I might have cracked the procrastination nut.
One of the things that's plagued me for years is that a heavy, intense period of doing lots of good stuff is frequently followed by a crash.
The crash partially negates the gains from having a good period. If you put in an excellent, intense four days of creative work, that's good. But if you can't look at your work and projects for half a week afterwards, you negate some of that progress as compared to just slowly, steadily putting in time.
What's worse is that, for me, the crashes tended to be full-on, nothing-valuable-happening. I don't mean not working. I mean nothing valuable. When I'd crash, I'd usually not be reading good books, spending time in nature on the beach, or whatever. It'd be more like getting into high stimulation distraction, where it sucks your time without giving you anything back. Without even recharging you, even.
So, I started looking at how crashes come on.
For me, it's usually not, "I feel exhausted, I'm going to take a couple days off." I actually don't mind when I do that, and taking a couple days off usually works well.
More like, I've been really blazing fast on a project for five days in a row, many hours a day, and on day six I get stumped. Then I say, "okay, I'm just going to take a short break" and I click over to - Hacker News, or... whatever.
And then it's 10 hours later and the day is shot. Yucky.
Partially, I think the problem was, on day six I'd be trying to keep going on whatever project I'm on. So instead of saying, "Okay, I'm going to shift gears for a little bit," I'd say, "I'm just going to take a break." But then the break lasts a couple days.
So I'm rolling a new way of doing things - my new mantra for the area is, "anything valuable" - for a while, I was prioritizing the most important things to make sure I didn't do busywork instead of the most important and meaningful stuff.
That's not really a problem any more. I shifted gears upwards in that department, but now I'm getting a mix of valuable stuff and the occasional totally useless crash time. (Again, real relaxation isn't useless - it's great. Crashes tend to not be really relaxing and rejuvenating)
New way of dealing with it? Anything valuable. I'm not forcing myself to do any one project right now at any time unless a deadline is looming. So if I'm not feeling it, or not creative, or not high will, or whatever - well, that's okay. I can pre-cook a bunch of food, clean, catch up on phone calls, research some of the next stuff I'll be working on, etc. Anything I've deemed valuable in advance.
It's new, but so far it's working quite well. There's always a boost from getting on a new initiative, but I think even once the novelty wears up I'm going to pick up a few hours a week that would be spent in burnt out vegetation state and put it into reading, researching, general little life stuff, errands, catching up with people, etc.
A few hours a week? I'll take it. New mantra: "Anything valuable."
Congrats Sebastian, beating procrastination rocks!
I'm using the same "anything valuable" approach to fight post crashes time although I got to it indirectly.
I used to fall for the busy work over meaningful work and in the last month I've been fighting that to a point I'm comfortable saying I won. The result of that was that I ended up having a list of smaller tasks, especially future oriented, that I now tend to take on in those post crash times. So far the results I've been pretty promising and I feel better as I don't waste as much time or feel bad about forcing myself into doing meaningful work with poor results.
keep it up,
Very interesting. I was worried for a second that you would come out with somegthing complex, but luckily it's something simple that I can try myself. Thanks.
curious about how to define "valuable" - I get what you and others do, that I call "empty calories" - but there are some things that I'm not so sure of: for instance, crossword puzzles and learning bridge - these are "valuable" in helping exercise my post-menopausal memory banks, but are they the best-value in the moment, compared to other "to-do's" that move me forward? (like, as you say, preparing food, etc.)
Tricky business, this discerning what has value in any given moment.
Like, even, leaving this comment on your post! ;-)
You can set it so that you only visit a site once a day, once a week, once a month, as long as you can compute it in minutes.
I've been able to get off facebook for 24 hours by throwing away the original url and putting that temporary link it creates on my bookmarks instead.
Of course you could type in the original and get back in but creating that link for me is a lesson in self-control. And I tend to use shortcuts/bookmarks more anyways.
Aka, the simple way to get it done with practicing self-restraint.
Regarding internet procrastination (especially Hacker News) I found that putting an entry in my /etc/hosts file for Hacker News solved that problem. If you're on a mac just add the following line:
to the file at /etc/hosts.
What this does is stops all programs that use the internet from being able to visit hacker news. This works great because whenever you go to the URL, you're reminded straight away that you put a stop to this for a reason. I normally get back to something useful (like taking an _actual_ break) once this happens.
