So what causes the mental force field? There appear to be two major factors: whether the task is hard and whether its assigned. Hard problems Break it down The first kind of hard problem is the problem thats too big. Say you want to build a recipe organizing program. Nobody can really just sit down and build a recipe organizer. Thats a goal, not a task. A task is a specific concrete step you can take towards your goal. A good first task might be something like draw a mockup of the screen that displays a recipe.
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Ive spent a bunch of time trying to explore this and the best way i can describe it is that your brain puts up a sort of mental force field around a task. Ever play with two magnets? If you build orient the magnets properly and try to push them towards each other, theyll repel fiercely. As you essay move them around, you can sort of feel out the edges of the magnetic field. And as you try to bring the magnets together, the field will push you back or off in another direction. The mental block seems to work in the same way. Its not particularly solid or visible, but you can sort of feel it around the edges. And the more you try to go towards it the more it pushes you away. And so, not surprisingly, you end up going in another direction. 3 And just as you cant get two repelling magnets to sit together just by pushing real hard — theyll fling back as soon as you stop pushing — ive never been able to overcome this mental force field through sheer willpower. Instead, you have to be sneaky about it — you have to rotate a magnet.
For another, having someone else there forces you to work instead of getting distracted. Procrastination and the mental force field But all of this is sort of dodging the issue. The real productivity problem people have is procrastination. Its something of a dirty little secret, but everyone procrastinates — severely. Its not just you. But that doesnt mean you shouldnt try to stop. To the outside observer, it looks like pdf youre just doing something fun (like playing a game or reading the news) instead of doing your actual work. (This usually causes the outside observer to think youre lazy and bad.) But the real question is: whats going on inside your head?
And when I need database to go somewhere on foot, i run. Talk to cheerful people, easing mental constraints is much harder. One thing that helps is having friends who are cheerful. For example, i always find myself much more inclined to work after talking to paul Graham or Dan Connolly — they just radiate energy. Its plan tempting to think that you need to get away from people and shut yourself off in your room to do any real work, but this can be so demoralizing that its actually less efficient. Share the load, even if your friends arent cheerful, just working on a hard problem with someone else makes it much easier. For one thing, the mental weight gets spread across both people.
Improving it is simple: eat, sleep, and exercise. Yet I somehow manage to screw up even this. I dont like going to get food, so Ill often work right through being hungry and end up so tired out that I cant bring myself to go get food. 2, its tempting to say to yourself, i know Im tired but I cant take a nap — i have work. In fact, youll be much more productive if you do take that nap, since youll improve the quality of the days remaining time and you were going to have to sleep sometime anyway. I dont really exercise much so Im probably not the best person to give advice on that bit, but I do try to work it in where i can. While Im lying down reading, i do situps.
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Ive even written whole articles in the subway. 1 (I used to write do this, but now I just carry my computerphone everywhere. It doesnt let me give people information physically, but it makes up for it by giving me something to read all the time (email) and pushing my notes straight into my email inbox, where Im forced to deal with them right away.). Avoid being interrupted, for tasks that require serious focus, you should avoid getting interrupted. One simple way is to go somewhere interrupters cant find you. Another is to set up an agreement with the people around you: dont bother me when the door is closed or im me if I have headphones on (and then you can ignore the ims until youre free). You dont want to overdo.
Sometimes if youre really wasting time you should be distracted. Its a much better use of time to help someone else with their problem than it is to sit and read the news. Thats why setting up specific agreements is a good idea: you can be interrupted when youre not really focusing. Ease mental constraints, eat, sleep, exercise. Time when youre hungry or tired or twitchy is low-quality time.
Whenever I hear about a movie i should watch, i put it in a special folder on my computer. Now whenever I feel like watching tv, i just open up that folder. Ive also thought about some more intrusive ways of doing this. For example, a web page that pops up with a list of articles in my to read folder whenever I try to check some weblogs. Or maybe even a window that pops up with work suggestions occasionally for me to see when Im goofing off. Make your time higher quality, making the best use of the time you have can only get you so far.
The much more important problem is making more higher quality time for yourself. Most peoples time is eaten up by things like school and work. Obviously if you attend one of these, you should stop. But what else can you do? Ease physical constraints, carry pen and paper. Pretty much everyone interesting i know has some sort of pocket notebook they carry at all times. Pen and paper is immediately useful in all kinds of circumstances — if you need to write something down for somebody, take notes on something, scratch down an idea, and.
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Writing this, for example, involves reading about other procrastination systems, thinking up new sections of the article, cleaning up sentences, emailing people with questions, and so on, all in addition to the actual work of writing the text. Each task can go under the appropriate section, so that you professional can do it when you have the right kind of time. Integrate the list with your life. Once you have this list, the problem becomes remembering to look. And the best way to remember to look at it is to make looking at it what you would do anyway. For example, i keep a stack of books on my desk, with the ones Im currently reading on top. When I need a book to read, i just grab the top one off the stack. I do the same thing with TV/movies.
Creativity comes from applying things you learn in other fields to the field you work. If you have a bunch of trip different projects going in different fields, then you have many more ideas you can apply. Make a list, coming up with a bunch of different things to work on shouldnt be hard — most people have tons of stuff they want to get done. But if you try to keep it all in your head it quickly gets overwhelming. The psychic pressure of having to remember all of it can make you crazy. The solution is again simple: write it down. Once you have a list of all the things you want to do, you can organize it by kind. For example, my list is programming, writing, thinking, errands, reading, listening, and watching (in that order). Most major projects involve a bunch of these different tasks.
ever true. Just this moment for example, im trying to fix my posture, exercise some muscles, drink some fluids, clean off my desk, im with my brother, and write this essay. Over the course the day, ive worked on this essay, read a book, had some food, answered some email, chatted with friends, done some shopping, worked on a couple other essays, backed up my hard drive, and organized my book list. In the past week ive worked on several different software projects, read several different books, studied a couple different programming languages, moved some of my stuff, and. Having a lot of different projects gives you work for different qualities of time. Plus, youll have other things to work on if you get stuck or bored (and that can give your mind time to unstick yourself). It also makes you more creative.
First, you have to database make the best of each kind of time. And second, you have to try to make your time higher-quality. Spend time efficiently, choose good problems, life is short (or so Im told) so why waste it doing something dumb? Its easy to start working on something because its convenient, but you should always be questioning yourself about. Is there something more important you can work on? Why dont you do that instead? Such questions are hard to face up to (eventually, if you follow this rule, youll have to ask yourself why youre not working on the most important problem in the world) but each little step makes you more productive. This isnt to say that all your time should be spent on the most important problem in the world. Mine certainly isnt (after all, Im writing this essay).
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Its hard to disagree with the sentiment — writing a novel is undoubtedly a better use of time than watching tv — but what about the hidden assumption? Such comments imply that time is fungible — that time spent watching tv can just as easily be spent writing a novel. And sadly, thats just not the case. Time has various levels of quality. If Im walking to the subway station and ive forgotten my notebook, then its pretty hard for me to write more than a couple paragraphs. And its tough to focus when you keep getting interrupted. Theres also a mental component: sometimes I feel happy and motivated and ready to work on something, but other entry times I feel so sad and tired I can only watch. If you want to be more productive then, you have to recognize this fact and deal with.