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The Problems With Half-Working

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.

Learn to Love the Confusion

One reason that procrastination is so appealing is that it's designed to be simple and easy to digest.

Mediums like Reddit and Youtube are designed to make it easy, painless, and fun to navigate around them. The learning curve and difficulty of using computers and web applications has come down tremendously, and it's easy and pleasurable to consume on an iPad, Kindle, or through Netflix.

When you tune into one of these channels, confusion melts away. You're given an easy to use interface that plugs you right into fantastic entertainment, relaxation, or semi-productive activities. These can be quite seductive.

Or, even if you're committed to a solid workday, how easy is it to get caught into low-quality time just processing admin and email? That's important to handle, to be sure, but is it really moving your life tremendously forward?

Compare the simple forms of entertainment and low-quality busywork with actually tackling hard problems. With quite hard problems, you might spend 80% to 90% of your time confused and not able to take great action, just trying to think on how you'll tackle the challenge and make progress.

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