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Ask HN: I am a good developer but have a serious gaming addiction
69 points by gameraddict on Apr 5, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 61 comments
Hi HN, I made this throw away account because I am shamed to post with my main one, and also I really need help. I am a great full stack developer who struggled with procrastination all my life and despite it I managed to do some great things. Lately I have quit my well paid job just because I wanted to start my own business. Things are not going that bad, I got a gig consulting for a big company and also got a potential client to sell the project I am working on. Now here is the main problem. Things are going really slow mainly because I lose focus really fast and end up spending most of my day playing(I started with LOL, now playing Heartstone and Diablo). I promised the client a MVP in like 3 weeks because I already had a lot of stuff done, but I managed to do almost nothing in the last month. The thing is I start working and after like 30 minutes- 1 hour I get bored and start playing and this goes on for hours and hours. What should I do because everything is falling apart for me right now and I tried to change it but all the advices did not work. ?

Quick Edit: I am working from home and I am living alone in my apartment, my girlfriend is 1000 miles away and we are having a really long distance relationship. I made a subscription to the gym but ended up going only 3 times. The coworking space here is not that great and maybe that is one of the reasons I did not go there. I also read a lot of books, used Pomodoro and other techniques for focus and self motivation(I also was listening to Robin Sharma while working just to get more motivated) but none of these things worked. Maybe I need some professional help.




First off: don't feel too bad. The behaviour you describe is super-common and I think probably the norm, rather than the exception. Most people don't have to battle with it though, because they have regular jobs with commitment-reinforcing routines and regulations.

What you need is to somehow get that same level of external "force" on you in this new running-your-own-business environment, where otherwise it is so easy just to slack off.

Let's try a framing technique.

When you think about stopping work to play a game, I want you to very clearly visualise coming to your client empty handed and them firing you. I want you to visualise having no money and not being able to afford all those things you like spending it on. I want you to visualise - again, super clearly - losing the respect of your peers, your family, even strangers you have met on the internet, all because you couldn't just get on with it and do the work and make your business succeed. And why couldn't you? Because you couldn't resist playing a stupid game designed to make someone else money at the expense of your productivity.

Got that horrible and depressing scenario clearly, vividly, and richly painted in your mind?

Now, just as vividly, picture yourself sitting up straight with amazing posture, coding like a damn JEDI, master of your domain, submitter of outstanding work, ahead of deadlines, everyone loves you, this is what you're good at and by god you're owning at it. You're virtuous and awesome, an actual fucking adult, a creator, producer, and earner of real stuff with real value.

You get the idea. Your imagination is a powerful tool which can do a complete hatchet job on the person you deep down don't want to be but seems appealing in the short term, and it can be PR god to the version you aspire to be but somehow don't have the bravery and force of will to become. When you do that, and get these images in your head with enough detail that they seem real, it bleeds into reality and pushes you to becoming one over the other.

Other than that, I got nothing.


Be warned though, this kind of intense visualization of bad consequences (or positive rewards) can also back-fire: if you start associating thoughts about your work with potential negative consequences it could drive you to shut down / try to distract yourself harder, and if you start daydreaming about positive consequences it could satisfy your reward circuitry and reduce your motivation.

In other words, you have to know yourself and your own triggers and defense mechanisms: what works for one person might be the worst possible thing for another.


Yep.. I find that an addiction analogy is useful. If you told a heroin addict to visualize how crappy their future will be if they keep using, how effective do you think that would be? It's not a rational process. Reminding one of how awful a person they are might simply trigger a stronger urge to fix.

Being mindful of future happiness definitely keeps me on track. But I think the core problem is that one's "body" has learned strategies for temporarily ameliorating stresses that are nearly impossible to talk down. One must simply deny the body the fix in the hopes it will reduce its chemical urge.


This is written really well, kudos.


Try working at a coworking space, or even just a coffee shop/library. Just getting out of the house will give you fresh context and motivation. By giving up your gaming setup, you might force yourself to get work done. At the end of the day, discipline comes from within and if you want to really be distracted you will find a way to game as well. Have a heart-to-heart with yourself on a daily basis and keep telling yourself the real reasons why you left your job and want to start your business. More than likely it's for the dream that requires hard work, rather than the free time that requires you to just convince yourself that you did enough to get by for the day.

I'm in a similar boat but just taking each day as it comes.


When I was 20 or so a new game came out, it was called 'Elite' (for the BBC micro, or the 'beeb' as it was called back then).

This game was incredible, compared to whatever had been available up to then, and on top of that it was incredibly addictive. And I fell in to that, hook, line & sinker. Days, weeks, probably months were wasted.

Finally, I realized, just like you did that it wasn't going anywhere, it was just changing bits on a drive. That was the key for me, all my spare time (and some time that probably wasn't spare) went into flipping a few bits.

So I did the right thing, I wiped the game and never played again. Now that's pretty drastic, but one thing that makes dealing with addiction easier is to no longer have access to your drug. So get rid of it, and don't replace it with another drug (or another game, for that matter).

Having an addictive personality is a double-edged sword, it can get you places when your addiction is working for you (for a long time I got a similar kick out of learning how to program and then later out of the actual programming). But it can also totally ruin your life, lack of self control is a real problem.

