Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Overcoming Procrastination (HELP!)


Hi guys,

I'm a sofware developer who is feeling a bit burned out.

I'm a good performer at work but beside work I dont do much, I just surf the web for hours or chat on the MSN.

I wanted to start working on a small game in order to self publish on the internet and go the gym and work out but I simply cannot because I just can't get anything done after work, I feel so tired and lazy.

Can anyone has some tips and advices to give me in order to fight procrastination

seriously this is killing me, there's so much I want to get done and I cannot get started, it's frustrating ...

Thanks for listening!

A Depressed guy!

A Depressed Procrastinator
Saturday, September 13, 2003

I was like that. But the bills kept piling up and with all the expenses I decided to get a least a little work done each day. After a while the home business found some steam and now I am too busy dealing with all the orders. It's not much but the business pushes you forward after that.

Anonymous
Saturday, September 13, 2003

As stupid as it sounds, just do it.  Give yourself triggers to reinforce the fact that you are wasting your time.

You corpulent pile of blubber!  (just my personal method <g>)

Exercise is a natural anti-depressent as well as an excellent method to increase motivation.  Pick something you like, bike riding or jogging in the park is a great way to girl (or guy) watch or even (gasp!) interact.

I'll have gotten very high from yoga and long distance running and it also increases virility and lessons the need for sleep... blah, blah

B#
Saturday, September 13, 2003

I started  to disconnect my phone in the mornings and I was amazed at the productivity increase and how little need I had to surf.  I kept telling myself I needed the net to do research and about once a week I actually do NEED it.

B#
Saturday, September 13, 2003

As B# was elluding to, disconnecting can do wonders for your life. Disconnect the cable and disconnect the high speed internet (assuming you have internet at work). Take a one month challenge to do away with these distractions (okay, maybe 95% distraction, 5% utility). Use that month to jumpstart your ideas.

m
Saturday, September 13, 2003

Set up some rules for yourself, too, like "No surfing until after I have had my walk."  In other words, make the stuff you like to spend your time on contingent on getting done with the stuff that you are avoiding.  Then follow the rules. 

Also, stay conscious of your priorities.  There's no such thing as "I don't have time to exercise" or whatever.  You do have the time, you just choose to spend it on something else.  If that something else is more important than taking care of yourself, then so be it.  Chances are, though, that it is not, if you think it through.

Another thing is to choose a goal and then subordinate everything else to it.  If the stuff you are doing helps you achieve that goal, then keep doing it.  If it doesn't help, or worse, takes you away from your goal, then you have to stop it or limit it.  Sitting in front of a computer or television is a great example of something that takes you away from a goal of getting trim. Recognize it as such and deal with it appropriately. 

Coach yourself with "Every hour I sit here surfing will require me to run one extra mile later on in order to undo the damage I am doing."  Keep one of those thermometer graphs like they use for fundraisers and maintain it.  It can show you the "physical debt" you are building up.  Put an automated version of it on your desktop so you can stare at it in horror while you fool around.  Make it beep every time it ticks up a notch.

anon
Saturday, September 13, 2003

this might sound tongue in cheek, and it is, but only sort of.
you probably just need to get laid. I had the same problem you did, then i realized I hadn't had a girlfriend for a year and a half. i solved that problem and away with it went all my procrastination, depression, lonliness, etc.  if that seems hard, i recommend exercise and keeping a journal. the http://www.davidco.com guy has a bunch of tricks, but those are the main ones.

rz
Saturday, September 13, 2003

http://www.mentalhelp.net/psyhelp/

This book (you can read/download it free) has some (many) tips how to overcome different behaviours, and recommends several techniques for those. Chapter 11 and 14 is for you I think.

-------------------

Topics:
CHAPTER 3 - Values and Morals: Guidelines for Living
CHAPTER 4 - Behavior, Motivation, and Self-Control
CHAPTER 5 - Stress, Anxiety, Fears, and Psychosomatic Disorders
CHAPTER 6 - Happiness, Depression and Self-Concept
CHAPTER 7 - Anger and Aggression
CHAPTER 8 - Dependency and Conformity
CHAPTER 9 - Understanding Ourselves and Our Relationships
CHAPTER 10 - Dating, Love, Marriage, and Sex

CHAPTER 11 - Methods for Changing Behavior
CHAPTER 12 - Methods of Changing Emotions
CHAPTER 13 - Methods for Developing Skills
CHAPTER 14 - Methods for Changing Our Thoughts, Attitudes, Self-concept, Motivation, Values, and Expectations
CHAPTER 15 - Methods for Gaining Insight into Ourselves

na
Sunday, September 14, 2003

B# : Please, not the old Nike Slogan "Just Do It!" ;-)


I've been advised by a friend to study Anthony Robbins
work.

