The Mystery of the Irrelevant Train (of Thought)

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Ever wondered why your brain sometimes comes up with thoughts that have no obvious relevance to your current situation, when you really ought to be focussing on something else? It’s because brains are brilliant. Let me explain…

This week, I am revising the manuscript of my current work in progress, and I’ve had a little trouble with procrastination. This is a common problem, and there is plenty of advice around about how to address it. 

First I tried the old ‘sit at your desk and don’t move until you’ve produced something’ approach. Ever tried that? How did it work out for you? Well, it didn’t do much for my productivity, or my happiness.

The next technique I tried – the transferral of procrastination – was more effective. The premise is that it is easier to move forward with one task when it gives you an excuse to delay another task, that you are even less keen on. It does work but it can only be applied when you have multiple unpleasant tasks to do. If you find yourself using this frequently, you might be in the wrong role…

Another option is to focus on the end result and how much you want to get there. Initially this didn’t work because the result I thought I wanted (to have another book on sale) wasn’t something to which I feel emotionally connected. I love writing but selling books is just something I have to do to earn money.

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At this point, my wonderful brain stepped in with a thought that seemed completely unconnected to my current problem. An idea for a new story popped into my head. It’s a fabulous idea that I can’t wait to develop. But I have to wait, because I haven’t yet finished my current book. I’ve put so much effort in already, I’m not prepared to drop it so I can start something else, but I really want to get moving on this great new idea. 

At first this seemed like another problem, but then I realised that being available to work on the new story is the result I need to focus on, to make the task of improving my current work more appealing. It has also reminded me of how much I care about my current book, which is a lot. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get to work on some revisions.

Here’s hoping your brain throws some irrelevant thoughts your way today!

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