So help yourself to help yourself and remove the source of your addiction first, then you may have an easier time dealing with the root cause and getting your addictive personality under control.

Best of luck.


I'm in the same boat. But I was able to move on from games some years ago.

I think you've reached an important point where you are able to see it as an enemy to your happiness in life, and that you have a serious self control problem. That is a significant first step. For me, my game addiction was causing all kind of wrist problems, in addition to making me feel crappy about my lack of life/productivity.

A couple insights:

1. What did it for me, after reaching that "moment of clarity", was quitting cold turkey. The trick was.. and you will not like this.. to throw them out. Uninstall them and delete them including your profile and trash the installers. You might reinstall a demo version or something and have some relapses, but after the relapse has run its course, delete it again.

2. Look at it exactly like an addiction. Use similar strategies that alcoholics use to fight their addictions. I'm completely serious. For one, never play games again. Some people can handle these things in moderation. You're not one of them. Look at games exactly like an alcoholic looks at drinks. They are your enemy and they want to kill your happiness.

3. It doesn't end with games. I have since substituted other things.. fortunately not as bad in terms of time consumption though, and fortunately not substances. Hacker News, for example.

The root problem for me isn't specifically about games. It's that when I feel "nervous" about doing work that's tough or unpleasant, my body knows that games / writing on HN / insert other pleasant distraction will take that nervous feeling away. For the moment. That's very much like an addict's mentality. It takes a lot of breathing exercises and focus on my future happiness to overcome those moments.

"Time management" techniques usually don't help because it's a different part of you than your rational mind. It's your body reacting physically to the queasy feeling in your stomach you get of sitting down to do that task you need to do in front of 82 more tasks before you get that serotonin payoff for a job well done. Your body has learned, "but a game can give me that right now, let's just go do that!" Your mind already knows what's best in the long run. You need to untrain your body.

Maybe it's similar for you, maybe it's different. Battling addictions is a big topic and everyone is different. But there is hope. You're lucky that the games you're addicted to can be uninstalled and thrown out. It doesn't stop you from relapsing but it does create a barrier that helps.


Cold turkey and uninstalling works well. In my case, anytime I wanted to game, I'd get a prompt that the 10gb download would take 12 or 24 hours to reinstall. I was looking to game that instant, not tomorrow, so I wouldn't bother downloading. It was a small barrier, but it prevented games from being available at the click of a button.

Let me ask you a couple of questions...

1. Do you want to take a break from work right now and play a few games?

2. Do you want to play games tomorrow?

Uninstalling games, and forcing them to be redownloaded changed the question from number one, to number two. Like most people, I aspire to be a better person tomorrow, so it was easy to say no to question number two, and redownloading.


Exactly. I in fact was battling a jonesing for "2048" as I was writing that. I'm sure you all know that's a web game.. the 10GB games are no longer an issue for me because of that download bandwidth barrier. It does help. It kind of helps that the web games are kind of B.S. in comparison to the 10GB games. :-)


Same situation here. I agree with all your points and in addition a big help for me has been to sell my desktop computer (mainly built for gaming) and work from a laptop with no gaming capabilities.


good idea...I have a mac and a alienware ..I do all the gaming on the alienware and never played on my mac


I sympathize with you on this - I've had several videogame addictions over the last few years. Mine were slightly different types of games (like Minecraft and Ingress) but I wasted weeks of time on them. And much like you, my work suffered because of them. I tried limiting myself, but I still had involvement the game so it was very hard to maintain a balance between gaming and work.

Eventually I found that the only solution for me was quitting entirely and only playing games that have a low level of commitment (like Angry Birds or 2048). The quitting itself is quite hard (I ended up deleting my accounts to prevent me from being able to go back). But now I feel really good about it.

As a bonus, without the fast-paced rewards system of games to distort my perception, programming is just as fun as videogames were... Oh, and I get money for programming, so that's pretty cool.


The specific games you mention have many mechanics in them that can be categorized as "progress bars". Class XP in Hearthstone is an example literally depicted as a progress bar; the gold, quests, and cards-you've-unlocked number all follow this pattern, too.

Mechanics like these are very sticky, but it's possible to exploit them to get yourself to quit playing a game. The key is to convince yourself to go one day without playing, and every time you think of it, say that you don't 'have' to play that game today. It's a break! You don't have to do your dailies for one day, and it's rather refreshing.

I know the feeling of switching off after 30 minutes of work. For me, it's Reddit / HN. But it always feels way cooler, on those rare occasions when I can push through and keep working.

Also, it seems like you're under a lot of stress and pressure to perform right now. The key is to recognize that. If you're worried about things, but keep telling yourself that everything's fine, it's worse than if you know that what you're trying to do might be out of your reach.

Sorry, I know none of this has much chance of being helpful at all. Hopefully someone in this thread will say the right thing to get you motivated.


The following is just my opinion:

This really is an issue of self control. Just commit yourself to doing the work, then do it! If you really cannot do that then it might be helpful to see a counsellor, although I am certainly no expert in that.

