A trick I've learned is to lie to yourself. Say you're excited to do it, that you can't wait, and that you enjoy it. Your brain is easily convinced if you're willing to let it be.
Sometimes this is not the case, because your brain entertains the idea that it can stop doing the activity it doesn't want to do. Once you are able to convince your brain that is not an option, this mental energy is returned to you as well. i.e. Pain is mandatory, but suffering is optional.
And then my brain realizes that that's actually true, it's being silly by procrastinating, and I get to work.
It's strange that it's necessary, but it is.
For most people their brain craves stimulation. When we introduce highly stimulating and rewarding activities like YouTube, video games, and social media our brains procrastinate the harder work like programming because an easier reward is achieved by watching YouTube (ie. Less energy is expended to produce the same dopamine response).
The cycle of YouTube, social media, and video games (or anything you're addicted to) can easily ruin your life because you get caught in a loop of not wanting to work (procrastination), so you watch YouTube. That creates a habit of watching YouTube and the brain optimizes itself for that. Every time you sit at the computer you have the urge to watch Youtube. Then you start to feel bad about not making progress on your work. You turn to YouTube to make yourself feel better because it's the most efficient way of producing a reward in the brain. After each video is over, you don't want to start work because you've already optimized for watching YouTube (ie. momentum). So, you tell yourself lies like "one more video", or "after the next one I'll start work", or "well it's already 4pm so the day is basically over anyways I can't start working now".
If you're really having trouble and want a solution, block all of the distracting things in your life and get back to the basics. You don't need a "dopamine detox" or anything complicated. Simply block things (using a browser extension or DNS blacklist) you don't want to be doing and let yourself either be bored or do the work.
Suddenly you will find it's easy to get started on work, and actually pretty enjoyable to be productive. Use that momentum, and keep off of distracting websites/apps.
Do it for 5 days and see how far you can get.
My brain is really an asshole and now i slack on discord servers :'(.
I need to fix that now...
Continuously audit yourself, like you already are (noticing that Discord is now an issue), and block more and more things that you find distracting. But also recognize that there will always be something that is more entertaining and you can always find a new website to waste time on. Block out as much as you can so that you're not fighting yourself and use a bit of self-control for the rest. Again, once your options are sit there and be bored or code that's when you see the greatest benefit.
Keep going, any progress that you make is good. Try to make a habit of opening your computer and starting with something productive even just for 10 minutes. Usually once you're engaged it's not that hard to keep going as you make progress. Getting started is the hard part and being bored helps you want to get started.
In general the less stimulation you have in your life the more interesting work will be. Depending on what resources you need for coding it might be easier to set up a whitelist for those couple of websites instead of a blacklist where you're trying to block everything distracting manually.
As far as how you set your expectations, I'd like to propose an experiment: Draw a Punnett square, where X is each possible choice you can make with your time relevant to one variable (work/don't work) and Y is each possible result of the subject of your choice for X (meet deadline/don't meet deadline). You can imagine easily what a p.sq. of these four possible combined outcomes looks like. The point isn't that some of the intersections are impossible (ex. don't work/meet deadline). The point is to notice your ideal outcome (don't work/meet deadline) is: a) impossible, or if not impossible, then b) unlikely, given each intersection has the same general probability of occurrence. In a nutshell, stop expecting the impossible and the improbable. By investing yourself fully in just one of the possible outcomes represented in a p.sq., you will both fail to accept a reasonably good but unfavorable outcome and fail to persist when your ideal outcome appears unachievable.
I don't agree with a lot of Alcoholics Anonymous' philosophy, but the concept of 'white-knuckling' is quite a powerful metaphor for the trap we get into of trying to force ourselves through a difficult activity, and it speaks to a somewhat tortured value judgement around the relative value of doing a task at all versus doing it yourself. Like you'd rather have mold in your house than pay some guy to fix the shingles on your roof.
I've consumed as much if not more of my favorite ice cream in the last year, but it tends to be reserved for conscious choices: I'm going to make a difficult phone call or work on my billing, then go for ice cream, rather than whenever I just feel stressed. It is certainly not the only tool I have added to the toolbox, but it complements others and the end results have improved my outlook. And since motivation and mood are spirals (which I think you were trying to say?), that's a big deal.
