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Clocks vs alarms is a new insight. During hour-scale procrastination, I do check the clock often. An alarm near the deadline, instead of clock-checking, could force me to start the task immediately because of uncertainty. I'll try it right now.

EDIT: I just tried it. Unable to check a clock, I felt a real urgency to get things done. Very interesting idea.

Having enforced immovable schedules can be very useful for productivity. I doubt I'd have the willpower to ever enforce one upon myself but, luckily, I don't have to.

My wakeup time is determined by a wriggly 2 year old alarm clock that comes in to the bedroom at roughly the same time every morning (~7am) shouting "WAKE UP MUMMY AND DADDY! WHERE'S MY MILK?" (we're working on the pleasantries). Last night my sleep time was determined by same said wriggly 2 year old alarm clock who has a horrible cough/cold combo disrupting her sleep (and ours) throughout most of the night.

I have to leave the office at a certain time in order to pick her up from nursery, no chance of running late or getting someone else to do it. That hard cut-off to the end of my working day is very motivating as I know I don't have any buffer to stay a bit later to finish off something I'd said I'd do by the end of the day.

I got in to the office this morning and within 2 minutes I was programming away where I'd left off the night before. The commute in (cycling[1] usually, train sometimes) is where I do the majority of thinking and planning for the day ahead.

There's very little email where I work and I keep my distractions in check with willpower and Leechblock (not got long left to post this).

I definitely believe that I'm more productive in these 8 hours a day (9 if you include commuting) than I was in the days where I'd be 'working' for 12-14 hours.

1. There's my hour a day exercise too.

Even though that wasn't the main point of this post, that's probably the best part because it's super easy to follow and the benefits come immediately if it works for you.

I find when I have something I want to go to that has a specific start time, that the anxiety created from it can be a double-edged sword - especially when I start feeling even more productive and feel I could keep working - though then I'll miss the time-sensitive event..

I've tested exactly this last week, for an entire week. Result: I procrastinated like hell. Both in my private life and at my job.

I'm halfway through the book "The power of habit" at the moment and here's two little titbits I've picked up so far:

1. Habits have a trigger and a reward and you'll get nowhere unless you work within this fact.

Yesterday I had some success, I was trying to fix a dumb programming mistake and getting frustrated. Normally that would trigger my usual behaviour of running off to /r/funny or HN to get my little reward of amusement/knowledge. This time however I was mindful of the loop and said to myself that my reward would be the feeling of fixing it and having the tests pass. It worked. I got my head down, fixed the bug, and felt good about myself.

2. People who successfully adhere to a habit change routine, visualize and practice how to deal with "inflection points" upfront. Inflection points here are those tough spots where you are more vulnerable to regressing to your previous behaviour.

I've been having a bit of trouble lately sticking to my habit of getting up at 5am to work on my own stuff (open source and writing a book). Last night I thought about my alarm going off, feeling the cold outside the duvet and having an overwhelming desire to roll over and go back to sleep and visualized myself just getting straight out of bed. Sure enough, this morning my alarm went off and I was out of bed before I was even fully awake.

I think it's going well, however here I am procrastinating by writing a big post on HN, so YMMV :-)

Visualization, if you have the underlying motivation, is how to get started. Then after 5 minutes of focus can be right into it..

At the moment I've gone through my morning websites, consumed everything I need to, replied to emails I need to, and now this is my second visit to HN ... so it times to make my work environment a clean slate, eliminate all distractions, and focus for a little while... perhaps I'm not awake enough for the focus required though either... |)

Interesting. What did you learn from the experience?

What I already knew: that essentially I'm the laziest person I know and that I need to work hard and set personal challenges (against time) to be productive.

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