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I'm a writer, programmer, web developer, and entrepreneur. Preona is my current startup that began its life as the team developing Twitulater. Our goal is to create a set of applications for the emerging Synaptic Web, which would rank real-time information streams in near real time, all along reading its user behaviour and understanding how to intelligently react to it. Swizec is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 67 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Project Soundtracks – How I Killed Procrastination

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Are you procrastinating?

I am a procrastinator.

Everybody who’s ever agreed to meet with me can confirm that I am always 5 minutes late. It’s not because I’m mean or don’t respect people’s time, it’s because I leave it to the last minute to pry myself away from work and start getting ready.

The point is, I procrastinate everything. I’d start procrastinating five minutes later if I could.

It’s very bad.

Cure, step 1 – pomodoro

About a year ago I started using the Pomodoro technique to ward off procrastinating while I work. You know, the whole, finish ten lines of code, go online for two minutes, write a bit of code …

 Francesco Cirillo rilasciata...

Tomato Timer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You might call it stupidity and bad work habits, but I was procrastinating The Next Step ™.

Pomodoro’s 25 minutes of work, 5 minutes of internet right-to-the-vein worked great. For a while at least, I’ve started slipping up a bit so sometimes it’s 27 minutes of work or 7 minutes of internet. But that’s okay, it keeps me generally inline.

I noticed something far more interesting than a general improvement in work habits.

For a while now I can no longer get any work done without a ticking pomodoro timer. The connection between that annoying tik-tak is so strong it’s become impossible to focus on a single task when the noise isn’t there.

Sometimes work would be better without forced breaks – when writing for instance – but I just can’t do it. Unless something is ticking I can’t keep my grubby little paws off the twitter and facebook and hackernews and so on.

With ticking, effortless. It seems whenever the ticking starts I feel an irresistible urge towork. To drop whatever internet buffoonery I’m up to, fire up a code editor and get cracking. As irresistible as hunger.

As a result, I’ve started turning the timer on before I actually start working. Otherwise I would just procrastinate starting until the day was over, but the ticking gets me to stop within a minute or two.


Cure, step 2 – project soundtracks

About two months ago I decided to take the concept of training myself in a mad Pavlovian experiment even further.

What if I could program myself not only to feel an irresistible urge to work, but an irresistible urge to work on a specific project?


Spotify (Photo credit: kaioshin)

The idea of project soundtracks was born.

I have four or five work playlists in Spotify. 8-bit music mixes has proven the best for coding, while The Electro Swing Revolution seems best for writing. Blogging happens without a soundtrack to a well tuned radio station.

Amazing results! Seriously.

The biggest benefit is that context switching between projects is now almost effortless. As soon as a certain playlist starts my mind immediately jumps to its project – ideas star popping up, context is becoming clear and I can remember specific details I’ve worked on days ago.

More importantly, other projects and concerns fade into the background instead of jumping all over each other, begging for my attention.

Has any one else tried this before, or noticed similar effects?

EDIT: some playlists:

Published at DZone with permission of Swizec Teller, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Henry Kuhl replied on Mon, 2013/01/21 - 5:02am

What a great post!

As a professional procrastinator your post instantly grabbed my attention!

While thinking about your Project Playlist idea I realized: I already have those! :-D

Thank you for writing this down!


The Procrastinator Henry

Xavier Dury replied on Mon, 2013/01/21 - 5:33am

LOL, I thought I was the only one to listen to 8-bit music while working... well, none of my colleagues do and when I let them listen to that kind of music (on nectarine radio for example,, they think I'm some kind of weirdo ;-)

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