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Wilkommen to my blog - my name is Karin Purshouse, and I'm a doctor in the UK. If you're looking for ramblings on life as a junior doctor, my attempts to dual-moonlight as a scientist and balancing all that madness with a life, you've come to the right place. I'm currently a doctor/research trainee in oncology after spending a year doing research in the USA. All original content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Friday, 16 October 2015

The Art of Procrastination

There is a myth I am always keen to dispel about doctors and academics.  

Yes, we work hard.  But my, are we also experts in the Art of Procrastination.  

If there were an award for procrastination, I surely would be up there as a worthy candidate.  There is virtually no limit to where my mind can wander when I have things to do.  Today alone I read about Mendlessohn, caught up on world news from a variety of different newspaper sources, wrote a couple of cards (including an overdue one to Granny Deutschland  *hangs head in shame*), explored the 'related artists' relevant to the composer I was listening to on Spotify and hit refresh on my emails about 30 times.  
Surely a wonderful place to procrastinate?
BUT.  I also rearranged a spreadsheet and finished a paper I've had on my 'to do' list for weeks - hurrah!  I procrastinated my heart out in the USA - plotting my travels, writing long emails to family/friends in between incubations, scribbling in my journal, reading good things, reading utter crap, listening to new music, listening to music I haven't listened to since I was a teenager.  This had other side effects. I was extremely prompt with answering emails.  I was more on the ball with my family and friends' lives.  I was infinitely less stressed.  I allowed myself time to feel happy or sad or crazy or sloth-like.  I came to really appreciate the value of what some might consider *wasting time*.  No-one EVER believes me when I talk about my procrastinating tendencies, but I promise that it's true.  I am Queen of Ruminations, Princess of Thinking and Great Dame of Ponderances.  

I've just come off a pretty intense seven week spell at work and I feel like I've become a terrible friend, rubbish daughter/sister/auntie, unreliable academic correspondent (it sounds like such a lame excuse when you write 'I'm on call' for the millionth time) and frankly boring in the process, despite all best attempts to sustain musical, cultural and generally human activities during my free time.  Is my lack of procrastination time to blame?

Apparently procrastination is an entire topic of interest for psychology scholars, and I found this article really tickled my guilt around day dreaming.  Authors write of choosing current enjoyment over work - prioritising pleasure now over pleasure in the future, or 'failing to identify fully with your future self'.  Hmm.  I'm not sure I agree.  Of course one needs to find a way to stay on track - I'd never get anything done if my sole activity was procrastination - but by allowing some 'air time' between intense academic thoughts, perhaps we stay more whole as people. Some of my best science ideas came over a procrastination chat with friends, or a musing had whilst reading a random editorial.   Ultimately, procrastinating hasn't really done me any harm; if anything, I feel the opposite.  In contrast, clinical medicine offers little space for procrastination.  There is barely time for emotions, let alone reading or exploring (well, certainly not during working hours).  I worry that makes us forget that getting lost in your feelings and thoughts is important and 'allowed'.  I guess our clinical moments of procrastination are treasured in between seeing patients and during precious tea/food breaks.  I've just come off another bunch of nights and it is amazing how you spend 13 hours with people that start off as colleagues, and by the end of it are at the very least acquaintances and more often than not friends.  But I'm not sure that's really procrastinating - perhaps just staying sane and injecting some much needed giggling into our nocturnal existence!

Procrastinating during my post-nights zero hours/annual leave is proving most fruitful.  I'm uncertain, I'm uncentred, I'm still lost, and I'm still working out how this eye-opened doctor is supposed to fit as a brick in the wall of the NHS.  But strangely, I'm taking the slowness of my reacclimatisation to the UK and life as a doctor to be a positive thing - life has generally taught me that the things that are the hardest are generally the things that offer the greatest reward.  So perhaps I'm 'failing to identify fully with my future self' with full and unashamed procrastination through a variety of media - perhaps that's because I'm still working out who she is - 'my future self'!