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Cameron Diegle

Good and Bad Procrastination (Part 2 of 2)

Why is it so hard for many of us to want to work on big problems or projects?  Here are some common reasons:

 

(1) You may not get any reward in the foreseeable future whereas if you work on a smaller undertaking, that you can finish in a day or two, you can expect to have a nice feeling of accomplishment fairly soon.  A reward that is indefinitely far in the future makes it seem less real. 

 

(2) Fear of wasting time.  What if you fail, and all that time you invested on it is wasted?

 

(3) Big problems can be terrifying and there’s an almost physical pain in facing them. Paul Graham’s metaphor is it’s like a vacuum cleaner hooked up to your imagination and all your initial ideas get sucked out immediately and you don’t have any more, and yet the vacuum cleaner is still sucking. 

 

Paul recommends that you shouldn’t look at a big problem directly in the eye.  You have to adjust your angle and approach in a way that you are facing it directly enough to feel some of the excitement from it, but not so much that it paralyzes you.  Once you get going, you can tighten the angle.  Alternatively, you can try to trick yourself into tackling a sizable problem or project by working on small things that could grow into big things or work on successively larger ones.  

 

Paul wraps up his essay by saying “the way to “solve” the problem of procrastination is to let the delight pull you instead of making a to-do list push you.  Work on an ambitious project you really enjoy, and sail as close to the wind as you can, and you’ll leave the right things undone.” 

 

 

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