What I've come to realise however is that the brain/body can only do so much work in a day. I can program for a few hours a day (on a good day) and then it becomes increasingly more effort to do more coding. Sometimes, depending on the task, I'll be able to switch to another task. However, my point in all of this is, if you have a serious procrastination problem -- find a way to overcome it, but also recognise that your brain/body only has so much "fuel" each day, and you need to decide what to put it towards (e.g. work, hobbies, exercise, study, family, etc).
It's also been my observation that this is how I actually want to work. I feel ready and able to tackle anything first thing in the morning, but past 1 o clock nothing I produce will be that much good and my productivity will be a shadow of what it was in the morning.
I work freelance so that's how I work nowadays, it feels like it comes naturally in a way that no other method I've ever tried does including pomodoro.
For me they start between 5pm and 6pm.
I can spend the day in front of my screen doing (almost) nothing or admin stuff. And then it kicks on and I’m (a lot more) productive.
The problem is that it’s around the time I have to take care of the kids when my wife can’t...
True, and I don't think it has anything to do with a personal biological<->time of day connection. The time of day that works for you is probably related to the contexts of what happen before and after in your day. The events which lead you into one mindset or another. So you could change your day to change what time of day it is, as well. You aren't "stuck."
I seem to have a pathological inability to get much done before midday/afternoon/evening/night (depending on severity)
I wonder if this is a belief I'm self-reinforcing by identifying as an "evening coder". I mean, I doubt there's a physiological reason for this. It's probably a matter of this being a habit of a lifetime that I've never fought back against hard enough.
You could try what worked for me:
Make a list of 2-5 healthy habits or routines that don't naturally fit into your current rhythms. Things like being an early riser, going to the gym in the morning, finishing all of your work before 5PM, and so on.
Then, pick 2-week periods to try them out, one at a time. For example, I always thought I was a night owl and and had delayed sleep phase syndrome until I made a deliberate effort to go to bed at 9PM every night for 2 weeks straight. The first few days were painful, but it's easy to push through when you're only looking at 2 weeks maximum. After those 2 weeks, I realized I'm a much happier, healthier, and more productive person if I go to bed at 9PM and wake up at 5AM, but it doesn't happen naturally.
Alternatively, you may discover that a routine doesn't work for you, but you're not losing much by trying it out for 2 weeks.
On average, you have about 4000-4500 weeks in a life time. It's worth taking some of those weeks to run easy experiments that could pay dividends for years to come.
That more or less describes my working patterns over time, too, including the addicted to stimulants part. When I was young, my most productive time of day was after everybody fell asleep. Now, it's before everybody wakes up.
This used to be me until 4 years or so ago when I started skipping breakfast.
I love breakfast, but not because I feel hungry in the morning so once I discovered this I started skipping breakfast.
I'm fully convinced however that a good number of people would become more productive if they did eat breakfast.
FTR: I often wake up extremely early (often before 04 for days in a row) and can hardly get anything except extremely simple work done after 2100 (even back when I used to sleep more normal hours.)
In the afternoon is when I can concentrate for 2-4 hours and do some intense work. Take a break after that, and iron out anything small before calling it a day.
There are six steps in the original technique:
1. Decide on the task to be done.
2. Set the pomodoro timer (traditionally to 25 minutes).
3. Work on the task.
4. End work when the timer rings and put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
5. If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 2.
6. After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.
 Of course there is general fatigue, but this is different from only being able to focus on something for a couple of hours/day or not being able to start something at all.
If I wake up and start playing a video game or eating crap, that inertia carries through the day. The reverse is also true, if I get up, workout, and start being productive that will carry through the whole day. Once I realized this about myself I adjusted my whole schedule around. Instead of after work workouts, I moved them to the morning. Instead of staying up late, I get up earlier and naturally go to bed earlier. So instead of wake up and chill and ease into my day, I wake up and go. And, that go carries through the entire day.
The balance to strike here, I think, is to give your mind & body a chance to recuperate before you get too close to that breaking point. Or phrased another way, look at 'pushing yourself into a second wind' as a critical tool for certain situations, but one to be used sparingly (preferably when you have some open calendar spots ahead).
Tricking my brain into investing into the outcome of work I am not interested in takes up most of my time now trying to get over procrastination. And of course I have a deadline today and I'm writing this message on HN... but like any good developer that needs some pressure to work I've got the plates all spinning for now.
My experience is similar to yours, and I would also add that that "fuel" grows if you maintain the effort throughout the days/weeks. But some of the days you'll have more fuel, others less, just to the best you can (I struggle a lot to keep that balance, not easy at all..)
But by far my most productive times are when the problem is clear and I feel compelled to solve it. I've always thought that I'd be overall a much more useful person if I could hack my brain to be compelled to do what needs to be done rather than whatever random thing has taken my interest.
