Thursday, November 1, 2012

How to fight procrastination?

How to avoid procrastination? I don't really know. I've just spent around 2 days looking for a software to build a knowledge base (this search failed; the software of my dream doesn't exist, so the search was essentially vain and counterproductive). And then about 1 more full day (in total) blogging about neuroscience of homosexuality in Russian. (Why? Why? It's not even my topic!)

But introspectively I can list the following reasons (or maybe rather ways) I procrastinate:

1) The first reason is the simplest one: I try to avoid work; try to find distraction. Any kind of distraction!
2) I seek news; any kind of novelty; any kind of information that was generated recently, that is "hot from the press". As if to prove myself that the world is still moving on around me.
3) I seek interaction with other people. To prove that I'm not alone.
4) I seek praise from other people. To feel that I'm useful.
5) And sometimes I'm just too tired to keep working.

Normally I would cover all 5 points by procrastination, and mostly of Internet kind: checking the e-mail, blogs, twitter, facebook, Reddit, wikipedia watch pages etc. And it's bad. It should not be like that.

Some people (theorists and mathematicians) can afford working without a computer, with just a paper notebook. Or at least unplug form the Internet. I usually can't afford it, as I have to check Pubmed, or google for Matlab tips and tricks all the time. So I need to find another solution.

After SfN I successfully (at least so far) quit Reddit, which was by far the worst way of wasting time for me. Reddit is a great tool; I quite successfully used it for conducting science-related polls, advertising some of my work, and I learn(ed) a lot form it. But it's just way too demanding. I can not afford it. I also stopped checking Twitter and Facebook, by consciously making the feed unreadable. I unsubscribed from most of Google+ alerts. In total it should help with Reason #1, at least for a while.

Instead, I subscribed to some "new publications" kind of alerts at WebOfScience and Pubmed. Maybe it will satisfy the craving for the "hot" information (Reason #2).

Reasons #3 and #4 aren't a problem when I'm teaching, or when I am to present, or have recently presented my work outside the lab. I still don't know what to do "in between". Maybe developing this blog can be a solution.

And for the #5 - I will probably try alternating tasks. Can not program any more? Read some papers. Can not read? Reground the rig. Can not work with the rig? Read some science-related (but really science-related!) blogs about giving tenure talks (as if it were relevant) and what not. We'll see how it works.


  1. As they say, I hear your pain. :)

  2. Have you tried ConnectedText (

  3. @MK: No, I haven't =) It doesn't seem to be a good solution for me though, now as I look at it. It's just too complicated. It also doesn't seem to be WYSIWYG, which undermines the whole idea of notes-taking.

    Generally, it looks like none of the tools available is visual enough (in terms of notes taking, and in terms of searching for notes) to make it a reliable substitute for real physical index cards. And thus it just doesn't justify the complexity...