I think it is common for people to have difficulty getting in to a long sitting of programming, but after a couple of hours things seem to get much easier and the next 8 go by without a blink. I sometimes find that having a coffee can help get me in the zone for a long programming session.

A few random thoughts;

- Try deliberately putting obstacles in the way of your game playing. Uninstall the games, delete your accounts. If you think you have a serious problem with playing video games, then you are unlikely to be able to maintain your play in moderation.

- Try setting up multiple environments (dual boot, or 2 physical environments). One for work, one for play. That way you it is harder to get distracted by the games and there is a larger mental distinction between play time and work time.

- You are not alone! The vast majority of people that will read your post here today will be procrastinating (myself included). It happens to (almost) all of us.

Best of luck with your ventures! Sam


Yup, it's a common problem. My technique is to have nothing but work stuff installed on my work laptop, and then I go and work in a cafe, away from my TV, games console, and permanent network connection (although I can still turn my phone's wifi hotspot on when I need to check something on the 'Net). It does wonders for my productivity!


I think that many of us with addictive personalities it is difficult not to be 100% committed to something. So for myself it was a goal of shifting my interest away from gaming and initially towards programming.

The best wake up call for me was realising that my focus on games was really just manipulation. I would watch Jonathan Blow's talk on Video Games and the Human Condition now. When you understand that you are being completely manipulated it becomes easier to do something differently.

Another idea is to focus on the wasted effort. If you channelled all this time into creating something - your own game for instance. You would have something tangible at the end of it.

Good luck.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqFu5O-oPmU


Try working with someone who motivates you. Do some pair programming. You might want to go out, work from coffee shops and probably get a gym/swimming subscription too.

The key of beating procrastination is keep your day eventful and focussed on tasks you have to do.


I got a gym/swimming subscription for 3 months just before I quit my job because I was really motivated in doing this but ended up going 3 times in 6 weeks.


That's the bad thing with our profession. We get so high to creating something awesome. We forget to take care of our body and mental health.

Probably read some good books, enjoy time with family and work hard on only fixed time say (8-5). You would probably get more things done.


This is just my personal opinion but I'd take away gaming from my life if I were in your shoes. Actually, I WAS in your shoes once. I was addicted to gaming and would spend hours and hours in front of my laptop or xbox 360 trying to repeatedly do levels to get a good score. I was almost clinically obese until I realized I had to do something to improve myself for the future.

The thing of it is is that gaming doesn't really add value to my life as a developer/career person (unless you make money out of games). I have a serious case of addiction to whatever hobby I partake which is why I ditched gaming in favor of my new fitness endeavor.

Bodybuilding for me has immensely created a better psychological effect in terms of getting things done. In order to see results, you'll have to be patient and work smart (not hard) towards your goals. You can't just go to the gym and lift random weights and expect ground breaking results from a lack of planned training. You need to log everything including your meals, your training volume, and condition EACH day.

With that, I've incorporated those learning experience to my work. A business cannot grow if you have no plan to begin with. Questions like, in order for this thing to make "gains", what "training" methods should I look for? What "nutrition" will this need in order to fully maximize its potential?

Bodybuilding for me has become similar to how one would manage one's career or business. You take care of it, it takes care of you.

TLDR: Ditch gaming. Go fitness/bodybuilding.


I've been doing home-office last year for a short period of time and it was going great at first and then turned ugly pretty quick, here is what I learned from that (in order of what impacted my performance the most):

- Don't work at home, it just doesn't work! (for most of us)

- Don't work alone in a room! (so, probably a co-working space for you)

- Do some workout(gym, jogging, biking) after work, min. 2-3 times a week! It will make you feel good and tired, so you won't have much energy left to play any games afterwards. This is also hard if you are doing it alone, you HAVE to find a workout-buddy so you can motivate each other, also it's way harder to cheat on your buddy than to cheat on yourself. Also a great motivation for me: Take a picture of yourself befor or after each workout and track your transformation.

- Define your schedule: e.g. 9-5 is work and after that+weekends is off.

- Don't install any distractions/games on your work-computer. (Get a work-computer if you don't have one)

- Get at least one weekly 'event'(non-work related) you can look forward to. (This can be some TV-Show, meeting a friend, but it should be something that's fun for you other than playing games)

I cannot promise this will help you the same, but it helped me and I'm sure there are lots of other things you can do. What I've learned from talking to others is that solutions to stuff like this are VERY idividual, so be ready to try out a lot of stuff, some might work, many might not, and imho I don't think it matters if the advice is given by some overpaid shrink or some fellow geek. Just: if you try something, give it at least 4 weeks to see if it works.


A friend alerted me to this post because he thought it was me. I too have (or had, just left) a well paid contracting gig at bigco and have struggled with computer game addiction since I was 13 (now in my early 20's). My addictions are Dota 2 and online poker. I've long since lost count of the number of times I've stayed up all night or until 7 or 8 am.

The procrastination, feeling like I've gotten nothing done over a long period of time, and switching to a computer game when bored or hitting a sticking point are all things I can relate to. It becomes a life of mediocrity, which I can't stand.

Unfortunately there is no easy solution. Addiction is a strong force, and it takes an equally strong force to overcome it. Things I do that help:

- Uninstall all games and get rid of any mouses or other hardware that are used for games.

