On Hold

Like many people, I dislike chores. My general approach to most things in life is to batch process things, I pile stuff up so that I can do it all once infrequently rather than doing it a little at a time. Usually this works pretty well, but every so often laziness overcomes responsibility, the system breaks down and I end up in holding pattern.

Over the years I’ve realized that my mood is very affected by my environment. When I have piles of dirty laundry and am wearing the shirts that I don’t particularly like, my mood switches to one where I am effectively writing off the day: I’m waiting for things to change before I start trying again.

It is a frustrating mood to be in, because by its nature it prevents change, as more work piles up the initial kick required to surmount the hill encourages one to put things off further, and onward it goes.

It’s a common pattern, probably a decent number of programmers run into it in their work lives: if you aren’t starting with the best footing, why start at all? A frequent example I’ve heard from many people is that since some piece of work will require a big chunk of time to complete, it isn’t even worth working on it until you are going to have that big piece of time uninterrupted.

Most of the time this is probably just an excuse, ammunition for procrastination. In reality many things probably don’t take as much time or effort as we remember them taking.

After procrastinating a while by reading wikipedia’s list of biases in judgement and decision making, I feel I should make a larger effort to remember overcoming that hill so that next time it doesn’t look so big.

3 thoughts on “On Hold

  1. hell yes! great post.

    i feel like this about exercise sometimes. workout out regularly (along with eating decent food) is a huge factor in whether i feel ok. when i haven’t worked out in a few days, i feel lethargic, bloated, and bleh…which means the last thing i want to do is exercise. silly paradox. i know it will fix my mood, though, so i sack up and do it.

  2. I can relate to this, and I touched on it in my latest post about Email Batching. I think we programmers tend to try to apply CS theory to ourselves as computers, but our brains don’t work like computers and it doesn’t always apply.

    I recently went in the opposite direction as a response: I try to complete chores immediately and have a clean (and ready) space and mind. If there’s one dish, I’ll wash it, or one thing to put away, I’ll put it away.

    Just because it isn’t the most efficient use of time, doesn’t mean it isn’t the most /effective/ use of time (thanks to Jeff Lindsay for this distinction). Because as you point out, your physical space and state bleed into your mindset / mental state, and as such taking extra time to be in a clean, prepared mindset can pay off in mood and net productivity.

  3. That’s a good comparison. If you find a way to realize you’ve fallen into this pattern I’d like to know what it is. I do this without realizing it.

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