The Cure for Procrastination.

I’d planned to start writing at 10:00am but at 10:01 I was still reading an article on how one person reclaimed their attention span (the irony will soon be clear), so I decided to finish it before getting down to work. When I reached the end of the article, I mindlessly clicked over to Facebook for a bit of scrolling. And thus my morning of procrastination began. 

Over the next hour - when I’d planned to write 1,000 words of my book - I clicked absentmindedly between my browser and the Scrivener doc I was working in. The words just weren’t flowing and while completing all of 50 words I did almost everything but write. I added a few expenses into my bookkeeping software. Made a cup of tea. Got a snack. Browsed Instagram. Let the cat outside. Sent a message to a friend. 

Common wisdom will tell us that procrastination results from a lack of desire, dedication, and will power. We just need to make the decision to get it done and then do it; it’s as simple as that. 

But how come I can knock out 1,000 words without thinking somedays and on others I get sucked into the mindless rabbit hole of procrastination? 

Understanding our cyclic nature is definitely an important factor. We aren’t meant to consistently show up the same way day after day, week after week. As our energies change throughout the month (and even throughout the day) so do our strengths and abilities. Understanding that our natural cycles and rhythms will produce different outputs at different times is important. Working with this changing energy allows for greater flow as well as greater peace of mind as we’re not constantly beating ourselves up for being ultra productive one day and full of daydreams the next. 

But honouring our cycles doesn’t mean we can’t show up to the work every single day. It just means that the way we show up, the kind of work we do, and what we produce will be different (being pregnant means I don’t have the consistency of a monthly menstrual cycle but I’ve been using the lunar cycles and daily energy check-ins to stay in tune with my natural rhythms in this season of my life). 

An hour of procrastination certainly wasn’t showing up to my book. So what gives? 

I love something Jess Lively said recently on her podcast (I’m paraphrasing): 

When you’re procrastinating you’re not ready to do the thing you’ve sat down to do. You’re not in the right headspace. You’re not in the flow. 

We use procrastination to numb out by watching TV, eating mindlessly, falling down a Twitter rabbit hole… etc. etc. 

What we really need to be doing is checking in. Into our bodies. Into the now.

Jess says (and I love this!) that we get into alignment and into flow by doing what will bring us joy in the present moment.

She spends her mornings doing whatever will bring her the most joy in order to allow her work to flow naturally and easily throughout the day.

“But I don’t have time to bring the joy,” I hear you say, “I have this thing to do!”

Right. But if you’re procrastinating you aren’t doing it, are you? So what if you tried diverting that numbing out energy into some joy-inducing activities and see if anything shifts?

Jess explained that even if you’re strapped to a desk in an office you can still give this a try. Just close that browser you’re using to facilitate your procrastination (yes, we caught you) and open a blank email or word processor. Try typing out thirty things you’re grateful for about your life right now. Your boss is no more going to know you’re doing this than they knew you were stalking your ex-boyfriend on Facebook. But see how different it feels. Does your energy shift? Do you feel more ready to do the task at hand?

I’ve been experimenting with this during my own mornings recently to great effect. I’d convinced myself that the low energy I’m experiencing during pregnancy means I need a slow, gentle start to the day and I’d been giving this to myself by watching Netflix before beginning my work day.

But I found this habit left me feeling sluggish and dull. I was checking out.

There are lots of ways to be slow and gentle with myself, so now I focus on filling my mornings with joy and flow before I sit down to write. Most often this looks like writing morning pages, making a nourishing morning elixir, walking around my neighbourhood (this has been the most powerful factor in shifting my energy everyday), reading something inspiring, and having a mini dance party in our dining room.

I have a basic plan of when I’ll sit down to work and how I’ll structure my day but I’m not too rigid about it. I allow the day to flow based on what feels good and what will bring me joy.

The results have been amazing.

I feel lighter. I’m smiling. The words are flowing more easily. I feel better in my body.

I’m not saying I’ve become immune to procrastination. I still spend more time mindlessly scrolling social media than I’d care to admit but when I do find myself numbing out I can easily bring myself back into the present moment by asking myself: what would bring me joy right now?

TGGC #73: Cultivating slowness and a desire for less with Erin Loechner

Today’s interview is with Erin Loechner. Erin has been blogging and speaking for more than a decade on her website Design for Mankind and she’s now released an incredible book called Chasing Slow.

Now nestled in a Midwestern town, Erin, her husband, and their toddler strive for less in most areas except three: joy, grace, and goat cheese.

