Productive Procrastination

From Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life:

I discovered that living the life we want requires not only doing the right things; it also requires we stop doing the wrong things that take us off track.

If distraction costs us time, then time management is pain management.

That’s a catchy line.

Being okay in your skin, being okay within your own mind is part of it. We reach for the phone because it’s easier.

There’s a lot of navel-gazing writing about how you should just stand in the grocery line and be mindful: to find space in that brief time to just be.

And that sounds so nice.

But…I also start a lot of drafts in those in-between moments. I haven’t conquered being alone with my thoughts, and maybe I never will. But at least I’ve practiced sublimating them into something I consider meaningful.

If you’ve ever chewed over something in your mind that you did, or that someone did to you, or over something that you don’t have but wanted, over and over again, seemingly unable to stop thinking about it, you’ve experienced what psychologists call rumination. This “passive comparison of one’s current situation with some unachieved standard” can manifest in self-critical thoughts such as, “Why can’t I handle things better?”

But there’s the rub.

I’m not sure it’s really possible to avoid the rumination and bad habit loops without dealing with that pain management directly. I see a lot of workaholics that are good at doing things but not so good at just being alive, and perhaps our work-focused, over-scheduled, and outcome/comparison-focused society is at least partially to blame.

Certainly, the resume-fluffing requirements we place on students for competitive colleges, graduate schools, and jobs like medical residencies are teaching those lessons early enough at young enough ages that we’re likely still susceptible to making them part of our personalities.

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