There are always a million reasons not to do something, as Jan Levinson once said on The Office, but when it comes to procrastination, my favorite excuse is “I fell down another rabbit hole.” As a regular of Wikipedia-induced rabbit holes, I believe we should celebrate these trips down strange and unproductive paths because, at the end of the day, you’ve learned something. And probably something you’re extremely interested in, if only for an hour or two. In my experience with the American Education System, this is a strange and unusual thing. We’re often taught to believe that learning means taking this list of required classes, memorizing the information these teachers give you, with the end goal of passing these standardized tests. In truth, learning is simply the act of knowing something you didn’t know before. And when this aligns with knowing something you want to know? Magic.
Often called “easily distracted,” “absent-minded,” or told we have our “head in the clouds,” those of us who often find ourselves shoving aside tomorrow’s assignment for a deep dive into the college blogs of Ezra Koenig know the benefits that come from a trip down a rabbit hole. For those who haven’t had the pleasure, or long ago abandoned the practice in favor of being productive, I highly recommend giving our methods a chance. In fact, just try these four easy steps.
Step One: Find Your Rabbit Hole
Maybe you really are trying to do your homework, but the reading mentions a Roman emperor so proud of his horse that he made it a priest. Nobody could resist the need to know more about that story! Or maybe a certain book in the library catches your eye. Or the song looping in your headphones mentions Buddhist temples and Biblical scripture in the same verse. Or a girl down the hall is screaming about Alienstock 2019. No matter what catches your attention, hold on to it and keep tugging on the rope.
Step Two: The Descent Begins
Once you’ve found your topic, my preferred method of falling is to simply ask Google. And Google will deliver (amen). From there, open as many of those headlines as sound interesting to you. Give every person who looks at your laptop screen a headache with the sheer amount of tabs you have open. Bonus: It looks like you’re really hard at work on a research project. Which you are! Just because it’s for your own personal enjoyment doesn’t make it any less valuable or authentic.
Step Three: The Other Side
Here’s where the fun begins… start digging through your tidal wave of tabs. In each New York Times piece, there will be a recommended thirty-minute Youtube video so artfully crafted you won’t even hear the clock ticking the time away. In every Wikipedia article, there will be three hundred hyperlinked articles to branch out into. Explore. Them. All. You’re on the other side now, your “Wonderland,” with all the most interesting knowledge in the world open in front of you. Enjoy it!
Step Four: Recording Your Journey
When you’ve had your fill, don’t forget where you’ve been. I keep a folder in my Notes entitled “articles” and another called “cool things.” Here, I record my journeys. If you didn’t get through all 1,583 tabs, feel free to save some of those interviews or academic papers for later. If you simply aren’t through investigating this rabbit hole forever, file it away for a rainy day. And if all your efforts have given you a brilliant idea (a business, short story, or future project), don’t leave it for dead. That’s what rabbit holes are good for: opening up a world of possibilities and filling your mind with new content that will, fingers crossed, collide to create new ideas.
Disclaimer: Rabbit holes should be traveled responsibly. While the desire is often strongest at two, three o’clock AM on school nights, the importance of a good night’s sleep cannot be ignored. Other responsibilities cannot be fully postponed, but a healthy amount of procrastination never killed anyone.
Image 1: Pexels, Image 2: Pexels