All in your head

Distraction.

It’s the thing that could destroy your productivity and send you down the rabbit hole of wasting time and achieving nothing. You will find yourself doing everything else but the one thing you need to be doing.

And you know what? The biggest problem isn’t with distraction. It’s not that video game. Not that Netflix show. Not that book. Rather, it’s you. You are the problem. You choose to play that video game, watch that show or read that book.

So why did you make that choice?

Is it because you lack the discipline?

Or maybe be that the thing you should be doing doesn’t have a strong enough draw to pull you away? Maybe it’s not as important as you think it is? And don’t kid yourself and be all defensive. After all, if it’s important, then why aren’t you doing those things? Why are you allowing yourself to be distracted?

It’s also a conversation that I’m having with myself every now and then.

As much as I like to think I have the discipline to work from home, it’s a lie perpetrated by me on me. The truth is being distracted is a recurring theme. There were so many projects that I want to do but ended up not doing them. I went with playing video games, stopped thinking like a writer and stopped thinking like a designer.

I even told my friends that I couldn’t find the time or concentrate on my stuff at home and needed to work outside. There’s just too many distracting stuff.

One of them said, “it’s all in your head”.

I won’t say I’m surprised. From what I have learned so far, it’s the truth. And the only truth when it comes to productivity.

And that’s a great reminder on who’s really in control.

No one else can make you concentrate or focus. You are the one who decide whether you can concentrate and do the work. Everything else that you say or fight against is just you finding an excuse.

What if you really think that your home has a ton of distractions and you can’t prevent yourself from utilising those distractions? Then go out there and find an environment to work in that allow you to focus. Otherwise, remove all those items in your house that distracts you. Move those distracting things, be it television, your internet router/access points, etc. to a storage unit. Smash them to pieces if you need to. You can always buy a new one later. It’s all about creating that environment you need to work.

And watch what you say to yourself. A lot of times, many of the comments or complains you make are just you being fancy and refuse to do the work. So shut up, and make a plan and execute.

Market Survey

In my previous entry, I mentioned that I planned to launch my own startup.

Over the past month, I got some friends onboard to help out with it. We also worked together to get the details of what the startup is all about. Today, we managed to finalise the name of our company and who will do what. We will begin the process of registering the company and start the development work.

However, we don’t know if what we plan to do will be well-received. And it’s important that we don’t do something that people don’t want. Otherwise, it will be a huge waste of our time and energy that could be better spent on building something more useful.

So, we’ve prepared a market survey to help us understand what the market needs. Now, I personally care deeply about privacy. Therefore, I’ve insisted that this survey will be an anonymous one. We’d appreciate it a lot if you guys could take some time to help fill up the survey in the link provided here.

Dont wait

We spend a lot of our time waiting for shit to happen. It could be we are waiting for the bus to arrive at the bus stop, waiting for that cup of coffee or waiting for that friend to arrive for a lunch appointment.

In hindsight, it’s a such a tremendous waste of time. But here’s the thing. There’s nothing we can do about it. The things I mentioned are out of our control. It’s something that we have to learn to accept and let it happen.

Easier said than done, right?

I know. It’s difficult because I’m still struggling with that. As far as I remember, I like to control aspects of my environment so that I get what I want. However, age has this effect of showing you it’s just stupid. Attempting to control anything else but yourself will only make you miserable.

So… let’s give up our control and mindlessly wait!

Right.

It’s one of the stupidest choices you can make because you are giving up opportunities to grow.

For those who know me knows that I work as a software engineer. In this line of work, you can’t afford to stop. The moment you stop or get comfortable, you will be replaced by something new or fresh. Technology is progressing at an exponential rate. And this fact is what deter some people that I know from this line of work because it’s hard to have a decent life. At least based on what I’ve been told and personally experienced.

Even then, it didn’t stop me from falling into the trap of getting comfortable and doing what I already know. You see, I started out as a Java programmer, switched to C# and now wants to go back because I love that language more than any other languages I’ve used. Furthermore, I saw that it’s time for me to specialise.

