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Cornstalks

What helps you be productive? (with everything)

32 posts in this topic

I'm a CS student at a university and work part time as a software developer/intern, and I've got a decent social life. But lately I've been really, really, really good at being unproductive. Like, scary good. I used to go to the gym regularly, but I've gotten lazy and sleep in instead. I've got a lot of personal projects (not school or work) I'd like to work on, but I feel guilty about not doing my homework or not putting in as many hours at work (or not doing chores or whatever else needs to be done), so I'll typically just sit on the computer in no-man's land going GameDev->StackOverflow->Facebook->Check Email->(repeat). That's not a good choice though, because them I'm not doing personal projects or work/school projects.

So what helps you be productive? Not just when programming, because once I sit down to seriously program, I'm productive. But before that. I need to get back to the gym, get more serious about doing my homework early (instead of the last second), just knock-off things on my miscellaneous/chore list, get more done so I can go to work more, etc. What helps you get things done and stay on top of things?
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Getting as much sleep as your body requires. For me, its about 10 hours.

And listening to good music. Lots of Tiesto.
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[quote name='Cornstalks' timestamp='1350184833' post='4989961']I'll typically just sit on the computer in no-man's land going GameDev->StackOverflow->Facebook->Check Email->(repeat)[/quote]I've experienced this too, and, I'm no shrink, but I think it's some kind of learned behaviour seeking instant gratification. A learned 'rut'.
I'd treat it like any harmful addiction, either by going cold turkey or using mindfulness.
You can edit your HOSTS file to make those websites disappear to force withdrawal on yourself [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/wink.png[/img] or a bit less extreme, recognise this loop as some kind of leech that's using up all your productive energies with little output, be mindful of it's presence at all times, and train yourself to feed it less.

When you get to the [repeat] part, force yourself to go for a walk or something. Make a list of things you want to get done, and allow yourself to be unproductive between tasks. When you sit down at the computer, do it with a plan for what you want to do, and don't go straight into the loop. See how long you can do something else before you subconsciously alt-tab into the browser and load up those sites. Keep tabs on this and have a little internal celebration whenever you can cross off a task having given in to distractions less than last time.
[quote name='Cornstalks' timestamp='1350184833' post='4989961']So what helps you be productive? Not just when programming, because once I sit down to seriously program, I'm productive. But before that.[/quote]I use coffee as a little delimitating ritual to get into gear. I'll waste a bit of time on forums/email/etc, then figure out what I should be doing, then go make a coffee and put some music on as a marker for 'productive time now', and then drink it while I work. Often I'll realize an hour later that I only drank half my coffee because I was too busy working.
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[quote]I'll typically just sit on the computer in no-man's land going GameDev->StackOverflow->Facebook->Check Email->(repeat)[/quote]
Haha, yeah, I know that. You really have to pull yourself out of that cycle forcefully, usually to break it I go make myself some noodles, then eat them while watching some south park/other and then I'm all fueled up to work!
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[quote name='Cornstalks' timestamp='1350184833' post='4989961']GameDev->StackOverflow->Facebook->Check Email->(repeat). [/quote]

damn, replace stackoverflow with exophase, and you pretty much have my loop.

i tend to find that it's pretty common for me to run the loop when coding some of the more boring tasks, or especially when i don't know exactly how i want to tackle a problem, so i keep going through the sites, then maybe write a line, repeat, until i eventually i have something.

the only solution i have is.....get to a less boring part of programming, or something i have an exact plan of attack for completing. Edited by slicer4ever
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Do you really need to be that productive? Can't you just chill? Are you sure you'd be happier if you squeezed the last second out of a day for ""meaningful"" activity?
Maybe I'm misunderstanding but IMHO doing that many stuff effectively will burn you out in no time.
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[quote name='Cornstalks' timestamp='1350184833' post='4989961']
so I'll typically just sit on the computer in no-man's land going GameDev->StackOverflow->Facebook->Check Email->(repeat).
[/quote]

