"You see, procrastinators tend to be people who have, for whatever reason, developed to perceive an unusually strong association between their performance and their value as a person. This makes failure or criticism disproportionately painful, which leads naturally to hesitancy when it comes to the prospect of doing anything that reflects their ability — which is pretty much everything."
First paragraph in the text that stuck me so deeply. And it's not like I fear criticism (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5361495), but my urge for perfection is killing my performance and this in fact is indeed literally killing me.
Personally, while I definitely identify with the "fear of failure" personality trait, I find my procrastination is down to two things: depleted willpower and inertia.
To help with willpower, I try to keep my home environment as tidy and organized as possible (which doesn't come naturally). There's not too much I can do about my dayjob other than minimize my emotional investment (which also doesn't come naturally).
I find inertia is the most important and possible variable to change. A yoga teacher told me once: "it's not so hard. Just start... then continue". Once I actually push past the hurdle of starting a project, and make sure I put some time into it weekly (even if it's only 30 minutes), over time my mental resistance aka procrastination diminishes, and I start to enjoy myself.
Start... then continue.
Or so the theory goes -- as someone said up-thread, Piers Steel did an extremely thorough meta-analysis on the topic (gated article here, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886900...; he eventually turned this paper into a book) that denies this perfectionistic explanation and instead breaks the issue down in terms of utility theory and temporal discounting.
Which is fine; but I'm not convinced that the two may not be describing the same phenomenon from different levels of abstraction, in the same way that you can describe bird flocking behavior at the level of Newtonian mechanics, but describe it a lot more succinctly and meaningfully using Craig Reynolds's Boid model.
"Start... then continue."
It's something that I needed to read and really let it sink in to get my ass into gear. Really appreciate it.
I find for me I don't really identify with the "fear of failure", yet I do have a problem with procrastination.
I find tasks that I enjoy, or tasks where I am working towards a goal, easy to start and do. I find it hard to work on tasks where the task leads nowhere (the example of doing taxes is the perfect example)
My downfall is when I forget that specificity works (when I get lazy). Exactly like me and TDD. You will eventually check all the boxes; enumerating them beforehand removes the crap.
The author may also want to consider removing the notion of "caught up" from his vocabulary. Although it's not covered in the Now Habit, it's discussed in other respected books on procrastination and time management.
I used to beat myself up a lot with the idea that there was a (poorly defined) state of having gotten "caught up" on life tasks like those the author describes at which point all would be well.
The problem is that it doesn't really exist - there's always more to do than you can actually do - and denying that fact keeps you from living in the present. There are simply activities you choose to do and activities you choose not to do - that's it.
While it may sound absurdly simplistic, this one change in thinking had a huge impact on both my personal productivity and happiness.
FWIW, YMMV, etc.
In brief, aside from simply recognizing it intellectually (which alone helped me a lot,) I'd start by literally following the advice I wrote above and remove the phrase from your vocabulary. i.e. Don't say things like "I really have to get caught up this weekend." It's a hopelessly imprecise statement that, if you're like me, primarily just engenders stress and shame. Instead use active language re: precise tasks. e.g. "I'm going to fix my bike and go to the store this afternoon."
Fiore does talk a lot about similar language issues in the Now Habit. For example, he stresses the importance of saying things like "I choose to work on this report now" versus "I have to work on this report now."
His argument is that the latter promotes a victimhood mentality leading to resentment and then procrastination.
He also points out that it's simply untrue. If you're going to be precise, there's very little you have to do - there are simply things you choose to do because either you enjoy them, or because you prefer the consequences of having done them versus not having done them.
Hope that helps!
"I'm going to clear my inbox vs. I'm going to get caught up on my email"
I absolutely love to procrastinate and it's very important to me. Actually I am procrastinating by writing this comment right now. Allow me to explain:
When I program, or do math, it's very important to me to have a clear head; and I take procrastinating very seriously because I know if I don't do certain things then I will have a hard time concentrating when I sit down to work, and that will prevent me from going into "the zone", or achieving what some people call "flow".
There is such a huge difference between not only the amount of work I get down, but the quality of that work, when I am in the zone as opposed to when I am not; and procrastinating is sort of a ritual for me. I have to have a clean room, I have to have my desk nice and tidy, I have to have a glass of water, or a cup of coffee, in the same place on my desk that it always goes, I need to open my notebook to review my notes from the day before, and so on. Maybe I'm slightly OCD, but I do these things on purpose as part of a ritual to get into the zone.
If I have an urge to check HN, I log in and do it. Otherwise when I start working I have an awful nagging thought that won't go away saying "hey you know, there is probably something awesome on HN!" and the fact is I need that extra space in my brain to load up all the details of the code I am working on.
Then I load up my music playlist, put on my headphones, fire up my code editor, and the next thing I know it's 4 hours later and my stomach is growling because I have completely lost track of time. Guess what? Time to procrastinate again, otherwise productivity starts trailing off, and the quality of the work suffers.
Sometimes I keep coding anyway, but then I come back the next day and say to myself, "Jesus, what was I thinking when I wrote this crap! I wish I hadn't closed Eclipse before I went to bed, because now I can't ctrl-z out of this mess!" So it's actually a bad idea for me to keep programming when I start getting distracted by random things because then I have to waste a bunch of time the next time I sit down, just undoing a bunch of crap.
I love procrastinating, and I don't consider it a form of laziness at all, but just for a different reason.
For those of us whose procrastination has had a negative impact, those steps invariably drive us further from what we want to accomplish.
I suppose the reason I made my comment is one day I realized that it was actually a positive thing to "procrastinate" for a non-trivial amount of time before I even start working; as long as I actually do start before it gets out of control.
I suppose it was also helpful for me to get rid of the psychological baggage of feeling guilty about "procrastinating", and I wanted to give a word of caution about not over-compensating by going to an extreme of never taking a break, or taking too short of a break, because of feeling guilty or afraid of not being able to start working again if you do.
In your specific case I think it's even healthier. I can't work well or think straight if my environment is cluttered, it feels like it's cluttering my head as well. Identifying things in your environment that affect your performance and taking control over them is KEY to productivity and happiness.
You have a to-do list of 5 items for today and then a week later(with up to 11 hours of busy-work everyday), you're on item number 3.
This kind of procrastination is a sickness and has causes a lot of emotional distress.
You're reading hacker news(or even working on a less important project) full of guilt and indescribable negative feelings that you need to be working on the "important things", then you move to the important thing you need to be doing but you cant get it done cause there is this hyper-active force on the inside of you that just wont allow you to focus.
Its a very sad-depressing place I hope never to return to.
I got out of my first startup because "Chinese importers" had driven prices down so much that I couldn't turn a decent profit.
A few weeks later, i got in touch with my manufacturer about a new product for the iPhone 5 and as they were in the process of manufacturing my new product, i listed it on amazon for pre-orders.