Has anyone attented any to his seminaras, read any of his books or listened to any of his audio materials ?

I thought if this guy help Fortune 500 CEOs he might be able to give me some tips & advices ?

Basically my questions is : Is Anthony Robbins worth to read & listen ?

A Depressed Procrastinator
Sunday, September 14, 2003

Go to the gym, no matter what.

Then you'll feel better.

Work on code without the internet connection.

Write 3 (no more) things you want to achieve today on a card and carry it with you.

Do them. Not other things but just what's on the card.

At the end of the day put the card in the trashcan.

Repeat every day.

Remember : a bad habit is just an habit. It can be changed.

Phil
Sunday, September 14, 2003

Yea., forget the game for now.  Try some non computer activities.  Try to pick something that is easy and reasonable to do on a daily basis.  Like cooking, or running,  (not skydiving)  It will also make you a more interesting person.  "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy".  Good luck.  In the end, you need to pick someything that you are motivated to do, so you drop the surfing habit. 

Bella
Sunday, September 14, 2003

You don't need Tony Robbins, or at least not all of his work.  You need only one pattern that he teaches, the "swish" pattern.  He didn't invent it; it's really a Richard Bandler thing (one of the guys that Robbins actually learned most of his stuff from).  Anyway, it's described in a number of books, including:

Unlimited Power (Robbins)
Using Your Brain... For A Change (Bandler)
Change Your Mind, And Keep The Change (Andreas)

Robbins' book presents few details on the technique.  He presents it as a simple formula, but in that simplistic form it doesn't work for everybody.  Bandler's book is better, it gives you plenty of information to let you tune it to your personal cognitive style.  Andeas' book is intended for therapists, but it goes into a lot of variants for people with unusual cognitive styles.  On the whole, I'd recommend Bandler's book, because it's short and results-oriented, with almost no "you can do it!" fluff added.

Anyway, the "swish" is used to induce a motivational response, keyed to a very specific sensory cue.  For example, seeing the computer in front of you.  Visual cues are easiest to work with, but the Andreas book also offers some hints for using sound or touch as cues.

It just occurred to me that you could also google for "swish pattern"...  Indeed, the first hit that comes up:

http://www.manifestation.com/neurotoys/swish.php3

has at least as good of a description of the technique as is in Robbins' book, and even includes a little animation to demonstrate the process.  But Bandler's book is *much* better, because it calls attention to the many details needed to make it work properly.  If you use the linked page above, let me call out a few points that are only vaguely implied in it:

1. The "response" image must be dissociated: it's a "picture of you", not "seeing through your eyes".

2. The "cue" image must be associated: you see the cue through *your* eyes, as though it was in front of you right then.  *Don't* make a "picture of" it, just "picture it"

3. You *must* clear the visual field between swishes.  If you don't, you'll effectively be coding a continuous loop between motivation and demotivation.

4. The response image should be an "image of the you who has more choices", rather than an image of you *doing* something.  You don't want a specific action, rather, you want an image of yourself as the kind of person you want to be, who would be able to make good decisions about how to spend his time.  In effect, this image is really a kind of symbol or variable for a mental state you want to induce.

5. Again...  do NOT try to program a specific behavior.  You want to expand your choices, not give yourself a new automatic response.  (Trust me on this one!)

6. Do the technique QUICKLY.  The first couple of times, you can go slowly in order to get set up, but after that do it FAST.  The animation on the page I linked gives a fair idea of the needed pace.

7. UNIT TESTING.  That is, check that you've embedded the response, and if not, recheck your technique.  To test, visualize the cue; you should find that the response image pops into your head immediately without any conscious effort.  If not, do the technique again, FASTER.  If it still fails your "unit test", you probably need a different set of submodalities than the standard "distance" swish, and should consult the Bandler book I mentioned.

8. FUNCTIONAL TESTING.  The unit test only checked that the routine is installed; now you need to test whether it does what you intended!  Go and put yourself in the cue situation.  How do you feel?  Is it what you intended?  If not, rethink your response image and go back and do it again.  Also, check whether there are *other* cues that trigger your procrastination/depression response.  A swish has limited generalization, so you may need to do the technique for more than one cue image.  Don't try to do them all at once; be systematic and do one cue at a time, unit test it, and functional test it.

