Letter #4: This is not how you procrastinate
The surprising effect of doing just a little, every day
Have you noticed that this newsletter has arrived significantly late after the last one? I know. I did too. I’m going to talk about why that is and how it relates to a pattern in my life that I’m still fighting to overcome.
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The title, “This is not how you procrastinate,” suggests that there is a right way to procrastinate. I don’t know about that, but I can talk about the destructive type of procrastination that had me in trouble many times.
When I was in school, I’d often skip classes to go do other things. My entire career with computers (that is, blogging/writing) started at internet cafés I’d frequently visit instead of attending classes. The problem was, it wouldn’t be just a day or two. If I skipped classes one day, somehow, it would end up being days and even weeks before I returned.
It would go something like this: After I’d skipped classes two days in a row, I’d think to myself, well, it’s been two days, so I might as well take another day. Two more days later, I’d think, well, the weekend is here, so I might as well round it up and return to classes the following week.
This would keep happening, and before I knew it, I’d missed weeks of classes. Then I’d go into full-on anxiety about going back to school, essentially delaying my return to classes even further.
This, thankfully, hasn’t followed me into my professional life (if it did, I wouldn’t have a remote job since success at a remote job depends on your ability to ‘show up’ at work even when you’re in your bedroom). But it still affects me in some areas.
This newsletter is a prime example of that deadly kind of procrastination I’m talking about. Before I go into that further, let me clarify what I mean by showing up.
‘Showing up’ at work, in a traditional office environment, means literally just showing up at your workplace. (I’ve learned firsthand that it doesn’t necessarily mean working.)
Showing up at a remote work also means something similar, but instead of physically showing up somewhere, you show up at work remotely (by joining Slack or whatever mean of team communication your company uses) and start your “workday.”
The third kind of showing up is when you spend time working on something for yourself. This could be for learning a new skill, dedicating time to your personal projects, etc. That’s what I’m talking about today.
What happens when you show up consistently
This article, “The unreasonable effect of just showing up everyday” by Kishore Nalan got me thinking about it first. I’m sure we all heard the advice about consistency. If you are working on a goal, no matter how small your everyday tasks are, if you keep at it consistently, you’ll achieve your goal.
The article is a living example of how that can be true. And the author puts it nicely. If you just “show up” every day and put some time into your goal (whether that’s learning a new skill or working on a side project), you’ll achieve great things.
The important thing here is that it doesn’t have to be a large chunk of your day. Even if you’re spending a tiny amount of your time, as long as you do it daily, it’ll amount to something. That’s what Lorenzo Gravina emphasizes in his article, “The Value of Doing a Little”.
When we see advice telling us to do something small consistently, we usually scoff. After all, we are serious about what we do; we want to dedicate an hour, not five minutes to it. And we will definitely never skip a day. That’s until you realize that it’s not you talking, it’s the highly motivated version of you. A month from now, you’ll be past the honeymoon phase.
We think the choice is between doing something big or something small. But really, it’s between doing something small or nothing at all.
Years ago, a well-gilded Reddit comment put it elegantly: no more zero days. A zero day is a day in which you did absolutely nothing towards your habits, not even a tiny bit.
Those words from the two articles struck me hard. It reminded me of my school days. I don’t regret missing classes (I don’t think highly of the traditional education system), but when I think about all the personal projects I didn’t finish, it becomes clear as day that the only thing common among all of them is those zero days.
Lots and lots of zero days.
Coming back to this newsletter: The plan was to start writing the newsletter 3-4 days before the expected day of publication. But I’d be collecting interesting links to share with you throughout the week. I would keep a list of those links and plan to write all about them when I’m writing the full newsletter.
What if, instead of saving the links for later, I wrote a little bit about them every day? Needless to say, I’d have published a few more newsletters by this time. And my writing would have improved, however tiniest, with all the practicing.
Moral of the story? Avoid zero days. (I’d say avoid it like the plague, but we’ve learned from the pandemic that people don’t really avoid or even believe in plagues ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )
When learning a new skill or working on a personal project, dedicate even 10 minutes a day if you can. The result, weeks or months later, will surprise you.
🍿 What I’ve watched
I finally watched Friends Reunion on HBO Max. I didn’t grow up watching Friends. But when I did start watching it a few years ago, I binge-watched the whole series over just a few weeks. And when I was done, I could seriously feel a kind of personal connection to all of them and their fictional life. I could also imagine how stronger that connection must have been for someone who watched the same thing spread over 10 long years -- they practically grew up with them!
I know that there are a lot of people who say Friends is overrated and think it tries too hard to be funny. I don’t go into an argument with them. I believe movies and TV shows are a form of art, and art is always subjective. But you can’t objectively dismiss the truth about the effects Friends has on many, many people around the world.
Friends Reunion, throughout its 1.5-hr runtime, highlights some of those for whom Friends had a long-lasting impact. I enjoyed watching it!
📖 Long Read
I’m in the habit of Googling every now and then to find out what other people think about the future of blogging. It doesn’t help that most of the articles come from sites that want to promote blogging with their own affiliate links, but every once in a while, I find something that truly adds a new perspective to the question.
Linked above is a pretty old article I found the other day that was strangely still showing up within the first few pages of the SERP. Although it doesn’t give you a straight answer, I found it thoroughly enjoyable to read because it documents how some early blogs have evolved -- like TechCrunch and Mashable -- and what we can learn from them.
If you’re interested in the topic, I think this will be an interesting read for you.
👨💻 Personal Updates
📹 I started a company-sponsored training from BetterOn in an effort to improve my video presence. The goal isn’t to become the next hit YouTuber. I wanted to challenge myself and go into uncharted territories to see what it’s like. I’m determined to finish the training and see how I come out on the other side. Best-case scenario, I’ll finally be able to turn some of my blog posts into YouTube videos. Worst-case scenario, I’ll be more confident in speaking up at Zoom calls. So it’s a win-win situation either way!
💼 I’ve never thought of myself as a leader. Although I enjoy reading about leadership skills from the likes of HBR, I don’t think I have it in me to manage people. However, we have access to a leadership training program in-house at Automattic. And I’ve decided to try that out. I’m still undecided on whether leadership is for me, but I’ve looked at the things that will be discussed and I’m confident that those learnings will be useful for other areas of work. I’ll probably post my learnings periodically on ais.blog.
📱⌚️💻🎧 Work is in full swing on my new Apple blog. I wrote about it on a blog post earlier, but in case you missed it, I’m working on a brand new blog where I write about my experiences, reactions to new releases, and hands-on reviews of all things Apple. I don’t think I’ll replace the likes of 9to5mac 😝 from your RSS feed, but if you like personal takes on things, you might enjoy it!
Currently, I’m working on writing reviews for AirPods Max, HomePod Mini (in stereo), and a late review of the M1 MacBook Pro.
👋 Until next time
This issue of the newsletter about procrastination arrived late because of procrastination on my part. The irony in that aside, I will strive to follow the twice-a-month routine for sending out new issues.
Please feel free to reply with your thoughts, subscribe via email if you haven’t already. You can also tweet @aisajib to share feedback, ideas, and suggestions.
Until next time, stay safe, healthy, and get vaccinated if you can.