If it doesn’t work, do things differently: “So rather than beat myself up for losing focus at work, I should change the way I work altogether. I should really break things down into micro-tasks and take frequent breaks away from the computer. I probably shouldn’t sit at my desk for more than 30 mins at a time because I know I can’t reasonably expect myself to focus on ANYTHING for that long. I’ve tried some measures in the past- having a chime every 30 minutes, Pomodoro… but the problem is that I never respect myself enough to adhere to these things.” –

Daily Reviews: “I suggested to the wife that we do a “daily review” of our days every night before we go to bed. Today will only be the second day but I’m inordinately excited about it because I think it’s an elegant solution to multiple problems. I think it will stick. (7 months later: No, it hasn’t. I think we’re generally in the right direction, but progress has been cumbersome and slow, and boring.) We both need more positive peer pressure from each other, we need to kinda “align” each other better,  I think a daily, deliberate discussion will help. I’m looking forward to it.” –

Rewriting the Vomits: “Once I’m done with all 1,000 vomits, I’ll get to the much more challenging work of doing rewriting. Or maybe I’ll start rewriting right now, as I move forward. I still have a few more summaries to do, and maybe I’ll do them tonight. It doesn’t really matter, what matters most of all is that I keep moving. I can reorganize and optimize while I’m moving. I can’t do that while I’m static. Whatever reorganizing and optimization I do in my head when I’m static is actually kinda toxic.” –

On Routine: “I think this is something I never appreciated as a procrastinator. Getting stuff done always seems like it requires ungodly amounts of conscious. But actually it doesn’t. Most of it is habit and routine. That’s how you reconcile the fact that there are so many people seemingly less “intelligent” than you doing so much better at school or work. They invested in routines that do half the work for them. The system trains them to work without conscious decision making needing to interrupt the process. ” –

On Practice: “I think the mindfulness teachers understood this. Consider the advice about drinking tea, or about walking, enjoying each and every step purposefully. It seems silly the way it might seem silly to make your bed nicely in the morning when you have a fuck ton of work to do, but clearly there’s something to it. You have to do the basics incredibly well. Practicing scales mindfully makes you a better soloist. In fact, practicing scales can help your solo playing more than practicing your soloing (without practicing scales). I definitely experienced this as a musician. I think I’ve experienced this as a writer, too. You get better at writing and grammar by doing loads of reading. If your job is to write, how do you have time to read?

You have to make time. It matters how Michael Phelps stretches before swimming, and that he listens to hip hop. It matters that Christiano Ronaldo does that silly looking leg spread before he takes his free kicks. You can’t become great without it. These are their soldiers- perfectly drilled, in beautiful harmony. You become great at the Great by first becoming great at the mundane. There is no other way, even for the daredevil genius improvisers. Even rockstars practice like crazy.” –

How should I spend my time? “To answer that I first have to observe and study how I’m already spending my time, then identify why I’m doing what I’m doing. (I procrastinate. I waste time on Facebook and Tumblr and Quora. I do that not because I lack purpose, but because my purpose doesn’t remain in focus for long, and because the work I know I have to do is tedious, hard and initially unrewarding.) Then I have to figure out how to manipulate myself to get out of my current local optima and work towards reaching a relatively more global optima.

So how do I make my important work more rewarding and make the distractions less rewarding? Realisation #1: this doesn’t need to be a global or universal thing. I can’t instantaneously change 23 years of conditioning. I can’t change my taste buds overnight.” –

You have to prepare for failure in advance. “What will you do when faced with a trigger or cue that sends you running, and how will you disrupt that running behaviour? If I read Power of Habit correctly, the trick is to recognise the reward that follows the routine (running back). In the case of procrastination, it’s pleasure and comfort.

So I guess I need to find ways to get pleasure and comfort from doing hard work. It might not necessarily come from the work itself. You could reward yourself with, idk, chocolate or gummy bears. Alternatively, you could brag about it when you’re done and look forward to the bragging. The end goal of course is to cease the need for bragging altogether, and to derive pleasure from the act of doing itself. But that takes time to develop. Perhaps one should simply meditate on that fact and take periodic time outs to remind self of that end goal. Maybe the goal initially isn’t to burst out of the cave forever, but to spend a few minutes in the light every day. I think I get that from writing the way I’m writing now- at a feverish pace, anxious to get everything out. I would love to have access to this mental state every day. I know it will feel great when it’s over. I’m already anticipating that feelgood feeling. In fact I think I’m already feeling it. So the challenge is really to keep starting. Maybe.”


Amazing 20 Minutes: Let’s restate findings/hypothesis: rather than try to have amazing productive days, I should strive to have amazing productive 20 minutes. I think too grand and yet do too little at the same time. And I think both problems are highly related. If you’re busy doing stuff that can be done, your mind expands to fit the space of the problem you’re solving. Paul Graham wrote something similar about carrying code in your head.

What I got out of that is that your headspace is simultaneously more precious and more powerful than you realise. You shouldn’t let yourself read stupid bullshit because that outright drains you. It robs you of the chance of getting exponential or compound gains from thinking about problems that are rewarding to solve. My instinct is to do something dramatic like delete my Facebook account again. I might do that in time but I do use it to correspond with some people and I don’t think I need to cut that out right this moment.

What really matters is that I get chunks of deep writing done, every day. Today already feels like a better day for having written this.” –

“So I realized that I needed some sort of scaffolding- an exoskeleton for the brain, a prosthesis to keep me going. To prop me up even when my conscious self is out of the room. A part of the solution is to keep bringing the conscious back. Another part is to modify the environment to limit the damage that the saboteur bum can do on his own.” –

“If I could turn back time I’d have invested more points in “draw”. There’s also “code” though. And maybe “dance” and “work out”. Anything would’ve been better than “laze around listlessly”.”



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