Not surprisingly, NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) is a lot like other kinds of programming.  The co-creator of the field, Richard Bandler, started his career as a mathematician and computer programmer.  While working his way through school, he got a job editing transcripts of various therapists' work, and he noticed some interesting things about the way really effective therapists work.  Together with one of his professors -- John Grinder, a linguist -- they developed the discoveries into a fascinating area of study for anybody interested in how people think and communicate.  Most of Tony Robbins' stuff is extremely watered-down Bandler and Grinder.  You know how computers in movies behave, versus computers in real life?  That's the relationship between what Robbins puts out and the real deal.  Or maybe more like the difference between reading an article on Java for PHB's, and doing a class project to implement a JVM!

Anyway...  good luck, and don't spend so much time on this stuff that it becomes a new method of procrastination...  :)

Phillip J. Eby
Sunday, September 14, 2003

Try grabbing some food with nutritional value (sugars just give you a sugar low) after work but before you start on something.  Try a cup of caffiene, also, but remember to stop the caffiene at least 4 hours before you plan on sleeping.

You haven't mentioned your weekend time.  Often times, it's easier to get stuff done over the weekend and just reserve the nights after work for playing, socializing, and domestic upkeep.

Work out in the morning before work.  As with any workout plan, start light and work your way up.

Get out on the weekday evenings instead of chatting online.  Only chat online with people you actively care about.

One technique for dealing with random websurfing is to make sure that you get bored before too long.  So, unless I'm actively working on something that needs websurfing, I've got maybe 10-20 sites that I read, and that's it.  If you restrict yourself to those sites, you still have the freedom to surf, but you will get bored if all you are doing is reloading the same 20 pages all weekend (unless you are a slashdot troll, of course)

You might try sitting down for an entire weekend and doing *nothing* but surfing the web.  Start on Friday and continue until Sunday night.  If you manage to get sick of long sessions of web surfing, you will not want to do it as much.  I've managed to cure myself of a few compulsive behaviours that way.

Develop a trigger event or events that means that it's home-coding time.  Try having a set of music that you only play while coding at home.  Have a specific beverage, a specific location, etc. that means you are working on your game.  Light candles, whatever it takes.

Flamebait Sr.
Sunday, September 14, 2003

Phillip

You nailed it!

B#
Sunday, September 14, 2003

Phillip - sounds suspiciously like the same theory underlying affirmations. Also related to my personal theory that we make our own luck - if we firmly believe we're lucky, we will be, and vice versa.

All rooted in the idea that you can teach your brain to subconsciously guide your reactions to stimuli...

Good stuff!

Philo

Philo
Sunday, September 14, 2003

Cut down on caffeine, and try to eat better and drink more water.

Park your car ten minutes from work and walk the distance inbetween.

When your body's healthy you have lot more energy, and it becomes a lot easier to both keep it healthy and do other things.

Mr Jack
Monday, September 15, 2003

When I get into a rut like this, the thought, and fear, that I CAN'T do what it takes to get through a day, looms large.

Then, with a start, I realize that actually I CAN do these things. I've just gotten into the habit of breaking promises to myself that I'll do them.

My advice: don't try to do all these things at once, start by going to the gym. Do that for three weeks. Put a gold star on your calendar every day you succeed in going to the gym (yes, I'm serious when I say this). When you have 21 gold stars, allow yourself a small treat such as a book you've been wanting. Miss a day, go back to day 1.

Good luck. You CAN do it, you just don't feel like it is all. There is a difference!

Fernanda Stickpot
Monday, September 15, 2003

There is a lot of related, useful discussion at Slashdot on the same sort of issue not that long ago:

http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/07/24/2355245

Probably worth browsing at +3.

My problem is that I spend too much time reading about stuff rather than actually doing it...

Gordon Hartley
Monday, September 15, 2003

I'd like to point you to another article, by Steve Pavlina:
http://www.dexterity.com/articles/overcoming-procrastination.htm

I guess the title says it all.

- Roland
Monday, September 15, 2003

"All rooted in the idea that you can teach your brain to subconsciously guide your reactions to stimuli..."

Obviously, people do this on a regular basis, or they'd have difficulty driving and talking on the phone at the same time.

Oh, wait...  :)

Anyway, this "stuff" is considerably more specific than "affirmations".  Some questions an NLPer would ask about an affirmation might include "What tone of voice is it in?  Is it your voice or someone else's?  Where is it coming from?  What feeling(s) or images does it produce when you hear it?"  And that's just for starters.  :)

When it comes to "subjective" experience, i.e. the things that happen inside our heads all the time, the repeatability of experiments is typically very poor, when you are applying it to lots of different people.  At least, if one operates at the level of the typical self-help book or guru! 