The biggest differentiators are the UI, configurability (of times, alarms, etc.), and for me, oddly, the ability to have/not have a "ticking" sound while it's going. I like it to keep me motivated, others hate it and prefer music. Sometimes I use both.
I don't like long stretches of work, it might be just me but I end up obsessing over unnecessary details the longer I concentrate on some problems, if I take a forced pause and then continue, I seem to use less time for the same amount of work.
I know that i can develop much longer then i'm actually doing.
The biggest issue for me with procrastination is not pushing every single thing until i really have to do it but that my idea of myself feels that i can do more than i'm doing.
I spend plenty of hours coding from 16-6 when i was 16 and learning php. I have plenty of experiences where i did not just stop.
The most visible to me is it with something new like a new job or task: First few weeks in a new job is great. I do a lot, i'm quite productive.
And the other thing is: If i really only can do 2-4h real development and then i need a break, i definitly don't need a break of 20h. So how to get back to it without that 20h break?
Says one of the first commenters. Are you sure what you are doing here now is not procrastination?
What happens in my experience, is that you come across a video you really want to watch, or come across a comment that you absolutely must respond to; perhaps that's what happening to me right now!
Before you know it, you've spent 30 mins away from work, and completely lost the momentum and concentration that was accumulating via the pomodoro. Now you have to use more mental energy to get back to that state.
Another alternative is to treat the 25m as a minimum time in Pomodoro: if you are tired or have reached a natural break point for your task then stop. If you're in the flow continue.
You may want to enforce a maximum amount of time for health reasons (e.g. to get up from your chain every now and then).
This. The pomodoro technique has helped me greatly, but the time limit is really just about motivation to get started (in my case). It helps by allowing me to tell myself: "You can do this... you can do anything for 35 minutes (the time limit I prefer)."
However, it is very often the case that once the timer expires, I just turn off the alarm and remain focused on my work. Sometimes my session lasts up to an hour or more. And of course, at other times, I finish the task I wanted to work on before the timer expires because the level of focus/flow I was able to achieve enabled me to finish the task more quickly than I thought.
My story is just one, of course, but I highly recommend at least trying the pomodoro method or some variation of it, just to see if you have similar success.
1. If I'm struggling to start, telling myself I only need to spend 25 minutes on it gets me started
2. I can pretty easily hold myself back from checking slack/email or context-switching when the block is 25 minutes - I can always peek at messages after to make sure nothing important happened.
3. It gives me a target - frequently there is something concrete I think I can _complete_ in 25 minutes, and that gives me motivation to push to get it done by then. If it goes a little over, that's fine
4. Because these periods of 25 minutes are really intense, I can't do them back-to-back all day. I have found switching to an interesting YouTube video for 5 minutes during a break (and trying to completely rest the brain during this time) re-energizes me more quickly, and lets me do more pomodoros without needing to stop for a while
They are magnetic, start the countdown at the given time (like 25 min and they remember it), the beeper is very soft and you can't procrastinate exploring hundreds of features.
Something I'm bad at but seems to work is to have a conversation with myself that sort of comforts me about the anxiety and says "hey, what does this todo list look like? does it really matter that everything won't be completed today? You've spent years on this project so why would it be done today? Okay now go and address this one thing you have to do."
I'm getting better at knowing that this is my issue though and just think to myself "If I break it, I can go back a few steps or just fix the problem as it comes".
I am anxious and discouraged when working on it and often fallback on safety of procrastination.
This is exacerbated by the fact that I like to have a holistic view and understanding of something before implementing something. And I can't do that here :/
It's sort of the internal version of having a manager present you with a task and telling you up front that it will be "easy". That's enough to elicit a silent, knowing groan from most of us.
The good news is that often once I accept that a task is really quite complex and will take a long time, the resistance fades, and it becomes easier to start working on.
Yeah, procrastination is a teacher. There's a reason why you or I procrastinate. Sometimes it takes only a couple minutes to figure out.
Regarding the fear part, I find re-framing it to be useful.
Well, if you haven't started yet, you're already failing.
What will you learn, even if you fail?
Fearing endless work?
Do you enjoy the process? If not, could you make it more enjoyable?
Fearing judgement or putting something imperfect into the world?
1) We're all imperfect.
2) You can create, try, and fail in private. You don't have to show your first bad attempt to anyone. You can work on it until it's good enough and then show it to someone else.
And about that "break it down" advice, yes it does help, but I prefer to think about it as clarifying.
Clarify the work, identify the unresolved issue, hazy details, decisions not made. What am I ignoring? What's unclear? What's giving me anxiety? Any of those questions help.
Hope that helps a bit.