When I get an email I don't care about, I take action to make sure I don't get any more. I unsubscribe if it's a distribution list or some website that bought my email. I throw garbage I can't control into its own folder using Outlook rules. If it's a repo that I don't need, I unfollow it in github.
Email is critical to my work, but gardening it is not worth the opportunity cost.
It reminds me of in David Copperfield, where Mr. Murdstone asked his wife to be "firm" all the time.
I think the fact that qualities that are classified as weak or strong, is ultimately a type of bullying. Sometimes, it's a person bullying another. Sometimes, it's the culture bullying individuals, giving extra punishment to people already in distress.
Action by self-bribery is better than strong idleness, and there ought not to be no shame in self-bribery if that helps people to live a better life.
Instead, find the next impossible task, and apply ice cream there.
Look! Water is leaking from her eyes.
The Emperor Ming:
It's what they call tears, it's a sign of their weakness.
At work (temporary gig):
- manual labour == free workout. Whenever I have to crouch for a file.. I do it in a slow and perfect squat. I grab the file and stay down to strecth, then I go up swift .. I'm happy to have that file because I gained something. Other task like archive defragmenting I tried various ways to find the most agreeable one, then I go full speed.
- mundane tasks (print copy, input):
I make a chase waste game out of it (what programmers do). I organize the thing to be as lean and fast as possible and turn a 100+ repetitions into a smooth flow .. like a choreography.
I time most things to make it a game. Coworkers are shocked (whatever their reasons) but I produce twice in half the time and zero rants coming from my cubicle.
For tasks that I really don't like to do.. I gained a mental compartment to remember not to ever trigger that task again. I do it as a debt to my mistake and get done with it.
Fundamentally, there's a trap. It's a short trip from "I can avoid this if I'm good enough" to "I didn't avoid this, so I'm not good enough (bad)." That's toxic dialog. If this is the way you think about anyone, including yourself, you're not being a good friend, and there will be consequences.
And I realize the irony in this statement, but if you like to out-clever problems, you should think about whether you are failing to maintain a diversity of rich, long-term relationships with people. If so, this is probably not a coincidence.
“I made a game of it. Seeing how many times I could bounce the ball in a day, then trying to break that record.”
I like it. Here's to not ever making the mistake of doing my taxes again! raises glass
Your brain isn't a separate part of you. And you should simply be mindful and fully aware of life, do what you want and enjoy doing, when you feel like doing it.
No wonder there is such an issue with anxiety and depression when culture seems intent on mind-games that trick people into spending life doing things that they don't really want to do.
The internet has provided me with sufficient distractions-and they are immediately enjoyable enough-that longterm enjoyment/skill-building just doesn't provide me the sense of 'I want to do this' that other shortterm, immediately rewarding activities do.
the best feeling i get is when i pick up a book or watch a documentary or go and enjoy the weather outside. it truly boosts my mood and makes me feel like a human
I have heard a Hindu man I used to go to grad school with describing that, in his view, the point of his Hindu faith is to live a “satisfied” life, and that the book/documentary/uitwaaien stuff is objectively more satisfying. I don’t know to what extent his take is general and what I do know is that “Hinduism” is kind of just one blanket term that tries to wrap together dozens or more religious practices that do not have very much to do with each other, so it is likely that this is just one person’s take?
I am still trying to work out the authoritative Christian message here. (Christianity similarly lacks a central human authority and has a million denominations with different beliefs.) Several parts of the story are well-stated by some top-notch theologians, so I can say that a lot of this chaos is a result of having the wrong view of the purpose of life. The Reddit/YouTube thing chases short term happiness chemicals in your brain, whereas the book/documentary/uitwaaien paths lead potentially to developing your relationship with God, which is held to be the top thing. Crucially I have seen some really substantial arguments that say that in Christianity, this drive to produce something memorable—to be productive and ‘change the world,’ say—are a mistake; that this redirection of focus from status to relationship also means that Christianity does not value that sort of immortalization-in-history as it would be another status rather than a relationship. It’s the mindset of a developer who hears an intern say “hey I’m sorry to bug you but I have this question” and they stop coding and say “there is literally nothing more important that I could be doing right now than helping you with your question.” But I feel like while I understand some of these things I just have more questions than I have answers? Like I am not sure how this would fit with a Kantian categorical imperative; would it potentially mean that we all stop working and have genuine conversations with each other instead? Like part of the Protestant reformation was the rediscovery of work-as-value, as the Shakers said, “hands to work—hearts to God”... it is kind of an open question in my head how all of that balances.
