.


I noticed that I procrastinate when I have to do things I don't want to do OR if I don't know how to do them. An example for the latter would be a programming issue. If I don't know how to solve it or I expect it to be a big hassle I procrastinate away from it.


That's curious. I have the opposite problem.

Solving difficult problems is a main part of my job. I love a challenge and get totally absorbed by a good problem. I read everything I find about the topic, I try different solutions, I think about it the whole time. But once I have figured out a solution and I have to do all the tedious work that comes after, I lose interest and start doing other things.

Programming is an interesting example. I get to work when I have to think how to refactor everything in a nice way, for example, but once I find the right design and I see it works, changing everything becomes a mechanical task, and I tend to postpone that tedious work to try to solve some weird problem I found by chance in some irc channel or stackexchange.

I think that this diversity is great. We should work together!


Tim Pychyl, who's ideas this article discusses, goes in to these ideas much more deeply in a really fantastic video here: [1]

I've watched a ton of videos on procrastination, and read a lot about it, and this video is head and shoulders above everything else. Highly recommended.

He also has the iProcrastinate Podcast[2], which also has some useful and interesting episodes.

[1] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhFQA998WiA

[2] - http://iprocrastinate.libsyn.com/


He also wrote an easily readable book on the subject called "The Procrastination Puzzle".


I could listen to Tim Pychyl lecture all day! Thanks for bringing his work up.


I was incredibly unproductive during the first half of my 20s and procrastinated to the point of setting my career back a few years. Around the time I turned 26 I was suddenly able to actually do what I said I would, get stuff done, and in fact be extremely productive.

So even though I've overcome it myself, I have no idea what advice to give to someone who's struggling with procrastination.


I recently adopted a timed activity method. I make a list like: Eat, Watch TV, Code, Playing Games, Play Guitar etc. I then allocate a timeframe for each one. Every week night after work I do it like: 30m eating and watching netflix at the same time, 20m hard exercise, 60m guitar, 60m coding, 60m gaming, 60m reading. All timed with my smartphone. This is key. It must be timed with an alarm at the end. There's always more or less 290 minutes available each night to allocate. If I remove one activity I just double the time of another one and so on. This way the procrastination was completely obliterated. Also I can more easily maintain really useful habits like exercise everyday, practice something everyday etc. I can exchange reading time for meditation time for example. At weekends it's the same idea, just with more activities and/or bigger time frames. The more time you have the easier it is to waste it all if you don't organize yourself;


This is similar to pomodoro technique [0]. I love it because it gets me in "the zone" quickly.

> I recently adopted a timed activity method

I'm not sure how long you'll be able to sustain it, but my experience has been that unstructured free time is absolutely necessary for recreation. If you push yourself too hard, you'll burn out.

Good luck!

[0]: https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique


Yes. I've noticed it. You can't just live like this 100%. Best of life is still all about unexpected and surprising things as well. But this is useful to get you to focus. One must make a balance with these things. Fixed timings, alarms etc are just to get you used to it. The idea is that your mind get conditioned to better manage your time. The final goal is building effective life habits; It is vital that not only you manage your current life but seek to open your life to new horizons by doing different activities and exploring new things. I recently moved away to a new City, and that makes a huge difference. Opens several windows of opportunity, which by the way is another very interesting topic;


https://waitbutwhy.com/2013/10/why-procrastinators-procrasti...

WaitButWhy blog gave me an amazing insight into why do we procrastinate in the most simplest form. I've felt like, I was literally reading about me


While I've spent a lot of time reading everything he's written, I never felt that any of it helped me overcome my procrastination. It was just recognition and a shallow, fleeting satisfaction in that recognition.


I don't think it helped him (Tim of WbW) either. I don't think it was even supposed to help; reading his writings, I never had the feeling he was offering a solution -- rather, he was fascinated by the phenomenon, and was doing a kind of nerdy, technical analysis of his state. One that I (and others) could resonate with.

What actually helped me was framing the issue in a somewhat buddhist manner. I purchased his Panic Monster and the Monkey, sat them on my desk, and tried to look at them (and thus at my procrastination) with kindness and acceptance.

FWIW, my procrastination hasn't gone away (here I am, on HN); but it shrunk, and it stopped being such a big problem for me.


Learning how to process my emotions made procrastination a non-issue in my life. After learning better models, I don't even use the word anymore.

There are many techniques, but I'd recommend looking at the bio-emotive framework to start.


Could you elaborate a bit on what this bio-emotive framework is? I checked out Dr. Douglas J. Tataryn's website but there's some paid content.


I can recommend reading the books Atomic Habits, Deep Work and Digital Minimalism. The biggest takeaway from all 3 imho is environment design [1] [2], explained best in Atomic Habits (but also "used" in the other 2).