And as you say in the article that you're looking for more tools for defeating procrastination, I feel obliged to point you to the collection of anti-procrastination tools I've built at deprocrastination.co.
For me, it's all about stress. Procrastination is a good sign when I feel too much pressure and there's too much weight on my shoulders. Procrastination becomes a way of self-medication, shutting your mind off and forgetting about all the issues you might be facing in daily life. For some people, the only time they have the luxury to be alone and not disturbed, is when they are at work, sitting behind their computer, headphones on -- and that's the best time to procrastinate.
Nevertheless - we still need to do them.
I think the answer is both simpler and more difficult than most people are characterizing here.
1. Discipline takes training (preferably from a young age). If you practice overcoming those mental blocks, you will be more accustomed to doing them and recognizing and avoiding those escape behaviors that we call procrastination.
2. Visualizing and regularly reinforcing the Goal - that final benefit that puts all the work in between in context.
3. Planning/chunking the work. It's a form of gamification - but don't let it itself become a form of procrastination. 99% of people _already_ _know_ what needs to be done, right now.
Personally, I have a simple system. Three Google Docs. 1. Is a short, somewhat vague list of goals I revisit every year at tax time. 2. Is a list of projects in a rough order of priority (actually it's a folder of Docs with one doc for each project). ...and most importantly, 3. The daily journal, where I add to the top each day the date and a rough list of things I'm working on.
People get lost in making sure their prioritizing is perfect, or adding too many things to their daily TODOs. In fact, in the context of doing what's important, I find that one of the key skills is being militant about things you're NOT going to do - and ignoring requests from others that don't fall in line with your own goals.
Most people struggle with prioritising because they think that it is deciding what order to do things in - I like to say that far more important than that is deciding what things you are NOT going to do.
To solve this the steps listed in the article are pretty good actually, but for me it is unrealistic to just remove all the apps on my phone/computer. It doesn't solve the underlying problem and is pretty simple to just download whatever app again or use my tv instead in a moment of boredom/sadness/frustration. The real key is to make each task that you have to do for work so incredibly simple (ie break them down to the smallest units possible) that avoiding the task becomes an absolute joke. I basically start with super specific tasks to get me started, and then ramp up once I'm engaged. Sometimes the first few tasks are literally "Open the codebase", "Change the header text to something better", "make element x have a border radius". One thing I've noticed is that I always try to think of every edge case and what the best way to code something would be before even typing anything. Planning is good, but eventually it hits a point where I get annoyed or stressed because I can't find the most optimal way to do something and then....I procrastinate. So what I've started doing is if I feel this starting to happen I implement the feature or whatever I'm working on in the EASIEST way I can think of at that moment. If I have even a tiny idea of how it could be done, I start working on it that way, and then later as I get further along I can clean it up or reimplement it a different way. That's been pretty useful to me, it kind of goes back to breaking problems down but it's slightly different.
The last thing is exercise in the morning. Starting my day with something difficult sets the tone for the whole day. Sure, I could still go watch YouTube after working out but usually I feel good about the workout and my body that I don't need the easy dopamine hits after that and it's easier for me to get started on work.
I do wish there was an inherent way to make productive work the source of easy dopamine hits but I haven't quite figured that one out, yet. Depression is momentum. If you're feeling bad, it's a spiral down (wasting time watching TV, then your brain is so fried from that that you don't cook dinner and instead just eat an unhealthy meal, then dessert because you're still sad, etc). If you're feeling good it's a spiral up. Keep trying, keep working at it. Harder things (like work and exercise) will help you feel better in the long term. The things we try to avoid; YouTube, tv, video games, will make your brain stimulated in the moment but you fall further and further into depression (or I do at least).
Hopefully any of that was helpful but it may not even apply to you at all
I certainly struggle with the dopamine hit problem. I have a little will power in the morning and then things drop off rapidly. I can force myself to do urgent things like meetings or something like fix production going down. Anything else though is very difficult to chug through. I won't let myself play video games or watch movies during work hours out of some deep seated moralistic responsibility. This doesn't help me work though. Instead, I'll let myself procrastinate on things that I find "acceptable" for people on work hours (but for far less time than what I do them). This is primarily browsing news sites and eating. I can't stock snacks in my home or my desk at work as I will just compulsively devour them if I have resistance to the task at hand. I then also like you say, feel energy drained after something like browsing the web compulsively.
It then sucks seeing other engineers in the field, with far less experience than myself, just pumping out code hour after hour. I've tried different industries, jobs and even moved cities in an effort to fix things. If I don't like programming anymore, I don't know what else I would do that pays even half as much. I've tried engineering management which is a lot more urgent timed stuff with more admin like work. I was able to force myself to do the job but not super well and I faced weekly negative feedback for mistakes I was making which would also zap my energy to perform.