God yes. This is what I always do and I hate it. In all seriousness, even playing a game instead of this nonsense would be healthier.(a walk outside would be ideal though, of course :) ).
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You could try Randall Munroe's (of XKCD fame) [url="http://boingboing.net/2011/02/19/xkcds-productivity-t.html"]method[/url]: Every time you finish a task, power down your computer. Want to start a new task, even if it's just checking your email or hitting up Reddit? Reboot that sucker. After awhile, I understand, the "instant gratification" part of your brain is removed from the equation, because your brain instinctively knows there won't be any instant gratification. Once that lizard-brain sonofabitch is out of the picture, the theory is that it's a lot easier to stay on task. Edited by JTippetts
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[quote name='Cornstalks' timestamp='1350184833' post='4989961']
I'll typically just sit on the computer in no-man's land going GameDev->StackOverflow->Facebook->Check Email->(repeat).
[/quote]

Oh yeah, know that too well. Replace StackOverflow with Reddit though...

I started using trello as my todo list and it helped somewhat. Be sure to include every task that may be lurking in the dark corners of your brain.
Procrastination can be a sign of mental stress. Are you otherwise happy? I want to apologize if that question is too personal.
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Keeping to a routine works well for me. Schedules and todo lists, preferably on paper, also seem to help.
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Just be careful, because [url="http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2012/10/todont.html"]to-do lists can be counter-active[/url]. [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/wink.png[/img] Edited by Amadeus H
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[url="http://www.gamedev.net/topic/628988-how-do-i-keep-myself-and-my-team-motivated/page__view__findpost__p__4967067"]I wrote about this in another thread not too long ago.[/url]

But to reiterate a few salient points:[list]
[*]Start at the same time every day
[*]End at the same time every day
[*]Don't work more than that, because you will start to rely on super-sessions to make up for procrastinating
[*]Jealously guard your work time
[*]And if it's not working, get up and take a [walk/nap/exercise/bowl of cereal/wank/poop/whatever works for you]. Just relax and try again in an hour.
[/list]
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I use to have this problem too(ahem might say still have...). I use this:

[media]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buPrtSr0m6A[/media]

before any kind of work and then I put up stickers with "do not even think it!" on it.

Infinity meditation is very fun and makes one think of... Well INFINITY and makes one calm [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/blink.png[/img] I do not know why it works but it does. Also get enough sleep, take a walk outside while doing some thinking about the work or just observe the surroundings outside. Also I usually experience what you experience when the workload is too high and I forget to take some time of to relax.

Also use your alarm clock in your cell phone so you only have like 30 minutes for online social websites when you get up(or after work) and then these sites are made forbidden zone for the rest of the day.

God knows how much time I have wasted in the past doing this "evil loop of never ending repeat" [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/tongue.png[/img] Edited by Dwarf King
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What helps me a bit is remembering that I actually kinda like doing the work once I'm a bit into it. Which means that I'm not really trying to avoid [b]doing[/b] the work, I'm trying to avoid [b]starting[/b] the work. The threshold of time between the where I'm starting and actually doing something is determined by me alone and so it's really up to me how long the suffering takes place.
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[quote name='DigitalSavior' timestamp='1350798467' post='4992358']
Damn I wish I knew how to be productive. Putting the pro in procrastinate for 10+ years now...
[/quote]

Me too :-(
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I wish caffeine would affect me. I guess I abused it so long, I'm now immune.
When I have to get stuff done, It's vitamin B6 and a few other supplements.
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[quote name='Shippou' timestamp='1350839690' post='4992485']
I wish caffeine would affect me. I guess I abused it so long, I'm now immune.
[/quote]

Oh boy. I think I am really a caffeine addict by now. It doesn't seem to have any positive effect anymore. However if I skip my daily dose of coffee I tend to become really tired, overdoing it however leads to a very unpleasant feeling of restlessness... can't seem to maintean a clear train of thought.