- Tell close friends and family about what you're doing. Have social accountability.

- Find other activities that pull you away from your addictions. I push myself to regularly work out and get a good night's sleep.

Ultimately I know that every time I feed my addiction, it grows stronger. It's either being fed or slowly dying.


Ugh dota. I've been horribly addicted to that damn thing THREE times now. First dota, then HON, then dota2.


Hello,

I'd stop playing 100% if I were in you until I have delivered the project. I would try to drop every bridge that tied me to any game that could distract me (uninstall/delete everything/throw away my subscriptions/accesses/etc). Then make sure I get a good rest. To get a good rest, you need to do some physical exercise, go out move get physically tired. Going for a slow-paced run or a walk helps me think, become mentally more focused on my goals, understand that really matters in my life and what doesn't. The time I wouldn't spend working, I would spend outside even alone wandering, taking long walks. I'll try to keep a very strict schedule, work the same amount of hours every day, eat at the same time, take a walk and get tired at the same time to adjust body, to an optimal circadian cycle (but mind you, I work/assimilate way better in morning hours, might be different for others).

Think of it like going to the marine corps for a couple of weeks until you finish what you're suppose to be doing. THEN and only THEN try to fight this issue using more rational scheme: e.g. play games 3 hours per day. Not more, except for weekends, etc. There's no magic bullet you need to find your own.

I was a huge procrastinator too. I'm not anymore, not in things that matter, but I'm not as strict as I would want to with my schedule either yet. What I see from myself is that failing to prepare is preparing to fail (Benjamin Franklin said the quote IIRC). That's my biggest advice, prepare your environment your body your mind for a fight. Also I like motivational speeches, maybe you should try yourself. I find this one to be extremely good[1], hits the nails on many issues I'd like to overcome, give it a go, might help you too.

Good luck with everything, be strong!

[1] http://www.briantracy.com/catalog/the-miracle-of-selfdiscipl...


Been there. Unreal Tournament (facing worlds FTW) nearly ruined me. I was playing so much I was in the top 5 on ngWorldStats for 3 months and lost sleep if my rank went down.

Fortunately after about 9 months my graphics card blew up leaving me with a shitty ATI Rage Pro which was useless for anything other than work. I didn't have enough money to buy another card.

Within a month of being forced not to play games, the urge went away.

Haven't played anything other than Sudoku on an old Nokia and minecraft with my kids since.

Go cold turkey. Just do it. Hurts for a couple of weeks but after that the world will open for you. Also stop reading books and motivation stuff - these people are just selling you an ideal. Only you can fix it.


Do not feel any shame for your addiction. Nobody chooses addiction, it creeps up on you without realising. You now know what's happening to you and you want to do something about it, well done! You will figure out how to fix it, you are clearly a clever person, you will find a way that's right for you, but it may take a few goes and there will be times when believe you will never stop your addiction. But you will.

Try and find someone who you can talk to about this, ask them to hold back on their instinct to provide advice, ask them just to be there to talk to. Then tell them every week or two how it's going.

Good luck


When I was most stressed out I could only work for 30 minutes a day the rest of the time I would procastinate.

For me it was my brain's way of telling me that what I were doing to myself was bad.

I ended up running from the bad business relationship I was in and then I used two years to find my way in life.

Whenever i procastinate I belive it is my brain trying to tell me that what I am doing is not something that is "me". Sometimes I have to do it anyway (paying the bills, going to the dentist) but often it is something where I actually need to do things a little different to find hapiness in what I am doing.

Do I make sense?


Maybe you have undiagnosed ADHD:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adhd#Signs_and_symptoms

Your story sounds remarkably like my own. I read a thread about ADHD on HN, and realised it was describing me. I found a sympathetic medic who prescribed Provigil, and the change was astonishing. I can now concentrate and produce.

Provigil is very gentle in its effect, not like Ritalin which is the normal prescription for ADHD.


I suffer through this myself a lot.

Just yesterday I was looking up some file on my HD and my eye glimpsed the "Civ4" data folder. In a split second my mind took a holiday, away from work. I felt the joy of building up a marathon Civ4 game, just clicking away the time. It felt like the sun started shining on my mind, full intensity, after a long cold winter.

And any other time I would have just given in and started that game and wasted 2 weeks. But not anymore.

However, I thank my game addiction for keeping me sane through my depressions. Whenever one would set in, I would just game it away in 2 or 3 weeks. I lost a huge amount of time to various virtual worlds, but I think it has kept me alive, probably.

To get out of it though, I just try to get a bit of work done before starting up a game. Just half a minute to start with. I always lie to myself "just one more small bugfix and then we'll escape to SW:TOR (or whatever)". I try to make that 30 seconds into a minute, into 2 minutes, into 5, into half an hour. And sometimes, after weeks of trying, a full workday appears. And after some more time I have forgotten about games and find myself working 12 or 14 hours a day, 7 days a week again, loving it. .. until it is too much again.


Your reward centers are all fucked up. You get bored easily because gaming gives you such a quick high. It's like being addicted to porn.. or smoking.. or anything else, really. My advice is to do what you have to do to start limiting your exposure until you have control over your addictive personality. Also, like someone else in this thread said.. it may not be a bad idea to go back to your day-job until you have this figured out.


