When I know exactly what to do, I am pretty good at doing something. People have commented on how intense I am when I’m focused on something. This is odd because at the same time, I’m a lazy bastard. What I’ve found is that when I’m unsure how to do something, or if I’m unhappy with how something has turned out, I procrastinate. My perfectionism is such that I’ll spin my mental wheels uselessly searching for and examining flaws in some idea I’ve had before I’ve even tried to realize that idea. I idle and avoid that which bothering me. Sometimes this works for me in my job because occasionally a solution will come to me and suddenly everything becomes easy again. But this is a rarity. Basically the pattern is:
- I don’t know how to do something, and can’t be bothered to learn something new, so I shut down.
- I perversely want to get it perfect the first time so, instead of doing anything, I dither and do nothing.
Either way it leads to procrastination. In the last twenty years I’ve learned a few ways of breaking these feedback loops:
- Don’t try and do something all at once if you’ve never done it before. For people like me, this leads to overwhelming levels of detail and to shut down. Try to break something down in stages and practice a lot on little pieces. Don’t rush it.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This one is especially hard for me. I have a lot of silly ego all tied up in how smart people think I am. Still don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- If it isn’t perfect, nine times out of ten, your standards are a lot higher than most peoples. Sometimes there something to be said for just getting something in place and tweaking it until it gets better. This relates to number one above.
- If the fun never comes, stop doing it. If it never gets easy, stop doing it. My friend Jeff practices on his bass constantly, almost mindlessly. If he’s bored, he picks up his bass and plug it into his amp. He’s compulsive about it and this rewards him. He can play the bass well.
- Anything valuable has a hurdle to climb over. The brain doesn’t do music or mathematics naturally. That’s why these things are hard. These things require practice, practice, practice. Native talent will only get you so far.
The reason why I mention this is because I have a few intricate hobbies, that, to be enjoyed, require a lot of work. They are fun but I’m always haunted with this notion that I could do a better job at them. What I’m talking about here is gamemastering role-playing game sessions. Coming up with plots is one thing but doing all the work to realize events in rules and statistics is something I’ve gone slack in over the years.
Role-playing games are my hobby and they are a lot of fun. But to a certain extent I wonder if they can also be something that can magnify other parts of my life? Maybe if I get better at doing more work before running game sessions with my friends these habits will transfer to other areas of my life?