About Deep Procrastination

Cal Newport, one of my favorite bloggers ever, wrote about the upside of deep procrastination last week. I had a few thoughts on the subject.

So what is deep procrastination? You know you’re in it when “No matter how dire the stakes, starting work becomes an insurmountable prospect.”

I remember this starkly happen to me when I transitioned from 2nd PUC to B.E.

I had the fortune of studying in a school which exposed us to computers very early. I remember playing a lot with Logo and fascinated that you can draw circles and rectangles on a screen. I knew back then that I wanted to study computers.

So in PUC, I had chosen to study computer science (PCMCs) and not choose biology at all, compared to most of my peers who wanted to “keep their options open”. No sirree, computers was for me.

I couldn’t wait to get to “B.E. in Computer Science” so that all I would do was learn about computers.

Uh oh.

I found myself studying about “strength of materials”, about the different materials used in construction of a building, about the calculation of the weight that a pillar has to support, blah blah. WTF.

I was disgusted. I was very demotivated. I was in deep procrastination. I had stopped studying. And I didn’t care.

I have usually stood in the top 2-3 ranks of my class throughout my school and pre-university days (well, geeky was the word used to describe me…). In engineering days, I was given a rap for having attendance shortage.

But something happened. I soon started to enjoy it.

I explored a lot in those days – from lots of trekking (which meant travelling outside the city with friends! Whoa!) to reading tons about technology.

Because I studied well in PUC and got a good rank in CET (463, out of lakhs of people), my grandpa surprised me with a gift of 5000 rupees (don’t remember the exact amount). I had never seen so much money in my life (back then).

I blew it all up by sitting in a cybercafe. I used to download web pages, put it in floppy disks, come back home and read them on the home computer. I fondly remember reading about a lot of open source projects and a lot of Tim O’Reilly’s essays.

Those were amazing days. And legend has it, that it all began with a few good seniors who taught us Linux and open source, and I eventually ended up writing a book (stop yawning alright!).

Fast forward by 5 years… As a good friend likes to say: “There are only two times you innovate in your life – 1. when you’re in college 2. when you retire.” True enough, I don’t think I have ever read deep tech stuff since then. Nowadays, reading the LLVM Blog makes my brain hurt. Sigh.

The point of my story is this: Since I stopped focusing on studies in college, I let my curiosity guide me. All that curiosity has led me places and I’m forever grateful for that.

My Advice: The key to get out of deep procrastination is to have a constant balancing act between hard focus and curiosity. Leaning towards either for an extended period of time can be completely demotivating.

I believe that working on projects that will have long-lasting impact and simultaneously priming your curiosity, and engaging with the unlimited number of topics to explore out there, will keep you on an even keel and a good frame of mind. Maybe even a happy frame of mind.

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Jamie Larson