"It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of Sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, the stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion."
I then arrive home ready to work, feeling like I can accomplish anything. I take a quick shower if I’ve been for a run then go to the kitchen and go through the ritual of making a cup of tea. I sit down at my desk, finally ready to begin. Then I’ll pick one last HN comments section to read. I normally pick the one that has the most comments. After that’s done I desperately search for anything else that I could justify doing. Then I’ve got a pretty good chance of starting unless it’s close to lunchtime.
In all seriousness though I’ve learned to just accept it without guilt and stop torturing myself. I’ll spend a couple days out of the office and not even try being productive, maybe have a long weekend. There’s no point in suffering in front of a computer screen if I’m not going to be productive anyway. Might as well sit in the sun with a cup of tea and listen to the birds.
"I believe in taking care of myself, in a
balanced diet, in a rigorous exercise routine. In the
morning, if my face is a little puffy, I'll put on an ice
pack while doing my stomach crunches. I can do a thousand
"After I remove the icepack, I use a deep
pore-cleanser lotion. In the shower, I use a
water-activated gel cleanser, then a honey-almond body
scrub, and on the face an exfoliating gel scrub."
Fun fact, apparently the creator of American psycho said that if it were to be remade today it would be about SV instead of Wall Street. Having been around the tech block for some years now and rubbing shoulders with various people from the industry I'm really starting to buy this.
 “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
"Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can".
I love the attitude it conveys. It's not an affirmation, but a call to action. It got me out of overwhelming situations when I was alone and far from home.
Cmd+T re [Enter]
Cmd+T new [Enter]
Cmd+T re [Enter]
I can't start a project until I have every tool I need in my toolbox...but it seems every time I buy a tool I discover another one I need.
I think of that every time I put something off - "Am I making up a reason not to do this? Can I really just do it all now?"
: it beeped because the time was up.
: if you can't do The Thing for ten minutes because of physical limits, this trick does not apply. Also, it is totally fine to stop when the ten minutes are up, the goal is not to trick yourself into doing more work, but to get over the issue of getting started.
But the most common advice I've seen against procrastination is to just force yourself to do five minutes of your task. Just five, then you can do whatever the heck you want instead.
Of course, it also helps if you work off of a todo list - so you know what needs to be done - and prioritize the work - so you don't end up with choice paralysis because there's a dozen things you could be doing.
The biggest benefit or being self-employed is that I'm done when I'm done. For a while, I worked 10 to 3 or 4, then did something else. There was no loss in productivity, but it freed up a lot of time in my day.
However, for some things, I have systems to cope.
I make -very- simple unbreakable rules.
I got fat, decided I needed to fix it, so now I set an alarm at 6am every second day and go to the gym.
No excuses, no fighting, the only thing I -have- to do is run for 10 minutes and then I can go home, if I do that, then I'm fine. I allocated an hour for training. What I find is that after I've started, I can continue without a problem. It's just the getting started.
I have other rules, if there's 4 forks in the sink, I stop everything and wash the dishes. No postponement.
If the milk is 1 day to expire, I stop everything and go shopping, I take the trash with me. (part of the rule)
If there are six or more t-shirts in the laundry I will remove my bed-sheets do a laundry load.
If the day is Sunday and I am about to eat I water my plants.
When I want to go to bed, I have to write down the first thing I will do the next day.
Incredibly simple rules that stop me in my tracks is the only way I can kick my own arse into doing something, otherwise I'll just let things go.
The simple rules thing only works because I convince myself that I cannot break the chain that I have set in motion. "all those other times I did it, I can't break it now, how pathetic is that". (alternatively when I start one: "I only lasted a week, wow, that's terrible, I have to be better than that")
caveat emptor: this does not work for my day job, because my job involves focus, and you might notice that most of my rules are about doing something mundane.
Once you've done it twice maybe three times, you don't want to reset the progress. Over time it gets easier (because you're making a habit) and because there's even more of a ritual involved.
You'd be undoing all the hard work you've done. You won't break it.
Just get 2-3 iterations of the rule under your belt..