English is not native to me. Even though I can read and write English article, the speed is just slow. To me, the short-term entertaining part of HN almost doesn't exist. I always have to be dedicated to some interesting but hard article to understand it in some degree.
Some journaling and/or a quick meditation in the morning help me keep in mind these things - and consequently more grounded.
Half the battle of accomplishing anything in life is priming your subconscious mind with the right line of thinking for the task at hand. If you reframe it that way this is fantastic advice.
Edit: I might also add your subconscious mind could very well be considered a separate entity considering it exists out of the full range of your conscious brains influence.
I live in Las Vegas and it feels like my entire city was built on the backs of people who are unable to think in accordance with their long term plans.
It's not 'lying' to yourself, it's the higher part directing the lower part to do its job.
I think that we would waste away pretty quickly into nothing if we just 'did what we wanted'.
Even creative efforts take considerable amount of focus and discipline. Nothing is really just 'all fun'.
It takes a considerable amount of social training to hold our civility together.
Our complex socialisation is the only thing that separates us from being animals.
Even primates don't just 'do whatever' - even they have social rules.
Our 'higher selves' are the parts of us moving us forward, we can put our 'lower instincts' on cruise control from time to time (and that's probably healthy) but no question the 'thinker' has to be in charge in the end.
There's lot of "hurdles" to "just being" nowadays. Even if you don't apply elaborated psychological methods on you everyday life, a big portion of your environment does do it — Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, ..., they all try to hack into your brain and suck you in. How do you prevent falling for these things without employing a bit of brain-hackery yourself?
Also, even if you manage to not succumb to the calls of Facebook et. al., a big portion of worthwhile, fulfilling and healthy things require you to be uncomfortable in the short term (e.g. exercise) in order to reap the benefits in the long run. How can you start doing these things without any rationalisation? (i.e. without trying to persuade the brain: Yeah, I know we'll be sweating, but it's worth it, trust me — you'll thank me in 20 years!)
What would you recommend to read more about the Alan Watts topics you reference?
The rather-neat core notion is that if you try to use your brain to fool your brain, "improve" your brain, plead with your brain, or "understand the brain", you're chasing ghosts, shouting at the wind, snake chasing its tail, tooth biting itself, etc. There's something to that.. if only as an occasional sane reminder to ease up on oneself because however much you listen to or serve the "lazy / procrastinating" or the "virtuous / ambitious" or any other fragments of the mysterious inside machinery, whichever side "you" serve is never satisfied, infinitely greedy and keeps demanding more..
It's usually true. Lots of social anxiety evaporates. And sure, sometimes you put yourself in an embarrassing position because of it. But the benefits are worth it.
The technique I finally learned was to attempt to cultivate an enjoyment of the task I didn’t want to do. But I wonder if
what you’re suggesting isn't really just a different way of looking at the same thing.
You might be “lying to yourself” telling yourself that you’re excited to do something, but the brain will start synthesizing that into what it might indeed find enjoyable about the task. I found I could easily get myself to fold laundry by focusing on the satisfaction of a folded shirt - it sounds silly, but I somehow hooked that process up to the right dopamine trigger, and now I rarely procrastinate this particular chore.
The process was similar for exercise. Whether it was “I’m going to tell myself I’ll enjoy this” or “I’m going to find something I enjoy about this” is perhaps not as clear-cut as I originally imagined, but either way, my epiphany was this: I will always find a way to avoid a task I don’t want to do, while I will always find a way to do something I’ve learned to enjoy.
There's a fantastic idiom in English to express this idea: "to make virtue out of necessity".
> When I say to lie, I'm a bit tongue in cheek. I don't really consider it a lie anymore. It's simply a acknowledgment that this task will not be painful the way that I think. It's much more Zen than my initial post made it sound, but I hoped that would help translate to people who are getting started with self discipline.