I was selling about 10 pieces an hour and had a few thousand pounds in my account after about 5-days, enough to cover my manufacturing costs.
Then amazon reached out that my account had been blocked because it was somehow related to another account they have previously blocked and i cant continue to sell with them or open another account.
They froze my funds and cancelled my account, so i had to refund all those pre-orders and at the time amazon was 99.9 percent of my sales(big mistake)
After that disappointment, i was a bit depressed and decided to leave that business and come into web startups.
I started learning how to code and while i do enjoy coding, its not something i really want to do as much as something i felt (at least at that time) that i had to do. I think it was this mental block + the mild(not clinical)depression that caused me to continue to procrastinate this way.
I was like this for i think about 6 months.. it was bad.
Along with a complete lifestyle optimization (i went in hard on reorganizing my life to be efficient), the big change came when i started working on another promising project - i now had something to look forward to and a hope to hold on-to and i think that's what really made the difference and got me "productive" again.
I can send you details about my lifestyle optimization if you are interested.
Those prone to procrastination will find that the advice to "do a little every day" isn't all that helpful if the task requires the previous day's (partially unfinished) changes to be comprehended before you can pick up where you left off, mental model now reconstructed. There is also a temptation to rewrite this unfinised, untested, undebugged code as unentangled, "fresh", code is easier to write than that which is burdened with interdependencies, observed protocols, ceremony and context-dependent assumptions. Without refamiliarization there is a danger of blundering blindly into damaging changes with subtle, far reaching repurcussions, due to your naive comprehension of the system dynamic.
Given that refamiliarization is exhausting, I wondered if there were remedies that could reduce the time and effort it required each day:
* Allow the visualisation of the project with a number of domain specific Projectional Editors - derived from an Abstract Syntax Tree
* Use SSA symbolic variables - imperative programs are hard to understand because they support the reassignment of named data cells
* If you have to have state defer changes to a globally synchronised Superstep - also support the Command/Query Separation Principle
* Use a live programming debugger to play with the system and refamiliarise yourself with its dynamical behaviour in a safe sandbox
* It may help to use a language that scores well on the Halstead complexity measure to reduce overall development effort - Python
* Use a WHY directed outline for code - that explains its goals through a folding text editor that supports literate programming
* Avoid fragile base classes - there is very little point having encapsulation if you hack the heritage of an object's genealogy
* Use Go style interfaces
* Revert to the previous working version and redo up to the point of interruption or pause - as it's easier to write entangled stuff
There are lots of good strategies in that book, such as:
* a weekly calendar of committed recreational activities and breaks, meals, etc
* productive periods of work are recorded after they are accomplished
* encourages starting earlier on projects once you see
how much time is already committed
* 30 minute chunks of productive work - too small to be intimidating
* do not work more than 20 hours a week on this project
* do not work more than 5 hours a day on this project
* you must play or exercise at least one hour per day
* you must take at least one day a week off from any work
* do only 30 minute chunks without reward / break
* work for an imperfect, human, first effort
* start small
* previously committed time - meals, sleep, meetings
* free time, recreation, leisure reading
* routine events - commuting, classes, appointments
* Fill in periods of productive work only after completing
a 30-minute chunk
* take credit only for 30 minutes of uninterrupted work
* reward each chunk with a break or a change to a more enjoyable task
* track the number of productive hours by day and week.
* always have at least one full day of recreation or enjoyable tasks
* before recreation, take time for one 30-minute chunk of project work
* focus on starting
* think small
* keep starting, finishing will take care of itself
* never stop when you are blocked or at the end of a section;
push through a block or start a new section before stopping
* realistic timekeeping
* avoid feeling overwhelmed
* allows you to experience success
* deadlines are self-imposed
* new-found free time
The second book is partly at odds with the first, so I leave it to you to see which better describes what you observe.
Summary of The Procrastination Equation:
Perfectionism does not lead to procrastination - this is well studied. It may be that they are thought to be linked because of the cases where there is this discrepancy in behavior.
Procrastination is a result of impulsiveness. Self-control and delaying gratification are key to controlling procrastination.
Procrastinators suffer from
* weak impulse control
* lack of persistence
* lack of work discipline
* lack of time management skill
* inability to work methodically
* (expectancy * value) / (impulsiveness * delay)
* The numerator is Expected Utility Theory in economics
* Expectancy is the perceived likelihood of reward or success
* Value is the perceived value of the reward
* Delay is the perceived delay in receiving the reward
* Impulsiveness is the tendency to (irrationally) pursue immediate reward instead
* too much pessimism causes procrastination -
low expectation of success keeps us from starting
* too much optimism causes procrastination -
unrealistic ease of success causes delay of starting until the last moment
* success spirals - progressive series of successes build
confidence (e.g. earning scout badges). regularly
stretching your limits is important to teach yourself
confidence in your ability to tackle something difficult
* vicarious victory - relating to someone’s success story,
finding inspiration in books, movies, inspirational speakers,
joining a group of inspirational people
* wish fulfillment - visualization of success and contrasting with
where you are now. Visualization that only focuses on the goal may
drain motivation to complete the necessary steps.
As you visualize attaining the goal and then contrasting the current
situation, maintain your optimism so that you can translate this
visualization into a plan of action.
* Plan for the worst, hope for the best - develop strategies to recover
from falling back into old habits. Anticipate temptations and find ways
to counter them.
My procastination is usually due to a stupid case of OCD. I say it's stupid, because I can see how blatantly counter-productive it is... and yet, it's still there.
I keep my OCD down to "mild" levels by purposely flinging my socks as soon as I come home. This, in a way, breaks the cycle of "can't get down to do this because everything isn't perfectly clean". Ordinarily, something becomes a source of discontent that keeps me from getting things done and the best way (that works for me, YMMV) is a hot shower after a bit of excercise, LOTS of coffee followed by soothing music. "Soothing" in my context is usually Testament or Slayer, but you get the idea.
I also make it harder on myself to get distracted by turning off the ringer on my phone or taking out the battery to make Twitter et al. harder to get to (I don't remember my Twitter password, so I'd have to go into my "mega-list-of-all-passwords" text file which is PGP encrypted).
I'd also add that procrastination and perfectionism is something I've seen a lot of, and which has always struck me as particularly insidious. I managed to finish my PhD by 26, but the reason is because I was comfortable with turning it in imperfect (and expected to do so from 24 on, after initial grad student optimism was burned out of me). I've had friends who spent years on a thesis past when it was done by any sane definition of the word just because they wanted it to be perfect. And since "perfect" was unattainable they spent all their time playing video games instead.
