Here’s how I think we’re actually going to solve the productivity/procrastination problem.
I’m a person with the problem:
Hi, my name is Visa and I’m a horrible procrastinator. I’ve procrastinated all my life. I played a lot of video games. I can spend hours on social media, Twitter, Tumblr, you have it. I enjoy those things, they get me off. I can spend hours arguing with people online, because that gets me off, too. Unfortunately, I’ve never really been able to commit to working consistently at things that matter to me. My progress as a musician has been slow, shaky, and in pathetic bursts. The thing I do best is writing, and this comes from a childhood of severe book addiction… and lots of arguing on the internet.
I’ve tried the solutions and they all suck (for me):
I have some things I feel very strongly about. I’ve tried many, many productivity apps. They all suck for me. I don’t know if they work for you, but they suck for me. See, the thing about Pomodoro is… I click on one or two, and then I stop clicking. I get distracted and I stay distracted. To-do lists don’t work for me. I either make massive lists that I don’t get through, or whatever. I’ve tried keeping a calendar and scheduling stuff, but that doesn’t work for me, either.
My problem is a lot more fundamental. It’s deep-rooted, pathological. I need help that no other human being can provided, perhaps not even myself. I need the power and force of something relentless to keep me focused on the things that matter, while not allowing me to weasel my way out of things.
I think some dating sites have partially figured this out.
I was looking through a couple of dating sites today. I’m happily married, but I was studying social media (the resulting blogpost: What Is Social Media?) and trying to make sense of how to define it. In particular, I was curious about the pub/sub dynamics on dating sites.
I noticed something interesting. On Nerve.com and HowAboutWe.com, the sites attempt to game/modify your behaviour by getting you to come up with little bits of content that get published. They prompt you. What did you do last night? They prompt you. What books have you read? You start thinking, oh, golly. I better read an intelligent-sounding book so I can make an intelligent-sounding comment and snag myself an intelligent-sounding partner.
Wait-a-damn-second. Prompts affect thought. Control your thoughts and you control your actions, your destiny. Prompts modify behaviour. Prompts are the answer. I need to be constantly, incessantly reminded of what I’m interested in, what I’m excited about. I can’t ask my friends or loved ones to do this for me, that’s just a little pathetic. But maybe I could build something that did it for me. Maybe I could have an app or some sort of routine where I’m forced to build something, level up something.
Periodical Prompts To Solve Procrastination
Something that asked me every 30 minutes, what the hell are you doing with your life? How are you getting from where you are to where you want to go? What little action have you taken towards your dreams? Have you done [your 1000 words] today? What do you care about? What’s one little thing you could do to feel beter right now? What’s the last thing you did to [get fitter]?
That’s what I need. I need a constant stream of prompts reminding me to breathe, to sit taller, to write a blogpost, to meet somebody interesting. When was the last time you met somebody interesting? When was the last time you had a great conversation with someone? When was the last time you felt inspired? When was the last time you read a good book? Prompt me. Prompt me, damn it.
The problem with to-do lists… is that they’re trying to help me fill a bucket. A bucket of things I’m supposed to do. This doesn’t make sense at all. When I’m in the zone, I don’t need a to-do list. I’m writing this like crazy when I’m on fire because I saw something earlier (I was on a dating site, thinking about social media), and then I read a few lines from Founders at Work while having a coffee downstairs, and then I was thinking about productivity and procrastination (a lifelong addiction and anxiety for me).
I don’t need something to help me fill buckets better. I need something to set me on fire.
Somebody please direct me to something that systematically, periodically reminds me (or gets me to remind myself) of what I care about, what’s important, what I ought to get pissed off by, what ought to put my ass to work.
The nitty gritty to-do list is like giving me a list of monsters I need to kill. I don’t kill monsters because they’re neatly ordered in a list. I kill them because I want to build my hero into someone amazing, and because I want the glory of conquest, the treasure at the end. THAT’s what I need to be reminded of. I need to be reminded of what’s at stake. Put me in a state regularly, like that, and I’ll be the most productive bastard you know.
If somebody can build this for me, I’d pay $100 for it. Hell, give me a free trial for a month, and if it works, I’ll pay you $100/month for it.
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” – Willam Butler Yeats
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Build me something that lights fires, not fills pails. Don’t drum me up to collect wood, make me long for the sea. Force me to say it. Make me say that I’m choosing to spend time clicking through tumblr instead of building my dreams.
I don’t care if I don’t get the credit for this or whatever, I just hope this idea is useful to somebody. Cheers and love. It’s back to work for me.
EDIT: Hello, HN! Several people have been asking me if I’m serious about the $100! Wasn’t expecting this to catch on, but here’s what I’m going to do- I’m going to try out every solution that people send or suggest, and I’ll document it in my blog, and I’ll paypal the $100 to whomever’s solution works best for me. 🙂
Here’s a followup non-directed rambly blogpost
“I designed the book to raise the energy level of the reader without the reader knowing that’s the plan. If I succeeded, which is an admittedly rare situation, readers will simply feel good while reading it. And that energy can be useful for whatever you hope to achieve in life.”” – Scott Adams, describing something I’d call firelighting. I experienced similar things from reading Carl Sagan’s autobiography. I think I need to make a list.
UPDATE: 14 days later!