In the book, Mother Night, the character is working for the US (and the Allies) but under the cover of working for the Nazis. So it's a bit of a twist on "fake it til you make it". In the latter, you pretend to be what you want to be. In the book he's pretending to be what he doesn't want to be, but the consequence is that post-war he's perceived to have been a Nazi (or at least a collaborator).
I think this is what most of hypnosis or meditation techniques do. They try to bring mind in a more suggestive state and then suggests that you like(or hate) the good(or bad) activity.
I have a friend who was a 6 cigarettes a day guy actually quit smoking after few sessions of hypnotherapy. He said his hypnotherapist suggested in sessions that you hate the smell of the smoke, and he started hating it. I had hard time believing it and I remember researching about it.
I agree with your point on lying. I have tried it before but it takes a lot of mental effort to trick my brain and even then, it's a precarious situation where one loose thought can bring it all tumbling down.
I know one or two people who have a lot of chaos in their lives who cannot do this. One in particular gets positively defensive if you ask in the car what you plan to accomplish by going into this store.
You can hardly call it 'buying extra things' if you refuse to articulate what the expected set of things was in the first place. She spends so much time de-cluttering and often doesn't have money for group activities despite being in essentially the same income bracket. Ten seconds making a plan doesn't have to turn into a whole avoidant 'ruining the experience' vibe of the trip. Also, no store is designed to make you enjoy it. It's merely designed for long- versus short-term ROI, and certain kinds of enjoyment can benefit one or the other. Enjoying a trip to the mall is expensive as hell.
I must have discovered the same approach as this author.
I stopped any kind of thinking about it and focused on observing myself drive to the gym, get in the pool, do the strokes, etc.
If my verbal ("thinking") centers of my brain needed to say something I would only let them describe what I was doing ("You are driving to the gym", "you are putting your swimsuit on", etc.)
Never did I let any other "thinking" or "reasoning" enter the picture. It was all observation. I was able to keep an exercise routine for years this way.
I think her post fails in the last section "Do the easiest part first". This is too much thinking, reasoning and I think will backfire. She should delete this section. I think this idea is hard for people to understand. You want ZERO REASONING to come into the picture when the time comes, not even a shred. Only pure observation of you doing the task.
If you give yourself a chance to think about it, you probably won't do it.
It scares me because it feels similar to the mindset I have when watching a movie. What if I become more interested in the plot than the well-being of the main character?
I respectfully disagree. This approach absolutely works for me. I usually start a big difficult task by removing trivial inconveniences (https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/reitXJgJXFzKpdKyd/beware-tri...)
For example, when I'm about to write a spec, I first do the easy trivial stuff, such as creating and naming the document. Or, when I write a difficult email, I write a rough version of it in a blunt caveman language.
I'd keep this section intact.
You have to come up with a background, a connection to your past and your being, a story that makes sense why this is who you are.
How this looks can be entirely personal. It may be a rugged individualistic stubbornness story to learn to face adversity, a story of family, about health and treating your body as a temple, or whatever else.
If you have a stronger competing story for your identity (eg my kind of person doest jog, that's some silly Instagrammer avocado soyboy thing, my kind of person drinks beer and watches TV) then you'll not keep doing it even if you successfully force it for some days or weeks.
Stories carry and propel us through life to a large extent.
This has been the way I've worked for decades.
I've found that stuff gets done, once it becomes habit. It doesn't always become enjoyable, or even effortless, but it does get done.
There's a saying: "Just for today I will exercise my soul in three ways: I will do somebody a good turn and not get found out. I will do at least two things I don't want to do, as William James suggests, just for exercise."
I usually have the second part down by 7AM. The first is not always guaranteed, each day, but I pull it off, every now and then.
Getting Things Done has been my pattern since I was eighteen years old.
This being HN, I have also learned to "think less" while coding. I've established coding habits; often with the help of LINTers, and now produce a lot of good code, at a blistering pace. My designs are almost fluid; often reconfiguring in the middle of implementation, as I take a "JIT" approach to design. That's not something that can be taught. It only comes with a great deal of experience.
In my experience, the less thought I have to give stuff, the better.
