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How to get focused and start working..

Hi All,

For last couple of days, I have been in terrible state. Here is my daily schedule.

8 am -> Get up.
9 am ->Go to office.
9 am - 6 pm -> Office work. Out of those 9 hours, I spend 1 hour on lunch. At least 2 hours,  on browsing.
7 to 8:30 pm -> Gym
9 pm -> Come home. Have light dinner.
9:30 to 1 pm -> Browsing again.

[Browsing involves visiting Bloglines.com to check my 105 feeds. Visiting JoS forums. And ofcourse porn sites! ;)]

My problem is that I keep 'thinking' too much. I think that I will learn Photography and get better at it. I think about how things can be improved at office. I think about how I will be starting my own business in future. Basically, I keep thinking instead of *actually working*. I have tons of ideas but for last couple of months I have not been able to execute them!

I am wondering whether it has happened to other folks here and if it has happened how did you get out of this mood?? Is there something I can do to get myself in to 'Getting Things Done' mode? Is there something I can read, listen to which will help me get out of this phase?

Please help!

Regards,
JD
http://jdk.phpkid.org

JD
Sunday, August 15, 2004

I think its just a phase man. Been there done that. We all go thru it then come out the other side. Try to set small tasks you can accomplish quick. That will get you focused.

Neo
Sunday, August 15, 2004

I know it's a phase which 'should' eventaully go through... but I am sick of it! I have tons of things to complete and this mind of state is not helping me! :(

JD
Sunday, August 15, 2004



Yep, I've been there.

I started doing simple things like not turning on the TV a few nights a week.  Then, when I want to be really productive, I disconnect my home network from the Internet.  It lets me have all of my resources, but prevents me from browsing outside.

That was a bit much at times, so I started setting a timer for 60 minutes.  During that 60 minutes I *HAD* to work and wasn't allowed to go to those sites.  After the 60 minutes, I'd jack around for 5-15 minutes.

Hope this is helpful.

KC
Sunday, August 15, 2004

Think about writing a to-do list and then executing it.

Christopher Wells
Sunday, August 15, 2004

Actually one good thing is that I don't watch TV! I left that habit couple of years ago! [These days I don't even have TV at my home.]

Btw, idea of disconnecting Home network is good. But it's a problem when you need to find some information from Internet to complete your work.

And Christopher, I write TODO list daily! [From Getting Things Done book, I at least learned that noting everything down helps you tremendously!] But somehow I am not able to convince myself to start working on it! :( Somehow some stupid part of my brain has taken the control over and it doesn't let me work! :(

I tried another book named 'The Now Habit' where the author talks about 'Guilt Free Play'. So I started doing things which I enjoy, in the hope that once I have enjoyed it I will be able to concentrate on my work... but those 'play' things never seem to end! :(

I was wondering if people here have any other ideas.

JD

JD
Sunday, August 15, 2004

Your ideas are likely to be, at best, mediocre.  If you never implement them, you will never know how bad they really are and your weak spirit will not get crushed. 

Keep up the daydreaming. 

muppet
Sunday, August 15, 2004

Yes, I know I need to implement them. But my problem is not 'quality' of my ideas, but how do I generate motivation to start working on them.

JD

JD
Sunday, August 15, 2004

"I am productive at work 6 hours out of each day with an hour for lunch and two hours for browsing, but my trouble is that no matter how hard I try to stop, I have this pesky problem by which I keep 'thinking' with my 'brain'"

Sounds terrible.  Order up some Soma, and you should be fine.  I think they sell it at Proles R Us.

muppet
Sunday, August 15, 2004

Set some short term milestones, something you can get done in a week or two. Finish that, then move on to the next. Trying to get started on a task that will take two years to complete is  too daunting.

Tom H
Sunday, August 15, 2004

If there are certain places that you waste a lot of time (like JoS...), try blocking them at your firewall or proxy server - I've done that with varying degrees of success in the past.

Philo

Philo
Sunday, August 15, 2004

Philo, make sure BillG does not read your posts.


Sunday, August 15, 2004

Too late.

BillG
Sunday, August 15, 2004

Decompose larger tasks into smaller ones until you have a few you can do in ten minutes or so.  Once you've knocked off a few of those, and made some visible progress, it'll be easier to move on to some larger tasks.

