Fractal Journaling

Fear is the mother of procrastination

Justin Goro
Dec 31, 2018 · 5 min read

Suppose you have a task that is fairly big and is triggering procrastination and foreboding. This task doesn’t have an obvious step 1 to get you going. Instead it has some suggestible entry points. It’s very likely you can journal the task into simple steps that can be checked off and completed. You will have to flatten the complexity and remove all perceived cycles (catch-22s or if you’re a programmer, deadlocks). By following a recursive algorithm, you can transform a seemingly infinitely complex or overly complicated problem into a set of linear instructions.

Fractal Journaling is currently my favourite procrastination killer. I hope you find it useful.


Step 1: identify components

  • seating
  • haggling with suppliers
  • food
  • decor and venue planing

Step 2: Reassembling the components so that they occur in a logical order.

  1. decor and venue planning
  2. food
  3. seating
  4. haggling.

Step 3: Identify the most discomforting component and recursively apply the algorithm to it as a top level item

  1. Identifying suppliers
  2. asking for quotes
  3. bringing some friends along to demos for opinions and help
  4. asking for a lower price or better terms than the quote

Interestingly you notice that you look forward to doing all but the last item. While compiling this list, it dawned on you that your friends and family might be quite involved in this process. When first thinking about haggling, the image of a cowering version of you confronted by a fearsome supplier fills you with dread. But now that you’ve remembered that friends are part of the fray, maybe they can help you confront the suppliers. So you quickly and recursively expand step 3 so that the list now looks like this:

  1. Identifying suppliers
  2. asking for quotes
  3. identifying best man, maid of honour, groomsmen, bridesmaids and interested parents
  4. Ask the best man, Rick, to do the bargaining because he’s a tech salesman who recently completed his MBA and loves the challenge.
  5. Tag along with Rick so that you learn to replace and neutralize the archetypal nightmares your hold with demonstrations of real world civil bargaining.

Step 4: Recursively expand the rest of the list until you have only actionable unambiguous instructions

The algorithm does not terminate when you have the perfect list. It terminates when the individual items on it no longer bring any form of discomfort.

Perfectionism Caveat