For me, the biggest barrier to getting started on something is all the boilerplate and ceremony around actually doing the thing. Right now, I can go from a resting state in bed to sitting on my rower or running outside within 90 seconds. The same cannot be said for most other physical hobbies.
I rationalize it along lines of "If I start right this second, I can be done with cardio before 8am". For me, the time cost is way more painful than any physical cost. This ideology allows me to squeeze exercise into time windows that would otherwise be impossible if I had to travel somewhere or meet other people to engage in the activity.
Ultimately, I feel that physical fitness is about recognizing the benefits and engaging them at any cost until you are at a point where the cost becomes relatively negligible. The physical and emotional aversion are a temporary thing, and it will ultimately boil down to how much time you want to spend on your own health.
It will if you walk up hills.
Even walking a few miles a day in flat areas is still good exercise; getting yourself outside and moving is a very good start.
I think walking to work or class is also good for thinking and getting your brain working.
Walking/hiking in nature is also great if you are near a trail of some sort.
But now that gyms are closed (I wouldn't go if they were open anyway), I don't have a good substitute. And bodyweight exercises take significantly longer to get the same "pump".
At the gym, I'm forced to get through the workout. At home, it's so easy to hop on the laptop during breaks between sets and get distracted.
I only really enjoy swimming - but it's too much work to prepare yourself for the pool - and carrying things - the other day me and a few frineds helped my other friend move ten station wagons worth of stuff - but that isn't a particularly healthy activity.
Has the author asked themselves why they feel guilt about not wanting to do "everything"?
Is it possible that the form of discipline being promoted here under the tag "Productivity" is entirely unnecessary for a satisfying human existence, and that it is primarily caused by cultural forces?
Is it possible that such a focus on this relentless productivity, caused by our society, is related to the feeling of guilt that comes with perceiving oneself as 'undisciplined'?
Anyone who is commenting on how this opposes the nature of zen or other mindfulness lineages is on the right track and anyone who is still justifying cramming as much activity into every moment of their lives in the name of productivity is doomed to repeatedly feel the guilt and shame that comes along with not living up to these cultural standards.
On the other end of the scale are people like myself, who have a real problem motivating themselves to do tasks which really do objectively need to get done (e.g. mowing the lawn, cleaning the bathroom). Why do they need to get done? Because if they don't they would have a net negative effect on your quality of life / even basic hygiene. It's people closer on this end of the spectrum that I think benefit from advice like this.
Certainly there is no absolute law that says you "have to" do anything. That's freedom of choice which we all ultimately have. In practical terms though, unless you are willing to accept an extremely low standard of living, certain basics do need to get done. People with depression will probably be able to understand where I'm coming from with this :)
In terms of the basic activities of living, it can still help to address the aversion to the task head on by realizing the actual nature of the task.
The task isn't what it appears, but is in fact just a concept we impute to aggregate phenomena.
Is washing dishes standing at the sink? No.
Is washing dishes the running water? No.
Is washing dishes holding a single plate and sponge? No.
Is washing dishes dispensing soap onto the sponge? No.
Washing dishes is the combination of several interdependent causes.
Tasks that we're averse to are simply aggregations of various other imputed concepts, and so the unified activity that triggers our sense of aversion isn't actually based on anything substantial.
Speaking personally, aversion arises for me a lot of the time as a sense of lost time to one activity or another, but the concept of 'just being' suggests that whatever activity you do is perfectly fine on a fundamental level.
No time is wasted because every activity you do is 'of one taste' essentially - it's all the same in terms of being aggregate phenomena wrapped up into a unified concept by humans that triggers aversion based on our individual conditioning.
So realizing that the aversion isn't real and substantial, reflect on the positive nature of completing the task and the positive effects it will have. Instead of repressing your negative thoughts (forcefully not thinking), see them as insubstantial.
Thanks for your reply :)
Now, don't take this personally; there's just not many people that I know that could out-smart plain old dishwashing on such a fundamental philosophical level. I'd love to know what's your background and how you learned think in this way — and I'm asking mostly because I could use some of this way of thinking in my life as well.
