I'm calling bullshit on this technique to "beat procrastination"

Lifehack.org is a productivity website.  It's supposed to help people get their lives in order and live more happily.  Unfortunately, i...

Lifehack.org is a productivity website.  It's supposed to help people get their lives in order and live more happily.  Unfortunately, it - and  virtually every other productivity website I know of - has pretty low "quality assurance."  That is, some material available at Lifehack is good, some of it is rather terrible, and there's precious little way to tell the difference.

Case in point: It's no good getting furious if you get stuck, by Ally Leung.  It's hook is entirely unrelated to the meat of the piece, and the meat itself is pretty rancid.


The piece starts with a quote by Stephen Hawking about knowing when to pause a task on which you're not making progress.  Leung then magically equates the word "stuck" in the Hawking quote with procrastination, the bubonic plague of productivity wonks - or, as Laura Leigh Clarke calls it, "the silent killer of dreams."

1. The word "stuck" can be associated with procrastination, but needn't be always.  If you ponder Hawking's quote for more than a few seconds, you'll realize he's not at all talking about procrastination.

Who is Laura Leigh Clarke, you ask?  That's the author of the piece that contains the (alleged) answer to the question of procrastination posed by Leung, a piece linked at the bottom of Leung's own piece.

2. Lifehack gets you to visit two of their pages for the price of one promise of useful information.  This is a pretty blatant attempt to superficially "drive web traffic" without offering anything substantive in return.

Clarke's piece is summarized by this one paragraph: "The point is, there are some things we each love to do, that are within our natural flow, and there are things that make us feel stuck. The key to getting back into flow and overcoming the stuck-ness is simply a case of spending a greater proportion of your day on tasks that are within your flow. The degree to which you can do this, is the degree to which you will THRIVE."

Another way of saying this is: do what you want, not what you have to do.

And that is just plain wrong.  We don't live in a Star Trek universe where everyone can do whatever they want.  To get to do what you want, you will have to do things that you don't want to do.  Want to play guitar well?  Well, you'll have to practice, and practice, and practice till your fingers bleed.  Wanna be a heart surgeon?  You'll have to do go through years and years of training doing things that you'll think are stupid and absurd.

And even if you can get to do what you really want to do, there will be collateral indignities waiting for you at every turn.  I love to teach, but the administrivia surrounding it very nearly suck the fun and value out of it entirely.  I love being able to read the paper in bed with my wife, but to do that means working hard on things I don't really believe in - not because I've chosen to do those ugly things, but because they are quite literally inevitable.

See, that's not what the Hawking quote was on about at all.

Hawking encapsulated two important ideas in that quote.

First, actively trying to solve a problem isn't the only way to do it.  There is significant scientific literature indicating that once a problem is firmly nested in your wetware, it will keep running even if you're not consciously thinking about it.  Keith Sawyer, for instance, has demonstrated quite clearly (in my opinion, at least) that those magical, so-called "moments of inspiration" that we all have from time to time are really just the unconscious part of your mind sending a solution to the conscious part of your mind.  You think it's a revelatory moment only because you weren't conscious of all the work your brain was doing.

It is important, however, to study the problem very intensely before setting it aside from your consciousness.  In all documented cases of this sort of revelatory cognition having happened, it was preceded by intense study.

Second, Hawking recognizes that nothing is so important that it is worth one's active attention, to the exclusion of all else, for a protracted length of time.  Just because he set aside the question of information loss and black holes for 29 years does not mean he just sat around with his thumb up his ass.  He got all kinds of other incredible work done.

3. This relates in no way whatsoever to procrastination.

The question isn't even really about procrastination, it's about getting everything done and not just the stuff you want to do.

I've got my own way of doing that, but I haven't the time right now to write it up.  Once I do, I'll post it here.

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The Trouble with Normal...: I'm calling bullshit on this technique to "beat procrastination"
I'm calling bullshit on this technique to "beat procrastination"
The Trouble with Normal...
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