Nitpicky, Busy, Tasky Crap

nitpicky tasks crap

Yesterday I had the incredible honor of having a guest post published on The 99 Percent about finishing masterpieces. Tons of fresh faces subscribed here because of the article (hi there!), and lots of traffic was sent this way.

In a weird twist of luck, an article on Mashable also ran yesterday that featured yours truly spouting off nonsense about freelancing.

When it rains it pours, I guess.

If there’s something you should know about me, it’s that I’m a stats guy. Actually, it’s deeper than that. I like to figure out exactly why people are doing things on my site, like leaving or subscribing. I like to really dig deep and analyze data, looking for trends or things that I think I could improve around here.

It’s also a way for me to tell if people are engaging with my writing. I want to provide the most bang for your buck. Stats can be a useful yardstick to help gauge the fruits of my labor, if you will. But when a monolithic traffic day like yesterday happens, I can turn into a twitchy, compulsive stat checker. I’m not proud of it.

Yesterday I caught myself checking email subscriptions and site analytics on an hourly basis. I’d officially entered the “Obsessive Zone” of blog ownership.


There is a fine line between being “attentive” and “obsessive”. No matter what site owners tell you, they love checking stats. It’s like almost like a game. (I’m sure there are a few weirdos who deep down don’t really care, but they are definitely a minority.)

But more importantly, things like compulsively checking stats are really detrimental to our creative output. We all have something that steals our focus and attention away from the bigger picture.

In Making Ideas Happen, Scott Belsky talks at length about how the nitpicky, obsessive stuff that we seem to gravitate towards might actually be how we avoid doing the really important stuff. It’s a form of self-sabotage. (Cue Beastie Boys!)

We place a fake “importance” on little stuff that doesn’t really do anything but steal our attention from the things we should be doing.

Did checking my site stats obsessively somehow lure more people into subscribing? Nope. All it did was satisfy that ADHD little boy in me and waste my time.

Committing is hard. Really hard. Having timelines, goals, accountability, and all that other good stuff is what keeps ideas alive and into motion. But the fact that committing ain’t easy means that you’re going to be more vulnerable to distractions. You’re going to want little escapes to keep you distracted from reality.

Even worse than a blatant distraction (viral video, anyone?) is a small, nitpicky task that looks like something you might “need” to do. These are the real wolves in sheep’s clothing. They could be tasks like checking stats, or organizing planners, or trying out a new productivity tool. Tiny, small, unsuspecting things that add up to ginormous wastes of time that only distract from our masterpieces.

But in the end, if you can power through the nitpicky stuff and focus on what’s needed to create fantastic things, then you’ll gain momentum. You’ll gain clarity and focus, and most importantly, you’ll finish.


I know I’ve touched on this before, but you’ll want to buy or steal Making Ideas Happen (affiliate). It’s fantastic. (Just don’t tell Scott I told you to steal it.)

Photo by Janine

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{ 15 comments… add one }
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  • David Bourbon August 15, 2010, 9:39 pm

    I attended a lecture series on graphic design at the Smithsonian in 1980. One of the speakers was Milton Glaser. He said that, “People become obsessed with decoration [details] when they can’t take responsibility for what they’re being paid to communicate.”

    • glen August 16, 2010, 7:37 am

      Diversion! I think that’s very true.

  • Penelope J. August 13, 2010, 11:04 am

    Glen, you hit a nerve here. Every week, sometimes every day, I commit to getting a certain amount of work done and then get sidetracked. Sure, obsessively checking my stats is one (especially with a best-selling author guest post), and getting lost in social media/online group discussions is another, but also a lot of nitpicky chores, or just plain old goofing off. The awful thing is that blogging is pure enjoyment, so what’s wrong with me?

  • Catalina August 12, 2010, 8:52 am


    Yes, I’m one of the people who got a bit curious about who is the author of “Finish your Masterpiece with deliberate goal planning” from 99Percent.
    So – that’s an interesting take on how creative people manage their time, energy and goals. I am not sure what’s a bigger distraction: your own thoughts or the outside noise? Cause in the end, it’s the little voice inside your head that says the noise outside is worthy of your attention and thus – here you go again – you get distracted…


    • glen August 12, 2010, 9:18 am

      I think that the voice inside our heads can be one of the biggest distractions we’ll face. Period. It’s when you have multiple voices in your head that you should probably start to worry ;)

  • Michelle Adams August 11, 2010, 9:34 pm

    Glen I read your finishing masterpieces article and got a lot out of it, thank you! (Left a comment but it’s missing…perhaps in moderation).