I find a lot of the "tricks" posted in this thread however to be gimmicks. I know that's a bit cynical but to explain, I try them out to keep an open mind, but then within days or a week, they seem to stop working. It's as if my brain is sabotaging itself. Like it's saying -- oh that technique worked yesterday, we can't have that, so you should just not have the will power to do it today --. Makes it feel like there's a deeper underlying issue that needs solved but no amount of contemplation on this seems to help.
I like to think that the right programming role exists for me somewhere, but it's super hard to study for interviews after a day's work. I feel like I have 100 will power points a day, I spend 200 of them trying to force myself to work, and then have nothing left for when the day is done.
Sorry for the long rant but it was refreshing hearing your story and seeing that I'm not the only one with these symptoms.
To me, it seems that the act of preparing/motivating yourself to do something can be more tiring or drain more energy than doing the work itself. I used to try to wait to do my exercise for the day until I felt like it, which of course rarely ever came. Then I felt bad about myself for not working out and the problem kept getting worse. Eventually I realized that the only option is to ignore how I'm feeling when I first wake up and workout anyways, no matter how hard it is to start (see Mel Robbins' 5 second rule for getting started or getting out of bed). A couple of sets or laps in I usually feel the motivation kick in. This seems to be true of many things, and reminds me of this graph that explains how the things our brain wants to do (easy dopamine / instant gratification) leaves us net-negative over time (depression) vs. the things we should do (delayed gratification) leave us somewhat unhappy in the very short term (ie. when you are getting started each morning) but net-positive (happy!) in the long term.
Here's the graph: https://s3.amazonaws.com/skinner-production/story_images/fil...
Full source article (not advocating for this strategy just providing source): https://thriveglobal.com/stories/how-to-overcome-procrastina...
It seems like once you understand this and can act on it (some people even do it subconsciously or as a result of how they were raised), you are part of a small percentage of the population that can do big things in this world. Success is heavily dependent on your consistency.
I used to work an office job, and would try to go home and work on my side projects or course work. It was always quite difficult to do. I eventually learned that I was giving myself the option to do the side project after work, and when given the choice I almost always chose to do something else (like watch YouTube and play video games). At the time, I absolutely hated my job and was completely drained at the end of the day so I thought I needed time to relax before starting my other work. Of course once I started playing a video game I never moved on/recovered and didn't start my side project work. So instead of giving myself the option to do the work, I made a rule for myself that when I got home from my job I would start working on the side project, regardless of how I felt. No motivation was needed now, because it was the rule. Doing the work was the only choice available, there's no alternative.
I eventually quit my job and still the motivation to do my side project isn't really there. I finally realized it will never come. Even if you didn't have your job it's unlikely that you would want to study for interviews, but you may (monetarily or otherwise) be forced into a position where it's required, and thus you do it. It may be beneficial to create this position artificially for yourself now. Every day when you come home from work you do 3 leetcode questions (just an example, maybe instead it's writing an answer to a potential interview question or something like that). That's the rule, don't do anything else until those are completed. Somedays, you will feel motivated after finishing those 3 questions and will continue on to other productive things. Other days, maybe you don't want to do anymore after that. But even those 3 questions over an extended period of time will put you much further ahead than you are now. At the moment, you are slowly drowning by doing nothing.
As a general rule, I am personally able to engage myself (to a reasonable extent -- if I hit a hard task or problem sometimes I feel the urge to distract myself) in the work after getting started. The getting started step is the part that trips me up. If that's also the case for you, then I would seriously try to create structure for yourself. Discipline will get you started with the work, and the motivation should come after doing it for 20 or so minutes. If you feel yourself slipping for multiple days in a row then you have to reset yourself and start again as quickly as possible. You build more and more resistance (more stress, task seems more daunting) as time goes on and you're not doing anything.
There really isn't adult onset ADHD, but there are a fair number of adults who have undiagnosed ADHD. Take an online screening test and that will tell you if you might want to see somebody about a full test.
This article is talking about the idea that we can train our brains to act like we have ADHD and how to break that brain plasticity cycle, but these techniques would be helpful if you also have ADHD.
For most of us, lack of sleep or poor sleep quality can trigger a mountain of different symptoms.
Are there even people who don't have ADHD these days?
stress and anxiety can present symptoms that overlap with ADHD symptoms.
Yawn. When I read these minimalism tips I always wonder if people giving this advice ever had a real job or if their job is actually giving people minimalism advice. Good luck trying to justify being the only one without Skype/Slack/Gmail
I've also set the new tab page in my browsers to be blank and found that useful in the same way.
I guess in this case it’s a small amount of friction not a complete block that works for me.
