Sunday, April 3, 2011

Gremlins and procrastination

Last Thursday was one of those horrible days again in which the fear gremlin was on my shoulder and made me procrastinate. (I forgot in which blog I read about gremlins sitting on your shoulder and whispering in your ear - anyone?).

The only good thing about that day is that I was experiencing an interesting range of fears of which at least I could learn something.

My task at hand for the day was actually quite easy: alter the Matlab code which reads my raw data and produces plots for the new setup which I am using in the lab.

1. Reluctance to get started

Since I already had the Matlab code of my previous setup, I did not need to start from an empty screen, which was a positive point. However, the idea that my task would consist of going over code and check all numberings was putting me off because of its lack of challenge. As a result, I simply kept staring at the screen and the drawings of the setup before really getting started.

2. Fear of losing important information

Ctrl + s, repeat every twenty seconds. Just in case the program would crash and I'd have to go over a few lines of code again... This absurd fear of losing data makes me stop my train of thought too often and inhibits progress.

3. Fear of making mistakes

Checking the drawing and numbering, double-checking them and checking again... Even though the coding I have to do is easy, I am worried of mixing up the old and new numbering. I am in fact so worried about this that I can't let my train of thought flow without feeling the need to recheck something on the drawings.
I was trying to convince myself that, when I keep on disturbing my thinking process, I am more likely to make mistakes. But the gremlin kept blabbering in my ear: shouldn't you check again where that measurement point is exactly located?

4. Random paralysis

Do you know those days in which a lot of small things keep buzzing through your mind (waiting for your advisor's input on something, waiting for the delivery of material to the lab, waiting for the final detailed program of a conference, ...)? I was trying to get these off my mind to get my thinking straight but somehow it was too crowded in my head. I'm still hoping more mindfulness practice will make me able to overcome this as well.

Are any of these fears familiar to you? How do you overcome them and get your work done?


  1. When I get stuck I have found that the Pomodoro technique works pretty well to get rolling again. I use a free pomodoro app on my n900 phone and there are similar apps for other phones or on the pc.

  2. Thanks for your input - I typically use FocusBooster on my computer (my phone doesn't even have a color screen...)

  3. So pleased to have found this blog I've been struggling for months now. And did nothing but faff with the computer on this weekend. Gremlins are attaching big time.

  4. Hope things will start to catch on for you again...
    Maybe you can start with a small thing, and bit by bit tackle the thing of which the gremlins think you can't do it?


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