However, when Christmas came around, I started traveling and relaxed a lot more, feeling good about my progress from the months before.
It's not May and I'm just now hopping back on the train with the same intensity I had before. I usually got to 16+ hours, but my food choices were shit and I was overeating. Every time I ate when/what I wasn't supposed to though, I felt like an even bigger failure and used those emotions to justify my bad behavior.
It's been 1 week now since I've gone back to my more strict regimen and last night I really really really wanted to go out and get a burger around 1am. I managed to wait out the craving but it was insanely difficult and it's affected my work performance today.
All that to say, the chain is powerful in both directions. After you break it the first time, it's a lot easier to break again.
controversial, perhaps, but fixing your integrity issues can go a long way. part of that means making commitments that matter, not role-playing about them.
most try to fix their integrity issues overnight by doing things like dieting, planning to go from 0 to insane exercise, or whatever else. that's tough, and probably won't work unless you've got the reserve capacity of someone who just took the cloth for like 12 months or something.
Have you dealt with rebuilding this in yourself?
most helpful for me was making a "said i'd do it" category on my planning document. it has led me to:
- commit to doing things i put on the list - even if they suck
- lead me to promising to do a lot less things (generally good)
but, mostly i just wondered: do i want to see myself as someone who flakes? who says they'll do something and doesn't? does that reflect on my behavior in things that aren't so small? and decided that i needed to do better for myself.
Also if you do have ADHD, that is exactly what it is like, turning normal on. It's like a switch and ADHD meds are one of the few mental health meds that have an extremely high success rate. That's the thing, you know with the first dose. If you have it, you take the meds and you are basically like wow, this is what normal feels like. If you don't have it, then I guess you get a little high and speed out, or so I have been told, it does not have that effect on me.
I resisted the diagnoses and taking meds for years before I decided to give it a try. I really regret that I did not listen to the doctors sooner. I wasted a lot of years locked in the ADHD trap and denial.
It really is an issue of denial. I realized instantly the first time I took Adderall that I should not have waited so long. It is kind of frustrating to look back and realize how many of my issues, especially in school, can be attributed to unmanaged ADD. I wish someone would have advised me to get help 15 years ago, but oh well.
For anyone reading this, I highly encourage getting checked out if you have ADD symptoms and are not depressed (depression can look like ADD). I just want to note that dependence was my main hangup, but it has not been an issue- I regularly go a few days at a time with no meds on weekends or vacations and I don't have any negative symptoms or cravings.
Funny story, I used to work for a nutritional supplement company and we would pull some all nighters, we where all young and liked what we did. We published a magazine and I was in charge of the web assets as well as the enterprise systems. Anyways, I was done one night and just could not go anymore and the CEO says here take this and I was like, what is it? and he says oh it's Ephedrine so I took it, and finished work at about 11-12 PM went home completely clear headed and started doing projects that I had been putting off for months. This lasted for 8 hours, I was like this is really weird, I have taken Ephedrine before and it never did that. I would get a little clarity but nothing like that. So anyways I go back into work the following Monday and I say to him, dude what did you give me that was not Ephedrine. So he rifles thru his desk and I hear an oh shit, I am so sorry dude. I was like sorry about what, and he said I accidentally grabbed my bottle of Fen-Phen and gave you one of those. Anyways the point of the story is I should have realized then and there that the medicines helps but I was still in denial. Mainly due to my ability to easily hyper-focus so I can be really productive at one thing.
A couple of months ago I came across this article / HN thread https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22129777
I walked away from it with this notion that it all sounded a little too familiar. But it was just a curiosity in the back of my mind. I wasn't really brave enough to take a proper look. Then during lockdown working remotely the difference became quite visible to me. I started to do a bunch of research and read about others experience/description. Penny after penny after penny started to drop. Still dropping tbh. I always knew I was a little different. I always thought to myself "if only I knew the name of whatever this is then I could get my wife to understand why I just can't seem to do the damn dishes". I booked an appointment to get a proper Dx but still have to wait a few weeks. I'm fine with diagnosis, but the meds I'm still not sure about.
