How to conquer work paralysis like Ernest Hemingway

I had heard this before and forgotten, of course! The way I think is to stop a (long lasting) activity when the going is good and you know and can look forward to the next step. I do this instinctively when programming, where I complete one part and I know what I am work on next. But there are many more places I can use this!

Anyone else tried this?


I naturally do this with writing for sure. For many reasons, not just based on my challenges. I can’t spit out a finished something on the first go. I don’t let anybody rushing me into disaster. Some things do need time and thinking. Translating my thoughts doesn’t come easy to me. I am sure I do similar with other stuff, too.

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I like it. I think I’ll try it. Thanks!

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A couple particularly interesting parts of this article and the study they talk about:

This part:
“We need to have belief in ourselves – some kind of expectation that we can do something. And when we’re closer to finishing something that we had previously failed to achieve, then that optimism increases.”

I often am in the situation where, after breaking up a project into chunks, I find that in each chunk there are more steps that I didn’t consider or steps that arise because unexpected circumstances arose.

as just one example: in the hour or 2 I set aside for completing a task, I might get 5 minutes in when I can’t continue until I finish another step - maybe something broke that I have to go back and fix, or maybe once I’m actually doing it, I can see something else is required. If I’m lucky, I will end this time I set aside where I started - ready to get to work on this task, no closer to completing the larger project.

I often feel anxiety to stop working on a project, especially when I know what I should do next. I think the feeling is that since I don’t have anything blocking me now, and while I am viewing this work as moving me closer to my goal, I need to get as much of it done as I can while I can. I guess, so that when I do come to a “good stopping point” I can feel satisfied with the work I just did. I definitely don’t feel good when I don’t feel any closer to completing a project after having just worked on it for 4 hours.

Part of something I’m trying to work on most recently is managing expectations of how long things take, how to properly account for every single step I might need to do, and how to account for the completely unexpected - so that I can hopefully reduce the number of instances like I described. (This is all very difficult to do)

The 2nd part was:
“When an interruption prevents individuals from achieving a particular goal or task, we find that they make faster and less thoughtful decisions in completely unrelated areas”

this ^^^ 100%
I definitely find the need for a “win” when I get really stuck on a project, and will just want to check anything off my list to feel like I’ve actually did something.


Wonderful article! Thanks for putting it up.

I’ll have to put it to the test myself. There’s always a few unfinished (or barely started) writing projects sitting around.

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