    I used to obsess about stats but found myself starting to focus mostly on ‘how to get the stats up’ instead of focusing on creating great things. Of course creating great things should by rights get the stats up but when we start ‘counting’ stats it can squash our creative, unique and awesome selves; it can lead to ‘manufacturing’ get the stats up quicker perhaps?

    Sure, there are some things we can all do/manufacture that are proven to ‘convert’, but that can lead to a lot of sameness which I’ve fallen trap to. Now I’m working on ‘how can I be my unique awesome self and share that with the world so the world benefits’; will that convert, will that increase my stats? Who knows but I’ve found the alternative to be unpalatable at best.

    I’m a little off track to the main gist of your post but still, this is what I see as another problematic by product of ‘checking stats’….might not apply to everyone of course. :)

    • glen August 12, 2010, 9:16 am

      Of course creating great things should by rights get the stats up but when we start ‘counting’ stats it can squash our creative, unique and awesome selves; it can lead to ‘manufacturing’ get the stats up quicker perhaps?

      Yeah. That can easily happen ;) There will be times when I’ll dream of post ideas that I know will get plenty of pageviews because by nature it’s engineered to work that way. (See: linkbait). There’s nothing wrong with linkbait, and I use it all the time. I think you’re right: the problem is when that manufacturing becomes more selfish than “for the greater good”. So many arguments to make here.

      Excellent thoughts!

    • Latricia April 29, 2017, 5:45 am

      In awe of that ansewr! Really cool!

  • jonathanfigaro August 11, 2010, 8:30 am

    “Did checking my site stats obsessively somehow lure more people into subscribing? Nope. All it did was satisfy that ADHD little boy in me and waste my time.”

    I catch myself doing this sometimes, but I’m breaking the habit more and more each day. It keeps me away from wasting my time and losing my self in activities that weight no particular value. This is about being able to give away free valuable content as much as you can. Not really about your personal adgenda, or where you are on Alexa and all the bull.

    A lot of people get caught up in remedial activities that lead to remedial result, then complain about it repeatedly. If you want to be successful, Put youe head down and work. Work, work , work , work , work. That’s all it takes. Work, creative thinking and the ability to see, you have have to sacrifice one thing for the next.

    Either way it builds character and makes you stronger. And don’t forget to have a vision, that very important.

  • Beth August 11, 2010, 7:51 am

    Hear, hear! The slide from attentive into nitpicky is especially pernicious if you pride yourself on attention to detail in your work. But of course, once you have enough presence of mind to ask yourself whether you’re being attentive or just obsessive, you usually know where you fall. In fact, if I’m asking myself the question at all, it’s more likely that I’m being obsessive! :)

    • glen August 11, 2010, 10:51 am

      The slide from attentive into nitpicky is especially pernicious if you pride yourself on attention to detail in your work.

      Yes. It’s like “details” have somehow given us the validation we need to obsess. Great point Beth.

  • jacqueline MoxieWorks August 10, 2010, 1:12 pm

    Crap. Glen, that is me… I spend WAY too much time (even 15 minutes is too long) looking at my stats, finding the perfect planner, fretting about my to do list. You hit the nail on the head… now I am off to look at our Big List of Productivity Tools… (Ha.)

    • glen August 10, 2010, 1:14 pm

      Heh, I should warn you… that list is a tad outdated ;)

  • Leah McClellan August 10, 2010, 1:11 pm

    I’ve had a couple days when I had a guest post up or I was linked somewhere and couldn’t help but check stats. Too cool to see that spike going higher and higher. But it doesn’t last long for me.

    Reminds me of my (very brief) time in real estate. Lots of real estate agents are really into stats. Who cares? Lets talk how many houses we helped to sell or buy and what we earned in the end, after taxes. That’s about all I cared about.

    Checking today’s blog posts and commenting sort of comes in the same category. Thanks for the reminder :)