Stop procrastinating and take an Awesome Break.
Procrastination: We *all* do it, but nobody really loves it.
In the moment it leaves us suspended in time, briefly comforted, but ultimately drained and unsatisfied, wanting but listless. I can do it for hours, and sometimes it LOOKS productive — researching Gandhi on nonviolence — but still, I know it by the feeling in my own body afterward: Glassy eyes, a muddy taupe-grey guilt, and that lurking question, “What did I even do today?”
What’s going on in those moments and what could we be doing instead?
First, let me explain. For me, the purpose of life is NOT being endlessly productive, eking out every bit of possible Give from our bodies until we collapse on the ground. No, we’re over that, aren’t we? — but in living a meaningful, balanced, life of feeling “fully utilized,” procrastination still gets in the way with its dim buzz of seepy unawareness. It’s not bad in itself, it’s just not really conscious. And as such, for me, it’s still more of a drain than a refill.
As I’ve peered in closer to my own motivations and M.O. procrastinating, I find it’s almost always a way of mindlessly accessing Break Time, when something is too stressful, not ready to happen yet, scary in a way we aren’t keen or able to explain, OR when we secretly need something other than what we’re trying to get ourselves to do.
The problem with procrastination isn’t that it makes you a bad person. The problem with procrastination is that it doesn’t actually work that well in meeting our underlying needs.
When we meet our own needs, we end the day filled. When we don’t, we drain. It’s not complicated, is it? But as with all practices, we have to do it to see the difference!
The key to doing things differently is an awesome trick from art and creativity, paralleled in the science of habit. It’s really hard to solve a problem when you’ve misdiagnosed it. Often we try to “stop procrastinating” by “doing the thing,” and we find ourselves stuck.
Instead, what if we saw procrastination as a sign of an unmet deeper need?
And in that moment, what if we got curious?
Give this a try next time you’re having trouble getting started. See what’s happening, then follow these steps.
First, notice you’re Not Doing The Thing. That’s where it all begins.
Second, take a deep breath. Exhale it all the way out — ideally more slowly than you inhaled. Let your nervous system reset a little bit.
Third, find out what’s going on in there. “What’s up?” is the easiest way to start this process. What do you feel in your body? (Hungry? Thirsty?) What’s up on an emotional level? (Are you scared? Sad? Ridiculously excited?) Third, what’s up in your thoughts? (What are you thinking when you tune in really finely? Is there a repeating loop in there?) And finally, what’s your intention right now? (To find it, tune into the feeling of your heartbeat — what are you wanting, when you listen to that center place?)
Once you know what’s going on, you have the chance to ask the magic question of better solutioning, “What does it need?”
You might find that it’s quite clear — glass of water, restroom break, a stretch-and-shake-out, some other task or a walk around the building or room.
You might need to add a constraint to your task, let yourself off the hook, secure more time, or up your security or sense of purpose by chatting a collaborator.
Or, you might just need a break of some form — and not know what kind.
It’s all good — any of these is progress, and even if you CHOOSE to surf Reddit for 10 minutes, still you’ve chosen the Awesomeness of your own break!
When we spend days procrastinating, we tend to end them exhausted, underfulfilled, and a little cranky with ourselves internally, for not Doing The Thing we wanted to, and — often — not really knowing why.
Instead, allowing yourself to take breaks of your own choosing deflates the biggest end-of-day drainer of “I have no idea what happened.” In the process, you can expose yourself to tons of upside by folding into the ‘needs’ question, “What would a Totally Awesome break look like right now?”
When we rejuvenate with as much creativity and devotion as we bring to work, magical things are possible in what we produce. These also have exponential add-on effects to how we show up at the end of the day to those we love or our other home-time.
So, if you’re in, try it this week. When you notice yourself procrastinating, check in instead, and then try crafting a 10-minute Awesome Break of your own design. Leave for 10 minutes, do SOMETHING other than internet, then come back and reflect. You don’t need to Yelp about it or have a plan — just leave your desk, move around, then come back and let yourself start completely fresh. See what happens.
And let me know how it went at the end of the day!