Ok, so there are many ways we all procrastinate. General I think of 2 categories. There is the ‘I got this later’ type who puts off even starting a project. OR the ‘I’m going to veer off topic and relate all direct questions to the meaning of life’ type that starts projects but may struggle to finish them as scopes have been exploded. Check that second box for me. I never put off what can be done right now but I can’t help making connections between the related and (total stretch) unrelated. I am the kind of person who never really shuts their computer down and instead keeps up 3-4 search engine windows open, each with at least 10 pages up, displaying articles and points of interest that I intend to get to as I truly believe they will add value to my intelligence and life meaning.
I have an almost superhero skill of finding such earth shattering nuggets while following an inefficient rabbit hole of linked pages and definitions when I’m on a mission or task. Suddenly my mission gets widened or (more appropriately) derailed so far off topic, I forget what I was trying to do in the first place. This seems to happen when I open my computer and do something on the beautiful but total time suck of the world wide web. I am far more focused when running physical errands or handling my physical to do list, heck even in an actual library my research is more focused. But www-me and I can’t help but turn into a inefficient multi-tasking procrastinator.
We all have tricks for how to pull ourselves back to reality. For me, I always write outlines when I am first tasked with something stating my initial inquiry and topics I hope to involve. Some examples…
- (inquiry) Figure out where to stick some retirement money with low fees (topics) cash accounts, overall diversification, fee structures, current opportunities…
- (inquiry) Make a list of potential wine importation partnerships (topics) geographic synergies, marketable brands, tax structure incentives
- (inquiry) What is the most appropriate thing to wear to a ‘winter wonderland’ themed party during the balmy summer month of December in Chile. (topics) halter dresses inline with the ugly sweater christmas style, would a Jesus hugging santa hat be across the line in latin america…
Then at least I have point of reference to return to when I realize I just spent 2 hours listening to podcasts on Cryptoassets or sorting through various travel blog reviews instead of answering the simple question I set out on. …BUT, this tactic of writing my outlines DOES NOT prevent me from wasting my 2 hours in the first place…BUT is that a bad thing?
I used to think I was SO INEFFICIENT (well, background, I did marry an engineer who naturally thinks all processes should be as direct as possible and by that standard not waste any time or resources). So I tried hard (like super hard) to keep laser-focus on my task whether that was completing a deadline for my corporate job, grocery shopping, tutoring, taking graduate classes, teaching my kids how to swing with the pump & kick technique, studying for certifications… Unfortunately this led to A LOT OF MISSED INFORMATION and overall made my processes that much more inefficient and my inquiry responses became inaccurate.
I realized that it’s in those rabbit holes that I end up changing what my initial question should have even been in the first place. The whole ‘my minds made up, don’t confuse me with the facts’ ethos can be also extended to ‘my question is divine, don’t confuse me with an outside perspective’. Today it’s tough to sort through a lot of noise and additional content that is in fact just a highway truck off ramp to nowhere. We get sucked into Reddit & Quora chats where well intentioned folks are actually just fluffing egos and forming fictional soapboxes (but totally not ad-less blogs :).
So how to measure if our side searching is adding too our purpose or taking away from it? Like everything in moderation including moderation, I think sometimes inefficiency should be indulged every now and again too. A multi-tasking rabbit hole is good in itself IF you learn a new perspective, new concept or even just a bit of culture that may come in handy for later. This kind of multi-tasking is why people are obsessed with memes, follow radically different political belief articles on Facebook and spend too much time analyzing Trump’s twitter feed. Think about it….these things will never be referenced as a source in a serious research article but they could help shape an inference or connection in the author’s thesis.
It ties to ‘we are all a sum total of our own experiences’… If we never waste time having random experiences we won’t ever get that nugget of an alternative track that may help us to critical think of or challenge a rule that needs it in the future. As a personal example, I have learned far more about cultural norms in Latin America by inefficiently arriving to pick up my kids 10 minutes early and shooting the preverbal sh** with other parents.. much more than I ever did reading political histories and social perspectives. Sure sometimes it’s just about whats on sale at ZARA but other times I glean totally different parental priorities, interaction habits and financial goals of a different culture than my own. Likewise if I didn’t follow some unrelated podcast content regarding governance challenges and connect them to technology advances I probably wouldn’t have been so supportive of certain investments that have reaped significant rewards this year (however fleeting it may be). And don’t get me started on the social perspectives I look forward to hearing while wasting an hour reading the Hater’s guide to the William Sonoma catalogue guide each year…
Again, a balanced approach is always best, on the flip side we all still want (and often need) just to execute something and have it checked off the to do list. To keep from falling down every linked hole I kind of like a simple rule of 3.
- TIME relevance: Is what I’m reading actually applicable today to my question being asked today (a dude planting Einkorn wheat in his backyard, probably doesn’t count when I was just trying to find a Gluten Free cookie recipe to make for my daughters class party that day).
- LOGIC relevance: Can draw a direct line of reasoning between my multi-tasking side topic/execution and the one I originally set out on (yes learning about quantum cryptography is interesting, but will that help me teach my 7 year old fundamentals about multiplication?)
- 5 DEFINITIONS: If I have to look up 5 definitions to even understand what I’m reading, It’s probably (completely) out of my immediate execution ability.
So those checks help me to stay focused and get to the execution completion phase and out of the multi-tasking spiral of non-productivity.
But hey my productivity is still just a work in progress…