Dear gameraddict,

First, don't blame yourself for it will do nothing but send you into a spiral of depression.

Second, learn some self control. Start with small promises to yourself, keep and repeat the promises. You have to do it everyday, at the same time; rain or shine.

Three, you're working for yourself so you set the time when you work and when you play. When you have a plan, apply second.

Four, there are many types of people. Some people are better in the office. Some are better when they work at home. It is obvious that you do not work well when you are at home, so GET OUT. Go to coffee shop or join a co-working space.

Five, punish yourself. Since you answer to no one (except for maybe your clients), you need to be able to punish yourself. For every promise that you couldn't keep, you can't play for the entire day.

I was in a similar position as you are. Although I didn't quit my job, but I do have a lot of side projects. At the time, when I was working all I could think about are the games and what sorta of things I could be doing (i also play diablo). I would deliver the projects late and would always have some stupid excuse about it. In time, I was very bitter, dishonest, and not very happy with myself. I did some research and read up on game addiction or other bad habits and put together the list above for myself. It was really hard the first 2 or 3 weeks, it was even harder compared to when I quit smoking.

Over time, I am able to be very strict with the use my time. Now my fiance is complaining that Im too mechanic about it.

Hope you are able to overcome this. Good luck


This may sound weird, but it helped me and then a friend of mine in pretty much the same situation as yours. Switch your gaming addiction for another, better one - fitness. Unlike gaming, fitness will give you an actuall goal, improve your will and motivation, health, mood, etc. An advice: whenever you feel the gaming urge - go out for a jog. When you start looking and feeling better - it will become another adiction.


I'm guessing a lot of us lack self-control when it comes to working from home. Too many distractions - for you it's games, for me it's the internet, for others chatting with friends.

The only thing that kind-of works for me is a complete change of setting - when I'm at home I never plan to do any work. All work has to be done in a designated place.

I started this in my colleage years, where I had a serious issue with distractions (like spending 3 months playing DeusEx from 7AM to 2AM) when I should be studying. I solved this by going to the Library and studying there. Sure its a hassle, moving to a secondary location, sure you need to figure out what you need to work there, but it was worth it. You just need to make sure that if you get an urge to game/surf the net/etc.. you get out of there. Sooner or later you'll get trained to automatically start working at the locaiton.

I have a similar setup with my current job - all work needs to be done in the office and the only work I do at home is the stuff that really needs to be done (I'm a cofounder, so it's easier :)). If I were to start all over again, then the first order of business would be to get myself a desk or an office - without that, regardless of how badly I want to do something, I'd be lost.

PS: An additional improvement in an environment is to condition yourself to work with music on your headphones. I started listening to music on my in-ear headphones due to the open-floor nature of the office and it really boosted my productivity (less distractions).

As a side-effect now headphones invoke a Pavlov-reflex, whenever I put them in my ears (sometimes even without anything playing) I start working harder and with more focus. It's also a curse - last time I needed to hack something (with maximum concentration) and found myself franticly searching for my headphones. Before finding them at last, I actually contemplated buying a new set right away.

BTW: We do have a team of people working in our offices and we did outsource quite a lot of stuff out. We found it that it's very common for people to get distracted when working from home and the tasks (even when properly planned) don't get executed. Now we actually prefer to have the outsourcers work in our offices if possible or we demand very hard penalties for missing deadlines (and they still do it!).

Don't feel bad - what you're experiencing is the norm.


Are you working from home? if so, my first advice would be to stop and go find a co-working place. Somewhere you can't just put the laptop aside and turn on your gaming console / PC. If you have games installed on your work computer - uninstall it. Physically separate working hours from leisure time, if you can't control it yourself.

Maybe development is not for you - you might have the talent for it, but not the discipline required to constantly deliver working code. Only the first is not sufficient to be called a "great" developer. In fact, I would say that in most cases discipline and dedication are more important than raw talent. I have worked from home for a couple years, and yes, the temptation is there to put aside work on some days and just watch TV or play a game. And sometimes I did. But having discipline meant I knew I would make for those hours - later in the day or on the weekend if I had to, since I made a conscious choice to do something else.


It's practice, and also, it'll get easier as you get older.

This book is a massive PITA to get your hands on (in some countries, perhaps it's back in print?), but a life-changer:

http://www.amazon.com/Self-Discipline-10-days-Thinking-Doing...


I almost dropped out of university as I couldn't stay focused on my studies, instead I was compulsively playing Starcraft and Age of Empires. Fast forward a few years an I was struggling to keep my contracting business and the compulsive distraction is the internet. Things are getting better now, slowly.

The biggest thing that has helped me is a book - "The Now Habit" by Neil Fiore. Get it, read it, apply it. Seriously.

I've found my procrastination tends to come form putting work ahead of myself (my time with friends/family, my health, my hobbies, etc). The more time I schedule for myself, the less I procrastinate. And yes, you need to schedule your "mine time" as much as you schedule your "sold time".

Also, be wary that the procrastination can be a symptom of depression. If so, that's what you need to focus on first.