But there was no action because I went with waiting. Didn’t go for courses any more or bothering to read up on the latest stuff. And I’m waited, stupidly might I add, for the opportunity to switch the programming language that I use. No more pet projects too.

And look at where it got me.

I couldn’t secure any job interviews with the companies I really want to join.

You might think this situation only applies to developers or engineering fields. Have to be very careful with that. Because, as far as I know, no business, field or industry remain stagnant for a long time. Everything is a fair game when it comes to disruption. Look at how Uber disrupted the transportation industry. Or AirBnb disrupted the accommodation business within the tourism industry.

So the question is, are you going to wait until the day you are disrupted and find yourself out of job?

I for one don’t want that to happen.

So, it’s time to start from scratch again to build up my experience with the programming language I began with.

And no more waiting!

This is why I’m spending time to read up on Java again and using it to build pet projects. It doesn’t matter if the project idea has been done to death by other programmers. The key thing here is that you learn how to code in that language again to solve problems. You have to demonstrate to your future employers that you can write in that language without issue. And the good thing is I’ve got my own startup idea that I want to work on with my friends. It will be a great opportunity for me to practice.

Maybe for your case, you are working in a highly-specialised field and it’s not practical for you to be having a side business or side projects to learn or relearn skills that you don’t really use in your day-to-day job anymore. But it doesn’t mean you can’t learn other stuff. There are many other things that you could learn to make yourself a more well-rounded person.

For example, in this day and age, emotional intelligence is the most important skill anyone should have. Unlike technical skills, no amount of courses or seminar is going to teach you emotional intelligence if you don’t actively practice it in real life with your friends, family or peers. I for one know that I’m no good with that and it’s one of those things I’m constantly learning during my day to day work and interactions. Because I know that if I don’t work on this, I will alienate a lot of people and make it hard for people to work with me to achieve some goals. I can’t wait for something really bad to happen before I start practising.

Or, here is another example. Maybe you find that you are a very creative and chaotic person. You don’t really plan anything out because it doesn’t seem to affect your work. Yay, you are a pantser of sort. high five Therefore, you don’t really bother yourself with it. But does it mean you wait for something bad to happen before you learn how to be organise?

Because you see, having the ability, or some resemblance of ability to plan, is very important to achieve goals or targets. I’m a pantser and acknowledge the importance of basic planning. I do that from time to time if not my work process will be very chaotic. And the ability to plan or be organise could be the difference between you and some other creatives who are trying to show secure some sort of contract, sales or opportunities.

So what you could do is to go for courses on planning or even do it in your daily life. Like your groceries. Or getting the tools you need to do your work. Or plan out your finances. Whatever it is you can find to practice planning, just do it.

Don’t wait for things to happen. It might already be too late. Do it now.

Good writer communicate clearly

It’s easy to trick yourself into believing that you are a good writer just because you write often and that you get some resemblance of readership, and then your friends tell you your writing is doing good. But more often than not, you are not really a good writer. At the end, it’s based on that one metric: Can people understand what you are trying to communicate in a specific context.

For example, on this blog, majority of the content written are stories, insights or ideas told by yours truly based on what I have experienced or learnt. Therefore you will see that the content tend to be longer and come with some sort of introduction, body and conclusion in my own style and word choices.

But in cases like a resume, it’s a whole different beast. You have to communicate in a clear and succinct manner, using action words to demonstrate your skills and abilities so that hiring managers can make his or her decision quickly.

And it’s the same thing with your performance reviews, reports or even emails.

Now, you may be thinking that I could always go for courses to teach me how to write good resume, etc. That should solve a lot of problem.

Yes and no. Going for courses can serve as the foundation on which you can build on. It was that thinking that got me going for technical writing courses too. However, it doesn’t guarantee you can write good. You can only become good if you do it often with intent to improve.

And right now, I know for a fact that I won’t be able to craft a good technical document for my readers even though I went through technical writing course. It’s because I didn’t specifically seek out positions, roles or even tasks that requires me to do that. It put me in a position where I don’t have the experience or feedback to enable me to think like my reader.

Yet it didn’t stop me from having the thought that I’m good at writing. A delusion on my part.