Again, really appreciate the data point. Glad to hear it has such a positive effect on you.
It's not all rainbows and unicorns though so make sure you do your own research. Sometimes the meds can cause insomnia, dental health is a real issue with amphetamine based drugs (this is due to them causing dry mouth) you have to drink lots of water to offset it and dental hygiene is of the utmost importance, the dental effects can be avoided but it required steadfast attention. Finally there are some cardiovascular risks, which while they should not be overstated they should not be ignored either.
On not being sure of the meds, my advice would be try one dose, then decide if it is right for you or not. There is no ramp up time, like depression or bi-polar meds, you will know how effective they are going to be and if they are right for you with a single dose. As well there are different strategies for using ADHD meds, some people take them daily, some people only take them when they get down in the weeds and need to pull themselves out the choice is yours with how you manage it.
That's such good way to describe it for those who just don't experience it.
It's like if you had just reached the decision logically to turn off life support for someone you love. It's not like you just straight away walk over and switch it off. There's this awful reluctance that you have to go through first.
Medication sounds like quite a mixed bag, but I'm feeling somewhat more willing to give it a try.
That's a fact! One of the weird things about Adderall at least is that you no longer have any physical needs. You don't get thirsty and that's a good way to end the day with a killer dehydration headache.
I suspect that some of the cardiovascular risk can be minimized by making sure you are not taking a dosage that is too high for you. Your heart should not be racing at all with the right dose.
The lack of cravings is a weird side-effect. I love to eat but when I take my meds I could care less. Especially Desoxyn, it's like Adderall x 100 in the don't care if I eat department. Adderall did have one really weird side effect for me and was the reason I looked into other meds and that is it increased my sexual urges quite a bit. Really to an unhealthy level. I have read that it has that effect on certain people and that it comes from the levo-amphetamines and their targeting the PNS more than the CNS.
Amazing the difference in outcomes when it's purchased from a reliable source and consumed in moderation! (This also applies to the so called "opioid crisis", but I'll save that rant for another time.)
It's a little much to go over in text, but this guy:
gives a really good overview of the differences in the chemicals. He does not go into methamphetamine (Desoxyn) but I did a lot of research on it as well when I was looking to find the most effective treatment for myself. Having taken Desoxyn, Adderall and Dexedrine, I find half the dose of Desoxyn equals a similar dose of Adderall so 15mg = 30mg, with a lot less of the physical side effects (methamphetamine crosses the blood-brain barrier easier and has an affinity for the CNS over the PNS). To me Desoxyn and Dexedrine are similar but Dexedrine required a slightly higher dose, and did not create quite the clearheaded-ness that Desoxyn does.
Me, I just like to know what's happening. I like regularity, but I'm not hung up on it.
It's far better to use mindfulness and let yourself do what you really want to do.
For things that require focus, I do pomodoros. Knowing I have a break of X minutes coming up in Y minutes lets me focus on the task. It also provides a mini-deadline so I'm more likely to get the task done. Just before the break, I spend a minute or two deciding which micro-task I'm going to tackle during the next pomodoro, and do what I need to close up the current micro-task and prep for the next one so I can hit the ground running. This helps motivate me to start the next pomodoro at the end of those X minutes as well as make the best use of that time.
I get the feeling that if pomodoros worked, then by the same logic knowing that I have a meeting in 30 minutes would aid my focus, but instead it's the complete opposite, I consider that I can't fill a 30minute window meaningfully and thus do nothing.
Maybe there's something there though, I can't really say I've tried it so I probably should, given how frequently it's mentioned as a solution to these kinds of issues.
- sit in your chair with your eyes closed (standing or lying down is ok too)
- let your mind become blank. Just focus on your breathing.
- Thoughts of your work may float through your mind. That's okay, you're allowed to think about them, as long as it's passive; you shouldn't be focusing on them.
- Bio breaks are allowed. Browsing or other device usage (checking texts) is not.
I did this mostly in undergrad when I needed to hit deadlines. I found it was a good way to keep my energy up. Also, sometimes I'd catch myself diving too deep into a tangent.