Last, I have spent over a decade carefully cultivating a mentality of not attaching myself to the outcomes of my projects but instead focus on enjoying the process. If I don't enjoy the process, the product is sort of irrelevant (at least for long periods). If I do enjoy the process, the product will be the best I can do. I'm currently running two startups, working part time at a third, teach karate, and am at least nominally pursuing romantic and social relationships. I often find myself using the mantra "it will turn out how it turns out" to help myself sleep on anxiety ridden nights. I also more formally say "I release <foo>" when I find that I am dwelling on something in meditation and visualize myself no longer being emotionally attached to that thing. Particularly helpful for tentative romantic relationships. Worry there seems to be cause inevitable failure.
Dunno if that helps anyone, but it helped me a ton.
I feel naked in front of that statement. :(
I wonder, is there any website, community or maybe even webservice with book annotations, clear and brief? I think it wouldn't be a big exaggeration to say I'd prefer a quality brief for at least 80% of books I read.
But €299 for 12 months was a little bit.. unsuspected.
I've always had a strong connection between my ego and my achievements. When I got employed by a company with extremely talented people, I developed chronic stress. It's been a serious problem for me for a few years. Lots of procrastination, my health has suffered, and my general life quality has suffered.
What has made a tremendous difference for me, is to develop metacognition. If you are aware of what's going on in your head, you can aim your focus where you want it to be. Over time, old habits will fade.
Most of us think thoughts and feelings are reality. But they're not. They are just events inside us. They're not dangerous. Yet, we often believe they are life threatening. So we react. Strongly.
The first step is to understand that thoughts, the voice in your head, is just that: A voice in your head. It doesn't tell the truth: it tells scary stories, to keep you safe from sable tooth tigers (or the modern equivalents). Since you want to stay alive, it's best to be on the safe side, so this radio broadcasts 80% bad news all day long.
That radio used to take most of my focus. It was very loud. By learning to treat it as background noise(1), I can now better focus on other things. As a result, many problems in my life have just started to fade away, without me actively working on them. Including procrastination.
Also, learning to be aware of feelings (detectable by bodily sensations), and letting them stay without fueling them with thoughts (e.g. "I don't want to feel like this", "this is bad", or "why me!?"), or conciously (or unconsiously) trying to get rid of them, reduces stress levels a lot. Feelings left alone often disappear by themselves within a minute or so. In contrast, if you fuel them with thoughts, or try to get rid of them, they tend to get stronger and may stick around for a long time.
I would recommend looking into ACT. E.g. check out this video by Russ Harris: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQTvFdbjlxw . Also, his book, "The Happiness Trap", is well worth reading. This may be all you need.
Before discovering Russ Harris, I developed my awareness of thoughts, as well as my mental flexibility, by doing attention training. For more on this, I would recommend "Metacognitive Therapy for Anxiety and Depression" by Adrain Wells. (Beware, it is quite heavy, written for psychologists. Don't mind the "Anxiety and Depression" part of the title.)
Furthermore, mindfulness and meditation is good. Just be aware that these are very fashionable nowdays, and there are lots of misunderstandings out there. For example, many mistake them to be about relaxing. Also, getting into meditation and mindfulness may be extremely hard if you're not ready for it, so starting with ACT may be a good idea. To understand (vipassana) meditation, I like this description: http://lesswrong.com/lw/2rd/understanding_vipassana_meditati...
Another good book that covers a lot of the above material, but from a Buddhist perspective, is "Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change" by Pema Chodron. I find it helpful to get different perspectives on these things.
Beware: If you suffer from serious mental illness, or have had traumas, you should be very careful experimenting with this by yourself. I would recommend seeing a psychologist first, preferrably one who is up-to-date on Metacognitive theraphy, ACT and/or mindfulness. Be aware though, that many have an academic interest in these topics, but do not have personal experience, so the concepts are not well integrated in them, making it harder for them to teach it.
(1) Trying to silence the inner radio, or to make a soundclash by adding another radio (e.g. "positive thinking"), does not work very well.
Another thing: Our brains did not evolve to solve abstract problems for 8+ hours a day. They evolved to solve small, practical problems in everyday life. We learn from early childhood to work hard, to concentrate, to get good grades. Less focus is on the importance of listening to the signals that the body sends us, e.g. about taking breaks. It is perfectly fine to feel tired, to feel like not doing anything. It's important to rest.
Is this a bot in development? Comment history is awfully strange, always linking to http://news.ycombinator.com, suggesting it is a placeholder for later links.
... Maybe I just need my morning coffee... or internetdude313 is high as a kite, with a crush on lisp.
This. I vividly remember when some problems got completely out of hand and my life turned downhill, this is exactly what it felt like. On shitty days, I tell myself, 'well, at least it wasn't as bad as that'
However, you are part of a process. You don't own the process and even you do everything perfectly things might not turn out right, but you can understand what happened and how to influence things for the better in the future.
It is rather freeing.
I don't know, it's something about the act of writing for me. It's getting it out of your head, but going along the lines of what the OP says, there's zero judgment. It's also forcing yourself to not just endlessly think about ambiguities. Writing it down forces you to focus it more narrowly and address specifics. You break the problem down into smaller steps and from there it seems easier to tackle.
Maybe life just isn't exactly what I want it to be.
In other words, maybe if I go around expecting to have fun all the time (or enjoy myself, or be stimulated, or do what I want, or however I think about it), I will be perpetually disappointed and confused.
I don't know but I speculate about the role of the ideology of consumer capitalism in all this. (No, really!)
It's not that I think life ought to be dull or boring, but it shouldn't be controversial to say that most of us have lingering expectations about life that are out of tune with reality.
Maybe it just comes down to being willing to endure doing things that feel boring and/or stupid compared to the other myriad fun things that are always available to us affluent people.
Some relevant quotes from David Foster Wallace:
"This is the great thing about it, is that probably each generation has different things that force the generation to grow up. Maybe for our grandparents it was World War Two. You know? For us, it’s gonna be that at, at a certain point, that we’re either gonna have to put away childish things and discipline ourself about how much time do I spend being passively entertained? And how much time do I spend doing stuff that actually isn’t all that much fun minute by minute, but that builds certain muscles in me as a grown-up and a human being? And if we don’t do that, then (a) as individuals, we’re gonna die, and (b) the culture’s gonna grind to a halt."
From fictional characters in his The Pale King:
“True heroism is minutes, hours, weeks, year upon year of the quiet, precise, judicious exercise of probity and care—with no one there to see or cheer. This is the world.”
“The truth is that the heroism of your childhood entertainments was not true valor. It was theatre. The grand gesture, the moment of choice, the mortal danger, the external foe, the climactic battle whose outcome resolves all--all designed to appear heroic, to excite and gratify and audience. Gentlemen, welcome to the world of reality--there is no audience. No one to applaud, to admire. No one to see you. Do you understand? Here is the truth--actual heroism receives no ovation, entertains no one. No one queues up to see it. No one is interested.”
That's the one sentence solution described by Oliver Burkeman that has remained in my Pinboard.
