For a while I’ve been telling myself I should start writing what’s on my mind about coding, and (american) football, and whatever.
Like anything you tell yourself that you should do… well you save it for later.
One of my arguments against my own motivation was that I had too many stuff on my mind, and finding where to start is already too much of a challenge for today.
Because life is full of irony, I’ve been bragging for the last few years that I had developed
a technique to overcome procrastination (sounds a lot like a motivational speaker, which I’m definitely not).
Isn’t it the perfect subject to start a blog I’ve kicked aside for a year ?
Understanding the cause
Procrastination is not really a thing, just like laziness.
Both are just words that put a judgement on symptoms, “not doing something”, instead of understanding why you “don’t do it”.
In my case, I found out that I had lofty expectations for the stuff I was procrastinating about.
I want that thing done so perfectly it becomes a daunting task, I’m overwhelmed.
The exact thought that flashes through my head when I give up on a task is in fact : This is too much for today.
I can’t speak for everyone, but procrastination doesn’t come when I don’t care, it often comes when I ask myself too much at once. Speaking in terms of “deadly sins”, the cause of procrastination would not be laziness, it would be vanity.
The solution : lowering the bar
Trying to “kick my own butt” brought poor results.
One thing that has worked so far is lowering the bar : all you need is too break down your huge task into something smaller.
Leave your pride aside, you won’t do it well at first. Winning ugly is better than not showing up for the game.
The most important thing is to get something done, event something that may seem insignificant.
In fact, that something can be as small as the bare minimum you can do before the sun sets :
- if you have to write a letter to appeal a parking ticket (never happened to me), just set your objective for today as low as “pulling a sheet of paper and writing my name on it”. Just that. Once you’ve done it, you can go to sleep.
- if you have to write up an essay, just ask yourself to create a blank Word file, and save it with a decent file name. Just that. Once you’ve done it, you can go to sleep.
- if you have to clean up your windows, just ask yourself to clean one window pane in your room. Just that. Once you’ve done it, you can go to sleep.
- if you have to fix some old code at work, just ask yourself to get one line fixed before lunch. Just that. Once you’ve done it, you can go to lunch.
For me two things can happen :
- Get so pumped up that I actually got something started that I finish it all at once
- I’m actually really tired / have something else to do, but my brain remembers that I actually started something, and the next morning it’s naturally on my mind when I wake up. Since I already started, there is no “entry ticket” anymore, I can get going fast.
This is nothing new to software developers working in agile environments.
When you break down a big task into small pieces, each small success fuels your hunger for more success.
Like in most things in life, all you need is to make that one tiny little step, and put all your heart into it. Momentum does the rest.
My father used to tell me that there is a lot more difference between zero and one, than between one and a million, because you can multiply zero with everything you want it’s still 0 (yup, he is the motivational speaker of the family).
Personal stuff aside, here it is, I got started with my tiny little step, my low hanging fruit, the easiest blog post I could figure out.
See ? Now that I have it all figured out with majestuous modesty, I should proceed to write something highly impressive… but it would be too much for today :)