As I slowly woke from a deep slumber, I idly ticked through a list of possible things to do. All of them, worthwhile! All of them, just a little too much to get excited about. It’s a long-standing pattern, this, and I’ve at various times ascribed it to:
- a lack of intrinsic motivation
- a lack of external feedback
- a missing sense of mission or calling
- depression at the amount of work required
- Seasonal Affective Disorder
- being “interesting” rather than “exciting”
- not knowing where to start
- not immediately knowing how to make it work
- lack of energy / sleepiness
- lack of water / nutrition
- back workspace
- other projects sapping energy from me
Today, though, I think I can wrap these all up under one malady, which I’m dubbing “Low Threshold of Inconvenience” or LTI. I have a remedy for almost all of the things I’ve listed above, but every one requires some effort on my part. When I’m feeling good or am “feeling the moment”, I can deploy any number of countermeasures and get through something. When I’m not, however, it’s tough. My basic proclivity, when I’m by myself in the comfort of my own home, is to avoid things that are inconvenient to start, unless the result is quite salient. Preparing food falls in that category.
When the productive choices in front of me are all inconvenient, then the non-productive pre-packaged choices are easy to fall into. Watching TV. Playing a video game. Driving somewhere to do some window shopping. Surfing the net. These are all rewarding with new ideas and inputs without having to do anything other than click a button or get into the car. It’s a noxious habit to fall into, especially if you’re desire is to build something new for yourself.
I was thinking about my particular level of LTI. The following things are inconvenient for me to the point I will not do them unless I am in the mood to push, or are being pushed:
- Opening more than one window on my computer.
- Looking for a file in a directory.
- Having to remember anything.
- Starting to design.
- Writing a program.
- Coding a website.
- Reading what I have already written.
- Doing a second draft.
- Drafting a report from multiple sources.
- Picking up something on the floor.
- Going to the mailbox, because I have to get out of my car and carry it back.
- Doing the dishes.
- Exploring a new town.
- Taking out the trash.
The top of the list are things that are more work related, while the bottom of the list are more like chores. The list is pretty embarrassing…it seems that I find EVERYTHING inconvenient. I have no inherent desire to go out and do these things. The only thing that keeps it from becoming a desperate pattern is that that I like good stuff. And I’ve found that I can create good stuff, when I apply myself. And the ability to make good stuff is the gateway to being able to buy more good stuff, as well as create some stature for myself. In other words, I value good stuff. That desire to have good stuff means I either have to create it, make the money to buy it. The resistance is that I don’t particularly like the process because it’s (wait for it) NOT usually a good process. Every interaction pains me because it’s in some way not optimal or good. This drives me nuts.
For example, starting to write a program means that I need to have a collection of skills and software programs, with the ability to apply them intelligently. The skills are not difficult, once you find them and understand them. Most of the educational material out there is piecemeal, just fragments of the big picture, and lacking the organization to make the material truly accessible. That offends me on a basic level. The software programs themselves are often obtuse and poorly documented, and sometimes are shoddily coded or conceived. I find offense in that also. It fills me with such frustration that I often feel like giving up. I feel limited by factors that are beyond my control.
This is probably why I’m such a poor student, because I’m such a judgmental deconstructor of everything from presentation to accuracy to communication style. I used to be confused by bad material, thinking that I was stupid. Then, realizing it wasn’t me, I took it personally. These days I’m more relaxed about it and can go with the flow to privately construct my own understanding, but the frustration is still there. The making of things can be easy and obvious, I keep dreaming, if only the material was cleanly presented and explorable.
For stuff I know how to do, like design a page or make a webpage, there are many small inconveniences. I hate looking for files on my computer, remembering where I put them. My project filing system is fairly efficient, but it’s still a pain in the butt. I don’t like opening explorer folders, finding where the window pops up, and drilling down into a directory structure. It’s all so awful, the user interfaces. I’d write my own file manager if I knew how, but then I’m back to the problem of dealing with all that bad documentation to learn how, which doesn’t help me. What kills me is that I know I can do it; it’s just that there’s so much crud to wade through. But I digress…the next step to making something is managing all the thousands of bits of code and the dozens if not hundreds of graphic assets, each one a tiny gnat-bite of inconvenience. Compounding this are all the unknowns that have to be resolved, and the result may NOT be good.
For other chores like picking stuff off the floor, the frustration is a little different. First, I never see stuff like that unless there’s a reason to be concerned (like, someone ELSE might see it). And then, when I really look, I really don’t like what I see. I hate my kitchen floor, for example, but am too cheap and too judgmental about contractors (and even a too much out of my element) to take a chance and try to fix it with real effort and money. It’s a big project, in my mind, to get this done right. So I just seethe quietly inside, and don’t do it. If it really capture my attention, I will do something and spend a few hours on it, but it’s rare.
For less epic chores, like cleaning the cat box or doing the dishes, I’ve learned to just shut my mind off and do it without commentary. In fact, when I’ve done this, I end up coming up with ways of handling it more efficiently and with less stress. This is the “on-the-fly systemization of process” that I tend to do when locked into a task that I’ve given my promise to complete.
This isn’t quite where I thought this post would go, but I’ll sum up the takeaways for me:
- I am highly sensitive to inconvenience. Almost every worthwhile thing I can think to do seems inconvenient, and therefore I don’t do them.
- I am highly judgmental of the tools and references I use to do things, which creates another barrier to using them to do things.
- I tend to be offended by bad stuff, and am easily irritated by chores that are not in themselves a contributor to excellence.
- In other words, I take a lot of process very personally, and not in a good way.
Realizing this, I think the following realizations are helpful:
- Relax, don’t take inconvenience/mediocrity personally, and know that my first pass through will systemize it so it’s better next time. This happens automatically for me.
- Having the willpower to push past inconvenience is kind of MY HERO MOMENT. Immediacy and external factors can also provide an assist, but when it comes to my OWN SELF IMPROVEMENT, the willpower is necessary. It’s my own journey.
By not dwelling on the inconvenience, and focusing on the systemization pass, I may be able to push few a few more projects. In a way it’s a distraction from the actual task, but I think for someone like me it’s probably necessary. I loathe inconvenience and inefficiency, and have to deal with it eventually. It’s probably my greatest challenge!
David, if you have external presser, for example if you are working in an organisation, you just have to force yourself to get things done without even the time to think about the inconveniences. I always have more personal projects done when I am working than when I am on holiday. The reason is when I am on holiday I find so many excuses to not doing things.