I love being productive. Being productive really feels good – it’s an ego boost almost. If the product of being productive is tangible immediately or almost immediately, there is a sense of accomplishment.
On the other hand, being unproductive is the start of a spiral downwards. At least for me, being unproductive makes me fear being unproductive, which makes me even more unproductive. I really do not enjoy the feeling that comes with being unproductive.
Here is a screenshot my Github commits in my private Github account:
Note the white spots in there. The white spots are what I fear: whiling away my life, doing absolutely nothing productive. Of course, my life isn’t only about code or my projects, but my projects (both hardware and software) are a big part of my life. I also enjoy sharpening my skills at stuff like making coffees, and building electronic doodads that do things. The one thing good about Github is that it allows me to quantify myself.
I am a great admirer of the Quantified Self movement, and I have quantified myself since I was young, albeit not in a very consistent or disciplined manner. I currently use RescueTime to track my daily productivity, and I track my weight in a spreadsheet (fat lot of help, that). There would be periods of time where I would be manic about quantifying every known variable about myself — steps walked, mouse movements, keystrokes, etc. Of course, I’m not as disciplined as Stephen Wolfram, who quantified himself for 20 years, but I try.
And now I think I am on the cusp of failure. I am deathly afraid of dry spells, where I do nothing. In the screenshot above, the white spots coincided with a period of me doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING with my life. Life is not to be lived like that. It’s my personal philosophy to always create value, always change the world.
You may think, “oh but you’re fine now, you have been committing a bit of code for the last 3 weeks”. Truth is, those last 3 weeks of code commits were the results of me being irrationally angry. At what or at whom I have no clue. I needed to get the anger out of my system, so I turned to something creative (literally: create things). I would literally come home from work at 6pm, and code the night through, learning and experimenting, until the next morning.
And for a while, it did feel good. I felt productive again, and I thought I could trick myself into a positive cycle once more. But as with things built on top of negative emotions, they don’t last. My anger has waned. So has my motivations.
I am still committing code every night – I had just pushed 3 tonight to Github. But I fear the white spaces to come.