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Beating Procrastination

Published 2/6/2019

The things that seem to cause procrastination is value. Either in the outcome of the work or in the future state getting in the way of the tasks at hand. That's what we're talking about in today's episode of Developer Tea. We'll talk about different ways to fight against procrastination and keep you focused.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
We all face procrastination. This is something that is human. It's something that we do for complex reasons. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, we understand procrastination through a limited lens. We compress the meaning, perhaps the causes of procrastination, down into very simplistic terms, rather than understanding it for the more complex reality that it is. In today's episode, we're going to discuss procrastination and a specific reason why you may face procrastination in your work on a day-to-day basis, as well as a way to perhaps overcome it. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, and you're listening to Developer T, and my goal on this show is to help driven developers connect to their career purpose and do better work, so they can have a positive influence on the people around them. And purpose is maybe one of the most important elements of beating procrastination in the long term. Purpose being some kind of thing, some kind of outcome, some reason, some motivation for you to do whatever it is that you're doing. We talk about this meta-level purpose on this show, finding your career purpose is what we call it on the show, and that's a larger, more distant outcome. This is not something that you typically can affect directly, and so to achieve those kinds of high-level purposes, it may be difficult to trace that down to individual actions, to avoid procrastinating for the next hour, and instead chip away that tiny piece of the block that leads towards that greater purpose. Studies about procrastination show that procrastination happens when two things are true, and of course when both of these things are not true, then procrastination is less likely. But the things that seem to cause procrastination is not valuing the outcome of whatever the task is, and then similarly, even if you do value the outcome of that task, you're not connecting the value to the task itself. At a basic level, this means that you want some kind of future state to transpire, right? You want something to be true. You have a task that will lead to it, but for whatever reason you haven't connected that future state to the task that would lead to it. You want your users to see this new feature, and so the tasks that lead to the user seeing that new feature include something like, for example, QA, and actually launching that feature. And yet we continue to procrastinate on these simple tasks, even when they have high value outcomes. So what can we do about this procrastination problem? We're going to take a moment to talk about today's sponsor, and then we're going to discuss some ways that you can fight against procrastination and get the work done that you want to get done. Today's episode is sponsored by Century. Your code is probably broken, fix it with Century. Relying on your customers to report the errors in your application is basically like treating them as an offsite QA team without paying them. This is a terrible strategy because those customers very often, instead of telling you about those errors, they're just going to leave your platform and never come back. Now, ideally, we could avoid all of our errors by testing and trying to run all of the QA scenarios before we release it to the public. This is cost prohibitive, though, right? We are not very good at running tests. We're not very good at writing tests. We're not very good at predicting how people will interact with our applications. We're really bad at a lot of this stuff. So we need a multi-tiered strategy. Yes, you should write those tests, and yes, you should still perform your QA. But beyond that, Century can step in and give you a new set of eyes, a new layer in your testing strategy and in your QA strategy. Century tells you about errors in your code before your customers have a chance to encounter them. Not only does Century tell you about the errors, but they also give you all the details that you will need to fix them. For example, how many users have been impacted by this bug? That way you can prioritize which bugs to fix first. You probably have more than one. Beyond that, you get the stack trace, and even the commit that the error was released through, so you can talk to the developer and figure out how to fix it most appropriately. Go and check out what Century has to offer. Head over to cintry.io to get started today. Thanks again to Century for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. So we've all faced this problem, this problem of procrastination. And there's plenty of scenarios where you're more likely to procrastinate than others. For example, when you start losing energy, especially in the slump of the middle of the day, which research has shown is kind of the worst time to work. If you're trying to summon the mental fortitude to go on a five-hour coding spree, you're likely to fail at that. You should be breaking that work up into smaller chunks if you want to achieve the highest likelihood of continuous focus during those chunks. But what's interesting about all of the discussion around procrastination and even these past few points that I've made is that the discussion is more focused on managing energy than it is managing motivation. Very often, when we are procrastinating, it has less to do with our ability or even our willingness to complete some task, to do some work. Instead, our procrastination is a result most often because we either don't see the value in whatever it is that's in front of us to do, or we don't connect the value to the thing that we have to do. So here's a very simple experiment that you can run as a strategy to stave off that creeping sense of procrastination. When you're developing your list of things to do, whatever method you use to develop that list, when you're looking at something in front of you, perhaps you do this in the morning, that's what I would suggest that you have a list, a prioritized list of things that you want to do, and you start on that list as early as you can in the day. But before you begin, before you start on that list, I want you to look at that first item, whatever that most important item is. And take a moment to imagine what it will be like when that thing is done. What benefits will you experience? What kind of credit will you gain? What kind of appreciation from your coworkers might you stand to receive? What does this chunk of work enable for you, for your customers, for your coworkers? Why is it valuable? I don't want you to just write down the mechanical answer of why the company wants this done. I want you to really think about the feelings and the emotions and the total experience of completing that task. Now, you're not going to be able to sit and meditate on every single task that you have to do, but for the tasks that are truly important, and for the things that we tend to procrastinate on, large chunks of difficult work, this kind of pre-meditation can have a profound impact, potentially, on the way that your brain perceives the connection between that task and the outcome. Before you did this, you probably had a very loose understanding of the benefits of completing a given task on a given day. Perhaps we view these things as just part of our job. In order to fight off procrastination, we must find a way to directly tie benefits to the tasks that we typically procrastinate on. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Thank you to Century for making today's episode possible. Head over to century.io to get started fixing your bugs before your customers see them today. Thanks so much for listening to the show. Developer Tea is a part of the SPEC network. The SPEC network is built for designers and developers just like you who are looking to level up in their career. Head over to SPEC.FM to look at the other podcasts and content that we have available for you. Another thank you to today's editor and producer, Sarah Jackson. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.