Monday, July 05, 2004

I am lazy

My name is Lachlan Gemmell and I am a lazy man

I feel better now.

When a programmer publicly proclaims their laziness it's usually an excuse to preach about best practices such as code reuse.

Fear not, you'll find none of that here. I'm just straight out lazy.

It's kind of an unfortunate trait for an entrepreneur to have. Ambition and drive probably top the scale for desireable traits in an entrepreneur and alas I appear to have only one of the two in abundance.

I was supposed to be well on my way to organising my part time home computer help business by now. In my last post I said I was going to consider the feedback I'd received on a business name and make my decision on Monday. Well over a week later I haven't even got around to properly looking at the suggestions that were given.

I have been busy though and therein lies the paradox. When I'm working for somebody else, as I have been with clients this week, I'm very conscientious and hardworking. When it comes to doing my own projects I waste hours just sitting in front of the computer, finding excuses not to get started. It's a shame I have this need to create my own business, I'd probably be a model employee otherwise.

So what am I going to do it about it?

Firstly I'm going to lighten up a bit, but only a bit. It's 13 days since I left my day job of around 8 years, and I guess a few days of idleness immediately afterwards aren't the end of the world. A few days is enough though. One thing I'm going to be short on in writing Sydney is time. Time to devote to writing the project and time until my savings run out. I need to create an alternate source of income that leaves me plenty of time to devote to Sydney and lengthens the amount of time it will take for my money to run out. So it's time to start working again.

So, I currently pay somebody to help stop myself from procrastinating like this. Leah, in the week or so since I last spoke to you I've done very little of what we had planned. Roughly half my time has been taken up with hours billed to clients but the other half I've wasted. There's still a bit more than a week until the date we planned for the launch of the part time home computer help business but I'm well behind where I wanted to be at this point.

OK, that's the bat-signal activated and illuminating the night sky. Now what am I going to do to help myself.

I'm not too sure.

I've tried to sort myself out in this regard several times before always with very limited success. So I guess I'll just try a little harder this time and throw a few different techniques into the mix and see how I go. The two main things I want to do are to capitalise on my strengths and try minimise the influence of my weaknesses.

Here's what I'm good at

  • Working "on the clock"
  • Maintaining focus for extended periods
  • Getting up in the morning

Here's what I'm not so good at

  • Starting work and
  • Ignoring distractions
  • Keeping my office organised
  • Working late

My first strength, working "on the clock", means that when I'm working for somebody else there's no goofing off. As soon as I clock on, using my billing software, I'm make sure that I keep working right up until I clock off.

I think I'll maximise that strength by recording not just hours billable to clients but to recording almost all my hours on any work related activity. Even though I won't be billing for the hours I spend on Sydney, I'll be clocking on and clocking off and at the end of each week I'll know exactly how I spent my time.

Next on the strengths list is being able to maintain focus for extended periods. By extended periods I mean around 5-7 hours without interruptions or breaks. As long as I'm not interrupted my concentration levels are high and my productivity is good. Working in these extended periods is my preferred way of working so I'll favour them over smaller blocks of time.

The last strength I can think of at present is getting up in the morning easily. This hasn't always been a strength, in fact I think I've oscillated between being a night and a morning person a few times in my life. At present though I'm a morning person and as soon as I jump out of bed I can pretty much start work if I want to. The danger is that sometimes I start work straight after getting out of bed, go into one of my 5 hour extended work periods and then have breakfast around midday. Probably not the best way to work so I'll need to be a bit more conscious about starting the day properly.

Now we come to my failings. Top of the list is that more often than not I simply cannot start working on a project. When I sit down at the machine I let myself get involved with emails, newsgroups and blogs before anything else and then before I know it it's nearly lunchtime or time to leave for my next appointment.

The simple answer there is to just start work straight away without checking my email and blogs. Easier said than done but I think I'll just have to try harder.

An inability to ignore distractions was my next bugbear. Once again email, newsgroups and blogs are big culprits here along with telephones, radio and television.

Willpower again has to play a big part but I've also done a few things to make it easier. Firstly my TV aerial broke and I deliberately haven't got it fixed. Life without a TV is surprisingly easy but I might talk about that another time. Telephones will be a special case, I need to minimise the amount of calls I receive but I want business clients to still be able to ring me. At this stage when I launch my home computer help business I won't be providing my direct telephone numbers to home customers. As for reading email and blogs I think I'm going to check only them at designated times of the day and place strict time limits on both.

Keeping my office organised... I'm really bad at this. I should put things away as I use them but of course I don't and so they pile up. That's not too bad though, I could just do a big cleanup every so often. Well I could except that I hate cleaning anything. This gets me into the situation where I can't start work because my desk is a disaster area but I won't clean it up because I can't bring myself to do it. I'm really not too sure what to do about this one. My current idea of clicking my heels together and reciting "there's no place like home, there's no place like home" has so far failed to improve the state of my office.

Last on my list is working late. Not too much to say here other than that since I don't watch TV anymore and I have trouble working in the evenings I think I'll just go to bed early as often as possible. Not as early as I was a few months back but definitely no later than 10pm if I can help it.

Oh and I guess writing shorter blog posts would save a bit of time too.


At 10:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Lachlan,

Two thoughts

1. Go get a copy of "Eat that Frog", great book on dealing with procrastination in your life.

2. Make a conscious decision to get a feature or class complete.. dont sit down and say "right, I'm going to work straight for the next 7hrs"... no.. sit down and say "I am GOING to COMPLETE the TSydneyDingbatWidgetManager class TODAY".

Good luck!


At 3:20 PM, Blogger Lachlan said...

That's a great book title Duncan. I'll keep an eye out for it.

Thanks for suggestion on setting definite goals each day. It's a simple thing that I haven't really tried before.

At 1:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fellow procrastinator, I have the same problem. I know I don't have the self discipline to work from / at home. I recently resorted to being a stay-home parent, due to problems with vehicles, childcare, and my spouse's new (50% travel) job. Most of my work experience has been security at night, or soul murdering clerical work during the day. (Despite the fact that I have studied International Affairs for 6 years and am a semester away from graduating--I can't afford school right now, as we are still recovering from IT layoffs 2 years ago when we had to live on savings.) My frustration with my lack of ability to get a job that produces a living wage may be a big part of the problem. Anyway, whatever psychological road block I am facing, I can't bring myself to finish unpacking the moving boxes and get this place cleaned up. I know that I am jealous of my spouse's success and resentful of my own failures and that adds to the problem. Sure, I try to be happy for my husband, but it seems like whenever we move, I am stuck with the brunt of the grunt work. When you are a stay-at-home parent, none of your achievements matter. School officials treat you like an ignorant hick and call you a "housewife". I resent that title and all it implies. I feel real sorry for any man in my posiiton. The reason is, I know the lack of respect I get from people for staying home. I can imagine that it is much worse for men because of societal perceptions that a man who stays home is a slacker. I have been a slacker, but I'm not sure how to overcome it. I have to do something soon though before my husband loses patience with me.

At 7:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear blogger,

I am as lazy as you. I love procrastination. I prefer to lay down on my bed and watch TV than sit and work. Plain and simple. I wish there was only a way to get paid to sleep, eat, and watch TV. I have graduated from the state university about 1 1/2 year ago and have not found a job in the area of my study. I still have the same job I had before I graduated, which has nothing to do with what I've studied.


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