This article describes procrastination as two demons you need to conquer: the first is doing the actual task, while the second is to get into a certain state of mind or mood that makes you want to do the task. By setting up two barriers to getting the task done, you're likely to procrastinate further.
The "just do it" mantra jettisons the "I need to feel like doing the task before I do the task" roadblock. What you'll find is that once you actually start working on your task, you're more likely to continue along merrily, wondering why you even resisted starting in the first place. This almost always works for me. Give it a shot.
What's most cutting reading that paragraph is how true it is, and how much of my self-worth I feel diminished by admitting that.
I've got better recently, but that post really hit home.
I never really thought of it as a judgmental problem (self worth related) so much as a sort of efficiency problem (hate to have wasted all that resource (time, money, whatever)). One of the weird things about quitting World of Warcraft was that I played hours on that game, so I could pretty much do anything and it would be less wasteful of my time than that. So for a while that was a great crutch, "We'll hey, I didn't get much done but if I had been playing WoW I wouldn't have gotten anything done."
Ironically, I have managed to keep my washer and dryer going for 16 years. But that's all thanks to the Internet. :)
Anyway, this article really hit home for me. I will definitely be picking up a copy of "The Now Habit".
Scroll down the page a bit to see "the procrastination equation". Even though I had been exposed to concepts from the temporal motivational theory before I found the equation quite striking the first time I saw it.
> Motivation = (Expectancy x Value) / (Impulsiveness x Delay)
> Increase the size of a task's reward (including both the pleasantness of doing the task and the value of its after-effects), and your motivation goes up. Increase the perceived odds of getting the reward, and your motivation also goes up.
> The denominator covers the effect of time on our motivation to do a task. The longer the delay before we reap a task's reward, the less motivated we are to do it. And the negative effect of this delay on our motivation is amplified by our level of impulsiveness. For highly impulsive people, delays do even greater damage to their motivation.
The rest of the article is worth reading. (It's short; 2/3 of the page is footnotes and comments.) Firstly for the examples that root the equation in reality. Secondly for suggestions on increasing the numerator and decreasing the denominator.
I say this because I spent 7 years in college bouncing from degree to degree, finally settling on physics of all things, not because I had a burning passion for physics but because my father had always held it in such high regard and had such high expectations for me. Every day was a struggle against procrastination. It's funny because I wrote countless self-addressed pieces like the OP's lamenting my battle with procrastination and what to do about it; I even kept track of the different strategies I'd employ, which all inevitably failed.
Turns out it wasn't that I was broken in some way and it wasn't a problem I could fix. I just didn't want professional physicist, and although I did graduate (thanks grade inflation!) I haven't so much as touched a Lorentz transformation or Feynman graph since. I wanted to build things, not discover things, and programming rubbed me in all the right ways. I now have the complete opposite problem the OP has; I work too much, am very productive, and it frankly it affects my liesure life. I haven't finished a video game in years.
I'll close with one last bit of wisdom I learned from my father. No matter what my Dad does for the day, whether it was ten important things or 1 seemingly trivial thing, he always focuses on the stuff he got done rather than dwell on the stuff that got neglected. Now I always make sure to do at least one thing I can look back on about which I can say confidently made the day worth it. It's easy to lose perspective. You don't have to be superman every day.
At least, that is what I believe, based on the assumption that the OP and I are very similar in this regard. Everything he wrote rings true to me, and nothing is off. Yet, I never had the slightest problem in sticking to, and finalizing my degree, nor disliking my work or profession. In fact, the parts where I have found myself procrastinating the most, is when setting out to do my own pet projects, the ones I would LOVE to do. And why is that? The exact same reasons stated in the article, the fear of imperfection, of trying, coming short and experiencing it as a personal failure.
So, I disagree on the notion of "whatever you do when procrastinating, THAT'S what you should do for a living"-notion.
As for the last bit of wisdom you provided. Right on! Keeping a "Done-list" as opposed to just a "Todo-list" can be really useful!
BTW, -this isn't to uncommon. Many who suffer from procrastination love their work.
The last 2.5 months for me have been nothing but struggling to figure out something that I barely understand. Something that seems to come pretty easily to a number of people I associate with, so it's difficult to retain perspective. To wit, that they've been doing this stuff a lot longer than I have, and that at least I can get some of it (and will someday probably get more of it).
So this rings pretty true for me, as I had just gotten a thing I'd been working on for what seemed like forever to (mostly) function, now it has to be expanded to handle this other thing that I know pretty much nothing about. It seems like either there are far better people who could be doing this than me, or maybe my belief that if I keep smashing my forehead against the spec, it will gain entry to my brain.
So far, starting out on my own with the idea that I could make a product has been lonely and isolating. This work is damned hard. If I fail, I won't be in a bad place, but it's still overwhelming me. My respect for certain people who have the temerity to do this (and I think you all know who I mean) has grown considerably. But don't tell him I said that, because I still need him to take the garbage out from time to time.
Second, I completely understand the feeling of isolation and loneliness. And it makes it hard, if one's nature is to procrastinate, to push through. I've started talking more about my project with people in an effort to encourage myself to want to show more progress. And, yet, here I am. :/
In particular it might help with motivation and perception of success/failure.
For those who haven't read it, Mindset sets out 2 main opposing beliefs:
* your abilities are largely "fixed", mostly a function
of innate "talent" that you can't change
* vs. your ability is mostly due to learning,
and you can always learn more
Does anyone else see the problem here?
I really liked the article, as I'm almost exactly like the way the op described himself. Hot proof: my tax returns were due 15 days ago and here I am, eagerly discussing the issue of procrastination. Much of the last two weeks was also spent watching the second leg of the Champions League football matches (ah, Barca, you recovered magnificently from a two goal deficit - well done!).
It's a really big problem.
There was another article recently on HN which I really liked . I tried it. Yelling "You're an ANIMAL! You're an ANIMAL!" at myself as I perused my tax documentation. It hasn't worked yet and I've now scheduled another session. For Monday.
My perception is also that the first cause of procrastination is fear of X, where X is most probably specific to you. Another term of the equation is that avoiding something that we fear, increases the fear of it. And this probably closes the loop.
I found out by experience that a way to get out of this loop is to inhibit any (negative) thinking about the task at hand and just focus on doing the task. Then praise yourself when you achieve the task with "good work Harry", something you probably didn't hear enough when you were young.
For example, when I'm about to write an essay or review it, I might think that I'm not a writer, or that I'll be ridiculed if anybody see this text because they will see I'm very bad and presumptuous to think I could write, etc. This thinking take place in milliseconds and generate a sting strong enough that when I see the text file I fell like an electrical shock keeping me away of even touching it. I took me time to understand that it was fear from my own imagination that kept me away of it. Every time I just focused on the task itself, clicking on the document, just read it for my self and see what I like and don't like for my self, inhibiting any thoughts on what I might do with the document, there was no procrastination.