In my case the very urgent messages which needed to be done right at that moment (or at the first moment when I got the chance to be in front of a computer screen) have been sent either through SMS or via direct social app messaging (we're a small shop, we all know each other). I've had only a handful of such messages in 10 years of us working together.
If you don't need anti-procrastination advice why did you read (skim?) the article and why are you commenting here?
i am just honest with people and say i have not read their email or whatever, they tend not to mind that much.. as long as the things i say i will do get done.
IMHO most need for constant communication is just tight coupling manifest in business logic i.e. bad design that needs addressing.
When you can also follow up accusations of slacking with wasted clock cycle discussions its also handy (e.g. i tend to use toggl excessively if i think there is any chance of questioning my motives.. then i can switch to the always connected version of me they are asking for and show just how much time it wastes)
But just getting a pomodoro app that also manipulates DND would probably be a lot simpler.
I'm sure it doesn't work for everyone, but I've been doing this for years, and it does help me. Yes, of course you always know that it's ahead, but it takes a moment for that fact to register, and that moment can be just long enough to incite action.
(For those who have read Thinking Fast and Slow, I think this is sort of a "hack" of System 1.) Basically I'm leveraging the reactive part of my mind to help me achieve the result that the more strategic part wants.
Yeah I actually realized that mistake some 30 mins after posting that I think but then left it like just wondering who will notice that :p
Rationally that makes no sense so dismissing techniques for resolving it that also don't make rational sense on that basis seems wrong.
I hate very much to be late, so I leave early and prepare a way to spend time if I arrive too early, like bringing a book to read or a podcast to listen to.
I thought you were making a more general statement that this doesn't work because it doesn't make sense (anyone using it would just adjust their timings).
if you code then easiest analogy i can think of is that people tend to optimise for a certain wait time on average rather than always have cpu time available exactly when you need it.this is like - everyone should shoot to be at a meeting / event within a certain time frame that reflect the length of time this event is going to block them out for, how far it deviates from their planned activities and how much noticed they had.
If everyone is sometimes late then many more important things will get done much faster as people didn't just drop what they were doing to be on time.
rather than get upset by lateness I try to just never ask for people to be anywhere any given time..and if i am asking them then i think about how much extra time it takes out of their life to do it exactly when i asked (not 5 mins after or before - as both cause problems).
I also factor into these considerations that time is an abstract concept - so humans will never really give a hoot what it has to say, outcomes matter. i have never met an "always on time" person that doesn't spend way to much pointless time checking the time and thinking about the time... much like the ridiculous lengths you have to go to when programming to stop processing something at the correct time (e.g. truly deterministic control systems or games with a strong commitment to never drop a frame but carry out tasks that take way more than a frame to do)
I occasionally miss a train or a flight and that is deliberate because I optimise for minimal unproductive time waiting. The train/plane will leave without me if I am not there.
However if people are persistently late to multi-attendee meetings it increases total wait time over all the attendees which is not optimal for the group.
The more people are present and the less possible it is to start without them, the more wait time is being introduced by any person's lateness. Of course, there are far too many meetings with far too many people but that is a separate problem.
If someone just needs to chat with me at some point online or at my desk if in the office, we will usually agree a vague time slot as that is a 2 sided problem only and I can work on other things until they arrive. If they ask me to meet in a particular place where I cannot work while in a wait-state, I expect them to be on time.
I know I'm not studying for my final but look at how clean the bathroom is!
This comes from a study (which I can't find, but I think it was featured on the BBC not too long ago) - procrastination impulses come and go in waves - when you know how to effectively tackle the wave, you can return to the calm seas of productivity.
One of the biggest tools that I employ, is a fairly rigid schedule.
I work @home, these days (like everyone, but I've been at it longer).
I get up at 5AM, even though I don't need to.
I do my morning exercise, even though I don't need to.
I start my workday at around 6:30AM, and try to wrap it up by 5 (seven days a week -my GitHub page is solid green).
I plan to do unpleasant, boring things when I set up my projects; for example, configuration management, refactoring, testing, release coordination, and...yuck...documentation.
And then...I do it!
Shipping (as opposed to writing) software has a lot of boring, repetitive, pedantic stuff.
I have to be careful not to fall into the automation trap, where I see automation (especially release automation) as a "silver bullet" cure for boredom.
But that's just me. YMMV.
But just adding the 127.0.0.1 to the 3-5 most frequented websites is enough to stop me from reading them. It's like now I have to consciously decide: "Do you REALLY want to check this website?"
It would be similar to Netflix not jumping to the next episode during a binge watch, but rather pushing you to their homepage after an episode.
You "break the default" in a way.
This sucks and it is absolutely true, but to me it's more about boredom, you know that monkey job you absolutely need to do but is terribly boring to the sleep inducing level?
