This is my 3rd attempt at writing this story. The first 2 times ended up with me deleting my initial drafts after considerably writing no less than 300–400 words. Now, your question might be, “Why did this person delete those drafts? Could he have not come back to writing it at a later stage?”.

Well, I did come back to it at a later stage and that is when I deleted those drafts. I deleted those drafts because I was embarrassed with my own work. I felt that those drafts were not good enough.

The drive to produce the best version of my idea caused me to eradicate the only version of it.

A couple of months back, during a casual conversation with a bunch of friends, I realized that this was not just a problem pertinent to me. Everybody in my friend cluster had it too. All of us were equally guilty of conceiving an idea, making an initial plan and then losing out on the chance to implement it. Now of course, this was just 10–15 undergraduate engineering students in one corner of the whole wide world. Maybe this was just our problem.

But of course, how could it only be our problem? What if there were a few more people in the world who faced such difficulties? In order to understand more on this, I did what every other Generation Z person would do, Ask Google.

inability-to-finish Not the most advanced Googling skills, but did the job for me!

86,50,00,000 search results! Wow! If so many people were writing about this, maybe it was actually a global problem. Probably, it was one of those highly written about problems that needed immediate attention. But when I began surfing through the page results, I realized that links relevant to my search ended after Page 4. Now, going by 10 search results per page, I was looking at around 40 unique search results for a topic that I had searched for.

This was not as colossal as the original 86,50,00,000 number that we had, but 40 is still a number enough for me to realize that the problem of not being able to finish what we start was universal.

I have put my best foot forward in the past month to beat this habit of not being able to implement my ideas and I would not say that I am entirely successful. But, I can be sure of the fact that I have been able to understand the reasons why this kept happening to me, no matter what endeavor I was after. In the remainder of this story, I share with you the journey of my human cognitive stimulus generated by a new idea and its constant roadblocks and the reasons why things that seem like life-changing ideas initially, never take shape at the end.

Getting Lost in the Glitz and Glamour of the Destination

I have always been fascinated by the world of data science. Not because of this, but because of my drive to understand things in better fashion and have control over parameters guiding the success of businesses or organizations. So, about a couple of years back, I was having this conversation with a friend at college.

Friend : So, since you are interested in data science I guess statistics should not be too difficult for you!
Me : Oh, of course it is. I absolutely hate statistics! I have to gather the patience to learn it sometime soon.
Friend : (awkward silence…deep stare into my eyes) Wait! But, is that not what is most important?
Me : (sheepish look) blah blah blah

I did say something then, but I honestly don’t remember it now. Because whatever it was, it was just me throwing a barrage of meaningless words to show that I was in control. I was not! (My friend probably realized it too, but didn’t tell me anything more. Maybe it was a show of niceness or maybe it was pity for my lack of understanding)

But what went wrong? I know. I just got so engrossed in what I could do with data science that I was absolutely ignorant about the basic foundations I had to perfect if I wanted to be a good data scientist.

Is this not the case with a lot of us? How many times do we get so caught up in the glitz and glamour of our destination that we fail to even have a look at the journey we need to travel to reach there?

A more relatable example for the larger audience would be goals we set as students at the start of every semester. The most common of this goals are, “This semester, I will get a really, really high Grade Point Average”. Now, when we make this statement to ourselves, how many of us survey the conditions that we need to satisfy and the steps we need to take in order to make this possible? Most of us don’t even look at the modules we have that semester. Most of us don’t even make an attempt to create a schedule or plan for completing the semester’s coursework within the necessary deadlines. And finally, we all end up where we promised ourselves we would not at the start of the semester — Foraging through every possible book and article and note-material on the night before the examinations. We were just so excited by the idea of getting a high grade at the end of the semester, we wanted it. But, we never cared for how we were going to achive it.

We are often so lost in the glamour of our destination that we turn blind to the immediate steps we have to take to reach there.

The Issue of Procrastination

Now, suppose we are amongst those who successfully manage to devise ourselves a plan or a path to achieve a specific goal. Does that signal the end of our troubles with implementing our idea?

I have been wanting to create a portfolio page for myself for the last couple of years. A page where I write about me and my skills, maybe a few posts about the kind of data-related work I do. Basically a small portal for people to have a peek into my life as an aspiring data scientist and in general, about my thoughts and ideas.

It took me a whole year to sit down and finish it after initially jotting down all my necessary ideas about the portfolio on my journal. This delay was not due to me having a lot of academic coursework or other commitments. It was only because I was too lazy to work on this. Moreover, I did not even have a deadline for this as it was my own work. And the effect of procrastination goes into a highly inhibitory state in situations when your work has no fixed deadline. [The video beneath is a wonderful representation of the same]

Inside the mind of a master procrastinator by Tim Urban

Procrastination is a real issue, it still persists in the work I want to do. But, being prepared for procrastination has definitely saved me from wasting too much time. So, how did that work?

What about procrastinating procrastination?

I know what you are thinking. The answer is no. My mental stability is in perfect order. But let’s think about this for a moment. What if we could find a way to be aware of our innate tendency to delay important work for having fun, and use this awareness to delay our fun activities itself. Still not clear? Let me make it easier to comprehend.

I. Normal Procrastination

This is how a normal procrastination conversation goes on in our head in a usual case.

