Ryan Martinsen

Starting is Terrible

Starting new things is a huge pain for me. I’ve tried everything from pomodoro timers to allowing myself a bite of ice cream after every line of code I write (only a slight exaggeration).

Classical music puts me to sleep. Jazz music makes me want to dance. Indie music is neutral and my default. Watching TV surprisingly doesn’t help. Shutting off my access to social media works in short bursts. Repeatedly asking why until I’m motivated doesn’t even come close. Neither does wondering what the heat death of the universe would feel like (hot, I’m guessing, based on what it’s called).

I’ve only found one thing that consistently works for me:

Give up and don’t do anything.

Okay, just kidding. It’s this:

Define the absolute simplest thing I could possibly do to get started.

Then do that thing.


It almost never takes more than 3 simple things before I get sucked in.

When I say the absolute simplest thing I really mean it. Think, “stand up,” not “bake cakes for 400 people.” Break it down so that you feel silly not doing it.

Procrastination is the easiest thing in the world. Starting a new project is one of life’s hardest things for me, whether it be an exercise routine or a tiny one-off website to showcase my favorite kinds of donuts. It sounds horribly clich├ęd, but this one simple trick has helped me more than all the other things I’ve tried.

What helps you may very well be a vision board full of photos of cheese bread and Tesla cars. That’s cool. But if it isn’t, try giving up defining the smallest, most silly step you can think of and then go do it. Let me know if it helps.

How to Fail Spectacularly at a Technical Phone Screen Interview

Back when I was looking for my current job I was actively interviewing with 3 or 4 companies. I had a phone interview scheduled one afternoon, but didn’t make it home before it happened. As a result, I was navigating the busy streets of NYC while fielding complicated computer science questions like, “why do you want to work here?”

I didn’t particularly care about this company, but embarked upon what I hoped was an enthusiastic sounding answer, complete with details of what I liked about their product. As I brought my beautiful speech to a close I wasn’t exactly expecting applause, but I was surprised at the complete and utter silence on the other end of the phone.

After a few seconds I ventured, “This isn’t [Acme Computer Company] is it?”

Them: Nope.

Me: Well, this is awkward. I also super like your company. You do neat things, too. In fact, uh, who is this?

Needless to say that conversation ended quite abruptly and I never heard from them again.

Books I read in 2016

My goal for 2016 was to read 25 books. I managed to read 20.

Those 20 books contain 7,805 pages. Or, since I mostly listened to audiobooks in 2016, only 906 pages plus 238 hours of audio. I listen to books at an average of 1.5x normal speed so the actual number of hours I spent listening to books is closer to 159. That’s just over 3 hours of listening per week or about 26 minutes a day.

Here’s how my 2016 reading compares to years past:

Book Reading Goals vs Books Read from 2011 to 2016

2010 was the first year I read a significant number of books (36), but I didn’t start making yearly reading goals until 2011. I went a little overboard in 2012, thinking I could read 52 books and failing miserably. I’ve since tried for more realistic goals, but have fallen short the last few years. I’m shooting for 25 books again this year even though I didn’t manage it in 2016.

Anyway, here’s the list of books I read in 2016, organized by date read. Here’s the same list on Goodreads.


Sabriel (Abhorsen, #1), by Garth Nix


The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn, #6), by Brandon Sanderson
Mistborn: Secret History (Mistborn, #3.5), by Brandon Sanderson
Lirael (Abhorsen, #2), by Garth Nix
Calamity (Reckoners, #3), by Brandon Sanderson


Abhorsen (Abhorsen, #3), by Garth Nix

April, May

I didn’t finish a single book in April or May. :(


Bluescreen (Mirador, #1), by Dan Wells
The Dragons of Dorcastle (The Pillars of Reality, #1), by Jack Campbell
Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen (Abhorsen, #4), by Garth Nix


Age of Myth (The Legends of the First Empire, #1), by Michael J. Sullivan


The Swarm (The Second Formic War, #1), by Orson Scott Card


Queen of Fire (Raven’s Shadow, #3), by Anthony Ryan
Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera, #1), by Jim Butcher


Academ’s Fury (Codex Alera, #2), by Jim Butcher


Cursor’s Fury (Codex Alera, #3), by Jim Butcher
Captain’s Fury (Codex Alera, #4), by Jim Butcher
Princeps’ Fury (Codex Alera, #5), by Jim Butcher


First Lord’s Fury (Codex Alera, #6), by Jim Butcher
The Dispatcher, by John Scalzi
The Shepherd’s Crown (Discworld #41), by Terry Pratchett

The last book, The Shepherd’s Crown, is the last book Terry Pratchett wrote before he died in March 2015. It was his 41st Discworld novel and a fitting way to end my reading for 2016. Pratchett’s Discworld series is weird and hilarious and I highly recommend checking them out if you’re into fantasy at all.