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I trick my well-developed procrastination skills (gassler.org)
464 points by robbixcx 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 154 comments



When I’ve done a great job of procrastinating, I normally have a lot anxious energy that I feel I need to get rid of so I go for a 30 minute walk or run. During this outing I repeat the Mentat Mantra from the Dune film to myself the entire time.

"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.


Reminds me a little of:

"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 now."

"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."

...


'Try getting a reservation at Dorsia now!'

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.



What is SV? I don't know this initialism

Sillycon, ahem, Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley

Best reference I’ve seen this week. You hit the nail on the head. Everyone trying to be Patrick Bateman.


Now let's see Paul Allen's quote.


I'll use the "fear is the mind killer" [1] quote when I'm upset or anxious quite often. I really should add this one to my arsenal as well. I've never thought of Dune as a self-help book but I might now. Weirdly enough I'm also currently re-reading it, after watching the miniseries due to quarantine, and I'll try to find more things like this during my reading.

[1] “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.”


I prefer a much shorter quote:

"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.


"I am not afraid. I am not afraid because if I let myself get too scared I might not be able to do what needs to be done. And I'm not the type of person who backs down. I am the type of person who does the right thing, even if it's hard. Right now, the right thing is to [x]. And even if it doesn't work, I'll just do the next right thing, and the next, and the next. I'll keep on trying until I figure out a way."

This is beautiful. I'm integrating it.

I do this too! I like to write the whole litany against fear out a few times to fill up a page. I find this helps me identify the root of whatever I am currently feeling anxious about. Once you identify the fear, then it can be addressed directly.

I use it too sometimes, but hopefully that’s quite rare. This book is amazing on many levels.


Ditto! As soon as I am on the desk for working, I unconsciously open Firefox and my fingers go "Cmd+L ne [Enter]"


My procrastination loop!

Cmd+T re [Enter] Cmd+W ... Cmd+T new [Enter] Cmd+W ... Cmd+T re [Enter]


Cmd+W, you actually close tabs, that's advanced!

Incorporate your task list into HN page!!! Then share this Firefox plugin with me, please.

What does that do? Goto hacker NEws?


NEws.ycombinator.com


It's just address bar autocomplete

This is a great parody/insight into that feeling of "if I just get the conditions right, I can get started." Like all the great writers who just need six months in a forest cabin to write their great novel, but they never start it in the one hour of time they already have every evening.


I watched a really helpful video on what the creator called "The Toolbox Fallacy".

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?"


Lol yeah, my current FPGA project has been on ice for four weeks now while I figure out the Verilog preprocessor features that I really, really need before I continue... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Not to mention, sometimes doing without the tool let's you find a novel solution. At the very least, it's a great learning experience.

It would be hyperbolic to say that the only way I ever get anything done is to set a ten minute timer and then commit to do The Thing for ten minutes[1], but it is massively helpful. Curiously, sometimes I then get mad at the timer because it beeped[0] and I was working on The Thing.

[0]: it beeped because the time was up. [1]: 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.


I read a thing from Stephen King (IIRC) that poo-poohed the writer's block / "right circumstances" thing, he approached it more as a job, you sit down and write. Overpower the "I don't know what to write" thing, don't wait for creativity to come, etc. Maybe one day I'll unlazy myself and look it up again.

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.


This approach probably works for non-creative tasks, but most of King's novels are just mediocre, which I guess reflects his factory-like attitude to writing.

It's easy to dump on King for being a philistine, but it's a stretch to imply his work is non-creative.

For me the main problem is that the writing seems unspired and lazy - i.e. the language, actual sentences and paragraphs looks like something slapped together without that much regard for quality or excellence (which, given his writing process and speed, is probably exactly what happens).

I haven't read most of his work, but you can take the advice and use that as your draft. I can't imagine many writers not having to refactor their writings, possibly multiple times.

> There’s no point in suffering in front of a computer screen if I’m not going to be productive anyway.

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.


