Procrastinating? Fix it.

I am often asked how to stop procrastinating, or asked how I get so much done. While I think I don’t get enough done, I will share some of my methods of crushing procrastination with mindfulness.

Step 1. Make Time.

There is always 5 minutes to squeeze in one more thing. Get up an hour earlier, drink some coffee, it makes a difference. Use the “in-between” time: read over your paper as you walk to class, answer emails in line at the cafeteria, code while you eat dinner.

Step 2. Create visible todo lists, and prioritize them.

It’s easy to put off your work if you can’t see the length of your list increasing in size as you laze about.

Be careful not to spend more time on todo lists than actually doing. It is easy for some to fall into a false sense of accomplishment by writing lists. Make sure you are moving from thinking to doing.

Step 3. Procrastinate the right way.

Of course, I encourage you to prioritize and stick to your priorities as much as possible.

However, as much as everyone would love to not procrastinate, we are human. I’ve found that the best method of procrastination is doing another task of a lower priority.

Let’s say I have a psychology paper due in 2 days and a simulation due in 8 days. Instead of procrastinating my paper by going on YouTube, I’ll procrastinate by doing my simulation.

Step 4. Learn when to multitask and when to hyperfocus.

The title is mostly self explanatory.

Step 5. Work is Play.

Life is a game and a constant test.

As John Green said, “The test will measure whether you are an informed, engaged, and productive citizen of the world, and it will take place in schools and bars and hospitals and dorm rooms and in places of worship. You will be tested on first dates, in job interviews, while watching football, and while scrolling through your Twitter feed. The test will judge your ability to think about things other than celebrity marriages, whether you’ll be easily persuaded by empty political rhetoric, and whether you’ll be able to place your life and your community in a broader context. The test will last your entire life, and it will be comprised of the millions of decisions that, when taken together, will make your life yours. And everything, everything, will be on it.”

This pressure can be smothering for people, especially those in highly competitive environments. By thinking of learning/life as a game by setting goals for yourself as levels and creating reward systems, you can greatly reduce this stress.

Step 6. Get passionate.

I’ve found that passion for an idea will push me past my perceived limits.

Feeling sick? Lay in bed and rest while answering emails, coding some simple scripts, or writing blog posts.
Feeling frustrated? Obstacles are set up in our paths to keep the people out who don’t want it badly enough.

Step 7. Fill your free time with fun projects. 

You can learn anything by doing fun projects. Building your set of skills and practicing a combination of these skills regularly while having fun will make you faster and more efficient at completing tasks.

Finally, JUST DO IT! The mental blockade you’ve put up by calling yourself lazy, or staring blankly at your todo-list is easily overcome. It is literally as easy as just doing it. Be direct with yourself: stop wasting time.

Job Title: Universe Debugger (the Importance of Implementation)

During a late night conversation with Austin Russell, he stated that we are living in a simulation. Together, we discussed the job description of a Universe Debugger, and created a fun way to project the world onto coding principles and concepts.

If the universe is a simulation, we can debug the universe.

We can infer the types and scoping of variables, and enforce them with conditional actions. This is already the case. We have a scope of acceptable behaviors, defined by law and sociocultural norms. And, if our law enforcement worked in 100% of cases, objects that have unacceptable attributes are collected and assigned to a designated local scope until their behavior has changed.

We are part of a tensor of rank n containing bits. We exist only as information. The notion of self as a constant thing is incorrect, for we are not imaginary anecdotal constants.

Since we exist as part of the simulation, we are in a white-box environment. The only way to be a good white-box tester is to understand the program at a fundamental level. This is why we are scientists. We are universe debuggers. We find problems and create patches. We add features to improve efficiency.
The problem is that we will never be able to fully test the universe. Our unit tests are only applicable within a finite scope.

Fortunately, the universe is empirically tested by actually being run. This allows us to discover new bugs, and improve previous patches.

This perspective of existence demonstrates the importance of implementing your ideas. Writing a bug report is useful, but it is only useful for the purpose of writing future patches. The patches are what improve the program, the patches allow it to grow and go on.

We are tempted to abandon uninteresting bugs, and ignore bugs that do not directly affect our immediate environment.

As scientists and engineers, it is easy to get trapped in patent wars, or keep our research locked up in our ivory towers. Public bug reports are left unresolved and patches are hidden away in local closed-source distributions.

We must take initiative in implementing our ideas. We have a responsibility to work through the tedium which inevitably appears in any interesting project: to finish what we’ve started.  We must transition from learning to thinking to doing.

It is our duty to debug the universe, one patch at a time.