I recently came across a column in the New York Times about procrastination. The twist is that the column is not about why procrastination is bad or a weakness to fight, but instead offers a refreshing angle. That “wasting” some time before completing a task can lead to more creative solutions. The column is written by a university professor which refers to scientific studies supporting that claim, so the scientist in me was reassured that this was “true”. Then the human in me was greatly comforted.
As a new lecturer at the University of Reading I have a long list of tasks to do including: write and submit exciting grant proposals that will be funded, attract graduate students and postdoc who would become great scientists, write and publish 4* star papers (for those outside of the UK and unfamiliar with the REF, Research Excellence Framework, this means, and I quote, papers with “Quality that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour”. Yeah, I am also not exactly sure what that mean, but probably not easy to do), and eventually engage in teaching (of excellent quality as well of course, TEF is coming up). So quite naturally I am a bit overwhelmed. Then I read this column and I realize that not all those things need (should!) happen NOW.
I need to allow myself to be distracted so that original ideas will surface (I am assuming here that there are some original ideas somewhere in my brain waiting to be found). This does not mean I am playing solitaire in my office waiting for inspiration, but it means that I can allow myself “distractions” such as catching up with the literature, wrapping up ongoing projects or spending a few days jumping through bureaucratic loops to order the computer I want. These distractions are likely to be sources of inspiration.
If nothing else, letting myself be distracted got to write this new post and thus, to keep my blog somewhat active. Now if I can only figure out how to make the blog appear on a google search… (distraction #10, here I come)