This resembles the Feynman method of how to be a genius, but sometime if a task is hard, and seems insurmountable, sometimes all you need is some time for your mind to grasp the task. I have occasionally tackled a problem, given up as it seemed hard, come back a couple days later and discovered a trivial solution, completing in half an hour what I figured would take me 3. So I call this "productive procrastination" and it's a good thing. Another function of my complex to-do list is that it gives me a chance to think about tasks before I start (again, I don't worth through it sequentially). The difficulty is in figuring out when to procrastinate and when not to. There are a lot of things you never want to procrastinate in doing (if you take a long time to bill your customers, they will usually reciprocate when it comes to timeliness of payment, for example). But there are a lot of cases where procrastination can be helpful. So the challenge is when to and when not to.
What I've realized is that discipline is not only about buckling down, but also about using mental hacks such as the ones listed in this article. Its also been helpful to realize that transitioning productivity from a cubicle to a self-directed path is difficult. It has also been the biggest surprise.
Work is the "2nd space" in the Starbuck's "3rd space" advertisements.
Have you tried working in the same seat at a library or other public place each weekday?
Some of my friends freak out at the possibility of 'wasting even more time' by trying to track time. I disagree. Tracking is light (0.5%?) and clears mind from all unnecessary underground thinking and stress resulting from not knowing the numbers.
The idea is to keep it simple. I track in one place and I (mostly) track projects only (billable and non-billable) plus some phone calls (with comments). Tried to track HN related browsing but... it was... never mind.
Did you added some code to the spreadsheet to make it easier to use? Any graphs to _see_ it?
I'd say it's probably useful to measure, but also key to keep in mind when you're warming a seat just to move that number up, rather than actually getting things done.
Including other measures of work output would be a very good modification.
What has worked is coupling the task with the next immediate action. Depending on the level of procrastination, this next immediate action does not have to be a grand vision. It is often as simplistic as "open the lid to your laptop", then, "open a text editor", then "think of the file you need to edit", then "type hello world three times" (just to get me to start writing __something__). Passing that initial hurdle usually gets me to the desired state of flow.
Similarly, I now have the following written at the top of my TODO list at all times: "Direct the Rider. Motivate the Elephant. Shape the Path." This psychology comes from Switch by Dan Heath and Chip Heath, and it's hugely impacted my outlook on work, especially as a researcher.
Don't get me wrong the advice will no doubt help some of us, most likely more then the software would.
I cannot remember just how many articles I did not read because of this. Guessing one word per line lowers my reading enjoyment.
Realize that if you don't work, you'll fucking starve.
Work like fucking crazy, to put as much distance between yourself and starvation as you possibly can.
And in particular, it doesn't solve the independent-motivation problem. There are a lot of people who can work a regular job who have trouble, at least initially, getting into a productive self-directed work mode. If someone is trying to figure out how to transition from regular employment to self-directed productivity, telling them that their motivator should be money-making to eat misses the point, because they could do that via the "failure" option of just giving up and going back to a 9-5, too.
This doesn't help with motivation. You folks who are living on the edge of starvation have it easy!
that project you wish you'd get done in your spare time
Burnout, depression, homelessness
The above is the advice of an amateur who hasn't actually had to tackle work in a self-motivated manner whether the OP fits that mold or not.
Moderation and focusing on what is actionable is how you keep rolling.
It's taken about five years, but I'm almost back to full productivity. I'm basically back to normal, or better, in my day-to-day work, but I still have almost nothing in the way of progress on side projects compared to before.
1. Pace yourself, get some work done, then go make coffee/food, or in my case, go for a motorcycle ride/work out at the gym.
2. Exercise. Hard. No walking on the treadmill shit. Start strength training and do sprints for conditioning/cardio. Our bodies weren't meant to languish in front of a computer and tend to throw a snit-fit if you don't satisfy them.
3. Have a hobby/hobbies that don't involve a computer. As stated before, for me these are strength training and the motorcycle.
4. Read a lot.
5. Focus on actionable, bite-sized amounts of work. Don't think about macro, long-term, or broad scope stuff. You'll just get overwhelmed. Let the dopamine hits come rapid-fire as you check things off in quick-succession throughout the day.
With that, I'm off to ride in the mountains.
I think one does need to focus on macro, long-term, and broad scoped stuff a bit. This doesn't mean keeping it as a goal (which I think is your point) but it does mean setting aside time to plan, think about the long-term, re-evaluate where you are from time to time, etc. At the same time these plans should be shelved once complete and only reviewed periodically. The point of such planning is to think about the long-term not map out how you are going to get there. As Eisenhower said, "Plans are nothing. Planning is everything."
For now, I guess we goes with "whatever works for me".
One thing I'm looking into is using self-administered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to overcome various problems, such as procrastination. I have found this, which I posted on HN earlier:
This uses REBT, or Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, which is a form of CBT and, apparently, the most extensively researched form. See here for more details:
CBT has been proven effective for a number of psychological issues such as anxiety and depression and I'm really interested in its potential applications to other problems. There's more info here with a ton of citations:
Remember you've got to treat yourself well while doing work and work will treat you well in return.
Then I have my mid-range to-do. Tasks usually stay here for days to weeks (my short-term I get unhappy when something is there for more than a few days). Items here are coded with a * for a bigger item and a % for an item I think I can do quickly. The % are moved to my short-term list in chronological order (with some exceptions) while the * ones are moved in based on what I think i can tackle next.
This gives me some variety and some freedom to jump around between tasks and stay productive. I have ADD so thats a good thing. It also lets me set goals that I can usually meet and procrastinate constructively. More than once I have had tasks I really had resistance to starting become trivial after thinking about it for a day or two. But yea part of that is breaking the task down, thinking about it, maybe making a couple abortive attempts to complete it.......
With that said, are you using any special applications for your TODO list? I've been looking for a good one (I'm on Linux) that fits my workflow better, but so far, I keep going back to RTM which isn't exactly the most optimized for me.
I want something that is a desktop application that also syncs with Android/iOS that is lightweight and at my fingertips. I want it easily editable and possibly with a checklist rather than just deleting finished items. I want the list to be rearrangeable rather than static. If anyone knows of a good TODO application, please let me know!
On mobile, there's a "social sidebar" which hovers over the text, as others have noted, to the left side of the page, obscuring the first word or so of each line, in a manner that it cannot be dismissed.
Reading with NoScript enabled on Iceweasel, the text is squeezed into a narrow 2-3 character column to the far right of the page.
My solution is to disable stylesheets and read the page unstyled.
Distractions such as this take a great deal away from actually being able to access content.
You are ready.
Build it wrong, but build it.
Don't work too long, it's harder to get started next time if you flogged yourself into the ground last time. Pavlov rang and told me so.
The upside is that on the whole I produce code that is logical, consistent, maintainable and relatively bug-free. But it takes a long time.