I am what most people would call a "productive person" — I'm at one of the best universities in my country, have top grades, have a part-time position in a pretty good research facility, and I'm also slowly chipping away at my startup idea.
Sometimes I'm all happy about this, but other times I see that there's not much time for being "myself" between all these activities. Now, please, bear with me — it's hard to put it in words.
Often I ask myself whether I actually care about these activities, or whether I do them just because it is easier to fill my free time with all sorts of different things and delegate the question of „what should I do next” to external factors. The fact that I don't really care for good grades but at the same time act as if I did care, for example, made me wonder whether the values I have been raised with are really _my_ values, or whether I follow and fulfil them just due to some kind inertia mixed with inability to find my own values. And I’m sure that not only my cowardice and the imprinted values are at fault — the western culture is surely doing its part as well.
But don't get me wrong — I enjoy being the best, I enjoy programming (@ the startup) and the hard work (@ the facility). I just don't know whether it's me enjoying the stuff or some frankenstein of my parents' values and general cultural views occupying the space inside my head... I’m not exactly unhappy, I’m just not sure whether I’m taking the right path here, that is to say „my path” . I think that learning how to think about things on a fundamental level, as you did, could help me in my case as well.
 A little side note: From the practical point of view, being raised to be "the best" has its warts — e.g. when your entire self-worth depends on external measures of "bestness" and crowds of people that praise you for your brilliance. So, even though I'm not unhappy, I foresee that I certainly will be at some point in the future if I don't rethink my values and a big chunk of my life — so I might as well start right now.
: In case this is too OT for HN, I'd be happy to chat at wybitul [at-sign] evzen [dot-sign] dev.
I'm no one special, just a person who has finally made some progress on these very issues.
I've struggled for quite a while with the same fundamental questions about self as you seem to be struggling with now.
>I'm at one of the best universities in my country, have top grades, have a part-time position in a pretty good research facility, and I'm also slowly chipping away at my startup idea.
All of this takes hard work, these are certainly accomplishments that bring temporary satisfaction and happiness.
>Sometimes I'm all happy about this, but other times I see that there's not much time for being "myself" between all these activities.
This is a very subtle form of suffering. Things are going well, there isn't necessarily something obviously wrong, but still you can't shake the feeling and it has the potential to cause (a lot of) anxiety.
>I’m asking myself whether I actually care about these activities
There's no need to find yourself at one extreme or the other (caring or not caring). You do care about these things, but perhaps you overestimate their ability to provide you with lasting happiness and satisfaction. As you say, it's a never ending search for the next source of momentary satisfaction: "what's next for me?".
>Often I ask myself whether the values I have been raised with are really _my_ values, or whether I follow and fulfill them just due to some kind inertia mixed with inability to find my own values.
Inevitably, it's both. All of us are a result of an unbroken chain of cause and effect which started long before we were ever born. Part of your value system comes from your parents, part of theirs came from their parents, and so on. On top this, your personal experience and conditioning is overlaid. Recognizing this fact is important if you would like to break out of this cycle of questioning.
>To be frank, I’m not sure what to do about this. I’m not exactly unhappy, I’m just not sure whether I’m taking the right path here.
Yeah, I get you.
To answer your technical question, I stumbled into the Tibetan school of Buddhism known as Dzogchen several months ago, this has exposed me to the wider landscape of the Madhyamaka (or middle way) view in Buddhism. I hesitate to scare you off thinking I'm trying to convert you to a religious practice, but as I've discovered myself, this is a highly logical and first-person oriented form of scientific philosophy that had been developing in India for at least 2500 years before Hinduism took over. Buddhism continued to develop in Tibet and has been well preserved by the Tibetans. In fact, quantum physics and modern science and the Madhyamaka view are in stunning alignment when it comes several factors, including the reality that things do not exist exactly as they appear to us.
There are two techniques (neither involving faith) to decomposing phenomena as I displayed with washing dishes.
The first is known as Shamatha, which means quiescence, calm abiding mind, singled pointed concentration, or even meditative equipoise. Shamatha is the act of meditating single-pointedly on some object with unwavering focus. This leads to mental stability overtime because through the process of cultivating Shamatha you develop right-thinking about discursive, roving thoughts, and eventually the waves settle (so to speak) and you're left with a very calm mental disposition (which can easily bring you joy). You may know of similar westernized meditation techniques in the mindfulness genre, they were almost certainly developed based on Shamatha, where one of the most popular objects of meditation is the breath or "mindfulness of breathing".