That immediately makes me search for some other thing to focys, fighting it is very hard, I don't smoke but I think this is the closest that comes to my mind when I feel the "rush".
Also, when I was assigned to a new project where I get to work on a modern tech stack and create a proof of concept, I was able to got 6-10 hours of high productivity (sort of like a honeymoon phase with new tech) for several days.
But then I got re-assigned to a project with a tech stack that I really don't like e.g. a "hot reload" would take 5-10 seconds and it would trigger every time I save a file + the project structure doesn't make sense - but people who worked on it have since left the project + I'm not learning anything useful. I've tried focusing on the tech challenges, but my tasks are mostly to fix bugs. Refactoring is not wanted, since the idea is to ship a less buggy version as soon as possible.
Fortunately I'm a contract freelancer, once this project ends in 2 months, I won't extend and will look for a new company.
As someone personally familiar with this phenomenon (for example, I remember smiling at https://xkcd.com/477/ when it was posted in 2008, nearly 12 years ago), and as someone too familiar with procrastination in general, here's one insight I had recently, and an old insight:
1. Firstly, “epiphany addiction” — I encountered it on the blog of Aaron Swartz (http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/anders):
> The irony, of course, is that the books are totally useless unless you take their advice. If you just keep reading them, thinking “that’s so insightful! that changes everything,” but never actually doing anything different, then pretty quickly the feeling will wear off and you’ll start searching for another book to fill the void. Chris Macleod calls this “epiphany addiction”: “Each time they feel like they’ve stumbled on some life changing discovery, feel energized for a bit without going on to achieve any real world changes, and then return to their default […]. They always end up back at the drawing board of trying to think their way out of their problem, and it’s not long before they come up with the latest pseudo earth shattering insight.”
2. Beware of searching for one true method by which you will finally “defeat” procrastination. I remember this excitement when some trick used to work, and the urge to write a post like this (BTW, congrats on writing and finishing this post — I never got around to writing something so “finished”), having found “the answer”. But eventually some trick that used to make you productive may stop helping so much. (Because there are other unaddressed root issues, which seem to find a “workaround”: this is the "procrastination as wily adversary" metaphor, as in War of Art etc.) Ultimately, it seems we need a complementary set of approaches, both external (like Steps 1 to 3 in this blog post: changing your habits), and internal (being more aware of your feelings and drives, etc). Procrastination (for many) seems to be discomfort-avoidance, where the discomfort can be some combination of fear, anxiety, distaste, dread, uncertainty, ambiguity, conflict with (some of) one's values, etc. It helps to become more aware about the nature of your discomfort, and get to the root of it. But ultimately you can't think your way out of the procrastination problem. Things like mindfulness, talking to a therapist, good exercise,… all help; just don't pin your hopes too strongly on one of them, to the exclusion of other approaches. (I had given up blocking websites as it had stopped working for me, but after reading this post I just added a major time-waster to my /etc/hosts file, thank you.)
The goal is to get to a state where you don't feel out of control of your own mind, where you can decide to do something and just do it — but it can be a process to get there. Good luck to you, me, and all of us. “You can't think your way into right action, but you can act your way into right thinking.”
I mostly embraced it. As long as I'm procrastinating good things by doing other good things, it works pretty well.
It also helps to do things you like.
I'm still on my smartphone 90% of the day and sleeping until 12 every day, btw.
I have come to see it as having a parallel in extrovert/introvert - for many introverts interacting with people is just fine, but it cannot be a marathon - we have to recharge after that. Interaction is very brain energy consuming in such scenarios.
Similarly, procrastination is something similar on a different time scale. I can be intensively 'productive' for a long time (2-3 days or so), but then I have to do nothing or, in some rare cases, something else that does not involve, I am guessing, that part of the brain. Rinse repeat.
1) Laptop is for work only ( every thing else is blocked )
2) Mobile is for social media and procrastination ( I switch off internet while working. )
On my computer, I block all distracting sites with the extension I built until noon, then I have 20 minutes for mostly Twitter, then all blocked until 4PM, another 20 min break, and then blocked until 8PM. 8PM-midnight, I do whatever I want. I've found this a fair agreement with myself that I have no reason to break. It created a rhythm for me.
So perhaps if a complete block is too big a stretch, you can give yourself a couple well-defined "fun breaks".
1) I routinely get into these "browser time loops" while waiting for a build. App's got 30s build time? Ah, I'll check reddit. 30 minutes later ... I have found that autosave has helped, and hot module reload in Webpack, but for server code that requires build (.NET), still looking for a way to reduce that. Similar for publishing code. It takes a few minutes to publish to web host, let's go read the news... I feel like a really good CI would help with this.
