I procrastinate. Often. It’s a habit. When I’m about to do something that requires a stretch, I immediately develop a bad case of Got to Do This! I tell myself that something else, anything else, is more important. That I simply must react to what’s in front of me, that thing that in the moment seems to be screaming my name.
Then I tell myself that it’ll only take a minute. Just this phone call. That email. If there’s nothing else pressing, there’s Facebook. Or the kitchen cupboards with the hope that I’ll find something with sugar tucked away behind that “safe” zone of good choices.
But, it turns out, no zone is safe when I’m in the self-distraction mode. There’s ALWAYS some little job to do, some little text to write, some habit of looking outside myself that will give me the instant gratification of Doing Something.
Here’s when I look closely. A little tightness in the gut. A deep belief that there’s something wrong and it’s my job to fix it. Something wrong in the lives of my family, my friends, my house, my dog, my garden. Something wrong with the Universe Itself.
When I’m caught in this “have to” thinking, it’s a sign that I need to come back to the challenge in front of me. Case in point: Even though I set aside 20 minutes to begin this post, I saw an email come in that I HAD to respond to. Now. I came within nanoseconds of breaking the commitment to myself to stay with my writing, and turning once again to “just do this one thing.” What I know is that sending that email would have greased that same old neural pathway of reactivity. I resisted the temptation.
Then I watch the thoughts come pouring through, thoughts like “But it might be Urgent!” (Really? What’s the probability?) This comes from a story I made up a long time ago. The “I’m Urgently Needed” story. It’s probably in the Owner’s Manual for getting around on the planet. I wrote it when I was four.
Then I get a phone call from my aged mother. Although she has needed immediate attention several times in the last year, she’s now stable and has all the support she needs. I don’t remember this. I answer the call. I forget everything I ever knew about neural pathways and how ancient my Owner’s Manual is.
She wants to talk to me about buying a shirt we saw together. I’ve encouraged her to check with me about such things because of some dementia, but there’s no question the shopping trip, the shirt, could wait twenty minutes.
I’ve temporarily lost the stream but I find it again.
How does it serve me to think the world will fall apart if I don’t react to immediate demands? It gives me such an important job description. I’m the one who’s that important. I hold the world together.
Only problem is there’s a cost.
Instead of listening to my creative muse, I’m listening for their needs. Once I’m looking outside myself, I listen for what they know and I don’t, to podcasts of others who are smarter and wiser than me. This is one of my most righteous procrastination tools.
What if … for a moment … I opened up that owner’s manual and took along my magic wand? POOF. What if, no matter how important I am, I’m not the One Who Has to Do It? For them? For the sake of goodness? What if they don’t know and I do?
What if I turned the light in my own direction? What if I did it for me? Because my work, my life, my feelings, my thoughts are THAT important?
What if I met my resistance with that kind of curiosity?
Then I’d take whatever new step is next. Put on my shoes and take that walk. I’d set my timer to sit for 20 minutes of personal yoga or meditation or writing. Twenty uninterrupted minutes. Because that’s what works for me.
And when I don’t to do that, I can rest assured there’s some belief, some feeling that needs to be felt, the generous gift of that clenched or distracted feeling I call resistance.
And this will show me the way to freedom and creativity. Twenty minutes at a time.