This type of procrastination can be diagnosed if one is frustrated by not being able to achieve what we really want to do.
One can feel the same for a startup project where we live a frustrating paralysis in front of the project. This paralysis comes from all the fears generated by our imagination anticipating all what could go wrong. But this is like the Maserati problems where you imagine you could crash your Maserati. Just do it, make the MVP software for your own pleasure, focus on the creation of it, polishing of its interface and UX just for yourself. Inhibit any thoughts on the future which are the source of fear and paralysis.
Regarding procrastination in house and cloths cleaning and food making, I think it might also be as simple as fear if one has not learned and has been put in confidence to do it when he was young. It is bad parenting if kids are not familiarized to do it when young, thought it may seam the opposite at first look where parents take care of all the needs of their kids.
I am 24 years old, and I seriously struggle with motivation to do... just about anything. I have a midterm tomorrow in Dynamics (a mech engr course), and I have pretty much neglected the class entirely, and I am most certainly going to fail it, and I'll have to withdraw. This isn't surprising, because I've been in this situation many, many times before. But the issue goes much deeper.
For my entire life, I have struggled to do many basic things other people have no trouble with, like keeping my room clean or being on time. (I am chronically late). For high school I had bad grades, and for college I've had abysmal ones. I took Calc 2 three times, and Calc 3 four times. Business 1 three times, and I've repeated probably 3 or 4 engineering and other easy classes just a single time as well.
After my third year at university (a complete disaster), I investigated getting tested for ADD, and lo- and behold I "had" it, along with mild depression. Now I live on my own, and aside from not having enough friends as I'd like / once had, I don't really have any real reasons to be depressed. I started Adderrall a few years ago, and it showed me how backward I am. I'll get to this later.
A recent talk with my half-sister really opened my eyes by showing me she is very much like me when it comes to getting things done.
For just about everything, I get no mental stimulation out of "doing it now," so I put it off. And off. And off. I have some kind of huge mental resistance, anxiety, or pain associated with doing it (for all you neuroscientists out there). I straight-up simply CAN NOT get myself to do it. In fact, I have never, EVER, just sat down and done something long before it absolutely _HAD_ to be done. Instead, it gets to a critical point where I realize, HOLY CRAP I am going to fail if I don't start now. Essentially, the things that actually motivate me are fear-driven (embarassment or failure). It's at this point I am now under huge pressure to get it done, and not surprisingly, I have totally inadequate time to do it, and my ability to focus and actually complete the task is completely compromised. Sometimes the stress gets so bad, I have to just quit what I'm doing and go to sleep, to alleviate the stress.
This trend goes on, and on, and on. I didn't finish school, and I'm trying to transfer right now, but my GPA is so low I can't get in anywhere. I've applied to universities over and over, where I've written essays about how I've grown and am a better, more mature person now, but the truth is I'm not. In full honesty, I know full-well the formula for success, but no matter how well I plan or organize my time, when it comes to physically doing it at the most primitive level, I fall flat on my face. Thus, that simple action-component of the master plan goes unfinished, and the house of cards begins to fall from there.
If it is of interest, my father has had very similar if not worse issues for his whole life, as well as my mother, but not quite as bad. My mother has serious lack of motivation issues and has had longstanding depression, and both my half-sisters seem to have the similar difficulties with focus and motivation.
This fits in to what I perceive as a greater trend: I generally lack stimulation, and I gravitate towards things that give me that kind of instant gratification.... primarily the Internet (and HN!), extreme sports, and playing guitar. I have actually become quite a jack of all trades, lacking follow-through to finish anything to my desire.
I've learned that really to get anything done right, it takes slow and consistent focused work, which unfortunately for me, is just very boring, and I never do it. I _can't_ do it. When I try, my mind wanders uncontrollably.
I've long been criticized as being lazy, and perhaps that's what I am, but I don't view it in that sense. I want _desperately_ to be able to work. I want to work long and hard on things, and have follow-through, but I am unconsciously prevented from doing so. I have tons of ideas and a wild creative side, but I have, as a marriage counselor put regarding my dad, "an aversion to doing."
The lack of stimulation seems to carry over into my relationships too. I have a hard time getting along with most people. Most people are just kind of boring; I don't get much out of their presence. Not in that I can't have a conversation for a short while and appear sociable (which I am), but truly making friends seems very, very difficult for me. I try to, but it just doesn't work. I rarely make actual friends that I feel comfortable with, until I randomly will make one, with no effort whatsoever (about 1 per year). Very interestingly, most of my friends are similar to me; they are of fairly socially-akward sort, and many are very ADD-ish.
I'm 24, and my life is in shambles, compared to what it could be. Very recently I almost got an amazing job at Apple (corporate), but after nine interviews, I was ultimately denied because I lacked the degree and had an "unprofessional" LinkedIN, Facebook, and email address. (okay the last part wasn't relevant). Anyway, that hurt, and I need to finish school. All my friends from high school are in _TOP_ law and grad schools, and I'm still semi-unsuccessfully drudging on with my undergrad and working at a startup that won't go anywhere, making $12/hour.
I don't know what plan of action to take. What can I do to fix this? Do I go see psychologist/psychiatrist? I've heard so much about the brain's plasticity, so is this something I can fix ? I had some level of success with Adderrall, and it showed me what it's like to _FEEL_ motivation to do things at the appropriate time and similarly the anxiety to _NOT_ doing it "now." It also made engaging with people much easier. It was pretty profound.
However, I really don't like the idea of being on a drug all the time, and I felt like I quickly grew tolerant to it, which is a trend I'm more afraid of than anything.
Nothing is working out for me, and I want to get things on track before I've wasted my life away. I have huge ambitions, but I cannot accomplish them, and being brutally honest, while it's still a long ways away, I wouldn't want to raise a kid with my habits as they are now. That's a big deal.
So, HN, any help or advice would be very appreciated.
I, like you, have always had plenty of creativity and drive, but I have absolutely zero drive for any task that isn't motivated by my own beliefs, passions, and desires. It sounds like you might be similar. If you feel such a monumental blockage toward completing certain tasks, then just leave it, give it up, it's not for you. Instead, find something you do want to put your energy towards and don't look back.
Also, as far as psychiatric drugs go, I suggest looking into some neuro supplements first. 5-htp, L-tyrosine, choline, rhodiola, and a good multivitamin (plus eating well and getting exercise, of course) have worked really well for me. For many people, these can have much greater positive impact than prescription meds without the unpleasant side effects and dependency. It's better to work with the rhythms of your body's chemistry than to introduce abrupt changes, which is what prescription meds do.
Take it as a personal project to manipulate yourself. This is the trick. You want to have your reptilian brain under control, and the problem is that the reptilian has lots of power. There are a number of strategies, try and try again until you find one that fits. For me, the one that really worked is delayed gratification as a reward for small accomplishments. Trivial stuff, such as "I can break for coffee once I fix that small annoying bug that is just boring to fix". Frequent, delayed rewards.