2) I value being informed. I use Feedly to monitor news, especially industry news. So part of me doesn't want to block sites on principal. I keep saying "I value staying up to date on these topics. I'll just avoid when I should be working" but never do. A way to time access would probably be worthwhile.
3) I question too much focus on "productivity" as defined by spending time looking at an IDE. I don't have 24x7 cranking out code as a goal. I'd much rather focus on extending time "in the zone" where I'm focused and writing quality code. Pomodoro breaks that for me. Music helps sometimes, but can also distract. Caffeine helps, but requires more and more.
That all changed when I got a sleep evaluation and realized I had severe sleep apnea. My quality of sleep was terrible. As a result I had zero motivation.
I got a CPAP machine, and after an initial period of adjustment, it was a profound change. The year after I received the machine was the most productive in my entire life.
Take sleeping seriously. It may help you in ways you never imagined!
I started talking ritalin when i tried a degree again with ~22?) and it was day and night to the same year before:
My metal wall of starting/doing was gone.
I'm still struggling with even talking ritalin regularly and there are downsides to it, but i do have the feeling that it is something which helps, something i actually really should talk regularly.
Its like 'i don't need glasses' 'holy shit how was i able to walk around without glasses?' 'Oh no wonder why i had to sit at thefirst row while everyone else had no issue at all reading' 'how did that go so bad suddenly?'
On your work phone, remove all distractions.
Fore Firefox, the "impulse blocker" add-on can be helpful.
Anything you do, you choose to do so. Even the things that seem like you have no choice. You do.
You dont HAVE to eat. The consequence is that at some point your body doesnt get what it needs but you have the power to choose to not to eat.
You dont have to work on your project. But each choice has a consequence nonetheless.
So in short. What worked for me is realizing that EVERYTHING is a choice. You have to think back from the consequence and then choose what happens if you do something now vs you do something later
I find that on some days my productivity window comes and goes and is wasted during times I have a meeting, or need to deal with something urgent but simple and then my brain is fried when I need to tackle a complex creative task. Knowing with some certainty that the window has arrived might help more actively block out other things.
We have been taught a giant lie that the head is separate, reigning over the “dumb” body. “I think therefore I am” is a load of bull, or a delusion. Your body is your subconscious, your stomach your primitive brain. Your body is chock-full of hard-learned lessons, all delivered to you subconsciously as instincts. Don’t ignore these instincts. We are animalistic creatures, heavily driven by instinct, and rightly so. To discard your instincts is actually irrational!
Observe what your body is telling you. Why is there anxiety? Think to a physical manifestation of your anxiety. Is it tightness in your chest or a lump in your throat, where do you feel that anxiety? Observe it. Do not rationalize it, do not explain it, do not deconstruct it, do not jump to any conclusions. The moment you reach to touch it with your fingers of reason, the truth (body instinct) will slip away. That’s why you just have to observe, non-judgementally.
As you observe and think more about the physical manifestation of your anxiety, see what thoughts and reasons rise up. The more in touch you get with your body, the less information you will be throwing out.
You don’t need external devices to tell you how you are feeling for productivity potential, you just need to A) accept that observing subconscious reactions is a huge source of information, B) your gut feel is correct, but it takes time to process and understand what the gut is telling you, and C) it will take time to get in touch with all your body.
Urgent but simple — have you considered how much of an emotional toll that takes on you? No wonder that can put you into a state where you feel maybe knocked off rails, or some kind of self criticism starts up and you’re beating yourself up for the root cause of urgent task or you’re lamenting the team situation that got you there. These are heavy background burdens, though they may be emotional, are still background threads your brain gives slices to. Now your brain scheduler has less brainpower available for your complex task. Another way to put it is: They are clouds in your heads sky, obscuring the sun of creativity and productivity.
Learn to feel the productivity window by feel, by gut. The same gut feeling will also tell you when to stop. Procrastination often involves avoidance of something, for whatever reason. The trick is to observe what you are avoiding and what feelings are there when you think about this avoidance.
I found that the bigger and more open ended the task is, the quicker I fizzle out and get distracted. The key for me is to get to some quicker reward point. For example I am currently working on an electronic toy project, and my current goal is to only test the music generation. Anything bigger gets hard to focus!
Then I stop working because I did realize I can use something else that will be smarter and more efficient in the long run, So then my mind goes: OK! lets start working on that, and there the endless cycle begins.
Because when I start working on the thing that will make the first thing better I also realize a day or two in, that this is stupid and I need to get back to the original thing but I can't do it because X is not as efficient as Y would have been. Then I try to think of something else for Y.
So in a sense I'm stuck in a cycle where I try to improve and get my self to write less code before the project even has taken off in a meaningful way.
