tomfromhr.com a blog on tech, politics, life and zombies

25Jul/111

I had planned to write this yesterday…

...but I procrastinated on it. Which is fitting, giving the subject of it.

As a millennial I've grown up around any number of distractions. I'm used to working with a large number of things going off around me and with my mind going in a million different places. I've always found it difficult to focus on any one thing for any amount of time, particularly when it's something even moderately unpleasant.

A friend linked to an article recently on procrastination. It's floated around the Internet before, and I've read it before, but for some reason it really struck home for me. Simply titled Procrastination, it's a simple, well-written post on why we procrastinate and how to beat it. The long and short of it; Future-You is a bastard who wants only pleasure at whatever cost necessary, and you must plan ahead to foil your evil twin.

I'd suggest going and reading the whole thing, as I'm not doing it justice, but the idea of tricking myself, of working to ensure that Future-Tom could not do the things I didn't want him to do struck home with me. So I endeavoured as much as possible to set things up at home so that I would either be guilted into or outright prevented from not doing what I want to be doing. I always lose time, quickly, to quick breaks checking out the latest WoW news, or checking Twitter or reddit. So the idea was to make it more difficult for me to do those things and, to a point, almost impossible, and to get more done at home in the few spare hours I have.

Two tools have really helped me out in this; RescueTime and StayFocusd.

Of the two, StayFocusd has probably the least forgiving features (which makes it the best for this project). This allows you to set a number of websites on a sort of blacklist, where you have a certain amount of time to visit them every day. Once that time is up, they are blocked off from you. You can set the time to any amount you like, and add websites as you go, but it's rather unforgiving in terms of allowing you to do so when your time has run out for the day. It even has a setting whereby, whenever you want to edit the settings, you have a pass a challenge where you have to type a paragraph, carefully, with zero mistakes, or else you have to start over. It's evil and brilliant. You can set specific "active days" so that you don't get locked on the weekend and can browse to your heart's content.

RescueTime is really more for my own edification and paranoia. It records everything you do on your computer; every site you visit, program you use, and how long you use them for. While I'm not planning on sharing this data (and I have ensured there are certain things it does not record) doing this has allowed me to track my own habits; how much I game, what sites I visit, how long I spend on each, etc. The very fact that I am being "watched," even by a program, has made me a bit more watchful of my own habits, of looking at the bars and seeing that I didn't do much a certain night, or spent all my time on reddit/WoW.

(For the record, I have installed both of these at work, but we're busy enough that being focused isn't really a problem; getting everything done is).

I'm looking into ways I can apply the principle of not trusting myself, of setting traps for Future-Tom, to other areas of my life. The public scrutiny idea had worked in the past in terms of weight loss (see my old/other blog, 20pounds10weeks.com) but it relies on reporting and a few other sorts of things. I think the overarching idea is sound, though.

What have you done in your life to beat procrastination?

19Jul/117

#VEDA2011

In the halls of daring acts, I'll admit this one doesn't really compare to, say, skydiving or asking out the pretty girl on my GO Train. For me, however, it's a big one.

I've signed up to Vlog, every day in August. One of the bloggers I read regularly, Ashley, is organizing an event whereby a bunch of folks get together and do a video blog every day in August. I remember them doing it last year and watching a few myself. It was...kind of amazing, how people put themselves out there, regularly. Not even just sharing their experiences, but their faces, their voices. For me, it's the last bit that's scary. I'll happily write to you about my most embarrassing events or about my deepest, darkest feelings, but show you my voice and face in a perhaps less than flattering pose? Scary as Hell.

But I've been thinking lately a few things;

  • I need to work on some interests outside of WoW, as it can and does consume a lot of time.
  • I would like to push my own boundaries a bit.
  • I want to write more and blog more.
  • I'd like to be more social, even if that is on the net.

VEDA2011 hits all of these things.

The one thing I will do is to shield these a bit from the general public. I've never been scared of sharing my writings before, but sharing a YouTube channel where I'm talking to a camera is a whole other ballgame. Okay, I feel silly writing that, but still. I'll probably share it with friends and, of course, the general random public. But I draw the line at making it ridiculously easy for every high school acquaintance to see.

So, join me in August to see my handsome mug, every day, talking about...um...well, any suggestions?