My Terrible Problem

and why it helps and hurts

As you can probably tell from the title of this article, I have a problem. I always thought I would grow out of it, but it seems to just get worse the older I get.

This problem monopolizes my time, energy, and resources. It keeps me up at night. It often causes me to skip meals, workouts, and all the other things that I need to be a well balanced person. It pulls me away from people, and makes it harder for me to enjoy the time I do spend with people.

On the other hand, this problem is also why I do workout, and cook, and run, and why I have money in the bank and food on the table.

I don’t know if there’s a term for what I’ve got or not, so I’m going to invent one. I call it OCN: my obsessive-compulsive nerdiness.

Obessive-compulsive nerdiness

It’s a disease without a treatment

Let’s start with a definition. It’s hard to clearly define something you’ve had your whole life, but I’m going to give it a shot:

Obsessive–compulsive nerdiness (OCN) is a mental disorder where people feel they need to continuously be involved in nerdy activities, do nerdy things repeatedly, or feel they need to always advance their nerdiness by picking up new nerdy hobbies.

I have recently discovered that most people are not afflicted with OCN. Most people are more than happy to spend their afternoons with normal, human-like activities. Like going to the movies. Or napping. Or even, as weird as this sounds, go do stuff with other human beings.

I don’t really understand this thinking, honestly. Any one of those things pulls me away from my nerdiness. I like it for a little while, but eventually my thinking comes right back to something nerdy.

What am I to do? Is OCN a terrible affliction or a beneficial condition?

Another thing about OCN: as hard as I try, I always have too much to do. I just get too excited about doing stuff, I have a tough time saying no to a project that interests me. The good news is that it isn’t hard for me to say no to things I’m not interested in. But I’m interested in most things, so. . . Yeah. Yay nerdiness.

Keeping it in check

Finding a way to fight back

Now that I’m aware of the problem, I’ve been working on a set of tools to help combat my OCN. I don’t want to kill it—even if I could, I would lose a lot of good with the bad—but I want to control it more than it controls me.

My first method I call the urgent test. It comes from a quote attributed to President Eisenhower:

What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.

I find this to be a pretty useful test. If something comes up that needs my attention right away, then that’s usually a pretty good sign that I can find a way to drop it.

Nerdy projects should be marathons, not sprints. There are good things about quick-’n-dirty projects, but most of the time that just inflames my OCN. That’s why I’m not a fan of Startup Weekends and the like—they encourage getting no sleep and shipping poor quality work.

So there’s my first tip for people with OCN: don’t fall into the urgent trap. It seems good, but it will hurt in the long run. Those of you without OCN do what you like, but in my experience sprints are bad for the Spirit of the obsessive-compulsive nerd.

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