When Does Research Become Procrastination?

research and procrastination


I recently did a webinar on social media marketing. It had some compelling stuff, and I was furiously writing down notes. As it concluded, we got the obligatory “Sign up now for a limited time discount on our program”. I was pretty damn close to hitting that buy button, but I asked myself—when does research become procrastination? I’m sure I would have gotten some good insights, but it felt like a cop-out.


When does research becomes procrastination?

A quick scan of my computer reveals the following:

  • Dozens of un-listened to podcasts.
  • Folders of PDFs and eBooks that have been only partially read.
  • A LARGE queue of Skillshare classes.
  • Checklists of things to read and research.

Most of us have files and folders we’ve saved or purchased, with the thought “I need that”. I’m sure it was done with the best of intentions. We don’t acquire some piece of info with the intent of having it languish in a folder somewhere. We want to implement it to make a better version of ourselves.


Procrastination and perfectionism often go together

A desire to learn is generally a good thing. Why wouldn’t you want all the facts before tackling the unknown? However, learning can also become too passive. It’s easy for me to sometimes rationalize research as “real work”. The same goes for clearing my in-box and cleaning up my desk. Important, no doubt, but not “deep work”.

Analysis paralysis, or Intellectual procrastination—call it what you will—is bad for people (like me) who want everything to be perfect. Instead, we should be striving for 90% perfection.


Research can become Resistance. We want to work, not prepare to work.

– From “Do the Work” by Steven Pressfield.

Lately, I’ve been dabbling around with the Affinity Designer app. I’ve been going through Brad Colbow’s course, and watching the videos produced by the folks at Affinity. I came across a link for a hardbound manual on Affinity Designer. The impressive volume comes in at 448 pages and $70CDN. At first, I did the “I need that!” But the pragmatist in me said “You’ll read a bit, and then it’ll just sit on the shelf.”

I have a tendency to want to know how everything works before implementing it in real life. Once I learn something, that leads to something else, and so on and so on.


How do you know when it’s time to stop, and start implementing?

We recently had a contractor in our home, and we got into a discussion about learning. He told the story about how his kids wanted to know all the fancy hockey moves, before they knew the fundamentals. He told them … “Get solid first, then get fancy”.

A procedure that works for me is to do my research in bite-sized chunks. This works well for more technical stuff like learning new software. I pick one function or component, do some research, and work on an actual example. Only when I feel I have the fundamentals down do I move on to the next level.

Learning is good, but don’t let endless research become procrastination.