Monday, March 13, 2023

Recomendo and Procrastination

Kevin Kelly is a super-interesting guy, and I've been enjoying his Recomendo Substack thingee (I'm preoccupied with Substack right now - I mentioned it yesterday, too - because I'm thinking of establishing a presence there to document my Portugal chowhounding adventures).

Every week, Recommendo sends you an email with just a few super-choice finds which most people would deem interesting/useful. Only the cream!

This week, Recommendo, uh, recommendos a thingee called "The Right Now List". While you could click the link for more info, the value of Recommendo is in its savvy boil-down. Which, in this case, is as follows:
How to Trick Your Inner Procrastinator

The Right Now List is a ridiculously simple approach to tricking your inner procrastinator. David Cain recommends grabbing a sticky note and writing down 2-3 things that you need to do right now to get started on your project. These tasks need to be absurdly easy for this to work. For example: 1) Open Microsoft Word 2) Find the document I was working on yesterday 3) Scroll down to where I left off. The trivialness of these tiny tasks is what prevents your inner procrastinator from objecting. It gets your foot in the door and before you know it, you’re making headway.
First, a musical break from a great early-80's trombone-heavy punk-funk band composed (mostly) of downtown avant musicians, performing the best song ever written about Procrastination: 


Stick around long enough and eventually someone will independently come up with anything you once came up with. And reading this approach to procrastination gave me yet another "Didn't I Slog that at same point?" flash. After digging around, I found, first, this interesting posting about Procrastination, which was not the one I was looking for, and, finally, the horribly titled "Wagon Hitching, Credit Taking, and Reframing,” which notes:
You can't execute an abstract proposition. The reason it's hard to lose weight is because losing weight is an abstract proposition, not a doable thing. Try it! Reader: LOSE WEIGHT! Go!

Nothing, right?

Trying to pursue an abstract proposition makes us a little nutty, prompting shame and confusion rather than pragmatic action. You can persuade yourself (or others) to take a walk, or do a push-up, or eat a healthy egg-white omelet. Those things are eminently do-able, and will eventually, if repeated, lead to weight loss. But a person cannot be persuaded to LOSE WEIGHT, because that's beyond the human ken.

You can take a single step toward a larger process, but it will feel like a measly step, not a grand process. The grander you frame it, the less doable it becomes.

So here's how you hitch your wagon. Identify a single nugget of pragmatic action. Preferably one that's reasonably pleasant, and somewhat intriguing. Start thinking, playfully, about this nugget, just as an isolated thing, without any reference to the over-arching goal. Coax yourself into absorption. And, before you know it, you'll be up and doing it. Just don't let yourself pull back the framing to a painful long view. If you do, look past it. Guide yourself gently but persistently into the finite task at hand. Reframe it, in other words, in close-up, rather than a long shot.
Here's where I question whether my ponderous and nuanced style of explaining certain things is inferior. Should I stop that? Am I indulging myself?

Perhaps. But I honestly believe a thicker pudding can offer greater nutrition. That said, the world also benefits from nice clean crispy bullet points. Vive la différence - or, to quote that beautiful hippy child, Mao Tse-Tung, "Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom!" (or was it a hundred?).

I figure there's got to be room in the world for at least one wordy guy thoughtfully plumbing blind spots and straining to tie it all together the way it was done a couple hundred years ago (though hopefully my prose is way less stuffy). I never convolute self-indulgently. I really do try to state things as accessibly as possible without losing too much of the juice. Here’s the surprising thing: some of my more impenetrable stuff is actually extremely accessible compared to previous efforts to express similar points. My whole “reframing” shtick, for example, explains a faculty previous writers have despaired of ever expressing via words. And you kind of mostly grok it, no? 

Most ideas can be dried, compressed, and reduced into familiar epithets that swallow easily, but that doesn't mean the epithet always suffices.

"The epithet doesn't always suffice." That should be my epitaph!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks for posting about this Substack. Super cool stuff.

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