I love coding, I love processing data, and I love complex puzzles–However, I HATE looking forward to them.
I was recently disturbed to realize I was procrastinating when it came to the things I loved to work on. I’ve been a student most of my life (29 of my 33 years) so procrastination isn’t new. I always procrastinated when it came to homework, essays, and studying for tests. For those I was expected to procrastinate because they were time consuming, long, and boring. Few people jump on the chance to write a five page paper where the font size is specified to be no more than 12 point, and spacing no more than double. Add to that it almost certainly wasn’t a five page paper on a topic I chose, my game of Railroad Tycoon certainly excelled.
But what about when I could choose a topic, a topic I really loved? I still procrastinated. What if I was going to code or work on an algorithm, a challenge I loved? I still procrastinated. Why? Did I not really love these things?
Yes, I found this disturbing and perhaps I was fooling myself in order to justify my fourteen years of college education in computer sciences. I thought about this while procrastinating, of course. I did a few other chores, balanced my corporate credit card (not fun), returned a support call (arrgh!) and investigated that weird smell from the staff communal fridge (???).
Did I really dread my work this much that instead of meeting a challenge, which I thought I loved, I was smelling tin foil wrapped, fuzzy green slabs of pizza? Was it even pizza?
Then an epiphany. I didn’t dread the work itself, I dreaded starting it. Not only did I dread starting it, I even more dreaded the fact that I would be interrupted. These were projects that when done properly and effectively, run in one or two hour bursts of creativity. Once put in motion the momentum keeps productivity high. If stopped, for even a small amount of time (such as a bathroom break or phone call), the amount of effort it takes to restart is exhausting.
If you are going to put a lot of effort into a laborious craft, you need to remove yourself from distractions. In glass blowing, for example, the artist works with molten glass which starts anywhere between 1,200 and 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit. As the glass is being worked on, it cools at a rate of about ten degrees per second. The process, after the molten glass is gathered, is to start working it for no more than a minute, re-heat to reach optimum shaping temperature, work another minute, and re-heat. There is no setting aside the glass to text or answer support questions.
When a glass blower begins gathering the molten glass, he or she begins work knowing that they are doing so until completely finished. Stopping for interruption is not an option.
There are ways to combat distractions of daily tasks and support. Schedule set times to work on intense projects and stick to it. As your set time draws near, work on small tasks, and fifteen or so minutes before your scheduled block of time, allow yourself the chance to do mindless activities such as water your plants, clean up your papers, and organize your pencils. This will prevent daily tasks and requests from encroaching on your scheduled time and it will give you a chance to calm and rest your mind. Do NOT play online games or check social media outlets during this time, these are NOT restful activities. You don’t want to be taking in any information or new experiences.
I finally started work on my project by closing my door, exiting out of my E-mail, and turning off my phone. In my position yes, some people need assistance, but nothing disastrous has yet happened when I close communication for an hour or two. I can’t let that part of my job get in the way of the creative piece, not because it’s the part I love, but because it truly is the other 50% of my job description and I can’t neglect it.