Hitting a wall

I have had a very frustrating week. I got sick, failure on two different blog posts, basically no progress on any project. I hit walls on everything I attempted.

Everyone has bad weeks and if you look back I am sure you will find I have made a couple of posts along these same lines. I don’t post this type stuff to complain, but instead to be clear that this isn’t easy and at times is a struggle. I share this so that it can be an encouragement when you hit your own walls. Everyone faces struggles. Pick your hero and I can promise that they struggle.

We tend to see only the positives from the lives of other people which makes what we are going through feel worse and unfair. Comparing the full depth of yourself to the public face of others is an easy way to head down a very negative path. A path I have struggled with at times.

If you struggle with some of the same things I recommend that you check out the content of John Sonmez and Gary Vaynerchuk. Both of them have helped me push through some of the walls I have hit. The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon has also been helpful for staying positive.

Whatever wall you are hitting keep working and push through. You can do this.

Handling the Holidays

Between the end of November and the beginning of January, it is harder than normal to keep blog posts and other such goals and tasks going.

This time of year involves more scheduled disruption then all of the rest of the year combined. For me having a fairly predictable schedule is important. Don’t take this to mean I need to do exactly the same thing every day, but knowing that I will have X number of hours at work and that I need to fit in Y number of hours to keep my blog updated is very helpful. The holidays disrupt this schedule and make it harder to fit in things like blogging, sticking to diets and exercise.

Don’t get me wrong this time of year is great! There is nothing like seeing my 5-year-old being excited for his birthday and Christmas. It is also a time when I get to see family more than normal which is great.

The following are some ideas I am kicking around to address some of the lack of progress I have during this time of year.

 Identify weak spots

A key to staying on track during the holidays is to identify weak spots ahead of time.  For example during this time of year I tend to spend way more time that I should be playing video games. It never fails that I somehow manage to open up Steam during the black Friday time frame and come across a game I have been wanting to play at a great price. The Witcher 3 is the game that got me this year.

I am using productivity as an example here, but keep in mind the same idea can apply to other areas of your life such as nutrition, exercise, etc.

Plan a counter

Once you have your main trouble spots identified come up with a plan to counteract them. This could happen a few ways. If you are struggling with something getting out of control set boundaries around that item that are measurable. For my video game example, I could use something like Rescue Time to monitor the amount of time I spend playing and use that data to keep myself in check.

Involve another person

Another great way to stay on track is to involve another person. Having to communicate progress (or lack thereof) to another person tends to cause people to better stick with our goals. We are social creatures (despite what “social” media is doing to us) that tend to not like to disappoint others.

Don’t compound failures

This one is huge. We are all going to fall short of our goals at some point and if you aren’t careful one failure can lead to a spiral of failures. An example of this from my life tends to happen with food. One day I will back off my diet and have something I shouldn’t. Next thing I know everything I have had to eat that day has gotten progressively worse. Now guess what happens the next day? You got it the day before was so bad why do better today. In fact, I end up feeling bad about myself which spirals into another bad day. This can continue to the point that two months of eating well is ruined in a handful of days.

The sooner you can stop the downward spiral the better. Don’t let one failure kick off a train of actions that you will regret. Accept that at times you are going to fail and that is OK as long as you don’t let it kick off a train of failures.

Make allowances and adjustments

Knowing that you are entering a time when disruptions are going to occur it is important to make plans for what allowances you are going to allow for yourself. Planning for a day off of a diet will hopefully allow a departure from the norm without the feeling of failure that comes with unplanned departures.

Another strategy for handling disruptive times with it comes to things like blogging is to adjust your schedule. Knowing that in two months a disruption is coming I can adjust my current writing schedule to get an extra post written every other week or so.

Final thoughts

This post is coming from a time of failure in my own life. I have failed in my goals for my diet, exercise, blogging and who knows what else. This post of a set of ideas I plan to use to improve my own life and minimize my future failures. I hope it provides value for others as well.