It's just like in devops when people try to scale something before you have the users... which doesn't even make sense. And I'm guilty of that as well.
That's a valuable tip. Drilling down to what stresses you out and finding a way to integrate that into self is central to overcoming procrastination.
Use a laptop to browse stackexchange. Set email to sync every hour, unless your job is to answer emails as they come. Checking once an hour is enough.
1) Keep the phone far out of reach
2) Every time I get overwhelmed, try to stop thinking about the big picture and think "What's the smallest piece I can do right now?" Starting my IDE, starting the software, fixing some obvious typo. Whatever.
3) Yes, block distracting apps, but not permanently. If I do that, I relapse and feel guilty. Instead, I use a Chrome app called Focus (there's a million of them out there) to block distractions for 30 minutes at a time. Enough for me to do work, but not enough where I want to give up.
Even that does not work, if you are tired, exhausted, depressed, sad, angry, desperate and lost. Fix that first.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and one trick or tool that works for me wouldn't necessarily work for you. And it can be really hard to find something that works.
Pomodoro technique has really helped me as well. I feel it forces me to just start right away and get into the flow. The only thing you have to build the habit of is actually starting the timer.
He said it could be general anxiety and prescribed me medicines. I came back home and googled the medicine to find out that it is an anti-depressant, SSRI if you want to know.
Then I said to myself, "crap ADHD is due to the lack of Dopamine and not Serotonin, this is not going to workout". But I chose to take it according to the prescription, hoping that after the tablets are over I can go back to the second session and get my psychiatrist prescribe me ADHD medications.
After two weeks, I could feel the change. Suddenly there was motivation to work, my mind was not constantly fantasizing about the "perfect" work that will interest me. I could see interesting tasks to do in my current job (I am a web developer). I could sense business needs rather than writing the perfect code. I was productive. Challenges did not scare me. I could understand things in meetings without confusion, or obsessing over details. I stopped using pomodoro.
My obsession to constantly check Reddit, HN, Twitter, Youtube was rapidly dying out. Going to sleep did finally feel like going to rest, rather than one more "task" to struggle.
Most surprisingly, I did not give up on physical tasks. Usually I would give up the last rep when I am lifting, but under the medication I did reps to failure and that was the first time I did not give up something which is difficult.
I was still checking Reddit, HN out of habit, but I could stop when I want to. Even my relationship with my wife improved. This was indeed magical. Things I struggled to do or couldn't do became easier and I could do it naturally.
All of this, though lasted only for a few months, as I discontinued the medication for various reasons: people close to me were questioning like, "for how long are you going to depend on it", slowly I developed some tolerance for it, and some minor reversible-side-effects. Now I regret not forming habits when I had the chance with the medication.
The point being, the symptoms of OCD, anxiety disorder, ADHD and ADD all overlap, and don't assume yourself anything. Talk to a psychiatrist, because they know better. Hope this information helps someone or at the least gives them hope.
It’s not like being informed is an important part of being a citizen.
I do this for Facebook. I'm considering to do it for YouTube.
I'll get around to reading them all sometime soon.
Oh, well, still a good article.
I had to find a way to deal with procrastination a few years ago and the most important thkng I learned was to banish perfectionism and admit that good results are more likely to emerge from repeated iterations than from carefully acting out a perfect plan made the first day you heard about the project.
I say this because anxiety around needing to do something important is one possible cause of procrastination in the first place, and yet there is nothing more anxiety-inducing than telling yourself that by procrastinating, you're failing to do the most important things first. Whereas instead, if you only go so far as to make a mental note of it when you catch yourself procrastinating, you'll give yourself a moment to reflect without giving yourself anxiety that perpetuates further procrastination.
Also, you may have a subconscious reason for not doing something. Procrastinating could simply just be your brain's way of letting a better idea about how to do it percolate. That said, forming habits of doing certain unproductive things could be a pointless loss of productivity. Like if you have a habit of checking social media several times a day you might try blocking yourself from that and see how much productivity you've gained. And after all, there are better ways of procrastinating than by checking social media, like going for walks, trying new healthy recipes if you cook, or even cleaning (I actually don't know how many times I've thought of a good solution while cleaning), etc.
Once you've done that, you can think about it in terms of optimizing time spent working vs. time spent in leisure, and acknowledge that the "good" forms of procrastinating are an important form of leisure, which, if you've optimized the ratio well, boost your productivity by restoring mental energy and increasing creativity. Technically this includes sleep as well. :-)
I'm afraid that you'll get this account restricted if you continue like this. You're also tarnishing your brand.
Edit: Another notorious project-poster is burtonator, which I also find mildly annoying, but whenever he posts about his project at least it's actually tangentially related to what is being discussed. He's a good bit less over the line than you are, in my opinion.