Note: I usually didn't follow the full technique of setting specific goals for each pom and/or tracking whether I reached them. I used the standard 4x25min with 5min breaks, and then took a longer break (or nap) where I was allowed to check email, or other potentially distracting activities.
A pre-made list of 25-minutes-or-less tasks helps with this.
I remember these as "if-then rules" for the mind. If you have some complicated challenge ahead you can mentally prepare for it thinking about the goal, then about how great it will be to achieve it and then about potential challenges and problems. You can set these rules ahead before you start. So when the need occurs it will take less effort for the mind to follow up (as you have some rules in place for the situation already)
Sometimes the task at hand is monumental and it feels like scaling mount Everest. But still, once you're in the thick of it you can maintain a pace for a while and make progress, but until you start, the whole thing feels imposing.
That low-grade background anxiety is actually something that better organizational skills can fix. Although I suspect that if you did fix it, you'd discover that there's more to your procrastination problem than that.
Is there an entry point you’d recommend?
I'm afraid my advice is not very original, but beyond a few common principles, getting organized is a very individual kind of thing.
Have a look here: https://cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yoursel...
Just for the record, you probably have a good solid week or more on that milk before it would start to taste funny. Not that it should stop you from shopping, but you don't have to throw that milk out!
Wow, this is excellent. Thank you for sharing, I'll try to implement this one.
Although my problem is that I break this type of unbreakable rules regularly, I have upsettingly little control over what the future me is going to do.
Mostly because I know the source of my procrastination and it boils down to two things:
1. I've gotten away with a lot of stupid shit in the past.
2. Because of that I think too highly of my skills.
I have no incentive to start preparing tasks or being organised because I've come to enjoy the thrill of doing everything in the last minute.
A few years ago I had an incredible run of insane productivity in grad school and at a startup afterwards, but I think it's solely because I had so much to do that I was genuinely interested in that I was crushing through work without it being a last minute delivery (though, there were still a lot of those). Now, I'm so bored with work that I can't even begin to start on anything. Next thing I know it's 11pm and I said I would deliver something the next day and I bang it out, or at minimum come up with a good cover / projection of making major progress. It's really starting to eat at me, and isn't sustainable. This is in no way COVID related, it's been going on for the past 2 years. I was actually planning on hitting the reset button and taking a few months off of work, but now I can't do that. I think the key at this point might be actually getting meds for my ADHD.
First work experiences led me to become pretty cynical about office life, and I find that my motivation ultimately gets sapped because I don’t think what I do is that important.
I’ve been soul searching for months about this, including trying a different workplace, etc. The thing is, I know any job can be meaningful—finding meaning in it is something I need to work on.
But I’ve also been searching for a path that will better suit my values.
I decided to go back to school, and I’m really good at focusing on school work now, it is much easier to do than making myself work.
I wonder if the school work is more motivating because there is the chance for graded feedback though. At work, you never get an A, just “good enough” or “not good enough” plus you don’t have the feeling of working towards a clear goal of the degree.
I wonder if your experience has some things in common with mine—maybe grad school was easier to focus on goal and progress, and start up you were fresh to work and excited.
I ultimately think I have to find some way to feel that what I do is important to the world. That by working on it, I’m creating something important. The question is how to get to that feeling!
The bad places, everyone was about pointing fingers at other people (the worst being those reviewers who blamed first years!) and yelling / lecturing but not problem-solving why the workflow allowed this problem to arise.
I have heard from some friends who do manage to work someplace where their manager expresses appreciation for them frequently.
My point is--I think there are better workplaces out there! (Right now I work for myself which circumvents most of that stuff). But if I was looking for a new employer, my new minimum criteria is that they at least have to handle problems by problem-solving, not drama.
I tend to do this a lot and so far it's managed to work for things that actually have deadlines, though it always ends up being more stressful. I find though, with things that don't have deadlines it kind of falls apart and last minute just becomes never happens.
