I Don’t Feel Like Writing, Yet I Write

I must write.
Though I’m not in the mood for writing.
I’d rather read my Peter F. Hamilton book.
But still, I write.


It is called self-discipline.

I’ve been wondering today what enables people to keep discipline. And this is what I came up with:

  1. It all starts with the realization that something is important. If you don’t understand the value of something, you will never have the discipline to start doing it.
  2. Second, you have to work on your time management skills. If you’re not able to fit something important into your busy weekly schedule, it will simply never happen.
  3. Third, when understanding and time management have been tackled, you have to make sure you don’t forget. (I don’t know why, but for me this is the hardest one.)
  4. Fourth, and this may be most important, people have to be motivated to do it. No motivation, no discipline.

These are the four reasons for people showing lack of discipline. The reasons will vary per person and per subject. But there are solutions for every one of them:

  1. You can help people to understand the importance of things. Teach them that refactoring is important. Teach them that version control is important. Teach them that face-to-face communication is important. If you teach people well, you will have solved 20% of all their disciplinary problems.
  2. Second, you can help people by teaching them some time management skills. Tell them how to distinguish importance from urgency. Tell them how to reserve time slots for certain activities, and how to create fixed weekly schedules. And tell them how to cope with distractions. This will solve another 20% of your people’s disciplinary problems.
  3. Third, you can help people by teaching them tricks so they won’t forget. Show them how to organize tasks, and how to set reminders. And show them how to create daily routines and mental checklists. That will solve yet another 20% of the self-discipline problem.
  4. Fourth, you can help people to be motivated by making the work more enjoyable. Chris Spagnuolo talked about that in one of his earlier articles. And it’s also what the best-selling book Fish! is all about. When mundane tasks are made more enjoyable, people will be better motivated.

But… what about the last 20%?

Even when people understand the value, when they have the time, when they don’t forget, and when they are motivated, they still might skip an important activity, when they come to realize that they’re the only one!

Therefore, the last 20% is you! It’s you who must start leading by example. You must show self-discipline if you want people to follow with similar behavior. Never be late for a meeting, or else people will think that it’s OK to be late. Don’t deliver code that is neither refactored nor versioned, or other people will do the same. And never forget to answer an email message, or people will stop answering yours.

And that’s how I came to write this blog post today, even though I actually wanted to read my book. Fresh content on my blog is important to me. I organize my other activities so that I have time for writing. And I have a checklist that guarantees that I don’t forget to run the spell checker.

Plus, maybe, by setting an example, I might have inspired some others to follow…

And now it’s time to read my book.

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    • http://blog.srikanths.net Srikanth

      I don’t feel like commenting, yet I’m doing it. 🙂
      Why? Because I really liked the picture you used for this blog post. Do you have a 1280×1024 or even bigger resolution of that picture? I loved it. I want to keep it as my wallpaper on my workstation.
      Sometimes I feel the only thing that I lack is a little more discipline. I’m working on, so keep these posts on discipline coming, it helps to keep me motivated. I’d really appreciate it.

    • https://noop.nl Jurgen Appelo

      @Srikanth: I copied the picture from this blog post:
      (I could find no reference to copyright or other sign of ownership.)

    • Rick

      Hi Jurgen,
      very good that you were able to motivate yourself. Even if the post is short in comparison to your other elaborate posts ;).
      If you do not have a manager or coach nearby to motivate you, and you have to motivate yourself, NLP has some interesting techniques which can help. I can recommend “Unlimited Power: the new science of personal achievement’ by Anthony Robbins.
      Not all of the information in the book will be useful. But just like with management frameworks and techniques you have to see what works for you and your situation. Even if you will not find anything useful it is interesting stuff.
      Now I will continue reading “Toll the hounds”, by Steven Erikson. No Jurgen, not the hardcover version, just a paperback. (I was surprised that your link is also to a paperback, but this is clearly a mistake and it should be to a hardcover version of the book 😉 )

    • https://noop.nl Jurgen Appelo

      @Rick: Thanks for the reference to NLP. I will check it out. And yes, the link to the paperback version was a horrible mistake.

    • http://kallokain.blogspot.com/ Henrik Mårtensson

      Thank you!
      I think this is what I needed to blog a bit more often. I have been slacking off a bit. Partly it is because I spend a lot of time on making videocasts (which I post on the blog), but I should write more.

    • http://www.betterprojects.net Craig

      Hamilton… Fantastic!
      What about that awesome space opera with the undead v the super marines! Awesome stuff.

    • http://profile.typepad.com/jurgenappelo Jurgen Appelo

      @Craig: Yes, it’s next on my wish list, with about 200 other books 🙂

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