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A Bit of Advice on Procrastinating (Shameless Self-Promotion)

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Hello everyone!  I had some ideas about how to avoid procrastinating, and I thought I'd share them here, since I imagine procrastination is a big problem among new game developers.  Basically, the idea is that we procrastinate on the most difficult or frustrating thing we currently have to do, and we'll do virtually anything else to avoid it.  Which is why, for example, I only work on my game during the school year, and procrastinate on it during the summer.  It has nothing to do with what I'm doing, it's about what I'm not doing, i.e. the task I get to avoid by working on this project.  If what you want to work on is the most difficult task ahead of you, it's a lot easier to get working on something else simply because that gives you something else to do.  So, my advice is to start a project that is even more difficult than your game, or comic, or whatever else you want to make, and then force yourself to either work on that fake project or your real project.  Then, you can "procrastinate" by working on your real project.  It's a roundabout idea, but the brain is a strange beast.  That's the gist of it, and you can read my full blog on the matter here: http://dunoid.org/index.php/2016/02/29/procrastination/

 

What do you think?  Does this idea of making a more difficult project make sense to you?

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I don't know how this idea would fare for me in this form -- if I know the harder project isn't real, I'm not sure I'm motivated to do the easier one by avoiding it.

 

However, another take on this basic concept is to make your "harder project" just be a bigger piece of your application, and then choose as your current "main project" a subset of that functionality so that you're doing useful work while "procrastinating" rather than just spinning your wheels on busywork -- that's the key, that and choosing a sub-task that you can act on right now with no dependencies. I think when I procrastinate on something that I logically know and believe I *want to do* the reasons I'm not doing it come down to either it has a dependency that's necessary but not something I want do do right now, or I've convinced myself that doing or getting some external thing *first* will save me time or effort or frustration (e.g. I'll wait until the next update, or I need this subsystem to be perfect and have more flexibility than I really need, or I'm getting a new computer next month, or I need to get all my code into Github first). One of the strategies I'm trying to make a thing now is to cut out things that even smell faintly of busywork -- things that aren't just busywork will always come around again if they're important so no need to do them now when other needs are more immediate. This mirrors well-known sentiments like KISS, YAGNI, and Build Games, Not Engines.

 

Sometimes people also avoid starting the easy parts because they know the hard parts will be hard. In those cases I suggest "eating the frog" -- that is, do the hard/unfamiliar/uncomfortable part first. Or at least try it. Sometimes you only need to taste the frog to realize it won't be so bad to swallow it when you finally have to, and that can be enough to free you from procrastinating over the parts that aren't scary on their own.

 

I also like to set goals of various sizes and timelines such that they overlap -- so right now I've got a fitness goal that I've set to end on my birthday in June and I spend 90-120 minutes on that each day + eating better. That's the only "big goal" I'm concentrating on heavily right now. After that I'll create another months-long fitness goal but one which will take less out of my day so that I can devote more of my free time to programming. In the meantime I've got smaller, shorter goals running concurrently -- even just simple things like read such-and-such book, or spending some hours researching something, or heck, even just consciously and deliberately correcting a bad habit over time (eating habits, sleeping too much/too little/too late, smoking, procrastinating) is great goal that costs zero-time. I find that the great thing about goals is that being able to measure progress against them builds momentum across the board.

 

Everyone's motivations and motivators are different though and I bet what you describe works for some. Its really good that you were able to identify that pattern in yourself and examine it, because that really is half the battle, and if your solution works for you and you alone it'll still have paid for itself in spades over all the years of your life.

Edited by Ravyne

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It's irrational but I often do stuff in order to avoid other stuff.  My sister says she does all sorts of housework before an exam just to avoid revising.  Check out this site structuredprocrastination.com which describes just what you are describing - even the self deluding bit!

 

On the subject of pet projects, I am building a site about procrastination and why people do it.  I have a post that discusses structured procrastination and rather than just words, I'm using comics to make it more interesting. Here is the link to my structured procrastination post. The site also discusses other techniques such as Eat That Frog too.

 

Structured%20Procrastination%201.jpg?lu=

Edited by Shauren

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