This is pretty much my situation as well. If a task has no deadline, it is not likely to be completed unless absolutely necessary (such as chores). Work tasks and such (assuming they have deadlines) I can be much better about completing not at the last minute, as long as the deadline is relatively close to the assignment date. My personal projects suffer because I get distracted super easily (like going on HN, Reddit, etc) rather than doing the work. I do have moments of spontaneity where I decide "this is a good thing to do", but I'm not sure if that's motivation or procrastination of other task...
Unless it was something school related. For some reason no matter what class or what task, that was going to be completed last minute unless it was a group project. I'm much happier being out of that environment.
It also causes my work to back up which leads to even more stress.
I forgot where I read it but there was something about ADD people getting so used to living in constant anxiety that they need it to thrive. I've been trying really hard to live with less anxiety and knocking my work out early has really helped.
I'm trying to create a system that move away to a more proactive mindset about task, the result is still hit or miss, but it's definitely better than pure last-minute-miracle style.
Wow, that really resonated with me. I think sometimes I delay stuff as much as possible just to see if I'm up to the challenge of getting it done.. like I want to make it harder because it's too easy.
I guess this is how thrill seekers must feel like.
a) Not motivated or interested enough in the work
b) Not feeling mentally sharp
c) Overwhelmed and disorganized
I don't find it useful to spend time building productivity systems, because productivity comes and goes for me based on many factors. That's usually OK. But when I do find myself in a productivity rut, the solutions are usually straightforward:
a) Not motivated? Take a step back and find a new angle on the work that seems appealing. Might require seeking new perspectives from others. In some cases, it will require a competitive angle.
b) Exercise and read more in place of technology time
c) Simple to-do lists, with basic categorization and priority does the trick for me here. This is especially true when leading a team on a project. At its most primitive, this is a spreadsheet with columns for "TODO, category, priority, blocked-by, assigned" etc.
- write down a plan
- break plan into very detailed micro-steps
- do at least one of the micro-steps. Feel a sense of accomplishment. Now the rest of the steps seem less formidable.
- accept that my brain is often foggy and slow, so give it a few hours or overnight to mull a plan. Don't beat myself up for not getting it done today (and possibly screw it up).
- exercise a lot (I love running and get a high from it, so it's not hard to incorporate)
- lately I've been using a mantra "Don't think about it, just do it!" It's how I got myself to the gym 5 days a week, back before the virus anyway.
- To force myself to read a book, I'll assign myself to read one page (or Kindle screen), knowing that usually I can get sucked in and read several pages.
- fantasize a world in which I have already accomplished something. Visualize it being done. Realize that I'm perfectly capable of doing it.
They sound like somewhat childish tricks, I suppose, but it's what works for me.
But I deflate into a blob on a chair and argue with people on social media. It used to be gaming but now it's social media that fills hours of my day. I don't even like it.
My task to study networking to keep up my skills resulted in a single side of a page with basic subnetting practice.
I turn on all the lights to make me feel alert and it does but I always work better in the dark.
When I do start some task my head feels like it's going to explode and the only relief is a mindless task. I don't know if you call it procrastination or depression but it's resulting in zero results.
I see some common habits in the comments here only I do the opposite. Laundry? I'm going on two months wearing the same thing. Underwear? There's two sides to that coin. Exercise? Non-existent.
Procrastination seems to be the result of something that's much deeper. I don't think mopping the floor is the solution to the hole in the roof.
Sorry but I couldn't resist!
Its not often that we get light hearted threads in HN. :D
The 'architect' that's deciding long-term goals and plans to follow.
The 'implementer' that follows the guide from the architect. The implementer is not allowed to vary the plan in any way and if the implementer fails then the architect has to reevaluate the strategy.
This way you're able to consider long-term goals with feedback loops that are not immediate. The return from eating cake right now vs. being fit in 6 months for example. The reward of the cake is too extreme and too immediate to be able to easily make rational short term decisions on that kind of thing (you end up rationalizing why this exception is okay, it's one time, etc.)
I find a lot of things fall into this kind of category.
Under this model, what you describe seems to be a way to turn this duality against itself, hijacking the proving step by shutting down the thought, putting idea into action, and seeing the proof when you're done. If instead you over-rationalize the initial idea, and you're anything like me, you will add unnecessary complexity until you've turned yourself around so many times that right looks wrong.
