I recently read an article in the New York Times that claimed procrastination is not a time management issue. It is an emotional regulation issue. (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/25/smarter-living/why-you-procrastinate-it-has-nothing-to-do-with-self-control.html)
When we put something off, we are likely experiencing a negative emotion or mood; boredom, fear, anxiety, insecurity, self-doubt, etc.. We also delay because the task we are avoiding requires acute concentration and focus, a long, uninterrupted block of time, or creates an unwanted situational or emotional consequence.
When I get stuck in this frustrating state, my first thought is often to distract myself with a simple task that might be important but is not time sensitive, which usually leads to dissatisfaction.
All that we fear does not exist.
Doing things now often takes less time and less emotional energy than putting them off until later. Interestingly, I often find that the task I was stressing over was considerably easier than the mental image I created (this is certainly not always the case). Sometimes we are overwhelmed, and instead of adding another item to our task list, we need to take a break and recover.
The mind that created the problem…
It is in taking the opposite approach that has proven most helpful. I have found that creating space to do things I enjoy, reduces my likelihood of procrastinating to begin with. In essence, if my physical and emotional states are balanced, I am ready to tackle any tasks.
What is balance?
In my experience, mental and emotional balance comes from activities that stimulate both hemispheres of the brain. I have no shortage of left brain stimulation, between business, abundant personal obligations, and being a single parent of twins. Creating time for right brain activities is critical for my well-being.
Activities that activate my right brain and bring me into the present moment:
- Playing guitar or drums
- Stretching, yoga or going for a walk
- Any form of cardiovascular exercise
- Being in nature
- Doing something fun with my twins
- Driving in a circle – i.e. racing my Mazda Miata or on an open road with no traffic or cell phone
- Listening to music or going to live shows
I recently committed to spending three hours every week in nature. I do this during the work week as a reminder that this time is an investment in my overall productivity. This quiet time is for self-reflection, getting clear about what I want and allowing new ideas to surface. Since starting this practice, I have noticed a turbo boost in motivation, especially to do the things I’ve been putting off and the essential items that move me toward my long term goals.
We live in a world bombarded by distractions and external stimuli; our minds and nervous systems are often overwhelmed. Hobbies and self-care are essential for our health and wellness. Creating space for these activities grounds us, re-centers our minds, and bring us back into the present moment. After all, what is life for? What is most important? Instead of projecting our happiness into the future, we can commit to taking time to care for ourselves and allow our productivity to flourish and the abundance of possibilities to flow.