Coping with procrastination

Sometimes it seems that writers do their best pieces when they’re writing about procrastination. Here’s entry by David Cain, based on his well-reflected experiences with decades long tendency to put things off:

Many of us career procrastinators believe that we can’t do something until our feelings let us. This is a myth. You don’t need the mind’s approval to get started. All you need is to get clear, on an intellectual level, what you want done, and then move your body until you’re in the middle of it.

How to work now and procrastinate later, Raptitude.com

 

Stealing from others

Don’t copy the product, copy the strategy. And don’t copy from your own industry:

If you manufacture tablet devices, don’t embarrass yourself by drawing inspiration from the closest tablet manufacturer. Instead, figure out why you prefer to order pizza from the place across town rather than the place by your office, why you’ll never again let that barber with all the piercings cut your hair, and why you still pay to see every single movie starring Harrison Ford, and draw your inspiration from there.

(The right way to steal ideas, Fast company)

Why designers must learn to think for themselves

Great (and critical towards (higher) education) essay by William Dereziewicz about the challenge of becoming original thinker in a culture (such as university), which appreciates following of orders. Dereziewicz is talking about USA and to a military graduates, but I find the following quote alarmingly accurate description of small but increasing group of  design students who, instead of wanting to think for themselves, demand detailed guiding towards a “right” solution.

We have a crisis of leadership in America because our overwhelming power and wealth, earned under earlier generations of leaders, made us complacent, and for too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going. Who can answer questions, but don’t know how to ask them. Who can fulfill goals, but don’t know how to set them. Who think about how to get things done, but not whether they’re worth doing in the first place. What we have now are the greatest technocrats the world has ever seen, people who have been trained to be incredibly good at one specific thing, but who have no interest in anything beyond their area of exper­tise. What we don’t have are leaders.

What we don’t have, in other words, are thinkers. People who can think for themselves. People who can formulate a new direction: for the country, for a corporation or a college, for the Army—a new way of doing things, a new way of looking at things. People, in other words, with vision.

 

(Solitude and leadership, The American scholar)

Structured procrastination

Putting things off can be turned into a productivity tool:

Perry’s advice is, first, to make a list of the things you have to do. Put a few important tasks at the top—these are the ones you will procrastinate. Then, below them, list some tasks that aren’t as important but that you nevertheless need to do. According to Perry, doing these less important tasks “becomes a way of not doing the things higher on the list.”

(The procrastination-killing tactic to try now (or in 10 minutes, Fast company)

Also Lifehacker lists Five counterintuitive ways to use procrastination and become productive. Structured procrastination is one of the items in the list.

Academic first draft in a month

You probably know NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, which is originally American but now global challenge for aspiring writers to write 50 000 word novel during November. For couple of years there has been a similar challenge for academics, called Ac(Bo)WriMo. I find the idea excellent and while it is rare to be able to write an academic book in a month, I highly recommend anyone doing a thesis to give it a try. Think about it: your first draft in just a month! See outline, instructions and writing tips in Announcing AcWriMo (PhD2Published)

Bad habits. How to ruin life

No-nonsence list of what not to do: Hidden habits of ineffective people (Quora / Chris Wake)

More philosophical discussion (and book advertisement) on the difference between “The artist” (who gets creative things done) and “The addict” (who’d love to do creative stuff but doesn’t because is addicted to the current situation).

A few months ago, a colleague of mine told me about meeting a young woman who was “passionate” about writing. He asked her what she had written recently, and she said nothing. In recounting the story to me, he said, “How can you say you’re passionate about something if you’re not doing anything about it?” Good question.

Are you trapped in a “Shadow career”? (99U)

“Rapid prototyping”

In principle, there are two ways of approaching a task: developing towards the result by iteration or by trying to do the end result in one go. I’m a huge advocate of iteration, especially when it comes to learning something. For seasoned professionals, it may work, depending on personal temperament, to work in binges. (More about binge working in the section “deep work”.)

What other’s have said about constant iteration:

Importance of constant prototyping (10 laws of productivity, 99U)

Overcome procrastination with “solar flaring” (Lifehacker)