The Wandering Mind Series

Finding “Relief” in Procrastination

A major difficulty for those with wandering minds is having to explain it. Reading the many descriptions from professionals and laypersons, the multiple seemingly conflicting characteristics, and more can leave us feeling even more bewildered than where we started.

In this series, I present a model to help distill the features to a single major source. By recognizing a simplicity behind the complexity, we often find better means of understanding and even engaging.

Starting with the perspective:

A wandering mind can stem from a myopia of time-attention.

… we explored how this set up can lead to a chronic search for danger, a fight-flight pattern stuck in the on position, where the dangers of deadlines rule.

From chronically being in fight-flight, further hindered by a limited scope of vision, you can bounce between deep work and that of exhaustion.

It’s not just that you seek relief. It’s that relief can feel nearly forced on you. Out of energy, the body seeks some form of recovery almost regardless of will.

Unfortunately, much like many psychological defenses, that recovery is not always beneficial, nor is it always conscious. One version is that of procrastination.

On Procrastination

At first glance, it appears to be quite different to the “relief” of finding danger, but it is only the other side of the same coin. Exhaustion overwhelms the mind’s ability to continually find and fight danger and so it runs, engaging a type of “flight” to survive.

In the medium of time-attention, one turns their head.

Maybe you lie on the couch, barely able to follow a thought. Or maybe you find deep focus elsewhere, cleaning the closet to a near-spiritually immaculate level while the report you have to write steadily and stealthily encroaches across the calendar.

Because thoughts run so quickly and are so readily avoided by the myopic mind’s eye, it’s often hard to know that you are procrastinating at all. In the moments you realize it, your pain and exhaustion is still present, and so you try to find some way to soothe for yourself.

Unfortunately, while the phrase “I’ll do it later” feels kind, it rarely is. Still, it’s hard to know of any alternative, as doing it now hardly seems possible.

And when the alarm sounds and the danger of a deadline returns to overwhelm the exhaustion, you once again engage fight or flight, using the anxiety to form the walls stimulation you need to help you maintain focus until the next collapse onto the couch.

So, I’ve now left you in a lurch. But like most stories, we must descend into a dark depth before finding a way out. In Part 6, we’ll consider where the Myopic Mind’s Eye metaphor opens us to new vistas…