Erin is one of the friendliest, most open people I’ve ever spoken to and I loved chatting with her about minimalism, slowing down our lives, finding our golden hours in order to be more creative, and what she learned about herself from writing her new book.

 

 

In this episode we talk about:

  • Erin’s routine of getting up at 2am to write and work
  • Finding your “golden hours” to do your best creative work
  • Her journey of blogging over the past 16 years
  • How Erin’s views on minimalism and slow living have changed over time
  • Navigating the tension that occurs when your family members hold different beliefs than you
  • Approaching parenting as a minimalist
  • Transitioning back to work after having a baby
  • The realizations and lessons Erin learned from writing her book

 

Links mentioned:

 

Where to find Erin:

The Healing Power of Complaining.

“Well, my back and leg really hurt …I’m still nauseas a lot of the time and I couldn’t even have imagined this level of exhaustion before getting pregnant,” without even meaning to, this list of complaints begins falling from my lips.

Instantly I feel a little bit lighter. It was tempting to answer with the standard, “I’m fine, thanks.” But now I’m not alone with this. My friend knows where I’m at. 

Even still, my body tenses almost instinctively and a voice in the back of my head pipes up with: “You’re bringing down the vibe. You can choose to see love instead of this.”

In the past I would have identified this as my small, quiet voice. The voice of truth. The voice of my intuition.

Now I’m not so sure. Those aren’t my words and are they really coming from a more honest place inside of me? Because what I said felt honest. It felt like the most real explanation I could offer right now.

***

If we can internalize societal beliefs around our body image, self-worth, and sexuality then surely the spiritual beliefs that we consume en masse have a similar effect. Taking up occupancy in our minds and exerting their control over our thoughts.

Modern self-help and new age spirituality seems to have all of us who subscribe to their tenets in the throws of cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, we need to honour our fear and fully feel it. But on the other, fear isn’t real and if we don’t choose to see the love in every situation than we’re creating our own suffering. It simultaneously lifts up a belief with one hand while striking it down with the other.

And these thoughts begin to flow so naturally through our minds that we don’t notice the incongruities, or the damage they’re inflicting.

Because our feelings are real and when we don’t fully process them, we create trauma in our bodies. This isn’t just a precept of modern spiritual thought. It’s backed up by medicine and psychology. Science and spirituality agree on this one.

***

But surely complaining is bad, right? It’s not just the self-help books urging us to keep quiet, write another gratitude list, and choose a better mindset. This negative connotation runs deep in our society. There’s a reason “I’m fine, thanks” is our standard response when asked how we are and that many of us would feel too rude to send back a meal at a restaurant even if there was something horribly wrong with it. Almost all of us have been taught to slap a smile over our discontent and just get on with things. Yet we’re also striving to be our most authentic selves. How can these two competing priorities coexist?

This is the question I’ve been grappling with: Where does the line between being real and not complaining fall?

In considering it, I’ve concluded that it’s not really complaining but dwelling that causes the problem. This is what causes us to get stuck. Dwelling looks like:

  • holding tightly onto pain and negativity, subconsciously wanting to keep it rather than allowing its natural movement
  • not recognizing your own ability to make things better
  • allowing the fear and pain to take over your agency
  • getting that buzz that can come from expressing our pain and feeling like a victim and wanting another hit and another and another… (this is where complaining can become an issue)

On the other hand, being real is just honesty about where we’re at, admitting that we don’t have it all figured out, and being light-handed with our pain - allowing ourselves to feel it but also giving it space to move and dissipate.

To complain just means “to express dissatisfaction, pain, uneasiness, censure, resentment, or grief; to find fault.”

When we demonize complaining we’re telling people to put on another mask, to pretend, to push down their feelings. When we disallow dissatisfaction we violate people’s boundaries in a way that is potentially dangerous. We’re cutting off a healing form of expression that brings discomfort out of the internal experience and allows it to be more fully processed while also helping us feel less alone with our suffering.

When we expect ourselves to be “high vibe” all of the time or believe that we should never express negative feelings, we set ourselves up for failure while denying integral parts of our human experience. Jumping straight to gratitude and the lesson stops us from fully processing our experiences. How can we ever fully learn a lesson that way? Not to mention the trauma we inflict on our bodies.

By demonizing complaining we’re creating a society obsessed with shiny highlight reels where we feel alone in our pain, as if it makes us defective.

Instead let's allow ourselves to fully feel and express while holding only lightly onto our pain so that it can move and evolve and integrate as it naturally needs to. Complain when you need to but cultivate the self-awareness of when it's expression and when it's indulgent dwelling. It sounds simple but it’s not easy. Yet it’s the only way I know to be really real.