We all have the same hardware, but trying to transfer one person's approach (e.g. affirmations) to another person's head might be like trying to run an OS/2 binary on a Mac running OS/X.  Or maybe it's more like trying to run Java code through a C++ compiler, and vice versa.  It might get somewhere, or it might not, depending on what was in the input, and what compiler you used.

That's why, of the different suggestions given here for the OP's procrastination problem, some will or won't work, for a given person.  One part of the issue is that we rarely give suggestions to one another with sufficient precision to allow another person to reproduce the mental process that's we're suggesting. 

Even if the process described is one that *could* work, it still won't if the person doesn't know what the actual steps are.  This is especially true when people say things like "Just do it."  I guarantee you, a person who says "just do it" has mental processing steps that take place *before* they "just do it"!  It's simply that those steps are so streamlined that they don't attract conscious attention, or they don't consider them to be part of the process.  ("Well *of course* I think of what it is I want to do first...  Duh.")  People always act in response to either external stimuli or internal representations, they don't "just do" *anything*.

The advance to the state of the art that Bandler and Grinder made was the realization that a signficant part of what our brains respond to (internally or externally) is form, not function.  Or to put it another way, brains encode metadata through various characteristics of the content.  (Many advertising, marketing, and sales techniques attempt to exploit this by presenting your brain with inputs that have the desired metadata already embedded in the content.)

Typically, people repeat the same processes over and over, no matter what *content* you put into the process.  This often means, by the way, that you can tell somebody ten ways to solve their problem, but they feed all your content through the same process that creates the problem!  (E.g., you tell somebody ways to not procrastinate, and they put off implementing your solutions!)

You can think of these processes as being like daemon processes running on a computer, that continually read from certain pipes and write to others.  Going back to the subject of procrastination, for example, one might elicit (some individual's) procrastination process as, "see work to do, feel bad about it, say "I'll do it in a minute", picture something else to do, then do it, and say, "I probably shouldn't be doing this."  In NLP notation, that's a Ve-Kim-Aidp-Vc-Ke-Aid strategy, or a two-phase VKA loop.

If we wanted to try to "exploit" this process to produce a different result, we can simply encode the I/O on the same channels to produce the same two-phase VKA loop: e.g. "imagine some part of the work completed, feel good about the idea of making progress, say "I think I'll get started", look around for what you can do to get started, do it, and say, "It's going to be great to make some progress on this.  (Technically, that's a Vc-Kim-Aid-Ve-Ke-Aid strategy, but it'd probably be close enough.)

Some of the more academic NLP works deal with formal (i.e. mathematical) structure for analyzing and synthesizing strategy sequences, including such well-formedness rules as "strategies must exit after some number of steps" and "must include an external step every N steps".  Amusingly enough, you'll recognize these as computer science principles: i.e.,  useful programs eventually terminate, and they must perform some I/O!

Further, NLP as a discipline encourages the same sort of rigor that we use as developers: they believe in well-defined requirements (the principle of a "well-formed outcome" in NLP is remarkably similar to the idea of a sufficiently-specified requirement, and their techniques for getting them are equally applicable to gathering software requirements). 

NLP also encourages you to "write the test first" - a common first maneuver is to get somebody to demonstrate the behavior (e.g procrastination) that is a problem for them, and to ensure that you can reliably determine what sensory input will reproduce that "bug", so that after you've done whatever you're trying to do, you can re-run the "test" and ensure that it passes!

Anyway...  that's what makes NLP fascinating for me as a software developer.  People are also pretty programmable, and it's fascinating just to read these "reference manuals" for the hardware, even if I don't make much use of it on a day-to-day basis.

The manuals, I mean, not the hardware.  :)  By the way, I do strongly advise that if one is curious about NLP in a scientific sense, reading works by Bandler and Grinder is much preferred to watered-down versions.  I've noticed that many more "popular" NLP works lack precision, to say the least.  I think what happens is that the authors go to a workshop or seminar, learn the cool techniques that get taught in seminars, and then come back and write about them.  Unfortunately, there's a lot of difference in learning how to *do* something, and learning how to explain how to somebody else how to do it.  So, if you want to understand the theory, read the original works from the 70's, and if you want to learn how to *do* the stuff, take a seminar, but don't mess with Mr. (or Ms.) in-betweens.

Phillip J. Eby
Monday, September 15, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home