Also I'd recommend the Pomodoro technique, which is quite useful for me.

[1] https://jamesclear.com/power-of-environment [2] https://jamesclear.com/environment-design-organ-donation


If you are going to procrastinate somewhere, you might as well do it here on HN. At least you can be inspired about other people's projects, tutorials and learn something etc. But reading generic news articles like this about procrastination? I don't think so.


Yea but ultimately no.

Too much of anything screws you over. Too much HN feels like hoarding huge piles of clothes in your house. Except, the clothes are knowledge.

The problem is that you’re not structuring the knowledge inside your mind. This can be fine when reading an article but not when you read 20 to a 100 per day.

I’ve been there, I wouldn’t be able to remember what I read.

With that said, you do learn something.


> Except, the clothes are knowledge.

If only! Most of it is actually just semi useful information rather than knowledge.


the antidote presumably being whatever a capsule wardrobe is for information


It's also the discipline to clean up, keep it ordered and throw things out that aren't useful anymore.


> At least you can be inspired about other people's projects

Or get nauseous at everyone's apparent ability to ship wonderful weekend projects at 25, while you can't finish a damn project in 6 months with twice the work experience.

HN is the geek's social media but it should still be treated as social media for all intents and purposes.


I think it's a good idea to have discussions about procrastination. It's something a lot of us experience. Something would be wrong if it didn't appear semi-frequently on the front page.


Probably this is the best explanation by Oliver Emberton on how to beat procrastination. https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2013/01/15/how-do-i-get-o...


Thank you for the mental image of an impulsive baby reptile in my brain.


I recommend “Procrastination” by Burka & Yuen.

For the kind of person who frequents this site and endures suffering due to procrastination, even seeing their clinical definition of maladaptive perfectionism (and learning why procrastinating provides relief from it) could reduce your level of anxiety and self-flagellation, if not help you change your behavior.

The first section of their book provides a framework for understanding what is happening when you procrastinate, then orients your investigation into the underlying causes specific to you (or those not applicable to you). The book's second section offers self-directed cognitive behavioral therapies.

"Procrastination" is based on decades of the authors’ clinical experience. The 25th anniversary edition pulls in updated academic research from as far afield as behavioral economics (future discounting) that didn't exist when the book was first published.

[This comment is a reposted version of one of my own previous comments]


Procrastination is more about dreams, opportunities and possible outcomes than time management and emotions.

If you have the chance to win it big doing something you love you will find the time. If you have less of a chance or you don´t like it that much you won´t be able to find that much time. If what you have to do is something out of obligation or you don´t care at all you will procrastinate.

And it´s fine. It´s your inner compass trying to tell you that maybe this is not for you/wasted effort.

In the short term the best strategy for procrastination is to put your pants on and do it. In the long term is making sense about why you are doing what you do and evaluating if it brings value to your life or not.


I can't believe the state-of-the-art thinking was genuinely that it's a time management problem. Surely some self-awareness of the mental battle goes a long way to quashing that quickly. I'm not thinking "I estimate this will take 1 hour". I'm thinking "I don't want to do this", and there's a tension between inevitability and the unpleasantness.


Same here. Long ago I realised that I have a tendency to procrastinate when faced with having to do things I don't want to do (while conversely being quite good at being focussed on the things I do want to do). Time management only comes into it in the the sense that I want to spend less time doing things I don't like and more time doing the things I do like. Doesn't seem a particularly surprising piece of self-insight to be honest. So, when I realise I'm procrastinating, i.e. faced with something I don't want to do, questions are: Do I really have to do it? If I really have to do it, why don't I want to do it and can I make it any less bad? And if I have to do it and can't turn it into something I really want to do, why can't I simply just get it done and out of the way so I can get on with the other things I actually want to do instead? I wouldn't be surprised if this was generally applicable to some or many other people too.


You think your emotions are behind the wheel and telling you what to (and not to) do? If you think that, then you're going to have a difficult time getting to the root of the problem.

Emotions (often multiple) are the middlemen designed to keep you from confronting your "self". Well all live behind our subconscious, there's no escaping that. The problems arise when we choose to go on auto-pilot and rely on our subconscious too much.

You think you have problems in this world? How many? Dozens, hundreds? Wrong. You have one problem, and its you.

Marianne Williamson nails it with this thought...

    “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.”


Better formatting:

“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.”


I've learned the most valuable things from the HowToADHD channel:

1.

Procrastination is related to fear, and the fight, flight & freeze responses for work. Procrastination = flight. Pulling an all-nighter = fight (gets things done, but at a health cost). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlObsAeFNVk

2.

For people with ADHD (e.g. myself) there are two times: NOW and NOT NOW. That way, it is hard to do any activity, unless is urgent (e.g. deadline). Anything for "some time" (or "tomorrow") is going to stay that way. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLkOZhROvA4

...

