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Cyclic up and down in productivity

I would like to know how you handle the following situation when (well, if) you are facing it:

After a very great productivity period (at customer locations, doing consulting work etc), I find myself back in the office (I am on my own) and just procastinating a lot (surfing here for example).

I made a list of things do to, manage to do some of the tasks there but it really feels excruciatingly hard to do.

No matter what amount of caffeine or sleep, I am just boring myself to death.

There is enough money & business ready for the next 3 months (signed off and all).

Any ideas to bring the motivation back ?

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Heh, just been going through this myself.  The worst is when you feel so guilty about not getting anything done that you can't get anything done for guilt....

Take a couple of days off and relax (no housework, no work-related reading, just get out into the garden with a couple of novels and a few bottles of beer).  Until then (and when you get back), get off home on time even if you haven't achieved much (you'll just procrasinate more if you stay on).

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Caffeine is evil - it reduces your ability to motivate yourself, and your ability to solve complex problems. It is highly addictive, and has highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Switch to tea for a while, see if it helps. Eat properly. Exercise. Get some sex.

Just accept that some days nothing gets done.

Mr Jack
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Chapter 4

It worked for me.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Mr. Jack is right, caffeine is addictive.  Take advantage of your addiction:  Don't drink coffee at your desk, use a coffee break as a reward for completing a task. I've been using heroin this way for few weeks with good results!

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Tea seems to have about 50% as much caffeine as brewed coffee. Even green tea has caffeine. Try fruit juice.

Although the motivation thing won't be solved by drinking, well, pretty much anything.

C Rose
Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Well, why do you ask us? Why don't you ask yourself this question?

Try some motivation tapes by Paul Scheele or Richard Bandler.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Caffeine isn't likely your problem. I've had periods of intense productivity for months on end when I was drinking dozens (pluralized intentionally) of cups of coffee a day, and periods of burnout when I was drinking close to none. I've also experienced the opposite. (Having said that I have significantly reduced caffeine, but only because of persistent headaches due to a caffeine overload, not to mention some trips where coffee wasn't as available as it is in Southern Ontario.

Ultimately it's all psychological. Burnout for most professionals relates to a feeling of running to stand still -- months of extreme productivity basically leaves you in the same professional, personal, and financial situation, merely maintaining the status quo -- it doesn't seem to be leading anywhere, and is coasting on a plateau (or in a valley depending upon one's perspective). It's worse in this profession because you truly have to run vigorously to stand still given the constant technology churn.

Note that maintaining the status quo is often a very worthwhile goal (and in many jobs, such as factory work, it is the best that one can hope for), but many in this field have a mindset that opposes it. It often comes about when people fail to have goals and a feeling of progress in other aspects of their life, be it renovating a room or obtaining that brown belt, etc.

Dennis Forbes
Tuesday, March 30, 2004

You have two choices for motivation: positve or negative reinforcement.  Since everyone has suggested the positive side I'll give you ideas for negative:
If you don't get motivated you'll loose your job which will cause you to loose your house/apartment, your significant other will leave, your dog will bite you then leave you, and you'll becoming the smelly guy on the corner begging for change.  Or worse yet you'll need to get a REAL job where you have to work instead of play with a computer all day.

Bill Rushmore
Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Thanks !

I tried some of the advice, namely:

* upgraded the PC of my girlfriend w/ some memory
* cleaned up the fishtank (the fish is happier)
* performed a full backup of my machines
* ate apples, drank fruit juice
* read some comic books laying on the bed
* cleaned up the files for a project (CVS, merged stuff etc)
* made some house chores like cleaning the kitchen etc
* burned some incence
* wrote down a list of technologies I commit to
* had a cigarette in the garden w/ the cats
* had a great talk w/ my girlfriend about life etc (felt great, let's do the other part this evening :-) )

The plateauing effect mentioned is also something I feel.

Maybe the fact that I've to spend the day here alone is not something I like much. I'll search for some other people w/ who I can build some kind of bigger structure.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

... and I've got the tapes of those guys. Even the Tony Robbins personal power set.

And I *use* them. Still, the up and down effect shows up regularly.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Bill, I quit the job to create my own.

Thus, I cannot fire myself :-)

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Follow some task religeously.  They may not be useful in direct productivity but it will cause the non-productive period to disappear often.

Also don't involve in any thing too dangerously.  See your time ahead.

A Developer
Tuesday, March 30, 2004

I get this post-task lethargy all the time. Having busted a gut to get something finished it's soooooo hard to start the next thing.

1. Surrender to it and goof off - coupla days max, though.

2. The trick is to "just get started" on the nex task. I do this by picking the smallest, easiest chunk of the next project I can find (next project is a airport traffic control system? Start by writing some routines to parse its config files).

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

"After a very great productivity period (at customer locations, doing consulting work etc), I find myself back in the office (I am on my own) and just procastinating a lot (surfing here for example)."

Sounds to me like work is FUN outside of the office and BORING in the office. Why do you think that is? Maybe get a wireless laptop and take it to Starbucks or something. Set up VPN if you need extra security. Maybe you're just a social creature and being around other people inspires you. Maybe it's the constant acknowledgement & feedback on the work you're doing, which you don't get when working alone.

So maybe these lulls in productivity aren't abnormal, and if you acknowledge them as such, you can start to address them in a more meaningful way.
Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Right on.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

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