1. The work versus fun dichotomy is taught very early:
"The very idea is foreign to what most of us learn as kids. When I was a kid, it seemed as if work and fun were opposites by definition. Life had two states: some of the time adults were making you do things, and that was called work; the rest of the time you could do what you wanted, and that was called playing. Occasionally the things adults made you do were fun, just as, occasionally, playing wasn't—for example, if you fell and hurt yourself. But except for these few anomalous cases, work was pretty much defined as not-fun."
2. To compare two activities, you have to compare the area under their utility/fun vs. time curves.
"But the fact is, almost anyone would rather, at any given moment, float about in the Carribbean, or have sex, or eat some delicious food, than work on hard problems. The rule about doing what you love assumes a certain length of time. It doesn't mean, do what will make you happiest this second, but what will make you happiest over some longer period, like a week or a month.
Unproductive pleasures pall eventually. After a while you get tired of lying on the beach. If you want to stay happy, you have to do something."
Nonsense. This in itself is a result of falling prey to what Leo Baubata (the author of the linked article) writes about: Inability to "let go".
There may certainly be things you'd find more fulfilling. But if you need to do stuff to be happy, you are letting yourself suffer from attachments to things that more the most part are relatively inconsequential.
PG's essay suffers from this assumption that happiness is tied to achievements.
I used to think that too. The problem with that line of thinking is that it often leads to putting the shutters on and focusing on getting stuff done to get your happiness from it eventually, while ignoring all the sources of happiness around you. Further, that makes procrastination worse, in my experience: It creates guilt that you're picking the short term pleasures instead of doing the stuff you're sure will make you fabulously happy later, once you've just achieved something.
These days, I still get stuff done - more than ever, in fact -, but I might suddenly stop during my commute and look up at the clouds and enjoy the sight, or just close my eyes for 10 seconds and enjoy the calm, and I'm happy whether or not I'm doing anything. The two are not related. If you can't be happy even while doing the dishes, or fighting your way onto a commuter train, or carrying out some mind-numbingly boring menial work, you're missing out.
We can decide to wake up and be happy or we can decide to wake up and let something dictate our happiness. Whether we do it consciously or not, it's still a choice.
Anyways, happiness is an innate emotion. It's much more central than anything about "achieving" your goals. If you don't feel stressed about the future, don't wish you were somewhere else/someone else/doing something else constantly, if you are having your psychological needs met, you are happy. Goal-based happiness is almost as bad as money-based happiness. You have to be more well-rounded than just focusing on your goals.
Haha. Healthy people have emotions for reasons. If you don't introspect about why you are happy, sad, content, enraged, or depressed, you will have less information about how well you are living your life according to your own standards.
"It's much more central than anything about "achieving" your goals."
It's not clear to me how something could be more central than goals, so I don't think we're using the term "goal" in the same way.
"You have to be more well-rounded than just focusing on your goals."
Why would you want to be well-rounded?
That answer you just thought of? It's a goal.
Eating food every day is a goal. Getting enough sleep is a goal. Peter Gibbons in The Office has a goal to do absolutely nothing.
Case in point, one of the happiest families measured is an old family that lives in the Louisiana bayou. They're poor. They don't work much. They hunt and fish for a lot of their food and they all still live pretty close. They spend their days wandering the bayou and hanging out.
And they're happy.
And what are your goals? If they're just things you set out to achieve, then that's false. We set out to achieve things that bring us no real pleasure in the achievement of - qualifications, promotions etc.
What I noticed was that my subconscious had a need to make plans, to have a goal to work towards. I was living my dream; there was nothing I wanted to achieve, because I had achieved it. As a result, I started daydreaming, with my daydreams steadily becoming more fantastical and involved. By the end, I was ready to find a new goal to work towards; that ended up being professional/career development and continuing education.
I agree absolutely that it's important to be able to be happy while doing the dishes, but that's a different sensation. There's the pleasure of being in the moment, of acknowledging the sensations that surround you, of being alive. Then there's the satisfaction of achievement. Both are important, but they are distinct.
Incidentally, one of the unproductive pleasure is starting side projects. The pleasure is immense when you spend few hours setting up yet another Clojure/Haskell/whatever project. This time it definitely is the one you are going to see through to finish!
The key is moderation. Don't dedicate 100% to productive-only tasks or you'll burn out. Don't dedicate 100% to veging on the couch watching TV or you'll bore out.
Can't everyone just stop analyzing every minute detail of life and just chill by living in the moment?
Spending a few decades thinking about the meaning of life might be considered unproductive - or it could be considered "being a philosopher". (Most) art is arguably fundamentally "unproductive". I suppose one might say that if you, over time, don't impart some impact on the people around you (share a work of art, pass on wisdom, [ed:raise] (and/or) feed a child...) then you've been "unproductive".
But are you a philosopher by virtue of achieving enlightenment or by virtue of helping others achieve enlightenment? If you died before you came to a crucial insight -- was your time spent thinking up to that point "unproductive"?
1. The people who become teachers really think this is how life is. How can they teach someone something about life that doesn't exist? It's like giving a painting class to a blind person.
