Excess information leads to "Analysis Paralysis" and "Fuckarounditis"


#1

When I was younger I was really into lifting. One day reading the blog of a popular lifter he introduced the term “Fuckarounditis”. Where guys walk into the gym start training but after several months they haven’t really made any progress. The reason?

They spend too much time reading online about the best way to gain muscle rather than actually focusing on implementing a strategy and gaining muscle.

I think this is a problem all of us pursuing new skills or hobbies are going to encounter. It starts with seemingly innocent google searches…“best way to learn…” or “best books for learning…”

We quickly get caught up in the plethora of all the resources, read through all the varying opinions on how best to do “x”, finally start on one approach and after just a few short weeks abandon it to start down a new path.

I’ve seen this happen whether someones is learning math, drawing, yoga, fitness, or programming. They spend so much time learning how to do xyz , or the best way to do xyz that they become paralyzed by all the information and don’t actually do anything.

The other issue is people getting used to the new hits for information that when they hit a wall in their new chosen hobby, where it becomes really dry and boring and you have to grind it out they drop it to pursue the next new interesting thing on the internet. They dip their toes in the water on many different things but rarely end up mastering any.

This is particularly dangerous for programming since there are SO MANY different paths to proceed. I’ve seen it devolve into minor quibbles over what’s the best keyboard to use for programming. Just look at how many answers this thread has : https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-best-keyboard-for-a-programmer

So just some advice. The internet is a great tool for acquiring information on new skills, hobbies etc. But it’s a double edged sword that can prevent you from making progress in the long run. Pick 1 strategy for going forward. Maybe 2-3 books on the topic and just start. Don’t worry about being efficient or the best way to learn just start learning. Consistency and practice are the most crucial ingredients to success. Get off the internet and do things rather than reading about how to do things or changing your mind on what to do every few weeks.


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#2

This is a very helpful post, thanks. I think it has a lot to do with fear-related procrastination. When you research, you can tell yourself that you’re being productive without actually having skin in the game and all the emotional aspects that come with it (evaluating your progress and abilities)


#4

Yes this post resonates with me. I got stacks of printed articles in my room just because I feel the need to check them all the time to validate the information over and over again.

I feel like I am always looking for the “best or optimal” way of doing things. It is burning me out


#5

Yes this post resonates with me. I got stacks of printed articles in my room just because I feel the need to check them all the time to validate the information over and over again.

I feel like I am always looking for the “best or optimal” way of doing things. It is burning me out

You could try a hybrid approach. You allow yourself regular research time (even if you feel it is fruitless) while at the same time making sure you actually try doing something regularly. That way you can make progress without your brain feeling threatened.


#6

Yeah, researching on the internet gives you hits of dopamine so it feels great. There’s always a new piece of interesting advice that might be helpful on your path. But the actual process of skill acquisition, meaning focusing on one thing and endless repetitive practice can be somewhat boring. Even things that for most are fun, sports or programming, there are periods where you have to go through stretches of practice where there’s no easy source of good feelings for your brain.

Great post, @greyrocks1

You have no idea how much I struggle with fuckarounditis. And I was looking for a way to fix it. You said in one of your posts that you could turn your computer into a typewriter with one simple trick. How do you that? I use the free version of Cold Turkey. Is there even a way?

You create a new list and enter . which it interprets as block all domains. Unfortunately it’s only available in the paid version. I thought it was worth the $25 bucks for writing purposes alone. BTW check your pms :cool:

Yes this post resonates with me. I got stacks of printed articles in my room just because I feel the need to check them all the time to validate the information over and over again.

I feel like I am always looking for the “best or optimal” way of doing things. It is burning me out

Yeah I can relate. I read an article on the topic. It’s meant for new programmers but the same principles apply to every field I’m sure.

https://medium.freecodecamp.org/a-cautionary-tale-of-learning-to-code-my-own-eddb24d9d5a7

With skills I find that less is more and I find that whenever there’s a book on the topic that’s highly recommended it’s better to focus on that one resource and really master it than trawl through the 50 bookmarks you probably have on the topic, all of which lead to a further 10 posts, videos, and articles.

In this case case the key thing is not to worry about “optimal”, or “efficiency” somewhat relevant are Donald Knuth’s words:

““Programmers waste enormous amounts of time thinking about, or worrying about, the speed of noncritical parts of their programs, and these attempts at efficiency actually have a strong negative impact when debugging and maintenance are considered. We should forget about small efficiencies, say about 97% of the time: premature optimization is the root of all evil. Yet we should not pass up our opportunities in that critical 3%.””

If you apply this to skill, in the beginning efficiency doesn’t really matter. Just learn and spend hours. Thinking about the best way to do things actually waste more hours and is inefficient.