Anyhow, talk about it. You'll find most people go through the same problem. Virtually everyone goes through phases of procrastination, and you'll find everyone has invented their own method of snapping out of it.
I personally think that, if you're lacking in motivation to do something but you realize it's something that needs to be done, you're lacking in self-discipline. Instead of waiting or hoping for motivation, you need to be disciplined and /do it/. Start with sleeping discipline: go to bed at 11 sharp, get up at 7 sharp, and stick with it. Excercise disipline: force yourself to go for a run every night, whether you feel up to it or not. That kinda thing.
With procrastination, the general advice is to force yourself to sit down and do something that needs to be done for five minutes. Surely you can do five minutes, right? Then reward with an instant-gratification thing. The general advice is to do 30 minutes, but I'd go down to just one minute or something if it's really bad.
Ask for help / monitoring, too. My brother had serious procrastination / concentration issues when he had to finish one of his last assignments. I was asked to help him out; I just asked him where he was, what needed to be doing, and er. Well, I just sat and read something while he worked.
So, self-discipline, and a friend to help you keep focused on the task at hand. Ask him to shock you if you reach out for distraction or something.
One clear example of the one-size-fits-all failing is explicit in your discipline of go to bed at 11 sharp get up at 7 sharp. It is known to only work for morning people. I tried exactly that, and for me it leads to slow unproductive mornings. Move the bedtime schedule to 3AM or 4AM and suddenly I get four or five great work hours in the night (way better than the equivalent hours in the morning).
It depends on how you're wired, and my point is that learning how each person is wired is a personal project, through trial and error. Erring is OK.
For me, my primary limiting factor is that I tend to burn out easily. Currently, I plan a couple or a few days a week that will be "productive days" where I run errands, tidy things up around my apartment, and generally tie up loose ends (bills, finance, make appointments, etc.). I used to work on trying to spread it out more evenly through the week, but I found the quality of my work really decreases the longer that I try and keep up the pace. I need a day, or two, or even longer sometimes to get back in the "productive mood".
I know these things, and being aware of them helps me plan accordingly, and set realistic goals. I've been doing this since college, and the quality of my work has really improved, because I tend to work best when I want to, and relax best when I need to. These cycles come about naturally, and I try to exploit them.
Everyone is different. And the important thing is to constantly try and improve, even in little ways, at even a seemingly glacial pace. Small goals for me snowball into larger ones. But it's all about really coming to know yourself.
With that said, in your experience, what is the best type of doctor for visit for this kind of thing?
You sound like the lady that passed her driving test on her 50th attempt. This is a person that should not be driving.
Have you considered being a lumberjack? I'm being serious here. You need to do something crazily different. Maybe work in a restaurant. Physically hard work with someone chewing on your ass to get it done quicker. A place with no long term objectives.
Call it mind training but what you are doing at the moment is trying to force a square peg into a round hole.
I was pretty lucky to be able to get a good job thanks to my computer skills, one that was more immediate; very little long-term objectives (tech support), and managed to get enough impressive stuff to put on my resumé to more than catch up to those who did graduate college.
Unfortunately, as I move up in the field (towards sysadmin), more long term objectives tend to crop up more and more in my professional life, whether I want it or not, and I am not any better at dealing with them than I was before.
Unless the person you're responding to is content not to moving up professionally, I fear that he will have to tackle his lack of mental discipline one way or another...
I just want to chime in here.
I graduated with a CS and math double major and Chinese Minor in 06. I backed out of a programming job offer and instea ended up working for my uncle as an RF engineer for the next 2 years. That was working for about half the salary and no benefits. I disliked it enough to eventually quit and staige (intern) in a restaurant for 3 months.
Those 3 months have been the most empowering period of my life.
After exploring other fields that I thought could be passionate careers, I've come back to programming and found a renewed interest.
This advice worked for me.
You can do the same thing with work stuff. I could just open the spreadsheet. I could just open the email I need. I could just log in the box I need. Suddenly I've started working on it and I'm good for the rest of the day.
Look for something really microscopically small to do next. It doesn't have to be optimal, it doesn't have to be the most important, the most urgent, or even that useful. If the task is small enough it slips under the threshold of such evaluations. I think this also gets you into the habit of taking action immediately rather than waiting. But if it doesn't, you can always kick start yourself again by doing anything small. "I could ...."
Have you ever noticed that you can achieve a goal when there is no pressure or expectation? If that is the case, I recommend finishing this semester the best that you can, and then take a one or two year break from school.
Apply your creativity to a project that incorporates some of your education so far. Don't set a deadline, don't tell anyone about it, and don't concern yourself with whether the project can be monetized. Come up with a project that starts out small but can be built onto and improved. A project that can be used later in a larger project is ideal. Don't spend a lot of time researching before you get started; simply start on it. Don't obsess over details; remind yourself that you are working on a prototype, and that afterwards you will be building another one. Take regular breaks from the project and go back over past course materials for ideas in ways to improve your next design. Most importantly, the whole process should be FUN.
The one or two years spent should allow you time to fortify your education and change your subconscious attitude towards engineering. Completing a large project will give you a reference point of what it takes to succeed in the long term.
For it to work you need to dislike losing money, be honest about your goal progress and rerail if you derail (although they now have an automatic rerailing feature). Getting some pleasure from the goal progress and statistics is important too.
I'd start with something like "study 1 pomodoro/day of $course" and slowly increase it. Maybe also add a time requirement ("by 2 pm").
The fact that I have to rely on something like Beeminder to get things done can be a little hard to accept. I'm essentially the same procrastinator, I'm just forced now to do things.
I have yet to find a way to fundamentally change myself but if there is, then a structured life surely is a better starting point than being depressed because you've procrastinated your life to shambles.
I also have some hope that the habits formed with Beeminder will have some deeper self-discipline changes in the long run.
Apart from the slightly mentioned Pomodoro Technique, Anki also helps me.
Danny of http://beeminder.com
Spent much of my life struggling to do basic things as well.
24 years of hearing the familiar platitudes of "just do it", like telling a depressed person to "just smile".
Fortunately I stumbled upon slow-release d-amphetamine and it changed my life.
Yes. Try several until you find one that clicks.
With social interaction it's also the same - I do get bored really fast, about the time I start to find someone's behaviour predictable (but for me it's borderline people who I can get along with for longest time).
Where I'm different is that I rarely fail my exams - but I believe it's because I'm kind of talented. Most often it's enough for me to take about 75% of classes (not even listening all the time). And it's also kind of annoying - the fact my GPA is much lower than it should be, considering my natural abilities.
I've been trying meditation recently, and it seems to help - even after 20 minutes I'm able to clean my room without mental pain normally associated with it. Unfortunately, I often even meditation suffers from my procrastination - and the less I meditated in few days, the more chances I won't in the following day. But I guess I'll keep trying.