Something that works well for me is having an inspirational source. I purposely didnt say "a motivational source" because that tends to lead to productivity type solutions which never work for me. Inspirational works a lot better for me because I get really motivated to work when I see what amazing things others have done because I want to do amazing things as well. What is my number one source for inspirational material? YCombinator Startup School: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcefcZRL2oaA_uBNeo5UOWg . Whenever I recognize that I'm procrastinating, I watch a video (plus there are always new things to learn from rewatching old videos).


Wow. I was thinking of writing a similar post just two days ago. I am almost the same as you; I have been struggling with procrastination for almost 20 years now, sometimes successfully and sometimes not.

Some quick notes about what I have understood:

* I am depressed. I have EVERY symptom of chronic depression listed here: http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/chronic-depression-dys...

However, I don't know whether I procrastinate because I am depressed, or whether I am depressed because I procrastinate.

* Procrastination is a way of avoiding pain - the effort required in "work".

* Procrastination itself is addictive: it gives instant pleasure instead of the pain of "honest work". And the person procrastinating intellectually knows that it is bad for them, but once they are truly addicted to it, they are unable to stop.

* Procrastination is a habit, and habits can be changed.

* Habits are just patterns of behavior that we have memorized in our sub-conscious minds, so that we don't have to think about performing a certain action, or taking a particular decision, over and over again. It is a labor-saving device for the mind. If we had to think anew about every action we do / every decision we take, we would quickly get tired. But once an action or decision become a habit, we don't have to think about it; it just happens automatically. That's a great energy saver, if the actions / decisions are "good" for us, but can be life-destroying if the actions / decisions are "bad" for us.

* Habits can be changed. First, mentally review what you will do the next time you are in a "moment of choice" - such as sitting in front of your computer. Resolve to do your client work instead of playing a game. Actually visualize doing that: ignoring the urge to play a game, calming yourself until the urge subsides, and then calmly doing the "right thing (TM)" - opening up your IDE and coding.

Next, when you really are in the moment of choice, really do the above. To elaborate: You will feel the urge to fire up a game. At that moment, tell yourself that you have been down that road before, and you know where it leads. Tell yourself that it is ruining your life, and you won't accept it any more. That you will do the "right thing" (TM) no matter what. At this moment, you may have to stop everything and just breathe slowly and deeply until the "urge" to play the game subsides and you are calm again. Once you are calm, it is easy to take the right decision.

The first few times you do this, you may find it difficult, or almost impossible. But trust me, it can be done. And the more often you do thins (calm yourself until you can do the Right Thing), the easier it will become. You see, this will slowly become your new habit, and the old habit will fade away because you will no longer be reinforcing it.

All the best! Write to me: tech.rohit@gmail.com


> I am depressed. I have EVERY symptom of chronic depression listed here

Wanted to say the same thing. What OP described are clear signs of depression.

To OP: It's important to realize, that it's hard to deal with depression on your own. Consulting a professional might seem intimidating at first, but it's worth it.

If you don't want to consult a professional for whatever reason, try getting out of the house as much as possible. Try working in public places if you can. Going to the gym is actually harder because it requires more effort once you're there.


I can understand your situation and believe me i was also in same condition few month earlier. So, i think i quite suitable to give suggestion.

1. You live alone, you need your friends company. Don't live alone. you need someone to whom you can share your feeling and have fun. I doubt your relationship.

2. You need break. I suggest you to take some holidays for 1 or 2 week. This will give you the pleasure.

3. Put games aside or sell it to someone. It is difficult but you have to do it. If you dont, it will keep attracting you.

4. Go to gym and do meditation. If there are some courses out there like Art Of Living, Join it.

5. Eat food which you like most.


Cancel your apartment internet.

It will suck. You'll be reading your emails on your phone, you can't Netflix, you can't torrent, you can't play LoL/Diablo, you can't do much of anything anymore. You'll get home and be immediately bored.

This won't treat the problem, but the symptom, and will get you going to the co-working space or just Starbucks. It's like 5x harder to procrastinate at a co-working space than at home, at least for me. Bonus is feeling better having showered and dressed, and gotten out of the house to a semi-social environment.


Don't install games on your "work" PC.

This is a really simple way to keep yourself honest. Even if it's partitioned OSes on the same machine it would help.


When you get bored after 30 minutes, instead of starting a game, do some pushups, or some small physical exercise that you can do in the room. Hopefully it will clear your mind, release some endorphins and you will want to get back to work. I say this because I had a similar problem and exercise was the only thing that helped. BTW I'm not writing this as some meathead. I'm a skinny fucker.


Sleep more, wake up the same time of day, visit a sleep doctor if you don't sleep enough or you snore, shower the same time every day, put clothes on down to the shoes, make sure your apartment is cool, likely cooler than you'd leave it on in the evening.

Break down all your tasks into the TINYiest chunks you can imagine. Do a chunk, repeat, then break it down in the tiny chunks again.


Consider your whole life at a distance. It probably isn't "gaming is making me procrastinate" so much as "something about my existence is still unbalanced, and gaming lets me get away from it." It is a quiet, long-term struggle to figure this out, and nobody can tell you at this point what exactly is wrong.

