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?