Saturday, March 12, 2016

Zen Cafe and Procrastination

I haven't solved the problem of procrastination and I never will. And that might be because I believe procrastination to be a natural state. It's like energy. There will be always some loss. I sometimes imagine a very workaholic person who really uses every minute of his day to produce creative work. What if I could sit down 8 hours per day, even after my daily work and just code? Use every moment of time, optimize all processes, cut all distracting habits, eliminate the useless. That person who did that would not be human. Everybody procrastinates. Maybe the point is how much he/she does it and how they feel about it. Maybe you are wasting 60% of the time and believe this is not procrastination but normal. Maybe you worry about few hours of entertainment where you could do something more creative and forget all the time you really did work. Maybe you have so many dreams and projects in your head but spend most time fantasizing about them. And you either think you have a problem with procrastination or not. Or think that in order to convert some of your creative vision to reality something has to change.

But if productivity is like energy, every form of energy sources from petroleum to renewable energy will have loss, then there might be methods to reduce this. Also, we'll have to think again why is it happening in the first place? You could say it's everyday distractions, since I am working in the computer for creative coding, youtube or steam are one click away. Uninstall the games you'd say. I have many good reasons to not (all my saves and such) and I don't think it would work in such way. It's more psychological. Even if I uninstall the games, I would want to do anything else than the work itself. I would click here and there, check a new game that I just downloaded, try to avoid the task at hand even by walking away from my computer, so I go out for a walk, everyone says that yes that's good because you move away from the computer, I pat myself in the back but I am not even close to the computer so I avoided the place of the task.

The place of the task. I realized that I feel a little bit of dread as I come back home, while before I decided that it would be a good idea to write the code for that demo or start a new project or anything that needs to put my ass down. When I am outside I dream of projects I would like to start, I am very enthusiastic and feel very lightly about them, like I could just go back home and start them. But as I approach home I feel a dread. It's a dread that I will finally have to work, test myself and find out it scares me. Maybe it scares me to see myself failing again. Maybe this loop of "wanna make demos - must do - deadline - always must prove myself - or make sense of my time - or I don't know" became such a chore through the years that it stuck forever and makes it impossible to be as creative as the very first year I found the demoscene and was more young and enthusiastic about creating stuff in a computer.

It's not internet or games. It's this dread for me. If I cut internet or games then I would find something else to make me avoid the task at hand. I would still feel the dread and struggling to keep me creative and not find any other excuse to not do the task right now. Of course, one thing would be to somehow find myself in an unconscious creative flow where I haven't felt the dread and just code for the sake of it. Rarely it happens when I don't have a planned demo in a deadline, but one day I decided I want to try something in code, like coding for a new device or trying an algorithm I just thought. And when this happens I have to be there, so that in an instance I jump into it without second thought. Before it goes away. Because sometimes I am outside and have this idea of trying something, and think that when I go back at home it's the first thing I will try, but then when I come back home I feel the dread because I have planned to code this thing and I will encounter again my procrastinating self. So, I could think at first that maybe coding random things for fun and not for a deadline would work out, but then I start planning again and being afraid of failing to do what I planned.

For example, in another sense and according to the title of this post (I kept writing things without getting into point) I discovered something else recently. Another thing I had is buying books (either real or digital in my tablet) but never really sitting down to read them. I might have read a minority because it happened to be absorbed at the time by a book and somehow I was in a period without other things in my head and just sat there and read in one night. But usually I only read at night when I am in my bed, and maybe after half an hour and four pages (I keep getting distracted sometimes in the same sentence) I get to sleep. So, many books I might have started reading the first chapter and then never read again. I haven't read many books in my life even if there are many interesting things to read.

But recently I somehow had a new habit in the weekends, when I was trying to avoid work, I went to a nearest cafeteria with my tablet, at first just to escape from all this dread. It was just a zen choice, sit in a nice place for few hours, drink your coffee, check stuff in your tablet. Then I decided to have a look at one of my books from kindle. And I started being absorbed and reading. Soon enough I finished 2-3 chapters. It was also a nice moment without that dread, without that obligation to do creative work or push myself to finish a book. I was just going through an easy flow that worked. Then this visit in my local cafeteria happened few more times in the weekend and managed to finish a book and start two more. Wow, that's how I can finally read all the books I got and never started!

Today I went to that cafeteria but it was late. Most cafeterias close at seven here. I know another one which doesn't but there is more noisy atmosphere there (more like a bar/cafeteria). I had less than an hour for a coffee. I needed it because recently it became a habit also at my work and I think I got headache because of this but not sure. I also needed to get out and relax a bit. Playing all day Brutal Doom and then watched a movie but didn't work on my DOS demo and that created a dread because now I had to and I would have to test myself again and fail. I needed to control this dread. So I went out. And thought it was a good opportunity to read my book even for half an hour. But then do you know what I thought? I thought, Fuck It! It's only half an hour and I want to press me into being productive? I realized that this is how this cafeteria could become a chore, by finding this out and making it work like a new productive method. That could destroy the zen of it, thus making it not work the next time.

I pondered for a while whether I could use the same method for programming. Bring my laptop, sit in the cafeteria and code. Not enough space in the table for both laptop and coffee maybe. Only two places have plug and my battery needs change. Maybe I should get a smaller and lighter laptop too. Usually at several hours it's almost full and it's even hard to find a place (I really need to observe all hours and find the best, I like it when it's less crowded and quiet). The alternative would be a public library, but I like the atmosphere of a cafeteria. Library would remind me of stuyding. Maybe I don't want that, but I could try once. But number one reason, what if this become more like a productivity trick and make me connect this zen cafeteria moment with opportunistic use of my time to break procrastination, but start creating the dread that the next time I go to the cafeteria to work but I end up not working?

I don't know, I still like the idea (also you do avoid gaming and most internet distractions, not easy to play brutal doom or youtube in front of people, I'd rather do that at home). At least with books it is more zen because they are books and reading is straight forward and some times I don't care about finishing a book, I avoid this being my goal.

But you get what's the problem here. There might be an optimum creative flow in whatever we do. It's when you are absorbed on something (either it's studying, reading a book or coding) and all your negative emotions are invisible at that point, you forget that dread you felt about finding yourself procrastinating, that feeling of "I would rather do anything else now". It's usually hard to avoid the dread. Maybe it is connected with when I am going back home, because I know this is the time I could be creative, and it's forgotten when I go outside for a walk (or to the cafeteria) because normally I say "I went out of home to relax, not work again and afterall I am not near my desktop PC anymore so I couldn't work even if I wanted. I literally take the time and relax and I feel better. And because I feel better I can easily imagine myself working on my creative projects when I go back at home. Till I reach home, the proximity to it increase my dread, because I am not out anymore and free of all that, but I have to test myself now, to see whether I finally start with a work or procrastinate again.

If I could find a way to fight this. Then I would be more productive? But the will to be productive is my struggle, an oppressive self which always wants me to be productive, make more demos or other stuff that gives a sense to my life. A strange coder's block in an infinite loop.

Or I could just forget everything and enjoy my Zen Cafe.

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