Start off by recalling that your expectations have to be tuned around what actually happens when you work at home vs. what happens when you have butt-in-chair office hours. You're only going to have a very few "productive" hours each day, where you write code and tests and make visible changes, and they come in unpredictable lumps. Coming into this realization can make you feel extremely guilty at first and make the problem worse if you don't accept it and give yourself realistic schedules to compensate.

You'll get pulled along a lot more with people relationships - clients, teammates, etc. can all motivate you through the boring bottlenecks. And having friends, of course; if you aren't socializing, you can fall apart pretty fast. Let your client know that you underestimated your productivity; you can probably fix things up if you make a schedule that is implicitly planned around what you want out of your life.


What quickly comes to mind is the fact that to play the games you mention requires a computer with a discreet graphics card whereas a computer without a discreet graphics card works fine for getting almost any kind of work done.

And the fact that a discreet graphics card can be removed from a computer and then removed from the premises.


Every project has initial slowdown. Try to avoid deflecting your attention for a while. It will get easier.

Maybe you also don't like your project or can't feel its importance. Let's face it, playing Diablo already feels like busy work, if you prefer that to doing real useful work, maybe it's not useful before all?


Maybe you could meet with a friend, somewhere where you don't have a gaming computer. The friend could help you stay on track.

Otherwise at least go somewhere without a gaming computer - co-working space, cafe, library...

Perhaps the client can offer you a desk in his office?


You should probably go back to your "well payed job".


This is actually good advice.


tldr: gamify your development process and jobify your gaming process. Get good feedback loops going for your programming so you can track progress. Count how much money you are earning for every hour of gaming.

Why is gaming more fun than programming? In my opinion, it’s because of 3 reasons:

1. The action-effect feedback cycle is almost instantaneous

2. Your long-term goals are well defined and easy to hold in your active memory(gear, skill spec, kill this boss etc)

3. The connection between those goals and your immediate actions is very clear. If you need 200k DPS to farm act whatever and you are at 180k then you need to find such and such item with such and such specs and the optimal farming route for your level is this one so let’s get this shit done!

A well designed computer game is like a Waterfall project manager’s wet dream. End outcome is very clear(farm level X in Y minutes), the process of getting there is well described(guides, almost all game variables are numerical and their interactions are simple to model), and the acceptance test is obvious(I am farming level X in Y minutes, or I am too slow or I am plain dying and/or not doing enough damage).

I think you need to bring your development process and gaming closer together.

In terms of the feedback loop use tests and todos. If your tests are failing you know you’re not done, if your todos are falling behind, you know you’re not done. Have some automated performance/acceptance tests, I find seeing simulated user behavior being successful as much more satisfying than internal unit stuff. This is likely what you do anyway, so the problem is probably at the long-term level:

Do you have a clear outcome in mind? Do you have a clear path to that outcome? Is what you are doing at a given moment helping you achieve that outcome? Do you have a connection in your mind between delivering your project and achieving your life goals? Is working for yourself really what you want? Will you be happier in 30 days for having written the bit of code you are writing right now?

Try and answer those questions based on what you feel about the question not on whether saying you prefer gaming to programming means you are a good or bad person.

Plan more! Connect your day-to-day coding to your project’s big picture. Make a list of features/tasks that are left to do before a project is ‘done’ and go over it every day before and after you start the day. What did you cross off that day? Where has progress been made? How much work is left over? Does the overall plan need to be adjusted?

Finally, reprogram your view of gaming. Every time you accomplish something in a game write down this: ‘Today I managed to get a 12 win in Hearthstone with a Mage deck. I earned 300 gold, a card pack with a Leroy and some junk in it, and $0. I predict that this will contribute to me earning $0 going forward.’ Money isn’t everything, but it’s not nothing either.

Do the same for programming tasks. Make a note every time you do git commits, for instance. Every little task will STILL be worth $0 immediately, but the end will be different: ‘I wrote the authentication module for my new project, fixing a security issue with token-based auth. I improved the speed at which users get past the login process by 30%(.65 seconds) and it’ll be easy to move the module to a mobile back-end API later on. I predict that this will contribute to me earning $nice_chunk_of_money going forward.’

At the most fundamental level there is one difference between casual gaming and programming: human beings value one of those activities enough to transfer some of their resources to you in exchange for having you help them. The other one makes it obvious when you level up.

Source: this is how I got through college and got myself to actually improve and use my programming skills. Good luck.


Wow this is exactly what I've been looking for. It also ties together what I've been working out in my head. I'm in a similar situation as OP but its worse because I am not great, haven't done great things and I'm stuck in the same low-paying PHP CRUD developer job. The difference is I'm not afraid to admit it. I do practice and learn a lot but never built anything substsbtial.

My current problem is with Civ5. It's hands down the best game I've played. One thing I enjoy doing is building extremely strong economies above anything else. When I'm raking, I notice it doesn't take much to swing in the direction I want to go. When starting out, you can only really increment gold per turn by 1 to max 7. I often wonder is there any of this I can apply to my real life situation? Can I model my income like a civ 5 economy? Maybe I can say x, y and z will increase the amount of £ I receive per day. Perhaps per hour so it's closer to a game.


tldr: Gaming is like calorie free sweetener, a job is like a (sometimes bland) hunk of roasted meat. If you focus exclusively on 'fake' achievements you might quite literally end up starving.

