Dealing With Procrastination [en]

In her post about going freelance, Leisa Reichelt tells us of her favorite method for fighting procrastination:

My number one favourite technique is called ‘structured procrastination‘ and here’s how it works. You’ve got a to do list. It’s reasonably long. Make sure it’s got ALL the things you should be doing or should have done on it. Then, attempt to tackle the task you think you should be doing. You may have some success, but if you are like me, this is a task that you’re probably doing ahead of time and the lack of adrenaline makes it less compelling than it could be. Rather than just surfing the internet or doing something even less constructive – go to your list and pick something else on the list to do.

Leisa Reichelt, Did I mention I’m freelancing? (or, coping strategies from the dining room desk)

Well, it’s not really foolproof, but one thing I often do is just decide I’ll work 30 minutes on something. 30 minutes is an OK time to spend on something, even if you don’t want to do it. Then I’m free to do what I want.

Sometimes, once I’m “in” it, I run over the 30 minutes and finish the task. If it’s very long, however, I force myself to take a break from it after 30 minutes — so that I’m not cheating myself and the next time I convince myself to spend 30 minutes on something, I know it’ll be just 30 minutes.

You see, one of the things I’ve understood about my “not being able to start” things is that it’s closely linked to my “not being able to stop” things.

In that respect, I quite like the procrastination dash and (10+2)*5 hack. I’ve also used the kick start technique with success.

Being quite the GTD fan, I’ve had a chance to notice more than once that my productivity is usually the right opposite to my levels of stress. And my levels of stress — surprise — are usually closely linked to the number of things I need to do which are floating in my head. Capturing all the stuff I need to do and organizing it in one system (which is what GTD is about, really) is often enough to make me feel “un-stressed” enough that I can get to work on the next things I need to get done.

Sometimes, it’s a particular thing I need to do which stresses me most. And when I get stressed, I tend to feel down, and when I feel down, well… I’m not good at doing things. So I go through a routine which is similar to Merlin Mann’s cringe-busting your to-do list to identify what it is exactly that is weighing down on me most. Then, do something about it!

And as Leisa mentions, having a list of all the stuff you need to do that you can pick from really, really helps.

A word of caution however: “to do” lists are often a trap, because they can contain much more than “things you need to do”, and the items on the list are not always simple actions you can take immediately (“Next Actions” in GTD jargon). Here’s how to make your to-do list smarter — it’s useful even if you don’t use GTD.

Another thing I’ve been doing lately (it worked well enough until went through a bad personal phase — nothing to do with doing things — and everything went to the dogs) is deciding that I devote a small number of hours a day to paid client work. If you’re a freelancer, specially in the consulting business, you’ll know that a lot of our work is not directly billable. So, I try to keep my 9-12 mornings for paid work and what is related to it (e-mails, phone calls, billing) and the rest of the day is then free for me to use for what I call “non-paid work” (blogging, trying out new tools, reading up on stuff, nasty administrivia…) or relaxing.

I'm Working for coComment [en]

A couple of months back, I told you the story about my early involvement in the birth of coComment. A few weeks, ago, Nicolas asked me if I would like to be part of the team, and I happily accepted.

My role, broadly, falls in the category of evangelism and communication (external and internal), and it’s in part what I was doing after the launch, before school and computer problems took over: read what is said about coComment in the blogosphere, comment and react when it’s needed or helpful, be active in the forums, bring back to the team feedback and ideas (found out there or somewhere deep in my mind) — in short, be a fussy but enthusiastic and vocal user.

Being part of the team now, I’ll be posting in the coComment Team Blog, which I have to say really needs to be more active. I will also be facilitating internal communication between the various team members.

My hope in taking up this job is to help make coComment into a tool which addresses users’ needs. I think it’s a great tool, and has a lot of potential. As I tell my clients, blogging and being an active player in the blogosphere takes up time. The dev team can’t spend all their time developing stuff and do the communication as well. That’s where I come in.

Working for coComment has a feel of adventure for me. First of all, I’m actually going to be paid to do what I like doing (be a pain in the neck and throw ideas all over the place). Second, this is the first time for me that work and blogosphere collide. My previous jobs have had nothing to do with the blogosphere, and I’ve never blogged much about my work.

I’m going to experience what it is to be caught between the desire to be transparent, and the fact that in business you cannot always say everything. I’ll probably have more to say about this in the coming weeks!