The second is known as Vipassana, which means wisdom, true seeing, or true insight. Vipassana is a form of analytical meditation in which an object of meditation is decomposed and deconstructed over and over again, forcefully illustrating the true nature of the object (which is always empty of inherent existence). Emptiness does not mean that the conventional world we live in does not exist, but rather that nothing in the conventional world exists in its own right as an independent object (as we humans tend to take for granted), but that everything manifests from one or more interdependent causes. This is known as dependent origination. Lucky us in the modern world, we already know that every thing we see is actually composed of sub-atomic particles which are constantly in a state of flux. This was actually something that took people a LONG time to fundamentally accept in the ancient east.
A common example in the literature is a chariot.
What is the chariot? Is there anything substantial to this notion of a chariot?
Is the chariot the wheels? Is it the axle? Is it the bars that connect to the horse? Is it the seat for the rider? Is it the wood?
Of course, the answer is no, that none of the parts are the chariot, and that even the parts themselves are empty because they can be decomposed all the way down to the sub-atomic level.
Therefore, the chariot is simply an imputed concept over an aggregate and has no inherent existence, even though it appears to simply exist when we look at it.
Okay, now ask yourself how do phenomena that are essentially empty trigger afflictive thoughts and emotions (which are also empty)? Then ask yourself, if thoughts and emotions are fundamentally empty, how can they cause me to suffer?
The answer comes from not seeing reality as it really is and is at the core of my example about the dish washing, which is a display of Vipassana.
There are countless entrypoints to this philosophy, some lean more on the classical Buddhist side and some lean more towards a purely secular approach, although like I've said, if you think that Buddhism is based on faith, then you're 100% misconceiving its nature. Therefore I don't view it even in the slightest as a faith based religion. The Buddha Shakyamuni himself urges you not to trust his words any more than you'd trust gold you buy at market, which is to say you must test and experience these truths yourself for there to be any lasting benefit.
I'll point you to two books by the same westerner. This was not my entrypoint, but it may serve you well and he's been immersed in Tibetan studies for most of his life so he is legit I promise. It's called Minding Closely by B. Alan Wallace (a great person indeed).
If you'd like to continue this discussion or have any questions, simply reply again and we can link up over email or something. I hope this brief introduction helps you if even in the smallest way.
 - https://www.shambhala.com/minding-closely-2302.html
That I can quit as soon as I get too bored or hit a block of some kind - this relieves me of all the concerns that I might need to worry (think) about upfront, I waved those requirements when I allowed myself that quick exit.
Most of the time you just end up persevering, and due to the nature of these unimportant tasks - not planning just doesn't make any meaningful difference.
For particularly anxiety-inducing tasks I have been known to use a 30 second time box ;) Safe to say, this always tends to build the requisite momentum to follow through with a much greater bracket of time, even if it's not a conscious decision to do so (this is probably the key point - the mental shortcut).
Another tactic which can be useful when the procrastination is driven by perfectionism: embracing the notion of "wrong action". Simply by initiating some kind of action in the interests of the task at hand, and it doesn't matter how "wrong" you think that action might be. Obviously, since you have a base level of expertise, even your so-called "wrong" action will in fact be a useful step towards the goal. This is a bit like the "beginners mindset": stripping preconceptions that are obstructing any kind of progress.
I'm sure it wasn't an effective strategy for information retention, and I developed pretty terrible sleep habits which plagued me for years after. But the homework got done...
I just watched Joe Rogan's interview of David Goggins, and he lives the essence of what this article is trying to express. I think his perspective is far more succinct and sharper, its sort of an anti-motivation motivation. Its definitely worth a watch if anyone is interested.
You can also barter with yourself. Have a list of harmless splurges to reward yourself with. Kyoto cold brew, a Sapporo black beer, or a few hours of gaming are on my list.