- When in the shower, do one yoga stretch to get acquainted with yoga. I do this one , but then really really badly. I keep asking myself the question: what do I find fun about this? And relentlessly focus on that. It took a while to develop, but one answer is now: it feels relaxing. And yes, I'm still terrible at it.
- Whenever I walk in and out the door of the living room I have to do one set of weights (8 reps). Again, I ask myself what I find fun about it. Over time, I'm noticing that I like the adrenaline rush. But I first needed to get used to the intensity part of it.
- I'm a bit of an insomniac, so I go to bed around 22:00 (which was 20 minutes ago, hehe) and wake up at 06:00. The reason for this is to have a lot of wiggle room for my insomniac tendencies. Even going to bed a bit too late is much less of an issue ;-)
- When I wake up around 06:00, I reward myself with a morning run (I love running), no one is out on the streets at 6 AM where I'm from.
I am now experimenting with using my positive momentum to get into full workout/stretching routines.
I really like the idea of acquainting myself with topics by having a simple place (shower, living room) and trigger response (end of shower, leaving the living room). I thought of it myself, I never heard anyone about it. And it feels quite unlike doing a "30 day experiment", because I am actively looking for the fun of it.
I hope it works. I got inspired by it by reading Atomic Habits by James Clear.
Everyone has their own system as the author said, so I'd encourage more of us share our systems. As having more systems to read from might be more inspiring to some procrastinators to take action and experiment.
A wise choice. Over years of trying different productivity hacks, I've learned that most of them have a lifetime of about 3 weeks for me (which is about how long it takes for the novelty to wear off), after which I regress to the mean. However, the rare trick that survives longer becomes a slight but permanent improvement.
Anyway, I wish you the best of luck with your new system!
Can relate to this extremely well.
> Categorize tasks by project, time, and context, and store it in a tool that you can trust
That takes more than 2 minutes :(
Occasionally I'll start a todo list, but usually I just stop using it because it gets too big and scary. My current system is calendar notifications in Outlook, it's good for hard deadlines but terrible for open-ended issues like "research new flooring for the garage". Even if I set a deadline I know it's not real.
> Yesterday, as every day in the last two weeks, I was brushing my teeth in the morning and recognized that I have to replace my quite used toothbrush. It is a quite simple task to buy a new toothbrush, however, every time I go out of the bathroom, this thought and task is gone immediately and during the day I do not think about it.
This happens to me a lot. We carry the ultimate note taking device (smart phone) yet the friction is still too high to make a quick note before the thought goes. Maybe I need to carry a pen and paper.
I'm not disciplined enough to do all of it but the list making has helped me stay reasonably current.
Some procrastination derives from a difficulty in prioritizing, and a difficulty in prioritizing can itself be a symptom of depression, where all tasks have equal (or no) importance and so can't be prioritized.
I mean, it's not like people forget all that needs to be done. Often as above, it's all of the tasks bouncing off each other like balls in a bingo machine.
So, a lack of prioritization means the next day might be spent in analysis paralysis where nothing is done because the person can't figure out a good place to start. John Cage said, "begin anywhere," but even that can be difficult in the moment because it also takes discipline to stop trying to prioritize.
I signed in and found only ONE task (buy milk, due 01/05/07)
I have yet to buy the milk...maybe later...at what point do I seek professional help?
It is a todo-list, where the default view only shows tasks that are due TODAY. You can also create views (aka. filters), like a "WORK" view where you only see work tasks etc.
This means you are much less likely to be overwhelmed by the amount of tasks on your list.
So if I need to remember to pay a certain invoice next week, I will make myself a task for next week - and since I trust the system, that is now cleared from my mind - and will re-appear next week - when I need to action it. If I put it in the calendar and ot NOT action it - it is lost. If it is in Todoist, it does not disappear until I say it is done.
It means I end most days with an empty todo-list.
Todoist took my using a todo-list from not really working - to a very integrated and trusted part of how I do everything.