Justin Johnson
Sunday, August 15, 2004

The standard answer:

Getting Things Done by David Allen [1]
(This book has been discussed here dozens of times, and seems to have been promoted to God status)

Write everything you have to do down and work off the list. Get organized. Google for this book on this forum and you'll find lots of discussion on it.

I'm always going to agree with the "Don't watch TV / Don't surf the web at home" crowd. I'd even go 1 step further and dare you not to use any electronic devices after 8pm or on the weekends. Well, except The Apprentice, so you can discuss it here the next day from work.

Of course, I'm posting this at 5:00 on a Sunday, so I obviously don't follow my own advice.

Another intresting book on this subject is:
How to Work the Competition Into the Ground & Have Fun Doing It by John T. Molloy [2]

I read this one about a year ago. The main idea behind this book is that you should keep a work log where you measure how much you work, what interrupts you, how long it takes you to get back to work, and so forth. Do this for a week, and then analyze the data so you can find the patterns of disruption. The author found he was staring out the window a lot, so he moved his desk. He learned that despite what he thought, he was better at one kind of work in the morning, and another kind in the evening, so he moved his schedules so that he always worked on the proper kind of work when he was naturally inclined to do it. etc.

He also advocates putting a "Get Back To Work" sign wherever necessary...

[1] http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0142000280/ref=ase_r5un7ejl-20/102-3203137-4063326?v=glance&s=books

[2] http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0446384992/ref=ase_r5un7ejl-20/102-3203137-4063326?v=glance&s=books

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, August 15, 2004

Oh man I hear you. I am one of those people who gets easily distracted too. I have 1000 books in my library. This week I am learning about British history, next week about South East Asia, then I am studying Physics, then Chemistry, then I am learning Morse Code, then I am reading lots of UI articles then....

None of these things I actually finish. I just throw myself way to far into everything I do. Lets face it, it is way more fun  reading and learning all this stuff then trying to sit down and do any real work.

The colored bar graph of my time is working well for me at the moment. I am remarkable focused on the thingst hat I should be doing. Even managing to resist borrowing my usual twenty books from the uni library, all of which I know I will not have time to read!

Aussie chick
Sunday, August 15, 2004


You say you have many different ideas. Everyone's got ideas about all kinds of stuff. What counts is what you do and get done. So pick ONE idea you think is the best/most important for you and do that.

Also: do the simplest thing that could possibly work. Break it up into smaller tasks, do one at a time. Listen to your favorite music (I prefer listening to something I already know so it doesn't distract me). Think about the result and how it will be great to have it done.

TomA
Sunday, August 15, 2004

LOL Aussie Chick, You really ought to read the Molloy book, because he's basically advocating your method of charting your time. That's why I brought it up in the first place (in that other thread). Too bad it's out of print.

I have a lot of books too... a quick estimate would put me at... 500 on the shelves, plus who knows how many more in boxes. I read most of them while commuting to/from school/work.

I've learned not to buy more than 1 book at a time because I'll buy two books on the same topic, but become interested in something else by the time I finish the first, so I never read the second.

Oh, and here's the obilgatory Joel Link
http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000339.html

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, August 15, 2004

One slightly different technique I use is what I call creative procrastination.

If I find I can't get started, fow whatever reason, I deflect my procrastination by working on other unrelated tasks that have to get done.

For me, this seems to get me into "production mode", once I'm working on something, it's easier to shift back to the other intended task(s).

A side benefit is that if this still fails, as it occasionally does, I've at least got other things done so that when I am in the proper frame of mind I don't have other stuff hanging around waiting to ambush me.

Mongo
Sunday, August 15, 2004

"fow whatever reason"

Sigh.

Damn that wascally wabbit!

Mongo
Sunday, August 15, 2004

Aussie Chick got it right. I find it reading and thinking about various Ideas much more fun than actually working! Even when I read 100 times that ideas doesn't matter, it's the implementation which counts.

As I have already mentioned, I have tried techniques listed in Getting Things Done and it worked for me when I started. But for some reason, these days I am not able to really make that technique work for me.

Today, I have taken one step in right direction. I have modified 'hosts' file to block sites which I waste too much time upon.