(Reading that again, I should really cut down on my caffeine intake. It sounds scary[img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/blink.png[/img] )
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Well, I decided to take a break after reading Hodgman's post, because I realize that's pretty much exactly what I'm falling into. For a full week I didn't visit GameDev, StackOverflow, Google News, Facebook, SFML/Box2D forums, and Google+. I uninstalled Chrome from my phone to help when I was stuck in a boring moment (but I reinstalled it today as it's been a week). Overall, I think that it was a really good experiment. I was more productive than I've been in the past, though I'm still behind in school. But I'm catching up.

After reading what azonicrider said too, I realized that going to bed late (like 2-3am) was really making my productivity suffer too. When I tried to be in bed around 10:30, I was waaay more productive the next day. Plus I didn't feel like a zombie so much. I wasn't perfect though: one night I had to stay up doing a homework project that was due the next day, and Friday night I got home at 4:00am... But most of the other nights I was pretty good and it really helped.

So all in all, I think the two most helpful things I tried this last week were going to bed early and getting up early, and not going into the Internet site browsing cycle that apparently we all fall victim to frequently.

Here's what I'm going to try this next week, and I'll let ya'll know next Sunday how it went: 1) Continuing to go to bed early and get up early (except for Friday/Saturday night). 2) Not visiting my "black hole" Internet sites (that's what I'm going to call them)*. 3) In the morning (or some time during the previous day), I'm going to decide on a realistic list of things (not an overly detailed list, just a "get these two assignments done and this paper written today" type list) I need to finish that day and not let myself do other things until they're done (and once they're done, I can do other "fun" stuff).
[size=1]*I've thought about just letting myself visit each site once (and only once) each day, but I actually learned to really like the break. I missed GameDev the most, but I hate Facebook anyway and I'm not really into StackOverflow, so overall I actually really liked the break. So I'll try it again.[/size]



Some of you might say I'm trying to be a workaholic and I need to chill sometimes, but I do. I've still got a good social life and I still take moments each day to just mentally relax/not fry my brain. But I just got a new job (programming mobile apps) and as I transition jobs I've got a lot I need to do. And I'm behind in school, so this "experiment" is helping me catch up and rebalance my life. On to week 2!


Oh, and everyone, you've all been really helpful! If you've shared advice, it's been useful for me to consider it more seriously! And If all you've said is "Heh, I get in that infinite loop too," at least it makes me happy to know I'm not alone :)
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How about, make your internet stop working for 50 minutes an hour? Then you won't be able to read your facehook thing all the time.


Personally, when I'm developing or writing stuff that needs to be done, I turn off the GUI and work in Emacs in an 80x25 text console. It's amazing how just having a cursor blinking at you being the only thing around focuses the attention.
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I use to get sucked into the FB-gmail cycle - in due to a slightly broken bit of brain chemistry its less a cycle and more an OCD like 'loop' of being afraid of missing out. (Seriously in the past I've closed the browser and then with a 'arrgh..' of frustration given into my crazy brain, reopened it and spent the next 15mins hitting refresh... not fun at all... *grumbles*... I suspect this is the same process which last weekend resulted in a run XCom-play-close-sit-run XCom-play-close-etc cycle which wiped out a whole weekend...).

In order to be productive I developed a mental 'line in the sand' technique where I would pick a time to start doing something, say 5mins from 'now' and then slowly shut down everything I didn't need to start on it, open anything I did need and finally, open up a music player, put on some headphones and start some music which, due to using it to code before, my brain associates with being productive.

Then just start - I find once I've done that process and battled (in some cases it really is a battle) past the first 10 or 15mins so that I'm doing something then I become focused enough that I'm productive AND can take a minute or two to check FB or email without dropping into the cycle.

But I am a crazy person so YMMV on the above ;)
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Love is my greatest motivator, by far, wanting to bless the gamers with an enjoyable game. The game technology is fun. I enjoy challenges. Being thorough by nature helps a lot.


Clinton
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