Comment with your thoughts and how you prevent and handle failure in your own life.

Motivation

The Problem

I am sure I am not the only one to have struggles with motivation. One of my goals is to write at least one blog post a week, but some weeks getting enough motivation to do the required prep work and then write the post is hard. Some weeks personal things come up, other weeks medical, some weeks work is more challenging than normal. The list could go on and on as you all well know.

The Present

Take this week for example I had an idea in mind for a post and worked on a project to test the idea out for most of the week without any success. As the week passed and I was no closer to finishing the project my motivation levels dropped rapidly. I found myself more interested in reading How To Win Friends and Influence People for the second time than working on the post for this week.

Life will always throw us curve balls and plans will need to be adjusted. It feels like life has been nothing but curve balls over the last few months which has drained my inventory of posts. The last few weeks every weekend I am in a mad rush to get a sample done and get the associated write up finished before publish time. The stress of this rush every week has added to my decline in motivation.

Some Help

The question is how to prevent and/or get past a lack of motivation. I was catching up on some of John Sonmez’s YouTube videos when I came across The Secret Sauce For Continuous Motivation in which John addresses the issue keeping motivation levels up. The gist of the video is to always have a something that you are making progress on. I think John is on to something with this line of thinking. Without making progress on some front it is much easyer for negative emotions to pile up and make it feel like progress is impossible. If I had another project I could switch to that I know I can make progress on it would have provided some relief after hitting a wall.

The Future

In order to address this I am going to come up with a better plan with time boxes on how long I can spend on a particular project. This will allow me to switch to more productive projects if I hit a wall. I am hoping the time boxes will also remove some of the negative emotions associated with having to drop a project. Dropping a project will move from being a failure to being part of the plan while leaving the option to come back to the project at a later date.

In order jump start my progress I am going to go back and revisit some of the basic introductory topics I have covered in the past. Those have been some of my most popular posts and now that ASP.NET Core has released and Aurelia and Angular 2 are at the RC stages I feel there is value in revisiting those basic topics.

Some Encouragement

I am going to leave you with this video from John Sonmez that I found encouraging. You may find it corny or something, but John has personally replied to some emails  and I know he does that for thousands of people. Without his book and blogging course I would have never started this blog. It is nice to know that there are people out there who are willing to spend their time to help and support others. Where do you go when you are needing some support?

Books, Podcasts and Other Resources

It is time for another experiment. This week I am going provide a list of some of the resources I use to keep myself up to date in the development world. Please leave feedback on if you feel like this is helpful or with some of your own resources. I am intentionally keeping the list short to give a good starting point without being overwhelming.

Books

Soft Skills: The software developer’s life manual by John Sonmez – This is the book that finally got me motivated to create this blog.
Clean Code Collection by Rober C. Martin
The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas

Podcast

.NET Rocks hosted by Carl Franklin and Richard Cambell – .NET plus other topics
Hanselminutes hosted by Scott Hanselman – Great mix of people and technology
nashdev check out the website for a host list – Programming related topics by local Nashville developers

YouTube Channels

Simple Programmer by John Sonmez – Soft Skills & general life advice for programmers
ProCoder by Jerrie Pelser – Web tech and tools
ASP.NET Community Standup by Scott Hanselman, Damian Edwards and Jon Galloway – Latest information straight from the team doing the work

Twitter

Scott Hanselman
Damian Edwards
Jon Galloway
Steve Smith
Rick Anderson
David Fowler
Jerrie Pelser
Scott Allen
Seth Juarez

Twitter tends to be the place I find interesting articles to read, but I often don’t have time to read them at the time I find them. It combat this problem I used pocket along with IFTTT so that anytime I like a tweet with a link in it the link get saved to pocket. Then when I have time I can go through pocket and read the articles saved from Twitter. This is the IFTTT recipe I am using for this functionality.