Interesting.. I am in the same situation here. Trading part time, and made some gains from trading. Afterwards, I am procrastinating when I should have moved ahead. Have written down the things I must do in order to tick them off [to do list!].
Any more pointers, will be happy to learn.
Wow this is really great. I hope you follow up on it in a few weeks with how it's been working out.
One thing I do now is save any chores for I have for when I have to think through a problem. Keeps me from getting bored. And even better, it even seems to help me think more clearly.
Yeah, so I'll be giving this a try too. But I'm still saving the most mundane chores for the mental roadblocks. Thanks for sharing!
Hmm fascinating. I have pretty much the same dynamic going on. I'll burn through three days straight of coding or brainstorming great ideas... then, as soon as I run out of steam, I'll get hooked on an iPad Risk game and play 20-30 games over the next few days.
One additional piece of it for me is the feeling of, "Oh, I've done so well, I deserve a break." Which is fine I guess, it's good to take breaks, and to recognize good work. But maybe making the breaks themselves productive is a good way to avoid the complete drop in productivity. So, instead of relaxing with a Risk game, that sucks mental energy while providing no real return, I could listen to a good audiobook while taking a walk, or play the piano, or some other task that's on the list. In this case, the "reward" is allowing yourself to peruse the entire list for your favorite task to do, instead of focusing on just the really productive stuff.
"Anything valuable." Great post, I will try it out!
My mind has been scrambled the last couple days. I don't know why, it came on very suddenly. I've made massive strides over the two weeks before - I accomplished about six months worth of work over two weeks. I felt on top of the world. I wasn't even very tired afterwards, I felt good, ready to go.
Then yesterday, just bzzt - nothing. Foggy, almost like confusion. Couldn't focus at all. Strange. I said, y'know what? I haven't had a day off in a while, I'm just going to take the day off. Went and sat at a cafe and listened to some audio for about four hours, walked around and saw the city, went and had a massage, and then sat and ate fruit. Spend like 10 hours in a row just thinking and relaxing, which is good, I don't take full days off very often. I had some good ideas when I was out at the cafe and took some extensive notes, so I got some production out of it too without even trying to.
Now, I wish I could say, "And then I was recharged, and today I was awesome!" But no, I woke up in a fog again. Damn this. I track my time and have some routines to keep me running well, but I was foggy despite it, unable to focus really. Suck, what is this?
I was working, but it was half-working. Now, half-working is a big problem in my opinion. Half-working tires you out as much or more than real full working, but you get about 5% as much stuff done. Yes, 5%. Good work requires something like focus. It doesn't necessarily require the highest levels of focus and flow (though that stuff is very good), but it requires working through the mentally difficult parts when they come up. The worst part about half-work is you cruise through the easy enough stuff, then stumble on a difficult part.
This is doubly bad, because when you come back to your work, you're staring the hardest part in the face. This sucks, you need to kind of regroup and double down to get re-started while staring a difficult or complex part of work in the face. But again, I was in that mental fog and so I start half-working on it, and then I wander off again. And I try to come back to the work, but then - bam, there's this hard problem staring me right in the face, that I already failed to conquer twice.
I'm thrilled that Tynan is coming to you with two things -- first, he's offering a breakthrough session through GiveGetWin. It's geared around doing more of the kind of excellent work you want to do, becoming more internally focused with your emotions, having a more enjoyable life, building great habits, and producing a lot of value in the process. There's five spots, so check it out now.
Second, we have this wonderful tour-de-force interview: it starts by covering how Tynan made the shift from unfocused to focused, how to derive internal enjoyment from things, useful actionable exercises you can do right now, Tynan's method and mindset for producing creative work consistently, how to set up great habits and an excellent mental and physical work environment, and how to make blogging work and similar endeavors work for you.
Total Focus; Total Enjoyment by Tynan, as told to Sebastian Marshall
When I turned 30 and I had a minor freak out… I thought, "I'll be 40 in not long, and then 50… there's things I want to do in my life, and they're not happening at this pace."
Before that, I had a general idea of things I wanted to do and have in my life, but I went about in an unstructured way. It was good in a lot of ways. It made be a broad process, but not much depth.