That is the best possible 3rd paragraph. Thank you, I needed that chuckle/snort.


mind over matter kinda thing

I'm a master procrastinator. Mostly because I have so many things I could do that I have this background feeling that I'm neglecting everything else if I focus on one thing. And I get distracted easily and I hate trying to come back in the middle of something.

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.


See, I'm good at making "unbreakable" rules, but I'm much better at breaking them.


See my advice about trying to make it a chain.

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..


This happened to me with my weight loss. I made a chain of it and did intermittent fasting for 9+ months with maybe one hiccup, but even on that hiccup day it was not a complete break, but just a bending of my rules (16 hours vs the normal 20, etc).

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.


integrity issue IMO. you're OK with making commitments and not delivering on them.

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.


This is an excellent observation, thank you for the perspective. I realized that this is likely what I struggle with, and procrastination is rather a symptom of the issue. I find it very hard to make commitments to myself (and sometimes others) that I will follow through on. Once I am in a groove, I will continue, but starting is painful.

Have you dealt with rebuilding this in yourself?


a little bit :)

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.


Thanks for the insight! I definitely have some introspection to do on the topic, but I like the idea of the "Said I'd Do It" section for to-dos. Those tasks are inherently different than normal ones and I think the separation is a good training mechanism.

when you have ADHD these types of rules are really helpful. some people might find them weird and say "just change your schedule, do it later, whatever", but I know if I postpone it I'll forget it or screw up doing some other chore or a "previously allocated free-time".


I would second this having hard fast rules works, but for me, meds where the real night and day difference. It's literally like someone flips a switch in my brain when I am on, or off ADHD medication. I get so single task focused off the meds, but on the meds I can completely break in my mind and accomplish the 2 minute task that has needed to get done for a week now.


Are the meds effective long-term? I'm kinda terrified of the idea of being able to just turn normal on, but then one day having to turn it off.


I have been on them for several years, had to go up in dose in the first 6 months but after that they have worked ever since. I take an obscure and old ADHD medicine called Desoxen and my dosage is 15 MG twice a day, it has been the same dose for over 4 years, Desoxen had less side effects for me than some of the other meds like Adderall.

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.


I also resisted getting diagnosed as I did not want to rely on "drugs" and I figured that I was just lazy or unmotivated. Eventually my coping methods like drinking tons of coffee just did not help at all and I took the plunge.

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.

https://www.verywellmind.com/adhd-symptoms-4157281


Funny enough those of us with ADD/ADHD don't have a high dependancy profile for stimulants we just don't get the euphoria that others describe from using them. Now I have never abused mine I am sure you can get there if you take enough. It just does not have the same effect on us as it does normal people who already have enough dopamine in their brain.

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.


Really appreciate the reply.

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.


Funny you mentioned the dishes, because that is one of those really simple tasks that I would ignore to focus on whatever I was focused on. Now I do the dishes to take a break, almost subconsciously. Any cleaning used to require it's own dedicated block of time (usually Saturday) on the meds cleaning is just something I do to take a break and regroup. For me and my ADHD without meds hyper-focus was easy (If I am interested in what I want to focus on) but breaking out of that hyper-focus was like killing my dog.

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.


> breaking out of that hyper-focus was like killing my dog

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.


Something that helped me -even if you get diagnosed and get a RX, you have no obligation to take those meds and can stop at any time. At first I was so wary that I was only taking one dose a week. Might be worth a shot, as the improvement to quality of life can be dramatic.

> ... you have to drink lots of water

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.


I don't want to minimize it, but the cardiovascular risks are minimal if you don't have a serious underlining condition. They increase BP a little over what caffeine does and less than Nicotine does.

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.


Just FYI, Desoxyn is literally a trade name for methamphetamine (so much for obscure). Also if that surprised you at all, Adderall is (more or less) the same thing minus a single carbon from the end.

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.)


Yes obscure might not have been the best fit. But it is a really old treatment for ADHD and is not used much now days. A lot of that has to do with patents and no pharmaceutical companies pushing it. Others have to do with the fact that it is pharmaceutical methamphetamine.

