A different tech letter

This techletter is going to be about procrastination. While I had planned this techletter to be about some other techy things, I felt procrastination is a topic a lot of folks struggle with (including me), and that there are many good articles, videos, and strategies around fighting it and helping us come out towards the winning end of the tunnel.

Procrastination readings from waitbutwhy

  • Why Procrastinators Procrastinate by Tim Urban on waitbutwhy gives us a very deep insight into reasons for procrastination. This article is written in a humorous easy to read style. It introduces a concept of an “Instant Gratification Monkey” and very aptly shows what goes inside a procrastinator’s brain.

  • In a follow-up article titles How to Beat Procrastination, Tim talks about effective planning which breaks tasks into clear and actionable pieces. He then draws pictures of different situations a procrastination encounter while taking on the actual execution of those tasks, and what results in a winning strategy.

  • And finally, in a long follow-up article titled The Procrastination Matrix, Tim introduces us to Eisenhower matrix, and different variations of it as applied to different types of procrastinators, and what is eventually important if we want to overcome procrastination.

  • Tim has also written 2 very influential articles about putting our lives in perspective. Your Life in Weeks and 100 Blocks a Day are highly recommended reads. (By this time you would have guessed that I am a big fan of Tim’s writing)

Non-Zero-Day

A very powerful concept called non-zero-day started from this post on Reddit. It was so powerful people started a subreddit to utilize this concept in their day to day lives. While I have found this concept useful, one piece of advice that I have for you if that you are working against procrastination, you will find it very helpful to start small with one task at a time.

The rules of the subreddit are pretty concise and to the point:

  • No More Zero Days

Promise yourself that you will do one thing every day that takes you one step closer to your goal(s)

  • Be Grateful To The Three “You”s*

Past Self: Thank your past self for the favours they did for you

Present Self: Do your future self a favour - they deserve it!

Future Self: Your absolute best friend, and a great person.

  • Forgive Yourself*

It’s okay to fuck up. Forgive your past self, and be a better friend for your future self. 4. Exercise and Books

Get your heart rate up and try to read when you can. Also the easiest way to avoid a Zero Day!

Self Help Books

There are so many of them. Honestly, they work, but not that often. And for me, the biggest reasons they stop working are one or many of these:

  1. Over time, I forget the lessons covered in the book.

  2. I take too much on my plate and start making large lifestyle changes.

  3. Other urgent by un-important things in life take priority, sidetracking whatever I was trying to do earlier.

  4. Either lack of long term commitment or I get bored after a certain time.

If you can work to overcome these, or do not have these problems, the books I have found most effective are:

  1. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
  2. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
  3. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

Managing Attention and Energy

It is important to understand that managing attention and energy are far more effective than managing time.

  1. Read Productivity Isn’t About Time Management. It’s About Attention Management along with related HN discussion.

  2. This Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time in Harvard Business Review is equally inspirational and good.

My Advice

If you have to ask me (but know that I am no expert, and struggle with these problems as well), things that have worked for me are:

  1. Starting the day with an actionable and feasible todo list.

  2. Reminding myself to manage my attention well. I keep a small notebook with me, and whenever I feel distracted, I write down what is going on in my mind, and move back to the original task.

  3. Keep reminding myself of long term impactful things like exercise, improving leadership skills, technology fundamentals are more important than urgent, short-term impactful things. And then devoting time to things that have long term impact.

  4. Trying to get in the flow. Associated with this is the fact that the things that I most procrastinate are the things that either are hard to start or are things that I am not interested in doing. Breaking them into small action items helps a lot. If you have not read How to do hard things, I highly recommend you to do so.

More to come in the next techletter. As always, happy reading!