Rational You : I have to finish writing this paper by this month. So, let me make an initial plan today to start of.
All-for-fun You : Let’s do it!
All-for-fun You : (after 5 minutes) Why don’t we have a look at the latest movie trailers?
Rational You : Sure! Will get back to work in 10 minutes.
All-for-fun You : (after 10 minutes) What does that thumbnail say? Wait! Is that …
Rational You : Looks fun! Let’s have a look!
…some time later
Rational You : (2 hours later) Oh my god! I wasted 2 hours doing nothing. I am such a mess.
All-for-fun You : Keep calm my friend. 2 hours have gone by. How will it make a difference if a couple more are spent on leisure? You need this to release your stress. Let’s watch a movie and you can work after that.
Rational You : Thanks buddy! You are such a nice person.
…some time later
Rational You : (after 6 hours) I hate myself! I have wasted so much time. The whole day has gone by and I have done nothing.

II. Procrastinating Procrastination

This is how a procrastinating procrastination conversation should go on in our head.

Rational You : I have to finish writing this paper by this month. So, let me make an initial plan today to start of.
All-for-fun You : Let’s do it!
All-for-fun You : (after 5 minutes) Why don’t we have a look at the latest movie trailers?
Rational You : That would be fun! But, why exhaust our leisure right away? Let’s do that after sometime. Let’s finish this paper work for now.
All-for-fun You : But…you sure that will work?
Rational You : Of course it will! Let’s finish this up and then we can spend the rest of the day watching trailers and movies!
All-for-fun You : Sounds good! Let’s do this then!
Rational You : (satisfactory smile) Yes!

This has seemed to work for me in almost every case (except those cases where my task is to tidy my room or organize my study table). But since each of us are entirely different, I make no such claim that this idea will work for everybody. And in the case that this does not seem to work well for you, I highly suggest you to have a look at this article that provides a more comprehensive set of guidelines to overcome procrastination.

Feeling Intimidated

feeling-intimidated Source

I once began this independent project of building a code repository that would have solutions to common algorithms and coding tasks in multiple languages(and even language independent logic). My intentions were to start with basic algorithms and when things start getting tougher, rope in a few batch mates who were stronger coders and build an open source project for helping students across the world. 1 week into starting my initiative, I came across this wonderful website called GeeksforGeeks. It already seemed to do everything I had planned to do and it was even doing way more than what I had planned to do! I felt it would be pointless working on that project. And, I aborted the idea!

Looking back now, if I had persisted in working on that project I would have been able to learn and perfect a huge deal of competitive programming and also master core algorithms. The project would also have been a wonderful opportunity for me to learn how to manage content delivery to an audience and also manage a team. It would have embellished my resume.

But, I let the chance go. Why? Only because I was too intimidated by what I saw on GeeksforGeeks. There was no need for feeling little or being intimidated. All I had to do was trust in myself and realise that, “Whatever I was doing, it had to be for my growth. Not to upset some already established player in the field.”

Letting people Influence your Goals


Photo by William Rouse on Unsplash

There have been a plethora of ideas that I have had over the past couple of years that I didn’t work through just because other people felt that the idea might not work out well.

Now look, I don’t mean to say that people are vicious or have malicious thoughts. But, sometimes they place their views without introspecting into those themselves. For example, if you are a person who avoids taking risks, it is highly likely that your advice to a person looking to start a business would just be one word — DON’T! This is not because they don’t want to see you do well, it is just an opinion that stems from their experience and their ideology.

When we get opinions, we can either follow them or not follow them. But whatever we do, it has to be our thought, our idea. Because, if we are blindly going to follow whatever we hear, then there would be no time to grow as original individuals.

My Podcast Idea

In late December last year, I approached my friends with an idea of creating a podcast that would be effective at my college. The idea was to interview final years who had been placed in jobs during placement season and provide them a platform to share their experiences. This could help the junior students at the college get a closer feel of how placements were going to be, the necessary skills they had to be ready with and also the ways in which they had to mentally prepare themselves to sit through those long procedures of interviews and online tests.

While some of my friends loved the idea, a lot of them raised doubts as to whether it would be worth the effort. They feared it would not be that viewed by other students and that it might not be worth the time I spend on it. This did make me think hard, but deep down I was pushed forward by this feeling that the juniors at the college needed this. I felt that even if there are a handful of students who get benefited by this tiny little initiative, then it was all worth my time.

tpj-stats It might not be the most ravishing stats, but its way more than what I expected!

The above is the Medium stats for 3 articles published on my idea (an introductory post and 2 interviews). These stats make me very happy. I feel I have been able to help a few students and I will continue to release more episodes so that I can help more. Had I given up initially after listening to the contrasting views of my friends, would I have been able to feel content about this?

Final Bits

It’s been a month since I have been aware of these main causes that were most likely pulling me away from completing my work after I start them. It has also been about the same time that I have been working on rectifying these small issues that were having big impacts in my productivity. In this process of self-introspection, the greatest lesson I have learnt must be that

Sometimes, even the greatest guide books and articles on the internet might not help us overcome our pitfalls unless we self-resolve the battles we fight deep inside ourselves everyday.

I hope this journey of mine helps all you wonderful readers to breakaway from the shackles holding you back from implementing your revolutionary ideas and other necessary work.