(I don't have any association with Todoist - I have just been a very happy user for ~4 years. I hope others will benefit as well.)
Watching it tonight.
Most helpful: Sleep
Somewhat helpful: Meditation
A little helpful: Low-carb diet, Hydration, Exercise
I've never found exercise to be a particularly important part of my mental health, but in lockdown I've become utterly dependent on it. It provides routine, structure, control and a sense of progress - all of which I was getting more of in other places before but which I'm now lacking without the exercise.
Go ahead and procrastinate, then don't feel guilty. Do nothing "useful" and enjoy it. Whoever/whatever it is that's making you feel like you have to do more, it's probably just abusive manipulation of labor forces.
We have most of the technology we need for a "Fully Automated Luxury Space Communes tm", and who's fault is it that we're all still working our ass off? Someone probably.. but now is the time for pointless, meandering, meta procrastination posts on some special corner of the internet.
That's not procrastination. Procrastination is having a final exam tomorrow, knowing you need to study, being perfectly able to study, have nothing else at all you need to do, wanting above all things to study, and yet somehow despite everything being aligned towards studying, not studying.
This world is full of people who market knowing stuff they don't care about and it might actually not be that great.
It's pretty normal, most people are pretty oblivious to what it is they really want. That's why we have corporate jobs, and cars, and empty relationships when really our favorite things in life are community and taking naps in the shade.
Sometimes it's work related, sometimes it's hobbies, sometimes is chores. It's hard to e.g. "just enjoy" not paying a bill that's already due. To want to get that done it's hardly an obsession, and not being able to succeed in finishing such a simple task is really frustrating.
From each according to his abilities, right?
Is there a way around it?
Right now (1.5 year) I use Evernote, in a Bullet Journal-like style, that is - if I don't do a task, it is gone. Only if I take a conscious effort to write it down again, it is a task again.
This 1.5 year time means a lot. As a person virtually resistant to routine (vide https://twitter.com/tricina/status/1261690289812467712), it is a single exception that works.
Unfortunately this whole situation of working from home threw me off and haven't used it in a while. But I think I might revive it, and put into place some of these rules, like just doing things immediately if they are under 5min in the morning. Rather than continuing to put them off.
That said, the GTD stuff has helped me a lot - I’m not great yet on doing the most important things, but I’m at least doing more.
I am trying to categorize things that might work in this condition, but you know, “categorizing” anything is also quite a challenge.
There is only one way out of procrastination for me.
Rules. Rituals. "OCD" like rules. These rules are born out of personal pain, trauma and disappointment with myself. Stupid Rules that I must follow even when it doesn't make any sense to follow. Inviolable rules. Unbreakable rules.
Here is how a rule is born. Be natural and live your life without any rules. Whenever you screwup and feel a deep emotional sense of failure you create a permanent rule that lasts for ever as long as you live. The beauty about this approach is that the Pareto principle kicks in. 90% of your screw-ups come from 10% of causes. As you start integrating rules into your life your life becomes dramatically better. Your mind doesn't care about intentions. It understands intentions but it bypasses them. Your mind doesn't care about rules that you import from other people. It doesn't care about rules that are not deeply connected to your personal experience. If you find yourself violating rules repeatedly you must discard them for they are not for you at this stage of your life.
There is only one key insight regarding procrastination for me.
Procrastination only occurs when there is something else more important that is in a "live" state in the background. Procrastination is like the branch of a tree. The trunk is the main task.
If you get rid of the trunk the branch cannot exist. This was the key insight for me.
The only reason you are browsing HN or Reddit or Facebook is because you have something else in the other tabs that you are not doing actively.
For example: You need to work on your PhD thesis. You have it open in one tab. This gives your mind the permission to procrastinate via HN/FB or watch motivational videos without feeling guilty.
So, if you install a tab limiter and limit yourself to one tab or two tabs where the second tab is for listening to music, you will be forced to close the "work" tab. Now you won't enjoy reading HN or FB anymore because you are consciously not "working" on anything else.
Coming back to RULES.
