Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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Easily Distracted

Via a blog post by Dave Martin, I read about Steven Pressfield’s quotes on “The Resistance” that keeps us from doing our work:

The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight. At this point, Resistance knows that weโ€™re about to beat it. It hits the panic button. It marshals one last assault and slams us with everything itโ€™s got.

(Side note: I’ve put his books on an Amazon wishlist. I should remind myself to do this whenever I find books that sound interesting)

I think about new projects all the time: game dev ideas, app ideas, programming projects, plot ideas for a novel, and so on. Very few of them go on to completion or at least some version of production. Some reasons I’ve had difficulty finishing side projects:

  • I tend to start losing interest when I come across the boring parts of a project or parts I don’t want to do. Some examples are UI/design, or promo work/sales/marketing
  • I might also be overwhelmed by how much work there is that needs to be done. I understand making breaking down the work into a list and then just choosing one task at a time until you get something done. Hmm, I guess sometimes doing the work breakdown is one of the things that falls under the first bullet
  • sometimes I might also be frustrated by a lack of technical skill in implementation. I’m thinking this applies mostly to stuff like writing or drawing, where I feel like my execution or creativity isn’t good enough. This frustration can be overcome by practice, but practice risks the first bullet again
  • sometimes I’ll also lose motivation if the project turns out too difficult or too time-consuming, as if it’s not worth the effort. This can be a legitimate reason for dropping a project, as long as I make sure my assessment is rational.
  • One of my main problems seems to be that I’m easily distracted by new, shiny ideas that come along. That’s why reading this comic felt a bit like a personal attack:

via /r/ProgrammerHumor

I do have the ability to go into hyperfocus and gain the flow, enough to immerse myself in what I’m doing, but it doesn’t always last, and it’s a bit of a double-edged sword, because if something else grabs my attention, there’s a good chance I’ll hyperfocus on that. (Another edge being of course, I can be so hyperfocused in burns me out).

(Slight tangent: When I’m in a team project, I’m pretty good at getting things done, because (a) there’s usually someone else holding me to account and making sure stuff gets done; and (b) there’s usually team mates to help take up those parts that I find uninteresting.)

I didn’t list plain old laziness among the reasons above, though I’m surely guilty of that. But I think usually laziness is a symptom of one of these other reasons and me making excuses for not getting stuff done.

All of these are some demons I need to tame if I really want to become more independent; I guess at least recognizing them is key and compensating for them where necessary, and making sure I only drop projects if I’m convinced they’re not worth it.

Coincidentally relevant webcomic:

Posted by under post at #Self-improvement
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