Btw, I like the idea, of measuring time and finding pattern where I am wasting my time, interesting. I will definitely try it out. Also, 'creative procrastination' is nice idea which I will try to use.

Thanks guys for all the inputs. I knew that this is the best place to seek advice! :) Thanks again!

JD

JD
Sunday, August 15, 2004

To me this is a sure sign you need a vacation

the artist formerly known as prince
Sunday, August 15, 2004

I know I'm most productive late at night, after the world has gone to sleep. That's when almost all my work gets done, though I may do bits and pieces during the day as I think of them, the vast majority of my work (and I can work hours at a time this way) is done after midnight.

But this schedule won't work for everyone. ;-)

My point is, you have to learn your own personal work characteristics and try to exploit them. I don't even try to work earlier in the day (on my own stuff, that is, there's other stuff I have to do. For how I get that done, you need to reference my article on the subject:

http://www.marktaw.com/blog/GettingThingsDone.html

It won't work with all employers, but if you can manage it, it's truly a beautiful thing.

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, August 15, 2004

Give up something.

Like, don't surf for a month.  Force yourself to do something else.

Works quite well.

Flamebait Sr.
Sunday, August 15, 2004

For me to-do lists work best. Blocking sites at the firewall never helped me much because there're always more to waste time one.

Egor
Sunday, August 15, 2004

>One slightly different technique I use is what I call creative procrastination.
>
>If I find I can't get started, fow whatever reason, I deflect my procrastination by working on other unrelated tasks that have to get done.

That is basically why charting is working for me. I figure I have 5 hours today and I need to get stuff done. If I find myself struggling to say 'work on my project', then I switch to another one of my chartable tasks, one that I do feel like doing ie 'Asian Culture Uni Subject'. I find that at the end of the day I look back and see that regardless of my proscrastination I have still done 5 hours of chartable work. This sense of 'did good' motivates me the next day, ie rather then falling into the slump of 'got nothing done, wasted a day, now I am so far behind....think I will go wathc the Olympic coverage....'

Aussie chick
Sunday, August 15, 2004

NB Mark I am keeping an eye out for the Molloy book.

But then lets be real, it will be added to the pile of all the other books that I 'desperately want to read as soon as I get a chance'

I still want it though!!!

Aussie chick
Sunday, August 15, 2004

Jesus, muppet!  Grow up or go to another forum.  We don't  tolerate that crap here.

philo
Sunday, August 15, 2004

muppet, you better start looking for some zombie servers to submit your posts from, because if you keep up your b.s. eventually you'll be banned.

Li-fan Chen
Sunday, August 15, 2004

no doubt that's what the guy (guys?) wasting his (their?) time impersonating me is (are?) going for.

muppet
Sunday, August 15, 2004

I haven't posted here in at least three weeks.

Why are people using my name?!

muppet
Sunday, August 15, 2004

I'm like Aussie. The thing I more like to do is to learn.

My solution was to fix the number of hours to do 'productive work'. In my case is 4 hours/day (6 days/week).

The rest of the day I'm learning. This is working for the last 5 years. I learned electronic engineering, physics and computer science (and a lot of different stuff). Everything self taughted.

Now my company does 'magic' products for industrial applications.

Of course, alone this is impossible. My partner (50-50) runs the company things.

nix
Sunday, August 15, 2004

JD, I've been there. Thoughts:

Remember the old 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration line. Thinking is important, but to succeed you ultimately have to *do* stuff. But you probably know that.

As Mongo said, "If I find I can't get started, for whatever reason, I deflect my procrastination by working on other unrelated tasks that have to get done." I second that, strongly. Sometimes I just can't bring myself to do the thing I know I should be doing, but lately I've resolved that if I'm going to procrastinate on the important things I need to get done, I'm at least going to do *something* useful rather than surf the Web or whatever. That could be system maintenance stuff or cleaning up my office or doing initial research on some low-priority project... even getting out and exercising. As long as I'm doing something that has real benefit, even if it's not the absolute best thing I could be doing at the moment, I'm happy.