It's a little much to go over in text, but this guy:

https://youtu.be/TCPxPI_q8C8

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.


Truth; my girlfriend has had to learn to cope with her ADHD undiagnosed and unmedicated for the better part of her life, sticking to a morning routine is super important for her.

Me, I just like to know what's happening. I like regularity, but I'm not hung up on it.


I find rules helpful. When I had a rigid schedule I had an alarm clock rule: "When the alarm clock rings you get out of bed. No snooze. You can sit on a chair, but you can't be on the bed." Sometimes I would sit on a chair and fall asleep and then end up on the floor. Generally, once I was out of the bed the day would just start.


Haha

Often, when about to ignore a mundane task that really should be done immediately, I say to myself "Which sort of person do you want to be?"


This is question invites a judgemental attitude which can be extremely counterproductive.

It's far better to use mindfulness and let yourself do what you really want to do.


What if I really want to help myself make positive decisions? I'm talking about picking up a toy left in the hallway by a child or a scrap of paper that fell out of the bin - things that others walk past and pretend they didn't see. Am I the sort of person to just deal with it right then, or take the lazy option. I don't find it extremely counterproductive at all.

I have a lot of similar rules for mundane tasks and it shows when I've slacked. In addition, I also take time to verbalize how much I appreciate having (say) a clean kitchen, both immediately after the task, and whenever I actually appreciate it (like, say, first thing in the morning when I'm moving slow and just want some coffee).

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 keep hearing about pomodoro as a method of helping people focus, but part of my current fears are being 'removed' from the topic I'm working on mid-way.

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.


I've done them on and off. A good trick if you're worried about derailing is to spend your breaks exclusively like this:

- 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.


Same trick as gp, you don’t wanna break the chain. If you’re interrupted whether self imposed or external, the Pomodoro doesn’t count. If you procrastinate, it doesn’t count.


I timebox only certain types of activities for exactly that reason. To me it's not really amenable to creative problem solving work. It might be for some, but not me. But it can work magic when I leverage it between one fun task that's easily interruptible and another boring task that is too.


> I consider that I can't fill a 30minute window meaningfully and thus do nothing.

A pre-made list of 25-minutes-or-less tasks helps with this.


I've heard about something similar in The Science of Well Being course (currently free on coursera, highly recommend.

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)


Procrastination is often mainly about "getting started". Once you've done it you can finish, but until you start you can doddle and doddle. For those who have this problem, the key is to force yourself to get started.

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.


> I'm a master procrastinator. Mostly because I have so many things I could do that I have this background feeling that I'm neglecting everything else if I focus on one thing.

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.


Interesting. I am quite keen on resolving my procrastination problem. I used to be intently focused until I became senior enough to set my own tasks.

Is there an entry point you’d recommend?


I may have overstated my point a bit, because everyone has a different base level of anxiety and tolerance for disorder, and everyone will also go through unavoidable periods of stress. I recommend (re-)reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Getting Things Done, and Deep Work if you haven't already.

I'm afraid my advice is not very original, but beyond a few common principles, getting organized is a very individual kind of thing.


I've read that most procrastination problems come from anxiety or perfectionism (fear of not being able to do X perfectly, low self-esteem / fear of being ridiculed for your work etc)

Have a look here: https://cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yoursel...


> If the milk is 1 day to expire, I stop everything and go shopping, I take the trash with me. (part of the rule)

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!


> When I want to go to bed, I have to write down the first thing I will do the next day.

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.


Yes, but it's up to present you to not let the past you down.

The psychologist Peter Gollwitzer calls if/then rules like this “implementation intentions.”

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Implementation_intention


I'm working out the pseudocode for this and it's already spaghetti ;)

I really like you

I read the whole thing, but knew from the get go that these tricks wouldn't work on me.

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.


This hits really close to home. It's not that I enjoy the thrill... it's that I know I can do it, so that's what I do.

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.


