My hamming problem: Making dealing with overwhelm automatic?

[I posted this to a neurophenomenology mailing list, here, on February 11, 2016]
Most of my wasted time (and most of my wasted potential value), is lost in “procrastination.” But “procrastination” isn’t reductionistic enough: the phenomenon has parts.

In particular, this is due to a particular kind of aversion to a particular kind of sensation of overwellm. This overwhelm has certain characteristics. For instance, I have never (I think) experienced it as resulting from some task that didn’t have a deadline.

I think this overwhelm is the result of system 1 not believing that it can accomplish a task or several tasks. That fear is anxiety provoking. It causes my mind to glance away or to become absorbed in something that I consider to be much less important (or even just not important at all).

There’s more though. I can notice this sensation and then use some process (Aversion factoring, or Focusing) to pay attention to the anxiety. In this self-dialog I am “forced” to come to terms with the fact, that I, on reflection, want to accomplish the task (or at least want the task accomplished). [Because of the deadline] simply not doing the thing in question is not a live option, once I have stared it in the face. I’ll then, typically, negotiate between the parts of myself. “What would it take for me to want to do the thing?” I might do just one bite-sized unit as a CoZE. Usually this dialog ends with some sort of “just start”, which I then proceed to do, unless I have an available affordence which I can bullshit myself into believing takes priority over doing the aversive thing.

But, when I do, “just start”, most of the time it goes well. In one of two ways.

Sometimes, I start, and I make progress and it isn’t as bad as I thought, or as overwhelming as I thought, and I relax.

Sometimes, I start, and I make progress, and I’m feeling confused, and it still feels overwhelming, but now the next steps are clear, and the fear propels me instead of paralyzes me. I’m still aroused, but now my arousal has an outlet, and this also feels damn good, and even though I’m feeling pressured, I’m no longer aversive to looking at, thinking about, the task to be accomplished.

First of all, this phenomenon seems to indicate that my anxiety and overwhelm is the result of not knowing how to do a thing. Once the path forward is clear, I feel pressured to take it, but not knowing what the path is, I’m anxious and will take any opportunity to be distracted from my fearful thought.

(I think this is a special case of the more general “my system 1 doesn’t believe that it/I can accomplish a given task, and so doesn’t want to think about it.” But with the exception of brute physical skills, if I don’t believe I can do a thing, it’s because I don’t know how.)

I can force myself to stare a scary thing in the face, and come to grips with it, but this is really will-power-y, and hence unreliable. I want to figure out how to make this process perfectly automatic.

This is my hamming problem, and I think it is the key bottleneck on the productivity of most people. If I had a technique that would reliably and efficiently cause me to flinch towards the things I don’t know how to do, and consequently scare me, this would be an God-damn superpower. This is the main difference between my most productive days, when I typically work ten hours at clip, and then rest (because I need it and not because I’m avoiding something), and then go back for more, and most of my days, which are flowing and efficient until I hit something aversive and grind to a halt.

There are a bunch of ideas in this space, but this is MY HAMMING PROBLEM. I’m not looking for some idea that helps a little. I want this problem solved. I want to be at the point where I never have this problem again and I just churn through would-be aversions of this type, effortlessly, everyday. I want the bottleneck on my productivity to be my time and my physical needs, not my micro-hedonic fears.

I think this is possible, and I’m determined to figure out how.

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