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shadows of echoes of memories of songs
I'm going to try to post every day this month again. I mean, I'm going to try again; I failed to do it last year, because of fail. In the past I've called this attempt NaBloPoMo, but it's not really a National blog-posting month, it's a Not-very-national-at-all blog-posting month: hence NoBloPoMo. In fact, I'm also probably not going to write very much or very fast; so it should really be SloMoNoBloPoMo. And I figure I can probably manage to be a bit post-modern about it once or twice, at least enough to justify calling it SloMoPoMoNoBloPoMo. (HoHo!)

My main reason for doing this is to try to stop me procrastinating so much, or at least to try to break some of my procrastination routines. It's got to the point where as soon as I start anything I find myself putting it off and trying to start something else. There are usually enough things that need doing that I'm not actually bothered about displacement activities per se so long as I can always displace from whatever-it-is into something else equally useful; on a good day at work I can use the putting-off-the-big-task instinct to get the little tasks done (it's amazing how the looming guilt of something vast and amorphous can get the inbox backlog cleared), or sometimes even vice versa (it's amazing how the prospect of having to faff with something small and irritating can motivate me to carry on hacking something big and intractable for just a bit longer).

Unfortunately there haven't been that many good days at work recently. The ongoing tiredness and sickness have meant that I'm working well below par, and while everybody goes through patches of unproductivity, this one's been longer than most and it's feeding into a general angst about where I'm going in my 'career' (I don't really think of it as a career as such, more a series of interesting jobs). That's another blog post, and one I'm not sure I want to write. The current problem is the procrastination and avoidance.

Just for avoidance of doubt, I do know about breaking things down into tasks that can be achieved at one sitting; I do know about writing lists, and making 'urgent v important' matrices, and so on; I know lots of theories of effective time-management and task-management, and I've even found some of them useful in the past. But none of them actually fix the problem of looking at a task and mentally backing away from it and doing something else instead; there comes a point where you can lead a horse to your 43 folders but you can't actually force him to mix his metaphors. Sometimes, of course, the time-management tasks become displacement activities in themselves: I'm quite capable of backing away from doing something in order to write a list of other things that need doing, or even writing a list of the component parts of the thing that needs doing, either of which can feel like a useful endeavour but doesn't actually constitute GTDTD: Getting The Damn Thing Done.

It doesn't help that at the moment I feel like I've mostly been working on a) projects that don't really have any resources allocated to them, b) projects that nobody really needs the deliverables from, and c) projects that have no clearly-defined specs, deliverables, or deadlines. Some of this feeling is internal, coming from me feeling negative about my work in general and focusing on the flaily projects of doom rather than the stuff that does actually get finished; some of it is external, i.e. the projects in question really are a bit of a mess for one reason or another (people leaving, goalposts moving, maintenance hangovers from earlier projects). I am trying very hard to stamp on the feeling that it's anything personal; I think there's an element of me feeling it more than most, and an element of bad luck, and that's all it is. All my managers (it's complicated) are being very supportive of my work in general and my current situation in particular, and most of the things I'm currently working on are interesting; no, the work itself isn't really the problem. So why is it so hard for me to focus on it and actually get things done? Why is my mind running away from things? It feels almost like something in my brain is just not sitting comfortably; like I'm trying to settle it into a comfortable position before getting started on anything, but the more I wriggle about the more uncomfortable I get. It's a sort of compulsive mental fidgeting, and I think I could usefully fight it by forcing myself to just work through it -- to make sure I'm in an objectively sensible mental position (not metaphorically sitting on my feet or anything) and then decide to ignore the itch, to ignore the oh-maybe-I-could-just-get-up-and-get-a-drink-of-water-first, and just focus on something for a set amount of time (yes, I know about the Pomodoro technique as well; sometimes helps, sometimes doesn't) or a set amount of thing (SMART! Yes! That too!).

So one of the purposes of this month's writing is to make myself sit down and Do A Thing until it's Done (and 'Done' doesn't have to mean 'brilliant' or even 'good', it just means 'completed'; sometimes it even just means 'bounced into someone else's court for the time being', though it's a bit hard to do that with blogging). No word-limit (oh, OK, it has to be more than 140 characters, otherwise I'd just post it in the other place). I suspect a lot of it will not make particularly interesting reading, so apologies in advance for that, but I'll try to make it not too dreary and not all just whining. Let's see if I can keep it going for another 28 days.

