2.13.2006

TIP: Pull, not push, your long TODO list to the finish line

via Bloomu -
  • ...Advice such as "just buckle down and do it," "get organized," and "try harder" are based on a dysfunctional definition of procrastination. What they're really saying is: "If you weren't such a lazy bum you could do this. No fooling around. Life is dull and hard. There's no time for fun. Work is a horrible thing to contemplate, but you have to do it anyway." Most procrastination happens because through procrastinating we are temporarily able to relieve fears: fear of failure, fear of being imperfect, fear of impossible expectations. Most of these fears, in turn, are ultimately based in the idea that work and life are awful struggles which we must somehow get through and that this whole horrible process will somehow make us better people in the long run.
  • How do we get around these fears? By temporarily setting them aside, not in favor of reading the police blotter looking for possible future Cowboys coaches, or slam-dancing with the dog, or (insert your favorite procrastination activity here), but - - - SETTING THESE FEARS ASIDE IN ORDER TO MAKE A SMALL, IMPERFECT START ON WHAT WE WANT TO ACCOMPLISH. This idea is, of course, the basis of the sloppiness of most informal invention techniques (freewriting, looping, clustering, talk/writing, etc).
  • Don't plan on completing a project in one big push. This almost certainly means you will have to force yourself to do this enormous task. You can accomplish a lot more in small increments -- even fifteen minutes is enough time to do a little bit of quality work. Just get a decent start, and don't worry so much about finishing. If you start often enough, the end will take care of itself.
  • Create safety in the task...
  • How to talk to yourself
    • Replace "I have to" -- which promotes victimhood and resentment -- with "I choose to."
    • Replace "I must finish" with "When can I start again?"
    • Replace "This is so big/difficult/complex" with "I can take one small step: one rough, rough draft, one imperfect sketch."
    • Replace "I must do this right (i.e., perfectly)" with "I can be human." Accept "mistakes" as feedback, and part of the natural learning process. In fact, try to be imperfect. Intentionally do the first part of your project sloppily: rough draft in crayon, or on a coffee-stained old envelope. Worked for Abe.*
    • Replace "I've got to get this done; I don't have time for play" with "I must make time for play." Reward yourself with fun, friendship, exercise, whatever, after you've made your start. This makes making the next start much easier.

Combined, this becomes: "I choose to start on one small imperfect step, knowing that I have plenty of time to enjoy life."

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Opportunity vs Trap

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