2. Part of this misunderstanding between work and fun is really inherently in the children. I have a little half brother, about 5 years old. He always complains about cleaning up the Legos after we are finished building something as if it would be my way of doing something bad to him, not the normal end result of throwing Legos through the whole room. Children can not think logically to a certain degree. They can only follow the feeling of "exciting, happy, new" as good and "boring, repepetive" as bad. And bad, even between grown ups, is understood as something that comes from outside, not from ones self, at least in the first moment of experiencing bad feelings.
(but this article is good and short and it reminded me that your focus should be not on the immediate but on the long term)
>I could be in discomfort and nothing bad would happen.
I realized this applies to me on day to day things that cause me to procrastinate a lot. For instance, today I had a doctor's appointment that I wanted to reschedule because it was snowing and I got in late last night. I realized that I just needed to push through it and get it done, because it would cause me more pain in the long term if I didn't. Plus, it honestly wasn't that big of a deal -- I woke up a bit earlier and took a cab. Now I don't have to think about it anymore.
It'd be nice if I could do this on a regular basis. I chatted up a good looking girl while I was waiting on the appointment too, rather than sitting there uncomfortable and wishing I had the courage to say something. I just pushed through it, and it was fine.
Just casual every-day things, that's all. That's what I'm going to aim for.
"Letting go" is a particular in-the-moment experience that is very valuable to understand. It sort of looks like "sucking it up" but it's a release rather than a bottling up, so it's right at the heart of the issue of managing your energy and willpower well rather than flailing around and beating yourself up in response to the pressures and goals you are laboring under.
When I was in college, I would put off doing lab reports until 6am in the morning. Watch youtube, surf the web for 30 minutes and actually work for 5 minutes.
But there was a reason. It was boring drudgery. Now that I get to work on my own project, I code almost all day.
When I eat, I think about my code.
When I brush my teeth I think about my code.
Before I fall asleep, I think about code.
My code is the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning.
I usually can't wait to finish breakfast and start working. So much for that ADHD diagnosis.
I imagine it might be days if he wasn't interrupted.
Aren't we all like that?
I handle rote, monotonous work really well, as long as it lets my brain check out and think about other things. Alphabetizing by hand and transcription work drive some people mad, but I excelled at it.
It can't be help that there's a lot of boring work in the world and somebody has to do them.
Personally,I think those kind of work rarely pays adequate dividend in the end. But hey, we all have to eat.
One being an advise I got from one of my PhD advisors: All creative tasks might appear that it requires enormous amount of courage and effort. But usually it is more like a kitchen sink heaped with a lot of unwashed dishes. Chances are that once you wash one dish, you will end up cleaning the full lot; and you often get a strange form of pleasure while you are performing the task.
The other one is this essay http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~psargent/Mills_Intell_Craft.pdf on intellectual craftsmanship by Wright Mills. I do now a days actively collect memories of pure immersion and pleasure I experienced while my craft got exposed and exploited to its potential. The thought of me improving as a craftsman, coupled with these memories is a powerful self motivator to me. The shit feeling I gets when I waste my time is another reference. One of the potent lessons was also that craft can be improved only by dedicating time ( which is pleasurable); and by disassociating the end result and fears. The toughest part is to replay this logic while I find myself slipping into vortex of non productivity, but that is something I can work on and probably in my control.
"How I Learned to Stop Procrastinating, and Love Letting Go Garbage Collect"
-- noam chomsky
A humorous take on working with procrastination, not against it. Short, but highly recommended.
I usually break it up in "do X for Y minutes" and timebox it to 1 hour. Right now it's "read a book for 15 minutes, clean the house for 15 minutes and code on a side-project for 25 minutes". I also have a shorter version for busy days which is basically "read two pages, do one chore and complete a trivial task on the side-project" but as long as I do something it's fine.
Whenever I do break the chain, I feel unmotivated to start the chain again (especially if I've done a good job, because it seems overwhelming to pick it up again from the start of the chain).
I've had to move on from Don't Break The Chain to being positive about making consistent progress.
I would say Don't Break The Chain is great for a fixed-length, short-to-medium-term task, rather than instilling permanent habits.
At the end of the timebox I do a 30sec review where I assess how I executed the task. Did I spend most of the time searching for information and organising material or did I spend it purely executing. I find with highly skilled people they spend most of they're time executing. If I spent most of it searching for stuff, I'd mark it as a delay due to organisation, if I was searching on how to do the task I would mark it is 'upskill', then I'd move onto the next thing. After a few hours patterns start to emerge around similar tasks. If a lot of related items were marked 'org' I'd then exploit them for automation or create them as templates for resuse. All the 'upskill' marked tasks would be condensed into a learning task at a more convenient task. The idea around all of this was to progressively become more organised and more skilled so that when performing a task, I would purely be executing and not faffing about.
It's a bit convoluted but it is a system that has worked terribly well since late last year and it's made me twice as productive at work, and smarter at what I do. There are times though where I wish I could be like people around me who are able to focus on thing for half an hour or more but we all have to play the hand we've been dealt and mine is a chronic lack of focus.
There are easy cures and proven techniques against procrastination and not a single one is mentioned in this write-up.
Seriously, though, I think getting rid of the distractions on the fringe of our lives is important. For me it was getting rid of the TV. That doesn't always link to killing procrastination (I'm on here, aren't I?) but it does create a lot more time for being in the flow.
The best results I've had have been from a) just doing and b) reducing anxieties. Nothing I have tried has been sustainable but I still keep trying.
If I wasn't motivated, why would I keep trying?