I frequently run out of gas and then I panic and reach the gas station just in the nick of time. I find this very annoying. I hate the feeling of the anxiety because it is self inflicted.
The rule that I created is that I must always (regardless of the circumstance) as soon as the fuel reaches below 20%. I have to get it to 100%. There are no exceptions.
After I created this rule, I never ever ever encountered a situation where I was running out of gas.
For a normal person this seems very unimportant and ridiculous. And it is. But for me I feel great joy and happiness because I know I avoided so much personal pain and anxiety just with this one simple rule.
Coming back to conquering procrastination.
The way my mind works is that it will at any moment ALWAYS choose the most interesting option of the available options automatically. And I don't really have any control over my mind. I can't tell it to focus any more than you can you tell a husky or a raccoon or a wild monkey how to behave properly. This is something you need to respect and understand.
Strangely, my mind follows rules without any issue. These rules must be formed out of personal experience and must come from deep within and must be acceptable to my mind ahead of time.
This is what I do. I create a ritual that combines two different things: This ritual is unbreakable and it can't be reasoned away. I follow this ritual even when it doesn't make any sense. Especially if it doesn't make any sense because the alternative is this: I will lose my job/friends/social support/money and will end up on the street or worse.
So, the choice is really between: a) Following the ritual and choosing life b) Self Destruction or Death.
1. Rules + 2. Cutting off the Tree Trunk == Life.
So here is how I create my work ritual.
There are only two major sources of distraction: 1. Phone 2. Internet. 3. (minor) chatter inside my head.
Step 1. Setup constraints.
I use the Forest App/Flora App to disable my phone for 2 to 3 hours.
I use the tab limiter to limit myself to a max of 2 tabs. One for the main task and the second one to LISTEN to Youtube music.
Step 2. Rules that are acceptable to my mind.
These are the Rules.
a. I can choose to work on the main task.
b. I can choose to not do the main task and do nothing.
c. I can choose to not do the main task and listen to music.
d. I cannot browse on multiple tabs. If I do want to browse HN, I can do so but not within the 2 to 3 hour time window.
e. There are no restrictions. I can read HN all day. I can watch Netflix all day. I can only not do them in this particular time window.
Because I already decided these rules in advance ahead of time and these rules are born out of personal pain my mind accepts it. Another reason it accepts it is because it is cognizant of the fact that these rules have worked well in the past and I am building a new track record of success. Past success breeds more self confidence regarding future success.
Coming back to the most interesting option theory. My mind always chooses the most interesting option out of available options.
So, lets say I want to do my taxes today. This is work. Which means it triggers ritual in my mind. I don't work without a ritual and that's the rule.
I create a 2 hour major window which contains the above mentioned rules. Because the option to browse HN/FB is not there my mind has a choice of choosing between doing nothing or doing taxes. Doing taxes is very boring but only when compared to reading HN. Once my mind realizes that the only options are doing nothing or doing taxes it will choose doing taxes delightfully.
And here is one final key: The 2 to 3 hour window seems big but 2 to 3 hours passes by quickly like a few mins. And when you realize you are getting things done you will be filled with happiness, joy and accomplishment because you KNOW how miserable you felt when you procrastinated on things and achieved nothing.
The 2 to 3 hour window is a major window. And within this major window you have minor Pomodoros. You spend 5 mins creating a precise 30 mins action plan and you start your pomodoro. Even if you are distracted it is fine but how will you get distracted and by what? Your phone is disabled and you only have 1 tab. You will be distracted by your internal chatter which is an issue but you will be massively more productive and much happier when you compare yourself to your past self.
This HN Story was posted 11 hours ago. I am only posting a response now. Why? I was working within a Time Window of 5 hours that blocked out my use of HN.
If you struggle with ADHD or procrastination I urge to try creating rules and see how your life changes for the better. I seems very stupid and obvious but it worked really well for me.
I just reread it recently and it's a gold mine, for me anyway.
My biggest takeaways were:
1. Recognize how I procrastinate ( more research, figure out the best place to start, another meeting, etc. ) and when
2. Chunk things: I can't build the whole project now, but I can work on feature x, y or z right now.