Thinking too much?

Thinking is a disease that doesn’t solve other peoples problems, it just keeps us feeling busy.

Jas Panesar

So I recently came across this quote. And I wanted to share it, because the first thing I though, when I saw it, was “that’s grad school.” And it actually wasn’t used in that way. It was being used to talk about entrepreneurship and the fact that you need to, in the words of Nike, “just do it.”

However, I still think it’s a really good description of what ends up happening all the time in academia, by grad students, post docs, and professors. We get caught up in the thinking, and often end up ‘solving’ problems that really aren’t problems (in the sense that no one needed a solution to it). Or not even solving problems. And taking a lot less action that we should.

In fact, I’ve had this conversation a lot in my research group (until I gave up, since it never seemed to get any traction) about how we needed to talk to our target market more. Which seems to be a taboo concept in academia (your target market? What do they know). And so, instead of just asking and getting feedback, we think. And think. And think some more.

I find that the thinking component takes up so much time, that I often feel that programs to track progress based on what you are doing on your computer (like RescueTime ) fail, in that the one thing they can’t track, is time spent thinking. Instead, they could track that you spent 30 minutes staring at the same webpage. Or a blank word document. But that doesn’t accurately track what you were doing.

Sometimes, my thinking involves scribbling things down. Writing notes or brainstorming or drawing pictures. Other times, it happens when I’m out for a run, or sitting on the bus. And I don’t mean to imply that thinking is useless, I do it all the time. And it definitely has it’s place. But I do think that we need to look more carefully at the balance between how much time we spend thinking, and how much time we spend doing.

Because, without the doing aspect, how will we ever know if our thoughts are leading us down the right path?


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