That said, and take this with the grain of salt that I don't know you, stop judging your progress against your peers. Everyone has their own life, and the best thing you can possibly do is to find some activity that you honestly enjoy and do that. Who cares if your high school friends are in top law schools? Some of the most interesting people I've ever known didn't bother graduating because they just basically weren't into it.
Unfortunately, your resources are probably limited, but if you can I'd suggest taking some time off to travel to a new environment (if you're social enough to interact with people there). A change of environment seems to do wonders for a lot of people with similar motivational issues.
I realize my response is kinda dense, but in reality I find it easier to start when I think I have a fighting chance.
I am strongly considering developing an online course about this and to get some more hands on experience I am happy to help few people for free. If you would like my help please email me your Skype details. You can find my email in my profile.
So I ditched college at 20, was lucky enough to get a good job despite that and work from there, but as I slowly get closer to 30, I find that the world has less tolerance for my problem. I'm moving up in my professional life, and as I do I find that juggling with long term projects is starting to become more and more important to my work.
But anyway, you wanted help or advice.
One of the ways I am coping with it, is trying to make sure I can capture motivation when it happens. I guess my issue is not that I have NO motivation, but more that I am unable to summon it myself. But it happens to pop up at times, so I found that I can get things done if I remove obstacles that would stop me from using it.
For instance: I am trying to learn how to draw these days. It's a skill I always wanted to have and I decided to fix that. But most of the times, I don't feel like doing it. Just because I have free time doesn't mean I'm able to force myself to draw. So I always carry a sketchpad and pencils; whenever the motivation to draw crops up, I can catch it and make use of it.
Another example: I'm taking classes on Coursera. Sometimes I feel like listening to the lectures and doing the class work, sometimes I don't, and I can't really force myself to do it when I don't want to. However, since Coursera works well on my cell phone, I am capable of listening to the lectures anywhere at anytime.
Never underestimate the small stuff like doing the dishes. In my case, two things I would like to do is put some money aside and lose some weight. As ridiculous as it sounds, making sure I deal appropriately with the dishes is crucial to attaining these goals. Why? One of the biggest reasons I can't save money and that I am getting fatter is because I am always eating takeout or delivery. It is both expensive, and unhealthy. I would really like to cook more; I love cooking. But as I said before, you need to remove any obstacles beforehand if you want to be able to capture the motivation when it happens. Having to do the dishes before cooking is such an obstacle. Having to go to the grocery store is an obstacle to cooking. So something as small as a dishes problem, is stopping me from dealing with my cooking problem, which is stopping me from dealing with my money and health problems.
I try to have many hobbies going at once; the more things I have that I could be doing, the more likely that there'll be at least one of those things I'll be wanting to do in my free time.
I also try to keep the work divided in smaller chunks and set small, tiny goals for myself. For instance, like yours probably is, my room is a stupid mess. Worse than a messy teenager's. I would never be able to tackle clearing ALL of it; it's waaaaay beyond any motivation I can muster. But at some point I wanted to use my desk. So when the motivation came up for it, I cleaned up the clutter on desk. Same thing with the laundry; one load at a time. My room is still a stupid mess, but at least there's a few parts of it I'm keeping clean.
That's another tip: keep things clean, clear and done as you go. Never rely on future you, that dude will disappoint you. Most people are able to leave things get a little messy, then clean up for an hour or so and are done with it. You are not. You need make a habit of doing things immediately, on the spot. For instance; do the dishes immediately after eating: all of them, always, even if you have guests. If you let them pile up, no matter how small the pile, that will be one pile you will never really want to deal with until it becomes a problem.
Anyway, good luck. I'm rooting for you.
I got some help during college, but unfortunately for me, medication would lead to very high blood pressure (probably combined with stress and other factors at the time and due to a predisposition that runs in the family) so I stopped taking them after a couple of months.
I have found that I don't need them as much though. Like danenania suggests, your problem is likely one of body chemistry that few understand (kind of like depression), and one especially of brain chemistry. I've tried l-tyrosine only and haven't really noticed much change, but try it (GNC has it). What's really helped me, specially lately -- and when I look back at High School -- is exercise. Exercise, exercise, exercise. I have found for me, that exercising intensely even for 10 minutes (though more is ideal) during the morning is an excellent way for me to feel very focused and energetic the rest of the day. The key is intensity.
So here's what I suggest, especially since you like extreme sports:
* wake up early -- it's not easy with ADD, I know, but sleep early the first night before it.
* hit the gym, or visit to your favorite jogging place
* Run your guts out!
Jog at a good pace for ~4 minutes after stretching a bit and walking one minute. The 5th minute, sprint/run as fast as you can without stopping. Then walk for 1-1.5 mins, and do at least one other set of this, but ideally 3. (As always, build up to it an adapt to yourself--as long as you really push yourself for one minute). What also works for me is also listening to music that gives you a "braingasm" during your sprints -- I love Radiohead's "Weird fishes", for example, because it's a great song and is conveniently 5 minutes long. Best of all it has the lines "I hit the bottom and escape" during the last minute--during my sprints. This seems to release dopamines (I feel a great rush) AND pushing yourself beyond the point when you want to quit will also build will power. I try to do this at least 3x a week and unless I stay up (sleeping well is also key!), I always look forward to this because of how great I feel the rest of the day. Working out intensely has also been great for my body weight, and for reducing stress -- which means less stress eating and less impulsiveness (it's a feedback loop). Just walking isn't that great for stress (which you need to take care of first). You really, really have to push your body beyond its limits.
Once you take care of your stress, I'll echo others: find what you're passionate about. If your passionate about engineering, but hate some classes like I did, get help on those classes (do study groups, office hours, etc). And take what you learn in the courses you love and build something great with it.
Or when you are in fear from something, if you believe in fear.
Fear from not being successful :D. Fear from not reaching someone's else expectations. Fear from doing right/wrong things.
Motivation ultimately is carrot-stick mechanism. You should never be motivated to do something you like. Because it is natural.
And all I can tell you, you have not found what you would like, because you too have placed values in very very unbelievable(for you) place.
I've found that it's hard to break the habit of seeing "good" as synonymous with "right the first time" though, even when I know what the result of that attitude has been for me. I'm hoping that I can help my kids by focusing on the idea of learning from failure and improving by working hard, rather than trying to avoid failure. Any other parents out there working on this problem?
My reasons for procrastination go like this:
1. I don't know yet how to tackle the problem. (and I munge on it in the back of my mind while procrastinating)
2. I am tired, but don't want to admit it. (and procrastination is faux rest)
3. I'm pushing off committing to doing X because finally jumping in is scary. (it closes options to doing something else and humans would rather do nothing and have many options than do something and have no options)
4. X just isn't that important to me right now. (it's much easier to clean the kitchen before cooking, than randomly in the middle of the day)
Good case in point from this week: "Write a book chapter on d3 layouts".
