Blog > Productivity > Please, Make Yourself Uncomfortable

Please, Make Yourself Uncomfortable

Here's me at any given weekday around noon:

I'm staring at some code usually written by some French guy back in 2003.  After I curse the French, I refactor a chunk and restart my server, alt-tab over to my browser, immediately command-T and type 'r-e' until reddit.com appears in my omnibar, browse Reddit's front page, reach over to grab a bite from lunch, command-L to hacker news while chewing my food, silently acknowledge that my iPhone is telling me that it's my move in Chess With Friends, watch an email come in on Growl, Alfred into Sparrow, skim the email while taking a gulp of water, notice someone sent me a Youtube video in gchat, pause my Pandora and click play on the video and later alt-tabbing over to the terminal again to see if the server is back up, which it was 10 minutes ago.  

I realized I had a problem with being distracted when I consistently spent long hours at work and hadn't done anything useful (To be fair, I played a lot of ping pong).  It got to the point to where I'd have to do my work at home.  Then at home,  I found myself drooling in front of a video game or giggling like a teenage girl at the newest Internet memes.

So I sought out on a journey to solve my multitasking problem.  That answer was discomfort.

All of the driving force in my life has been to move myself from one uncomfortable position to a more comfortable one.  That's why we, as humans, will put forth that extra energy needed to get a raise, sit farther away from homeless people on the bus, or deal with Comcast for any reason ever.  When we reach that comfort zone, we become attached to it, not wanting to enhance our lives by exploring new paths. We're at the point to where we can either keep our minds focused, or let them soften to the great wave of entertainment flowing by.  

All progress is a positive thing, but the motivation to actually progress is largely driven by negative factors.  Basically, when you're in an inert comfortable state, you have to be unhappy in order to do anything.  I'm not a fan of unhappiness, so I choose discomfort to keep me moving.

Step 1: Practice minimalism in my home life

  • Since January, I've sold my TV, PS3, Wii, projector, much of my furniture, stereo, PSP, three spare laptops, my bike, tons of computer accessories, and my Mac Mini.  
  • I've donated most of my clothes.  I basically own some pants and a shit ton of tech t-shirts now.  
  • I've scanned in all of my paper documents into searchable PDFs (I recommend PDF OSR X). Jotnot to organize my receipts, which Hazel picks up and automatically converts those into searchable PDFs as well.
  • I don't have things to hang on the walls.  I rarely visit the kitchen.

Step 2: Squash distractions at work

  • When I'm at work, I check my email once every few hours, and I tend to run a script called get-shit-done to
  • I moved my desk into a meeting room where I spend the entirety of my work day. 
  • I even stand all day to make sure I don't get too sleepy in my comfortable chair.  
  • I put my phone in my bag, where it stays (unless I'm in the bathroom).
  • There was this guy at work that loved to talk, and he frequently came by my desk just to chat.  I tried everything from asking him to leave to closing the door in his face.  The motherfucker simply wouldn't shut up.  The solution was to kill him (explain to him that he's distracting me).  Unrelated note: There's an opening for a front end engineer at Eventbrite.

Step 3:  ?????

Step 4: Profit

It feels great to step out of the prison of having to feel connected to things all the time.  I spend less time in my apartment or at work than I ever have, and I'm getting more things done than when I spent all day there.  Besides increased productivity, here are a few other side effects:

  • I'm a happier person.  Things don't make me happy.  Experiences make me happy.  These days, I find myself doing the things I've always wanted to do, like being amazing.  And when I'm tired of being amazing, I take a nap and be amazing again.
  • I'm able to roll better with the punches.  For example, let's say that I'm coding on a few projects at work, one requires carefully constructed code and the other is a more free spirited hack job.  Those transitions from one mindset to another are easier.
  • My stress level is at an all time low.  I don't deal with clutter in my apartment.  In fact, if French people burned my apartment to the ground, I wouldn't even need to grab anything during my escape.  My code's in github, documents in Dropbox/iCloud, and backups spread throughout a few servers and other online storages.  I wouldn't even need to grab my glasses because I had laser eye surgery.
  • I'm saving money.  Because of my decreased stress and increased happiness, I feel no need to buy things that distract me from being an unhappy, miserable excuse for a person.  
  • I have a healthier relationship with friends.  Now when people ask, "Hey Buf, happy hour?  A bunch of us are going out to Bloodhound," I don't have to spend my night at home watching Battlestar Gallactica in my boxers eating cheetos off my fat naked belly.
  • Don't get me wrong.  I still work unhealthily long hours like any self-respecting obsessed workaholic would.  The difference is that those long hours are more satisfying.  

In closing, since I had a little extra time to read a book these days, I'd like to finish with a statement by Chuck Palahniuk.

“You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you're satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you've got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.”