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keirf From: keirf Date: November 3rd, 2010 07:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Good luck.
cleanskies From: cleanskies Date: November 3rd, 2010 08:08 am (UTC) (Link)

not sitting comfortably

I'm going on a time-management course next month. Kind of expecting it be be a waste of. Time.

I still haven't found your other badgers!

I'm sure they're somewhere, though
emperor From: emperor Date: November 3rd, 2010 08:14 am (UTC) (Link)
Have fun :)

[I have no really good answers to the procrastination thing, but I share your pain to some extent]
julietk From: julietk Date: November 3rd, 2010 08:58 am (UTC) (Link)
I have found myself struggling more with procrastination since starting NewJob. (I kind of know why this is, a bit, but I don't think it's a *reasonable* or helpful response to the situation, and in summary, gah.) This is especially irritating as when I was still freelancing full-time I kept grumbling about myself about my procrastination etc etc, only to discover NOW that in fact I was doing reasonably well.

It does not help that the overall feeling of resistance reminds me uncomfortably of second year at Oxford, when I was in the middle of the decision to change course and was really not all that well. I am not happy about the idea of fetching up back in that mental state.

Which is to say: good luck, and from a selfish POV, I enjoy reading your entries so this is a pleasing thing to read :)
j4 From: j4 Date: November 3rd, 2010 09:49 am (UTC) (Link)
The mental-resistance is definitely connected to depression for me, & that worries me.

BTW I was warned by the midwife about antenatal depression (because I made the mistake of telling the truth when asked about previous instances of treatment for depression, which I only did because I assumed it was all on my GP's notes anyway so they'd find out, but the midwives can't see the GP's notes...) but then she also said that there was at least a 4-month waiting-list for counselling (and I have never had much joy with counselling anyway), so, er, yeah, & basically I'd just have to cope with it as best I could. (Cheers, midwife, v helpful.) I'm fairly sure I convinced her that I was capable of spotting the signs & dealing with them (partly because some bit of my brain was going ARGH ARGH CONVINCE THE AUTHORITY-FIGURE THAT YOU ARE 100% SANE OTHERWISE THE SOCIAL WILL TAKE YOUR BABY AWAY). I'm less sure that I convinced myself. :-/

</wibble> Sorry for the long ramble, I was only really meaning to say "yeah" and "thanks". :-}
venta From: venta Date: November 3rd, 2010 10:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Your 43 folders made me laugh out loud.

I am a terrible procrastinator though (from the sounds of it) in quite a different way. I recently have been dedicating quite a bit of time to trying to work out why I procrastinate so much... with entirely predictable consequences.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 3rd, 2010 11:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Heh. I have found thinking-out-loud-on-paper very useful for this sort of thing -- "sit and write about X for N minutes" is easier to time-limit (and easier to do in a place where there is no internet!), & often results in useful insights on the subject in question (or indeed useful things about something completely different, but sometimes that's instructive in itself, sometimes the problem is not what I thought the problem was).

BTW, I found an interesting article on procrastination recently -- though obviously I wouldn't recommend stopping what you're meant to be doing in order to read it... ;)
shermarama From: shermarama Date: November 3rd, 2010 01:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
I realise you probably don't want to read, at this point, an ironically long article about the nature of procrastination, especially given that the first part is quite irritating for someone self-aware enough to, say, not even get the sort of film-downloading account that leads to piles of worthy but unwatched things sitting there staring accusingly at you, but I saw this and thought of you. Its final message seems to be that being aware of what procrastination is and that it'll never go away is the most useful thing to beat it with, which I found heartening.
shermarama From: shermarama Date: November 3rd, 2010 01:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
*laughs* Or possibly that's just a low-brow rewrite of the New Yorker article you've already read. That's quite weird.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 3rd, 2010 02:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh, yes, it looks like a similar thing, but there are some new/different bits - thanks for the link.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 6th, 2010 02:11 am (UTC) (Link)
「ケ~ロヨ~~~ン」 こんにちは
「バ、ハハ~イ」 さようなら
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