It does matter but later when you’re an expert. But if your Roger Federer then focusing on “the best way” or “the most efficient way” can be relevant.


Also, if you and anyone else in the thread are like me and really interested in the meta thinking behind the process of learning and skill acquistion here are a few books on the tpoic that might be of use:

Note: I realize how ironic it is to recommend more information when the topic of the post is citing the opposite. I think in this sense the information I’m presenting is to understand why more information is actually harmful than helpful ,and the other half is about the process of learning and developing skill, which when your an autodidact in a world of excess information is very important to understand. I haven’t read any of these yet btw :stuck_out_tongue: but I’ve been meaning to. Most of my knowledge was built up reflecting on my time spent in wide variety of activities mostly sports, meditation, and programming.

Mindset - Carol Dweck

Zen and The Art of Archery

Art and Fear

The War of Art

The Inner Game of Tennis

The Art of Learning - Josh Waitzken


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#8

Does this ever come across for you in writing? I ask because it’s shown up for me recently in a new skill I’m practicing: learning how to grow social media accounts.

In any field of discipline there’s a ton of things one needs to learn to go from beginner and master. Many of these things will be learned from individual experience. You can also save yourself a lot of time getting from beginner to master by learning from the experiences and mistakes of others.

Which kind of puts one in this interesting situation where it isn’t optimal to go neither full on first hand experience with blinders on, or zero personal experience and spending all week consuming content from people who have actually put in the work.

The end result of this realization (for me at least) is this constant emotional/intellectual struggle between practice and knowledge acquisition. Both are important, but I’ve found it tough to find and maintain a harmony between the two.

One thing I’ve been experimenting with recently is scheduling learning time. So every week I’ll set aside a few hours for learning about the craft from others in the sphere.

I’ve found the structure to be hugely helpful. It takes “me” out of the equation with regards to decision making and any negative feelings stemming from the decision I’ve made. When learning/knowledge acquisition time comes, I get to enjoy it guilt free, and I believe the system has made me more effective and productive.

I like it because it leaves me with a feeling that I’m still learning (because I am), and as a result FOMO is no longer in the equation.

Do you think you would find some kind of practice/learning schedule and structure helpful?


#10

Yep! And that I’ve recently been trying to find that balance with a system I follow, as opposed to making day to day, on the fly decisions based on my feelings/ and impulses at that given moment.

It hasn’t been too long, just a few days for this. Can’t say for sure if this will work long term. But at least it looks somewhat promising!


#11

@zeldajones sent me an article from the ZenHabits blog that I thought would fit here. I haven’t read through zen habits much but this is one of the best pieces I’ve read on the topic. I want to write something similar to the nosurf blog like this with a focus on how the dopamine fueled environment of the internet enables and perpetuates this behavior.

https://zenhabits.net/unoptimizing/

“Optimizing is a focus on what’s not important. Coming up with the perfect productivity system, the perfect todo list software — it’s not important. It’s procrastination on the things that are truly important. The tasks at the top of the todo list you already have, that you’re not working on, so that you can optimize. Coming up with the perfect diet system isn’t important — eating vegetables is. Eating nuts and beans and fruits is important. Forget the rest, just do that. Coming up with the perfect vacation isn’t important — you’re missing out on what’s right in front of you, there at home, when you are trying to optimize your next trip.”

“Optimizing is a distraction. It’s like cleaning the decks when the Titanic is sinking. It’s not important that you optimize. It’s important that you are present, that you learn to be mindful, to be compassionate, to work from a place of love, to let go of your attachments, to see your interconnectedness with others. To be pure love, and to give your gift to the world. Not what todo software you use, not what bulletproof coffee you drink, not what perfect backpack you carry. Don’t get caught up in the distractions — focus on what truly matters.”

I’m just curious if this has affected you guys too and in what specific ways?

For me it happened a lot when I was trying to learn programming. I’d get so caught up in trying figure out what was the best book to start learning, or best language for a beginner and similar and then get stuck, even things as trivial as operating systems, IDE’s, and keyboards for programming.

I’d also spend a lot of time thinking about productivity systems (GTD, Bullet Journal, productivity apps) rather than just focusing on being productive.

One thing that I’ve been thinking of as an antidote to this is the idea of the Blank Slate or Tabula Rasa. I don’t mean this in it’s strict definition, I mean it more as in a focus on learning in a childlike, spontaneous mature. Just exploring freely and getting immersed in whatever I’m learning, without unnecessary “metathinking” about making the learning process better.

Children just sit and play and do things. Can you imagine a child thinking I could definitely have 5% more fun if I organize and optimized my play in this manner.

Right? It just wouldn’t happen. I think with learning we want to be as childlike as possible rather than getting caught up in all the mental constructs and structure we pick up advancing into our adulthood.