I've found the "next actions" technique in Getting Things Done to be hugely helpful. Instead of focusing on everything I need to do, I just look at the next thing for each project. If I have a next action that still seems daunting, I break it down even further. Need to update some spec but don't feel like it? I'll tell myself that my "next action" is simply to open the doc and reread what I've already written and identify two or three areas I could work on next. Almost invariably, once I've got the thing in front of me I get sucked into it, enter flow, and get an hour or two of productive work done.

John C.
Monday, August 16, 2004

Out of curiousity, what kind of work is it that you're all procrastinating on? I'm definately on board with the whole "productive procrastination" thing. I can feel productive as long as I'm working towards my goals, even if the specific things I'm doing aren't what I know would be best at the moment.

I remember when I was doing the whole 9-5 thing, constantly reminding myself that at 5:00 I actually felt better if I did a whole day's work, and that the time spent procrastinating wasn't really any more enjoyable than time spent working... It's just a different frame of mind than we're used to, and for some reason it's hard switching in to it. Maybe because no event triggers it. Turn on the TV and you become a vegetable. Pick up a guitar and I start to play.

But a computer... it's not like I turn on the computer and work, I do lots of things on the computer. It's the converse of Peopleware... Switching tasks is difficult, but what if one of your tasks is procrastinating?

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, August 16, 2004

I do not exist, as everyone should have guessed by now.

muppet
Monday, August 16, 2004

Today I tried 'creative procrastination' and you know what happened?

I thought that I will clean my room because I was not really feeling like working on computer. After cleaning my room and kitchen, I felt better. Eventually when I sat in front of computer again, I was just not feeling like opening up the editor and typing code. Now I started thinking about what to do about this problem of 'thinking'! Yikes!

And Mark, the kind of things I procrastinate on, are:
1. Develop my .NET skills to work on better projects within my company.
2. Complete the few articles I have already written on PHP and take phpkid.org live.
3. Update my resume and do job hunting
4. Blog regularly. More importantly, blog something USEFUL. 


Now, as you can see, these are very important things for me but still I have been avoiding them for last 1 and half months and I am absolutely pissed off at myself. I think may be a vacation might help me as someone else suggested!

JD

JD
Monday, August 16, 2004

I never saw how a vacation could be more than a short-term solution.

All the things you're procrastinating on have a few characteristics in common.

1. They're major projects and intimidating. Have you really tried a next-actions list?

2. They have a vague payoff.

Revise your to-do list so each thing is a do-able chunk, something you can do in 15 minutes an can do now (you can't complete job hunting today, but you can register for Monster.com today). Promise yourself that you'll do something good each day you finish these items, like go to a movie, or have a glass of wine. Just don't let being productive become an excuse to become a wino!

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, August 16, 2004

"Promise yourself that you'll do something good each day you finish these items"

That is, once you finish a task. And don't let your self do it until you finish the task! Food is a good motivator.

Don't eat until you finish that article!

(Just kidding)

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, August 16, 2004

I have the same problem as you.

However, I have been improving for the last 2 weeks, and I think I might have won the fight this time. What made the difference for me :

- I have started to eat far more healthy and nutricious food. This gives me more energy, and I don't feel like I need a sugar-fix just to stay awake.

- I started to use Life Balance, a program for planning your days, made by www.llamagraphics.com. It has a graph showing what topics you have been spending your time on, and automatically adjusts priority so that topics you have been neglecting goes higher on your todo-list. Does other nice things too!

- I realized that what was holding me back was fear. Fear that the activity I was procrastinating about would not be pleasant. Sounds stupid, because common sense say that not all activities can be pleasant, but still - that was why I procrastinated. I am now practicing doing things I don't like to do, instead of thinking that if only I could do X or had Y amount of money, or blah blah - it wouldn't be an unpleasant task. Now I just accept that it is an unpleasant task, and that some of my precious time has to be spend on doing unpleasant things.

I hope this can be of help to you.

Syntax
Monday, August 16, 2004

I prefer exercising in the mornings.  That gives me energy for the day.  It is very useful, especially if you sit at a desk more than 8 hours per day.  Every time i have tried gyms on the evenings i have found it very difficult to sleep early.  I had to spend hours browsing or watching TV.  That was just a vicious cycle.

Throwaway
Monday, August 16, 2004

I am also in this kind of state at the moment.

I found this article on 'Structured Procrastination' helpful...

http://www-csli.stanford.edu/~john/procrastination.html

After all, admitting you have a problem is the first step.