Don't you think it might be that you REALLY don't want to do the work you're doing? It's certainly true in my case - the work just violates a lot of my principles and preferences and also, in its core, is not interesting and mostly pointless. My soul is screaming at me to leave. I could try to silence it with meds, but I'd rather just align my work with my values (I plan to do this in about a year, if I last that long), and get out of software engineering. Luckily, I have tons of savings and low costs of living, so I can literally do below minimum wage work and be fine financially.

I think I’ve got some similar experience. I always had underlying focus issues, but managed to excel at school and first job because I really cared.

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.

Some conclusions: 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!


Where I work it's like if you do a bad job and screw something up everyone notices and it's a whole lot of drama involved, but if you do a good job and fix something before it blows up, no one notices and no one cares. So all the bad without the good. I guess you get used to it after a while but I would love a metaphorical pat on the back and a "good job" every now and then.

I have had two bad workplaces and one good one. The best I saw, at the good one, was that if something went wrong, we would figure out WHY and how to prevent ourselves from doing this in the future (constructive approach).

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 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.

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.


> 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.


Doing what they said (and I'm good at it) just stresses me out to the point that I don't even sleep the night before. I'm sure it's terrible for my performance the next day of said stressful thing, too.

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.


Yeah I find it's usually the stress itself that finally pushed me to actually do that last minute rush to actually do the thing. Which probably isn't the healthiest way to go about completing tasks in the end and doesn't necessarily lead to the best quality work.


Yeah, I did that too, I can get away with most of the task with my skill, I'd say it's 'brute force' method. Though I found that it's not really sustainable and took toll on your overall health(both body & mind) if done frequently. TBH I hates how I operate.

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.


> 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.

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 usually don't do that intentionally(or do I?), but when it eventually does happen I feel, I don't know, alive?

I guess this is how thrill seekers must feel like.


Same, I usually procrastinate a day or two, and then binge-work out of guilt for 1-2 days. I manage to get a lot done this way while avoiding the burn-out.


If the system is working for you...


That sounds like a rationalization. If there was a gift box sitting on your counter that when opened would make all of your wildest dream come true, would you procrastinate opening it? Again, all you would have to do is take 10 seconds to open it.


Parkinson's law?


Pretty much. And hilariously enough no IT department manager ever picked up on the lesson from it, so wherever and whenever work appears to stall, new people are added in the hope that this move would make things move faster - as if that was ever effective.


Why the gazelle jumps while being chased by the lion.


For me, the source of my procrastination usually falls into one these buckets:

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.


Like many here, I'm also a procrastinator (and my wife is much worse). My strategy, somewhat similar to Mr. Gassler's, was honed over decades of heartache and failure and occasional successes:

- 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.


not childish. They are really practical! I do the micro-steps too!

I am King Procrastinator. I've been off work since October 2019 and have done essentially nothing. I planned on doing a lot like getting my CCNA, practice programming, overall practice of an IT stuff.

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.


"My name is Yoshikage Kira. I'm 33 years old. My house is in the northeast section of Morioh , where all the villas are, and I am not married. I work as an employee for the Kame Yu department stores, and I get home every day by 8 PM at the latest. I don't smoke, but I occasionally drink. I'm in bed by 11 PM, and make sure I get eight hours of sleep, no matter what. After having a glass of warm milk and doing about twenty minutes of stretches before going to bed, I usually have no problems sleeping until morning. Just like a baby, I wake up without any fatigue or stress in the morning. I was told there were no issues at my last check-up. I'm trying to explain that I'm a person who wishes to live a very quiet life. I take care not to trouble myself with any enemies, like winning and losing, that would cause me to lose sleep at night. That is how I deal with society, and I know that is what brings me happiness."

Sorry but I couldn't resist! Its not often that we get light hearted threads in HN. :D


"Although, if I were to fight, I wouldn't lose to anyone." :D

Have a look at the concept "self-compassion”. A good book is e.g. " The mindful art of self-compassion".

