Graham on Good and Bad Procrastination

From Paul Graham, author of Hackers and Painters (an enthralling read exploring the inner chambers of genius minds, connecting science, art and psychology), comes a great little article just in time for preparing your New Year's resolutions: Good and Bad Procrastination.

But the trouble with big problems can't be just that they promise no immediate reward and might cause you to waste a lot of time. If that were all, they'd be no worse than going to visit your in-laws. There's more to it than that. Big problems are terrifying. There's an almost physical pain in facing them. It's like having a vacuum cleaner hooked up to your imagination. All your initial ideas get sucked out immediately, and you don't have any more, and yet the vacuum cleaner is still sucking.

You can't look a big problem too directly in the eye. You have to approach it somewhat obliquely. But you have to adjust the angle just right: you have to be facing the big problem directly enough that you catch some of the excitement radiating from it, but not so much that it paralyzes you. You can tighten the angle once you get going, just as a sailboat can sail closer to the wind once it gets underway.

Graham is one of my favourite modern essayists, and this tight little article goes directly to the core of one of the productivity geek's most time-consuming musings. (The latter of which, of course, is ironic in itself.)

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