I recon the most professional approach is to clear your schedule, remove all distractions, and simply give yourself enough time or even unlimited time to do it. I often find they get done faster than expected, since most of these tasks aren't particularly difficult. Like taxes. The problem isn't that they're hard or challenging. They disgust me :/
1. I can fit a lot of things into my day, than I assumed.
2. I often overestimate how long things take, on top of that.
Point 2 is particularly interesting, since I know if I just bang out my tasks, I'll keep find "free time" that I over-planned for. By the end of the day, I get a couple free hours to do whatever I want, and it's lovely.
First, as a sibling comment said, having a notebook always on hand is a huge help to me (I like Field Notes as they fit in my pockets and hold up to abuse well). Writing things down with a pen avoids all of the possible distractions of picking up your phone, and frees you from any structure imposed by task apps.
I write stuff down constantly--sometimes I write down tasks, random ideas, or just doodle. Later (ideally in the evening or first thing in the morning) I read my ramblings and organize the ones worth remembering into a more permanent place. Tasks go into a digital todo app, notes and ideas into OneNote, etc.
While this scribbling thoughts and organizing them later is barely a routine, its proved to be enough to get me through crazy times and back into a "real" routine.
The second thing: don't worry about your routine collapsing. It happens, it's natural. Accept it, write down the crazy business in your head, and slowly start building a new routine.
Something that helped me was instead of building a new routine, I went back to the old one but in stages. There are things I don't absolutely have to do, so they get tacked on the end and are optional so I can just skip them without much disruption in turbulence.
Whatever is the quickest to get me to a list of reminders that I can choose from.
And I do best when I can sort those by effort required to complete. Refill cat food bowls, minimal effort, QED. Find contractor for back porch rework, not as simple. So I break it down and find a smaller step I can do and list that.
Even if I get knocked out of my list, I always have it to get back on track.
Tasks.org is my current tool, after trying many many others.
On my worst days I set a repeating alarm to get my attention and look at the list again. Sometimes exhaustion, sometimes lack of desire, but I have a wife and animals to provide for so one way or the other I make it happen.
"Operations of thought are like cavalry charges in a battle — they are strictly limited in number, they require fresh horses, and must only be made at decisive moments."
To understand this, one must realise that a horse can only go full out (<20 HP) for a minute or two, and even at 80% will be exhausted in under 15 minutes. Infantry may, and does, grind, but cavalry relies on timing. (Why use cavalry then? Because, properly deployed, they turned minor routs into decisive victories. Consider Guagamela.)
 There is a nice anecdote about von Seydlitz and Frederick the Great. Von Seydlitz is waiting with his cavalry squadrons for opportunity to ripen. Frederick sends a messenger to him to attack. Von Seydlitz responds, "later." A new messenger comes, "you are ordered to attack." Von Seydlitz responds, "in due course." Finally a messenger arrives, "the king says if you do not attack instantly you will be beheaded." Von Seydlitz responds, "please inform his Excellency that my head will be at his disposal after the battle, but during the battle I still need to use it in his service."
it's like my mind is rationalizing itself to settle for a sub goal.
At the end you oscillate in-between.
I don't think you can really get away from it.
But then around my mid 20s, working out just got boring. My body started deteriorating, which made working out even harder.
Sad to say, these days I can't even do a light jog without something to distract me from the jogging itself. Either music in my ears, or some TV-screen on the treadmill.
But once I can focus on something else, I can work out just fine.
The presumption here is that I've already thought about how long the task will take and what I'll need to complete it, plus I'm aware of what else is going on and taken that into account, so I have no real excuse for not doing the task right when the reminder pops up.
It's a bit of moderated procrastination, but it works for me.
It may be several hours before I actually go on that run, but now the task of running needs to be executed before the clothes can be taken off.
It starts small.
“I’ll just stick on my shoes”
“I’ll just walk to the gate”
“I’ll just run to that post”
Before you know it you’ve completed the thing you didn’t feel like doing.
Once you've started it will be easier to keep going. Also, it's harder to not to finish something the more time you've spent on it.
Both are tools you use to apply to your own exact situation. Person A may vote for Team Motivation, because that works for them. Person B may vote for Team Discipline. That works for them.
The more accurate your self-knowledge and self-awareness, the more effective you can apply the tools (discipline, motivation, etc).