Is it good to have flexibility with priorities set in mind to avoid procrastination?

Over the past few days, I have been trying to figure out the reasons which make me procrastinate from writing the introduction to a title. I have been looking forward to writing over that title for a long time, but I am unable to do so, even though I am ready to put in the effort. There is a perfect misalignment between my thoughts and willingness to pursue the idea, convincingly, both are high but poles apart. Although I was unable to distinguish the reasons for this problem, I wondered, if this was because the topic was not interesting enough to be thought of beyond my table, or was it too abstract an idea to be intuitively intimate with? Off late, I have felt that I drag many things such as the task of starting to write a paper, beyond the point where the culmination of my thoughts about avoiding it ultimately results in the barf being spilled all over.

There are several objectives that are always present on our list which require our immediate attention while we are juggling our priorities. It is often because they are not very important to be given a reserved space in our schedule and at the same time, they are unavoidable. We have our moments like these every day where we struggle to come back to our channeled thoughts once we give in to the temptations and the fear of missing out, or ‘FOMO’ as we know it today. It may sound just like a quickie but it often takes away more energy than it was intended for in that very instant. The thoughts about what we encountered in the bolt hole of those quick moments often cost us our attention to be diverted from the main task, even if that distraction was for a short span.

When our mind is already brimming with the thoughts of the primary task, such quick diversions to the whole new paradigm have an overshadowing effect on the existing mental capacity, and we find ourselves procrastinating the given task further. On the contrary, the reason to procrastinate could also be tied to our thoughts bounded and restricted in the given paradigm, which may make us feel inflexible to think beyond a stated idea. Having two average ideas to work upon is much better in my opinion, given that we are unable to be intuitively in touch with making that one brilliant idea perfect in the first place. Having flexibility in our choices often allows us to think differently, more intuitively, and with better lenses. When we allow our minds the flexibility to move back and forth with different ideas, the creativity, and thought processes are given sufficient space to grow. For example, I would prefer a semester having 5 different subjects being taught every week than being given one subject to be lectured upon throughout until it ends. (Note– not to be confused with the lectures of your significant others, those are permanent, unidirectional, and perpetual in nature).

I have encountered problems when I had the inkling to start my research paper and ultimately watched it lose to the tiresome calendar of the weekdays and non-interference with work rules of the weekend. This feeling of losing out on the days where I could have been productive really sucked out the energy from the excitement that I had when I had first thought of starting this journey. From that day, I was on to my expedition to procrastinate the paper to the so-called “better-days” ahead. The question still remained, what really diverted my mind from the already set priorities? Why was I not able to work on the research problem when indeed I had chalked out the perfect plan to execute it the next day? What really made me divert my attention from it and drag the task further? Well, it really boiled down to the idea of the scarcity of ‘Mental Bandwidth’ which I felt I was suffering with while I procrastinated the task over few other things (Mullainathan and Shafir, 2014).

It is imperative that we understand, that while we are trying to be more productive at times, the energy in our thoughts and actions is often inhibited by our internal forces as much as the external ones. To be honest, the internal forces fighting to take over the mind are much more active and stronger. It does not really matter if one has a brilliant idea to work on while the mental bandwidth is tasked with impending requirements at the hindsight, which are usually not really necessary and avoidable at the same time. Due to this reason, it may not be possible to give our best to the execution of that idea at hand at that moment. It might help if we tried our hands-on with the secondary idea at hand as it would allow the mind to shift the focus from the non-productive thought process of the first idea to the newly acquired playground to be explored. Flexibility to freely move from one idea to another, given that our priorities are set, will allow the same to be developed further until we are matured enough to choose our directions to pursue.

Not all wild and unsettled minds are wandering around. They are merely trying to catch the best idea which would quench the thirst for a long time.

~Amanpreet Singh Gala

References

Sendhil Mullainathan, Eldar Shafir. (2014). Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much. Penguin.

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