What job would you like to have? What do job ads for that post require in terms of technical skills and provable ability? What are some people that have jobs of that sort and what are they able to code, what technologies do they know, what is their work process?

Where are you in comparison with people whose career you would like to emulate? Avoid "I'm bad they're good" use more specific language: "They can write full stack PHP CMS-lite apps and deploy them to AWS with chef and manage all Ops tasks associated with keeping that app functional."

That's still vague but it gives you a list of research goals and some clear, real world ways to test that you've achieved them. Get yourself closer to that person's level of knowledge, as you advance adjust your current summary of skills and experience and upgrade jobs.

Write your own skill/tech tree and monitor where you are on it. See http://www.dungeonsanddevelopers.com/ for inspiration, though I think it's not that well themed(who cares about +10 strength, where do I record the +10% Bash Script writing speed I gained last week?)

On a more philononsense note:

Games are awesome because you get to achieve your goals. They are pavlovian systems optimized to tickle the part of our brains that enjoys creating a desire and then satisfying that desire.

Life is fundamentally about uncertainty. No model of your career path and the value of your labor is going to get within the ballpark of Civ's precision. Single player against the AI at lower difficulties you can have strategies that will win you the game every time, deterministically. With life there are just too many variables to make such strong predictions.

Imagine trying to think of a good strategy for winning a 50,000 game-year long Civ game, with a technology tree that's not set in stone(both in terms of the tree and in terms of each node) so investments made in a prior game might have different effects if made in this one. The tech tree is also 50 times larger. That's an encyclopedia just to get a grasp on what it is! Plus undiscovered nodes are oftentimes clouded in fog of war! Plus paths sometimes snap while you're on them due to the AI researching a different branch!

Fundamentally the pleasure of a game is that it gives you goals to strive for that are achievable and that you achieve constantly and steadily. Life will never give you that certainty of 'leveling up'. BUT! remember that game achievments, unless you are actually a pro gamer, produce no value for those around you and no value, beyond happiness hormones, for you.

It's quite literally a behavioral drug, mimicking useful human behavior.


I've looked into habitrpg.com which allows you to gasify your life. It's a little too cutesy for me, so I am going to try and roll my own version to use.


That actually looks really cool.

HackerRPG would be cool too. Sort of like CodeWars but with the stats building and gold accruement/expenditure. A social MMO aspect would be really cool too.


Since no one else mentioned it, how about doing something that interests you much more? Something which gives you even 50% of the kick that those games give you?


Good advice, but games are optimised to continually give you an instant feeling of gratification. I don't think there's a career choice (or anything that requires some significant time investment) that can match this.


Make a schedule and only game during the "gaming" time.


Ask a doc if ADD meds are right for you? (Serious suggestion, just too late here for me to write it up more enthusiastically.)


Block that shit from your hosts file g


I totally can relate. In fact, as shown in the other comments, MANY can relate. Here's what I do..

##Instead of trying to write every single step of what must be done out, I instead focus on 3 things.

1) The end goal (So, I'm programming an MVP)

2) The most immediate step that I can take that will make progress AND NOT STRESS ME OUT. (Get the development environment set up)

3) Blocking out everything between #1 and #2 the best that I can.

How do you find #2? By taking whatever the end goal is, and splitting it down into pieces until you've identified a task that you KNOW you can accomplish without freaking out. #2 should be a decent amount of work, but the threshold of when it's too hard is when you don't want to do it anymore...in which case, you keep breaking the problem up.

The logic behind this process is not just a quality of life thing. It's an objective and reasonable way to accomplish things. By starting at the top and breaking things down, you've forced your mind to visualize parts of the process. Most importantly though, there is literally no reason to write out every single step because:

a) It will just freak you out.

b) When you complete this most immediate step, the whole landscape of what you need to do may or may not change.

c) You attain focus by just having one step instead of trying to keep your mind from thinking about 100.

For example, if you plan out to add a feature to remove a particular database item and THEN add a feature to change one you may run into a stress point. What happens if the first feature you go to add begets 3 critical errors that you must immediately fix? Well, now you're going to feel behind all day because unless those errors are quick to fix, you've still got step 2 ahead.

##Knock out 2 big things a day. Bonus points for more.

These two big things are whatever you define. I usually decide on 2 big things that seem of reasonable size, begin working on one, and adjust what those things are if need be. This may not seem like a lot... but if you do it every day. Like EVERY day. They stack up.

To pick up momentum, make those things smaller at first. As you get used to the process, scale them up.

##Check your thoughts regularly

If you start thinking depressive things.. smack your hand on a table really hard. I'll bet if you do that, you won't be able to think anything except ow. This is sort of a reactive thing. But really, whenever you feel a thought popping in, just try and edit it accordingly.

##Journal

This is really theraputic. Ask yourself questions in a journal and attempt to answer them.

Anyhow. I've used the above processes to build large scale apps. It also regularly helps me overcome any levels of depression. It's likely not the best.. but it helps me at least.




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