Now that's a very vague task and it takes some thinking to even get started on it. You have to even decide what the first step towards a solution is and once you do have it, you then have to do the creative part of figuring out how to write about it.
Creative tasks in particular do not resolve themselves with a focused step-by-step approach, you must solve them by procrastinating (ie. slowly thinking about them freely).
I'm surprised nobody's mentioned ADD/ADHD yet; continually starting and not following through is a classic behaviour, though procrastination is a slightly different beastie, I can see a relationship here. In that case I would characterise it less as procrastination for your, or the OP's, reasons; and more procrastination because the brain cannot grab on and commit to the task, so it goes and does something (ten things) different instead.
1. I see it differently. I usually know/see some first approximation that could be easy to do (and fixed later when better solutions comes up), but I'm totally resisting to do what I perceive as inferior solution. My procrastination may be even about finding this better solution and the problem is that I am holding the progress at all just because I'm fiddling with getting something super right atm, which is rarely really needed (almost never). My performance is perceived by others as non-existent, because I'm paying attention to details that may not even really matter.
2. This one is the obvious one, but it's not the main procrastination problem. 10% at most. Well, until you're constantly working at night for instance (because of your procrastination) and you're becoming constantly tired through the day - then you're making being tired a sad routine. It's procrastination force feedback, but again, it's not the main reason for procrastination as I see it.
3. Starting doing real job is somewhat "scary", true, but it's often simply the effect of 1.
4. If you can postpone something, it's obviously not that important to you right now or you feel that there is enough time to do it a bit later (and you feel it will be a quick thing, which isn't always the case, many times also because of the perfection factor).
In the end, despite aiming for perfection, I often have to make cuts, go with worse (in my eyes) solution, because there is no time for "playing" and deadline is already behind me. This is the worst.
I certainly do not procrastinate because I'm lazy, or have poor work ethic, or even risk averse. You can ask my family about that one. None of them would describe me as risk averse.
For me, it really comes down to stress as a motivator. Procrastination means doing things at the last moment, which creates an artificially stressful situation.
It may also be interesting to note that I do not suffer from any traditional high stress related health issues. My doctor recently commented that I am in exceptional health for my age (mid-thirties)
(with you on the other points)
Noting though that I only do this when working from home, since this is not really socially acceptable behavior in an office, let alone a café... perhaps I should work from a gym! :)
When I try to set personal deadlines, I end up always underestimating the duration of a task because I can never concentrate my effort to complete a single task at a given time. Instead, I find other problems that need attention, then more and more, until I end up with a stress bomb attached to my chest with a piercing beep that gets louder and louder until I just close my eyes, where it's quiet and I can think. Here I can think about how to address the problem, where it's coming from, hell - maybe even solve it.
Sometimes this proves helpful and leads to aha moments. More often than not, however, it takes me down a path of setting it aside - of giving up. A problem that can be solved in minutes by actually trying potential solutions instead of just thinking about them ends up lasting weeks.
When I realize the direction I'm headed, and the potential consequences of my decision-making, I refer to a quote that serves as a motivating factor that blinds the fear of failure - temporarily.
"The best way to finish an unpleasant task is to get started."
I found it on the library shelf at work. Was skeptical but interested. Borrowed it. Loved it. Told people. Endured their jokes about how long I would take to finish reading it, if ever.
Started using some of its exercises and remedies. Ran out of renewals. Returned it to work. Wanted a hardcover but couldn't find one. Bought it from the Kindle store instead.
Just finished reading it. Am beginning to read it again so I can apply the bits that I haven't yet.
One more thing, given this book you should consider to avoid losing your focus by spending endless time with additional productivity literature, but for my part I use a couple of simple things with it: Mark Forster "Final Version" lists (http://markforster.squarespace.com) and Pomodoro Technique (http://www.pomodorotechnique.com). Final Version leads me to select the task for which I feel the most resistance and tension as the task that I will address (not necessarily complete!) next. The Pomodoro Technique helps me to do what The Now Habit calls "persistent starting": get started, and no matter how many times I get into a slump or come back from a break, just get started again.
I am an extreme procrastinator but I will take away what I can from tfa and this thread to help that. It has forced me to accept that such procrastination isn't acceptable if I want to be a success.
Disclosure: Mine is one such startup!
Laziness is a bit complicated since it's always relative.
Relative to what? What you do normally and have been for a while (in which case, it's usually the laziness we all know) or the mountain that's manifested in front of you? The latter is important as discouragement is also a prime mover for procastination. The mountain may or may not be self-inflicted, but if it exists, your normal coping strategies don't always work.
I have a procastination problem as well, but for different reasons (usually OCD).
I'd just put off everything until the last minute, but I used to get a rush from staying up all night reading a topic for an exam or doing some programming assignment. There was a sort of heroic feeling of "They assigned 3 weeks for this, but it only took me 10 hours".
Of course when I got results back and found that I hadn't done especially well it was easy to rationalize, "well if I'd done it properly after some sleep I'd have got full marks of course".
But yes, nothing feels crappier than doing your best at something and failing.
So what they are motivated to do is to avoid finishing anything, because to complete and submit work is subject yourself (not just your work) to scrutiny.
I developed a WordPress plugin a few weeks ago. It was badly developed and I want hesitant to publish it. But somehow I convinced myself to submit it to the WordPress.org repository.
I got two positive reviews and some people thanking me for it. It just remembered me that it doesn't need to be perfect, it just needs to work.
Most sources (books, gurus, seminars) are all for different flavors of doingness:
Do this, do that. You haven't done this - so you'll need to do it more. Etc...
Almost no one addresses real solution - dissolving inner fears.
I have been putting off filing tax for so long because it's a painful process. I know. I need to do it now.
Great article, and I'll be sure to read the New Habit.
Is there anyone out there that would like to try an experiment of daily correspondence on the topic? Tell me what you achieved today, what you plan to achieve tomorrow, what your upcoming deadlines are etc. I'll do the same in return. Send me an email - <<myhnusername>>@163.com
I read it about a decade ago and it changed my life. I still struggle, I always will, but understanding the factors that contribute to procrastination and developing healthy coping/management methods has been infinitely helpful.
Original post: http://www.raptitude.com/2011/05/procrastination-is-not-lazi...
This fits me like a suit. I have actively begun not making lists because it is a guaranteed way to prevent the listed items from being completed.
I do agree though that proper diagnosis is better in any case, but it's not the solution to it all.
"but suffice it to say that I learned that the downsides of being imperfect are far greater than the upsides of being perfect"
It looks odd in its context, because the text was about the downsides of being perfect.
And often, procrastination helps. With bigger plans or things, mind subconsciousnessly tackles problems, while I am "resting". And after that procrastination period, I know the answer I didn't know before.
Thank you for the enlightened post.