Only one approach to procrastination has worked for me: lack of rational thought. The only conscious deliberation I allow is the decision of whether or not I should do something, after that i just _do_. No further thought required. If I catch myself thinking about it, I stop myself and just act, the decision was already made. Sometimes, rational thought is overused.


Yeah I can relate to this, I think having two mindsets is effective.

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.


In Robert Anton Wilson's book Prometheus Rising (1983) he describes a mental model of the mind as "Thinker & Prover" in Chapter One. This is a duality where one part of the mind manifests thoughts and the other one rationalizes them into a consciously comprehensible concept.

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.


I started my first workday today and I prepped for tricking my procrastination skills. I can't post on how it worked out yet (I might do 2 months from now), but here is what I did to trick myself:

- When in the shower, do one yoga stretch to get acquainted with yoga. I do this one [1], 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.

[1] https://www.verywellfit.com/thmb/gliK2-_bmUZk-YpGJRua9YSEtTk...


> I can't post on how it worked out yet (I might do 2 months from now)

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!


> 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.

Can relate to this extremely well.


> Finish every task immediately which takes less than 2 minutes to do

OK.

> 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.


If you have ever used the Franklin Day Planner series of tools you will see the value in this advice. Make a list every evening, prioritize it, check it off during the next day. Everything goes on the list. Rinse and repeat.

I'm not disciplined enough to do all of it but the list making has helped me stay reasonably current.


>Make a list every evening, prioritize it, check it off during the next day.

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.[1]

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.

1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJV-vUFFvoY


Reading this article reminded me that I had signed up for Remember the Milk Service years ago to try to beat my procrastination habit.

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?


A tip for those who might buy in to the "write tasks down in a place you trust" from the "Getting things done"-system, but who feel the todo-list becomes overwhelming, I highly recommend the tool Todoist.

https://todoist.com/

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.)


Faster way is to just use Modafinil (barely addictive) or Adderall (very addictive).


Seriously. After 15 years of struggling with various self help programs, an ADHD-PI diagnosis and medication fixed 90% of my problems. I feel like that movie Limitless was inspired by someone who really needed ADHD medication and finally got it.


>I feel like that movie Limitless was inspired by someone who really needed ADHD medication and finally got it.

Watching it tonight.


Other than meds, did you do anything else that was helpful?


Yes: Hydration is a little important. Sleep is very important (white noise machine, blackout curtains, melatonin when needed, regular schedule, no alcohol near bedtime on work nights.) Exercise is a little important, but too much is detrimental. Learning meditation, specifically body-scan, was really helpful for me though indirectly. It helped me better notice my internal states, which then helps me remove blockers to focusing. A low-carb diet also helped, but is rather high-effort to maintain so I don't follow it anymore. I make great use of reminders on my phone, and appointments on my calendar, because I have no faith in my ability to remember things at the right times despite having a great memory.


Is this a fair "tier list"?

Most helpful: Sleep

Somewhat helpful: Meditation

A little helpful: Low-carb diet, Hydration, Exercise


I wouldn't pay too much attention to the "tiers". Consider it a general list of things that may be helpful, and assume that the relative importance of each is likely to be different for you.


I agree with this comment, but with the addition that sleep quality is very important if you don't have it. If your sleep is pretty close to optimal already, you may not notice a slight improvement.


I agree - I think sleep is the only universal here. I find different things may help at different times, too, or become more important to counter different external stressors and anxieties.

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.


> Exercise is a little important, but too much is detrimental

Why?


I would previously really push hard on exercise looking for some magic result, and I found it made my concentration worse because my body is trying to recover from the previous day's workout. It's good for stress relief though. Just find the right amount for your body, it will be more than zero but less than some threshold.


Modafinil makes me edgy and very bad in communicating with humans. Also, after a few days, my brain feels a tiredness from it, like some kind of unpleasant emptiness. Armodafinil is slightly better but same. I would not recommend them for regular use.