Also, I recommend "Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder" by Edward Hallowell and John Ratey. I discovered this book thanks to HN and a post about dyslexia. The book shows quite a few stories of adults with AD(H)D and how do they cope with work and relationships. The stories are diverse (it is certainly not all ill-behaved boys), and give a point of reference.

I wished I had known that book before. I got diagnosed only the last year, being 33 years old. Before turning 30 I hadn't suspected having ADHD, as I had quite a few misconceptions both about the condition, and what is "typical" in humans.

...

And from recent things: this recent HN is invaluable: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22105229

> When you tell yourself "just one more game" or "just one more post", or "just one more video" and end up doing 3-5 hours more, do that with your other tasks too! "just one line of code", "just one tutorial", "just one rep", "just one line of reading/writing".

And from a linked Reddit post:

"Eat the frog first doesn't work for many of the groups who struggle with procrastination. My ADHD group often gets newcomers who say they've tried everything. There must be something terribly wrong with them because trying to eat the frog first makes things worse for them.

In fact, trying to eat the frog first makes it worse for most people with ADHD. We do better with small things, and even better with a small, well-chosen fun thing before the important thing. It builds dopamine and success and reduces anxiety. Also, sometimes we need to de-stress. Yes, I let my kids play video games after school. They relaxed until after supper. They knew that if they didn't get their work done before class started, and were cranky from lack of sleep, we'd have to change the rules."


> Procrastination is related to fear, and the fight, flight & freeze responses for work. Procrastination = flight. Pulling an all-nighter = fight

I guess only vaguely related, because it's nothing like actual fight/flight/freeze where your sympathetic nervous system kicks into high gear.


Maybe it is just a metaphor. Then it is one I find enlightening.

However, stress (yes, including work stress) kicks your sympathetic nervous system into high gear, as you put it. (With all other effects, from hormone levels to heart rate.)

Sure, effects of short-term and long-term stress may be different, but the statement "because it's nothing like actual" is far from obvious.


Do you know any ways we can use this knowledge to improve the situation?


The biggest insight is this NOW vs NOT NOW.

Rationally I know what is time (heck, I did my PhD in physics, so I have an edge here). When it comes to actions... I often zone out, daydream, get distracted by a random post, get too focused so I spend well more time than I realize on something I didn't plan to do, etc.

Once I realized this NOW vs NOT NOW, I set some triggers to make a project "NOW".

Of course, one natural trigger is "the final deadline is tomorrow", but it gets risky and unhealthy.

Other is (I am a freelancer, so there is no natural "we are in the office"):

- setting coworking sessions (then during a meeting there is NOW for the project)

- setting regular meetings (to create a lot of smaller deadlines)

- I try to respond to emails only twice a day, in blocks (so a short question won't turn into NOW against my wished)

- I essentially dropped the hope of doing things well in advance... and it was good. For example, when I give a talk, I book time the same day to prepare it. And it works. The other alternative is to agonize over a week, and they still (in a self-hating mood) prepare things the last minute, but without booking enough time or energy.

Still learning that, so I am very open for pointers.


I thought you might appreciate this clip from a lecture by Dr. Russell Barkley which explains how to use the environment to compensate for ADHD (externalize everything - time, to-do's, motivation, rewards, feedback) and how to keep your willpower reserves high (frequent breaks, positive self-talk and positive mental pictures, meditation and exercise).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tpB-B8BXk0


Thank you for this recommendation. The prosthetic/ramp analogy for external time structure was very helpful.


Is the channel purely informational or does it also provide methods for how to deal with it? Or is the best solution medication (in the case of ADD)?


These are mostly hints and tips. In ~5 min videos, so there is some actual chance to keep attention during that time.

Plus, she speaks rapidly, and it is a plus (I don't need to do my usual thing of listening at 1.5x so I don't get bored).


It was high time for someone to put it in perspective and thankfully someone has. Managing to do lists or calendars are no substitute to living an authentic life.

It might help to understand from where does the stress of procrastinating originate. My hypothesis is that it comes from the procrastinator getting hung up on a "desired outcome". Procrastinator expects certain reward in lieu of his work, for instance making someone feel a certain way about them. But they realise how unlikely the exact outcome is. Inability, perceived or real, of managing with even slightly different outcomes is what causes the stress in the first place. Then later, the guilt works as double whammy for the procrastinator.

Here is where I disagree with the article. Taking first step might be a stimulant, but not a solution. It might cause further stress when it becomes clearer that the desired outcome is more unlikely. Possible solution might be to let go of desire to control the world and people who are going to be affected by the work. Building confidence in oneself, trusting others, and self awareness are the only way out.


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