It was that delusion that got me in a situation where I shared what I’ve done or achieved at work in my performance review using the style similar to how I write on my blog. When I first wrote it, it made perfect sense. I believe I was clear and the idea was complete. But when my manager attempted to read out loud what I wrote and fail to understand, it became clear to me that I was wrong.

Was it saddening?

Definitely but all is not lost.

She suggested that I could write it like how I write my resume. The idea was to communicate what I’m supposed to do, how I do it and what I’ve achieved in addition to my main tasks using the shortest number of words that catch the attention of my management.

So it was a good lesson. I want to be a better writer. A writer who can communicate ideas clearly that is both relevant and can grab people’s attention.

Dealing with backlogs

These days there are so many things that vie for our attention and we usually aren’t mindful about which thing actually get our attention. And so we find ourselves reacting to things or just doing things without asking if we should or need to.

It’s because of this that most of us feel miserable at the end of the day. Rarely do we feel happy about our life. Thus, there is this growing movement of minimalism to counteract the increase in busyness, being called to devote our energy and attention on various things and the increase in mindless consumption.

So if you are part of this movement, you can call yourself a minimalist. And the thing about being a minimalist is that you develop a habit of constantly questioning yourself about what you are doing, what you bring into your life and what’s the purpose. Put it simply, it’s all about saying no so that you can say yes to the things that is more important. Things that are more valuable.

And I call myself a minimalist. Saying no to a lot of things is the default stance because I want to devote my limited attention to the things I find joy or meaning. Decluttering and being mindful of what I consume is a big part of my life.

However, I slipped up in recent months. I fell into that trap of mindless consumption. The end result is not pretty.

First of all, there’s a backlog of eight physical books, 50% of which are science fiction novels, that I’ve yet start reading or read halfway. That’s not mentioning there are also four more science fiction e-books in my kindle app also in various reading stages. Then there’s also five video games to play across my three gaming consoles that are in various stages of completion. Third, I got a bunch of personal software and writing projects that I’ve not done or in various stages of completion. Lastly, the backlog for my day job has also grown almost unmanageable.

For some people, they would probably feel pressured to do all of the above I mentioned. Furthermore, other areas of their life will also catch up and demand for their attention. Cortisol level will rise.

Now, this is where things get interesting…

I don’t feel that kind of pressure to complete all of the above. Not like how I would have felt in the past.

You may be wondering why.

I got it figured out.

First of all, I know why I’m in this situation. It’s nobody else fault but mine. Once you accept that, you actually will feel empowered to take back control. Second, you accept that you don’t have anything to prove to anyone. Third, you recognise and accept the fact everyone got the same amount of time. It’s virtually impossible to deal with all the above at the same time without sacrificing your health or life.

Now, your combination of backlogs and situation would be completely different. But the important here is that you figure out what’s the things that you can actually say no to so that you can say yes to clearing your backlogs.

For me, I have been spending my night time looking at jobs and trying to determine what’s suitable for me. It has been that way for the past month. Inadvertently, I got demoralised by the lack of experience I have in various technological stacks that companies are looking for. Also, I had issue reconciling my aspirations and desire for growth versus having time for those things I mentioned because they are important to me. Those things affected my mood to do my projects, read or play video games.

And don’t get me wrong, those things that I mentioned are pretty trivial stuff in grand scheme of things and are not more important than eating, being healthy, spending time with family, have a roof over my head and have quality sleep. But they are what make me happy.

With that, I took actions actually to start clearing my backlogs as of last week. Whatever slot of time I could find, be it commuting, using the toilet, waiting for things to happen, I use it to read or to play my games. This way, I can clear my mind for my personal projects, especially since I know I can get distracted very easily or would rather do something else but “work”. By that, I mean anything that need me to think a lot. Programming and writing both require lots of thinking.

But it’s also important to remember to say no to all the above. If you’ve notice, all my hobbies, my day job, and my personal projects require me to be sedentary. And that is bad for health. So going out for a quick jog, do some pushups, weight lifting is always more valuable in grand scheme or things.