+1 to everything. It's effects are also significantly reduced after the first couple days as you build resistance, and chasing that "moda effect" can lead to taking increasingly larger doses

I only take it about once a month. That helps me capture the feeling. Then I just have to reach internally for the feeling. I also only ever take 50 mg. It's too powerful over that and I also feel itchy.

yeah now I'm on concerta and can procrastinate 3x better than before =/


I used Remember The Milk for years, on and off (I live its interface, clean and up-to-the-point). However, each time I stopped because of the "wall of shame" of unfinished tasks.

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.


Another possible trick is to focus on time slots, rather than the task itself. When I procrastinate, it's because the task itself appears too big, too complex (or maybe even too boring) to even start on. The trick, then, is to say to yourself that you're going to spend 4 hours working on it, rather than saying that you're going to complete it. Completing the task may seem overwhelming, for various reasons, but setting aside 4 hours to work on it is not overwhelming.

one thing i have learned and helped me deal with life long procrastination was that it is about emotion regulation. procrastination is a symptom of something deeper that is going on in you emotionally. Deal with that emotion and procrastination will go away. how? Be your own student. Watch why you are procrastinating.Be brutally honest yourself. you have to be ok to admit that i am procrastination because eg. i am scared, coward, afraid, sad what ever.


One technique that was working for me for a while was Bullet Journal. Using an actual physical notebook to write down all the tasks right away in a simple list. Review at the end of the day. Review at the beginning of the day. Having a list of tasks I haven't forgot allows me to actually get stuff done. Review and migrate tasks each month. Its like a backlog grooming for life. Sometimes tasks just linger and you have to think about why that task has been there for months. Being able to see the list, and get the satisfaction of physically marking it off is definitely beneficial for me. And if you are going to procrastinate, at least you have a list of other things on your mind that you might accomplish.

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.


My approach is to start something exciting to get into the swing of it, and then gradually mix in the less exciting things that nevertheless need to be done. I consider any kind of "inbox zero" or list writing an absurd waste of time. The only list I do is a broad strokes plan for the week, which I email to self at the beginning of the week, but I don't stick super close to it.


I don't understand the obsession with "fighting procrastination". It's like you have to be doing something always or else you've wasted time. There's no finish line here. You can't win.

http://subgenius.com/

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.


> Whoever/whatever it is that's making you feel like you have to do more, it's probably just abusive manipulation of labor forces.

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.


Maybe it's not the part of your life where you should be studying. If you don't really want to, it seems like your mind isn't going to make the positive associations with learning that information that it kind of needs to have in order to develop an actual vested interest and move the subject forward.

This world is full of people who market knowing stuff they don't care about and it might actually not be that great.


But you do really want to. It wouldn't be a problem if it wasn't a terrible, painful conflict between what you want to do and what you do.

I feel like maybe you're confusing what you want to do with what you think you should do. Or with what you want to want to do.

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.


Procrastination is not about "always having something to do", it's about "not doing exactly one wants to get done".

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.


This kind of blackpilling gives left-wing ideologies a bad name.

From each according to his abilities, right?


Not able to focus on tasks for long periods of time? Get distracted easily? Just use this system constantly for everything you’re doing. I jest but sometimes that’s how these come 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.


All these “integrate X in your daily rituals” kinds of advice absolutely don’t work for people with ADHD. There are no daily rituals for us. Life is chaotic.

I am trying to categorize things that might work in this condition, but you know, “categorizing” anything is also quite a challenge.


Years ago Merlin Mann, on his website, recommended Niel Fiore's book.

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.


I have severe severe ADHD.

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 used to maintain a zero inbox, until I read an article by the author of the technique (apologies for not remembering the source) that my mailbox is a TODO list that anyone can put an item on that. Since then I'm okay with with unread mail.

I wrote a tool to snooze my emails (like newsletters and payment reminders) automatically. Regarding emails from others, I snooze them manually if I am not going to address them in an hour or so.

An earlier article referenced on hacker news talks about how procrastination is about managing emotions not time. It changed my perspective. I now prefer habits and rewards over tools and methods.

Favorited, will read later.

I want to read this article but haven't gotten to it yet.




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