Got stuck? Write about it.

So I stopped using Twitter for a while, but there are many other distractions. Luckily I am not that much into Facebook, although I can understand the temptation. Mail is one you you almost can’t avoid. It’s why productivity guru’s advice you to turn it off for a couple of hours to get some work done.

Usually I think I can handle the temptation of mail, so I leave Outlook on. “Because a collegue might need me”, is the reasoning. But then I noticed that when I get stuck in a project on something, there’s this “Hmm.. I’m stuck…Let’s see what’s on the mail then” kind of train of thought. So I read some mail, get involved in that, and after a while I have to pick again where I left my project.

So I’ve been thinking if I could come up with something to replace that. And I actually found a pretty easy and effective way to deal with it. At the time I notice I get stuck, I write down what I wanted to do and where I’m getting stuck on. That’s it. It hardly costs any effort.

This week I was working on a hackers course. For example, I wanted to run the woraauthbf password cracker. After getting a feel for the arguments I need to enter. I got a message that I needed oran10.dll. So I tried to install a copy of the Oracle 11g R1 client I had there. But I quickly got the message that the 11g R1 Universal Installer didn’t know Windows 6.1. “Aw jeez!”

This is the moment that I get the “Hmm… What’s on the mail then” kind of thought. Before that I wrote down what I wanted to accomplish. Okay, “I want to run a test of woraauthbf to crack a simple password”. And then I wrote down what I needed. “I need oran10.dll from an Oracle client” and “I need an Oracle client that will install on Windows 7”. Just writing these things down often immediately causes you to think up a solution. “I’m working at home. I have 10g installation files on the hard disk on my home PC. I could quickly install it from there and grap the oran10.dll file.”

After writing this down, the whole problem suddenly seemed so simple. But that’s exactly the point. In the heat of the moment, with several other issues half solved, you think “but can I even download a 10g client with oran10.dll somewhere?” The problem seems much vaguer. Precisely the kind of vagueness is enough to make you turn your head toward the inbox.

To just stop yourself, requires willpower and willpowers requires energy (read “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength” by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney). Writing down what you want and need, requires much less. Oh, and it’s free. You don’t even have to attend my $500 “Writing down what you’re stuck on” mastery sessions (and my 5 DVD set of course) to begin. How about that.


Could I ..

Hmm.. First let’s see what’s in the mail today…

Just kidding.

About Marcel-Jan Krijgsman

Marcel-Jan is de PR-functionaris van de Werkgroep Maan en Planeten. Hij verzorgt ook het nieuws op de Facebook pagina en deze blog.
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