I also find things like pair programming eliminate this problem - but I'm working on my own at the moment.

MarkTaw has, I think, hit on the root of the problem for me:

"1. They're major projects and intimidating. Have you really tried a next-actions list?"

Spot on.  This particular project is large, and hard.  The next actions list worked for a while, but its effects are wearing off again.

"2. They have a vague payoff."

True, too true. Also, milestones and objectives are poorly defined.

Now where did I put that "get back to work" sign?

Tom (a programmer)
Monday, August 16, 2004

I love this.

I am reading a thread about getting focused on work, because I am wanting something to distract myself from actually doing my work.....

oh the irony.

Aussie chick
Monday, August 16, 2004

Wjile you're doing your irony can you do mine as well, please? I hate going to work with my shirts creased.


Monday, August 16, 2004

I like that the busiest thread on the board is the one about how to get to work....
oh, the irony!

devinmoore.com
Monday, August 16, 2004

> NB Mark I am keeping an eye out for the Molloy book.

The last person I would look to for time management advise is Mick Malloy....

Murg
Monday, August 16, 2004

++8 am -> Get up.
9 am ->Go to office.
9 am - 6 pm -> Office work. Out of those 9 hours, I spend 1 hour on lunch. At least 2 hours,  on browsing.
7 to 8:30 pm -> Gym
9 pm -> Come home. Have light dinner.
9:30 to 1 pm -> Browsing again. ++

er... what's wrong wit this schedule, again?

Kenny
Monday, August 16, 2004

Syntax,

That LifeBalance program looks interesting. I will try it once I reach home today.

Anyway, its Monday today and I don't want to spend time on browsing! I will get back to work now. Hopefully by evening, there will be few more thoughts added to this discussion! :)

JD

JD
Monday, August 16, 2004

JD,


This will sound "jedi" like, but you might want to look into meditation to "quiet" your mind. Seriously!  I had the exact same problem a while ago. The problem is that the mind just keeps yapping which is what it is designed for... However, you need to be able to quiet it down at will. Otherwise it takes over and becomes a useless tool.

I'd recommend picking up a few meditation related books. Some authors to look for are Deepak Chopra, Wayne W. Dyer and Neale Donald Walsch or whoever works for you.

Good luck!

Yoda
Monday, August 16, 2004

I know that I seem to be more of a 'thinker' if I let it take root at home.

If I 'think' about doing laundry, dishes or picking up the remnants of the chinese takeout I had a few nights ago etc... rather than actually doing it, the mindset seems to start to spread.

Likewise, if I go all out cleaning the apartment, managing finances, and stuff like that, then I am much more motivated otherwise too. Sort of like it is contagious, both ways.

Chance
Monday, August 16, 2004

"If there are certain places that you waste a lot of time (like JoS...), try blocking them at your firewall or proxy server - I've done that with varying degrees of success in the past." (Philo)

This makes me feel much better.  I haven't done this, but I need to.

Rich
Tuesday, August 17, 2004

I'm with Kenny on this one. :)

Crimson
Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The schedule includes no time for sex. That's the real problem. Sex is the only real motivator in the adult world. And money, but probably only because money leads to sex.

www.MarkTAW.com
Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Mark, now only if laying a girl was so easy...

All my attempts have been unsuccessful! :( But hey, I am not complaining! ;)

JD

JD
Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Thanks guys for the wonderful response!

I got some very useful tips and hopefully I will be able to fix up things soon!

JD

JD
Tuesday, August 17, 2004

>All my attempts have been unsuccessful! :( But hey, I am not complaining! ;)

How does that work? Or shouldn't I ask?

Aussie chick
Tuesday, August 17, 2004

AC, it will be another thread to discuss the 'attempts'.. ;)

JD

JD
Tuesday, August 17, 2004

It's been my experience that you can only have so much sex.  Now, perhaps I'm peculiar in this regard, but I've had so much sex in my life, between the ages of 16 and 27, that I'm just about done with it.  Seriously.  It's just not such a big deal anymore.  It's sort of like picking up a recent issue of a comic you used to read when you were a kid.  It's a nifty treat once in awhile, but the novelty wears off.

muppet
Tuesday, August 17, 2004

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