Writer's Block, Geek-Block, and Procrastination
A master procrastinator presents the solution.
Draw up a little piece of paper like the one shown below. Start taking notes.
On the left you write in your current tasks (the tasks you're blocked with)
In the right column you etch in anything you're worried about, any fears you have, and anything that's gonna stuff up when you try to do the things in the Action list.
You'll find that writing one action will lead to related anxieties. And writing down an anxiety will lead to actions that overcome this.
In the action column you can write big goals or tiny little tasks. Your aim is to end up with at least one task small enough that you can get on with it.
In the anxiety column you can write big over-riding fears, or small concerns, problems, worries. Your aim is to get down to at least one problem that is small enough to be solved.
Both Actions and Anxieties are fractal in nature, recursively-composed of smaller and smaller versions of themselves. Identifying the components is the true battle for the mind-locked geek.
Some notes about the list.
- Don't restrict yourself to any given topic. Sometimes the trouble is outside the expected scope. Nothing is off-topic.
- It's not for other people to read, it's just for you.
- It's not for keeping, so don't worry about what you write. The process of writing it down is what's important. Burn it later, if you want.
- Just start writing the list. No need for prior thought.
- Unfortunately, The real difficulty lies in recognizing that you are procrastinating/stopped in the first place.
What if the list doesn't work?
There are causes of geek-block/writer's block/procrastination that won't be helped by the ActionAnxiety list. If you can identify one of these causes, then address it directly (rather than addressing the symptomatic mental-blockage)
- Sexual Frustration
- Low blood-sugar
- Substance abuse (e.g. cravings or hangovers)
- Other. That damned other.
You might want to consider this mantra:
"I choose to start on one small imperfect step, knowing that I have plenty of time to enjoy life."
secretGeek recommends:Feeling Good, by Dr David Burns
- Mike Dub blogs from inside a case of writer's block and later gives a post-mortem (his posts inspired this one)
- Fire and Motion: a classic from Joel Spolsky
- Structured Procrastination: the essential article, by Stanford's, John Perry (a fellow messy-desk engineer)
- GeekBlock: the first article i wrote for secretGeek, it concerns procrastination and, ironically, remains unfinished.