I’m triggered, now what?

The more fun your work, the less likely it is to set off these triggers. You won’t struggle to focus—tasks will attract your attention because they’ll be far less tedious, frustrating, challenging, and so on. There are a lot of strategies for overcoming procrastination. But making a project more fun disables a bunch of procrastination triggers at once, while also making your work more enjoyable. It’s a great strategy.

~ Chris Bailey from, https://chrisbailey.com/how-to-stop-procrastinating-by-making-your-work-more-fun/

Great little article from Bailey with great points about the really common things that trigger procrastination, and some ideas on how to beat each one. What’s been working for me for a while is something inspired by Yoda’s comment that, “named your fear must be, before banish it you can.” I can tell when I’m procrastinating; perhaps not always, but definitely often. At the point of realization, I play the name–game: “Craig, what exactly is it that you don’t want to do?” Then like the school guidance counselor always trying to talk me out of sabotaging myself into detention, “Are you sure that’s the thing? Be specific.” Upon realizing I’m still in their office, “I don’t think you’re as sure as you think you are. Can you explain it to me like I’m 5 years old?” Until eventually, it’s so blinding clear what I need to do (or skip, or change, or screw up 3 minutes of courage, or whatever) that I just freaking stomp that procrastination.

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One reason why I journal

When we conjure up what it will be like to start a new practice, form a new habit, knock an item off a bucket list, we see the fun but not the work. We see an image in which all the drudgery has been edited out, and only the montage of rewards left in.

~ Brett McKay from, https://www.artofmanliness.com/character/advice/sunday-firesides-do-you-like-the-idea-more-than-the-reality/

Great points from McKay. I often enjoy inverting problems like the one he’s describing. Let’s say I thought a lot about the idea and the reality and decided far in the past to start something—for example, a daily podcast of me reading quotes. Then the inversion of the problem McKay is writing about would be to figure out, in the present, if my current experience of the reality matches what I expected the reality to be, back when I made the decision. Because, if I don’t do that, how do I get better at making the idea/reality choice McKay is discussing?

This is one reason I journal. For every project (and much more) in the last decade I’ve journaled about it. An idea begins to appear repeatedly in my journal entries. Sometimes it grows into my laying out the expected reality—the work this is going to require, the physical and emotional costs, the expected outcome(s), the rewards, etc.. Then I regularly reread my old journal entries and see how much of an idiot I was. ;)

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So many paths

In early January, I started regular co-working sessions with a friend, Sumana Harihareswara. She read that post from 2013 about wanting to write more, and emailed me to see if I wanted to form an accountability team to work on our writing together. She’s making progress on her book, and I’m writing more here: we’ve been able to get a lot more done together than trying to work solo and power through.

~ Jacob Kaplan-Moss from, https://jacobian.org/2021/mar/9/coworking-to-write-more/

There are many paths to the top of Mt Getting Stuff Done. If you find yourself currently off the beaten path, this article is a nice trail map. It mentions cadence in the sense of “don’t break the chain” or “routine is your friend.” I want to talk about a recent epiphany I’ve had about a different way to look at cadence.

There are several things I’m currently doing which require ongoing, incremental effort. And for a long time, each of them to varying degrees, just wasn’t getting done to my satisfaction. I had repeatedly set goals, blocked out time, etc. Recently—unrelated to my points here about cadence—I’ve been making superlative progress on these things. (Because, reasons.) And I find that now I can see the cadence is much faster than it needs to be to reach my long-term goal. When these things weren’t getting done at all, I had an idea of the amount of work that was required to make meaningful progress. Now I can see that I can actually slow down. I’ve known, for these projects, just a teeny-tiny amount of work, would work. But I didn’t really believe it, until I had a cadence, and truly apprehended how teeny-tiny I could actually scale my efforts and still make meaningful progress.

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How to be productive

For me the pattern is now perfectly clear: the later I come at the task, the more time I’ll spend dancing around it before beginning in earnest. If I can make contact at an earlier hour, the urge to dance away from it is diminished, because I only have so many dance moves, and I’ll run out long before lunchtime.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2021/12/9-things-i-learned-about-productivity-this-year/

About once per year I trot out a, HOLY CRAP!

This entire article is jammed full of insights, only one of which did I quote above. I’d say that I have learned those same things. But absolutely I have not learned them in a single year. Where’s my time machine? I need to get this to my 16-year-old self.

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Or soon every day will have gone by

… and soon the day has gone by and we wonder what we did with the day.

~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/interstitial/

I marked this for “read later” back in December 2021, and am just getting around to reading it. I know that many—most? all?—of the amazing coincidences I find in my life arise from my innate, monkey-brain drive to see patterns and causation where none actually exists. I don’t care. It’s a nice coincidence that I’ve just gotten around to reading this, while in the past couple of weeks I’ve been simplifying and focusing on a small number of things that I want to be working on.

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Keeping you small

The trick is: You bite off more than you can chew… and then you still chew it. Your mind always believes it can do less than it actually can. It will tell you it’s too much, to stop, to take a berak, to cancel this or that. But your mind will lie to you to keep you small.

~ Will Smith

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Small asks

The world expects that its requests will be accepted. That assignments, lunch dates, new projects, and even favors will get a yes. […] It’s just a small ask, the person thinks. Responding or reacting to incoming asks becomes the narration of your days, instead of the generous work of making your own contribution.

~ Seth Godin

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Parkinson’s Law

Ferriss popularized the personal version of Parkinson’s Law, which correctly notes that our work expands to fill the time we give it. The original Economist essay on the topic also embeds an organizational version of the law, which I read to say that if you leave a group, or a team, or a company to operate without sufficient structure, they may converge toward unexpected and unproductive behaviors.

~ Cal Newport from, https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2021/09/01/revisiting-parkinsons-law/

Pithy sayings are punchy. (For example: Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the allotted time.) But they’re also woefully inadequate; there’s no room for depth or surety. In this case though, it turns out that Parkinson’s Law is based on actual research… into the bureaucracy of the British Navy. Who knew that this pithy little phrase is actually a real model based on actual research. (…uhm, Parkinson, that’s who.)

There are plenty of ways to turn Parkinson’s law into actionable direction: Ship it. Iterate and course-correct. Show me your discard pile. (That is to say, do sub-par work until your work is up to par.) Minimum viable noun. (Which urges one to chop off everything not absolutely necessary in order to get that noun into the world sooner.) All of which, I’m semi-surprised to note, are about constraining the time allotted to do the work. It’s all about moving the goal posts closer.

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Consistent, Current and Context-driven

The podcast episode, Consistent, Current and Context-driven, is a scant 5 minutes and 43 seconds long. You’ll probably want to pause and take some notes. After it widens your eyes, go revisit your copy of Getting Things Done—or omgbecky buy a copy, …how do you not own a copy?

Everything I have ever accomplished is because I have systems within which I can think and operate; our brains are for having ideas, not for remembering things [such as: to-do lists, dates, reminders, etc.]

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