(Originally posted Dec 16, 2018)
I am procrastinating, big time. In the first half-hour of sitting down to write this piece, I have: checked my email, checked facebook, gone to get some chocolate from the fridge, sent a text message, talked to my partner, followed the cat downstairs to see what she wanted (she led me right to the spot below where the treats are kept, stopped, looked up and meowed – I’m well-trained, apparently) – and even more things I can’t remember.
Distractions during the writing process aside, I haven’t even sat down to write in many weeks. Why is THAT? On my run this morning, I realized that why I haven’t been writing or getting various other tasks accomplished recently is just like why I haven’t run in a month: it’s much harder and so much worse to think about the thing, than to actually do the thing. In fact, once you’re doing the thing it actually feels quite good, I’d say 98 times out of 100; wouldn’t you agree? Of course there are always those one or two inexplicably weird times while we’re doing the thing, that we actually think – nope, I shouldn’t have done the thing today after all – and we hang onto those few experiences and they fuel our procrastination for every subsequent attempt.
I like to relate this action (or inaction) to matter and chemical reactions, etc. – you know, science.
Take activation energy, for example; this is the energy required for a reaction to begin. Various thoughts and distractions come into play to discourage you from starting the thing in the first place. Take my running example over the past month. Here’s some of how I kept myself from getting outside: I’m bored of my route, but it’s too late to go anywhere else; I have to get changed into my running clothes and that just seems like too much effort; I’m too tired; I’m too hungry; I have to do [X, Y, Z] first and it will be too late; it’s too cold; or – oh look, facebook; and myriad other reasons.
How about inertia – matter continues in a state of rest unless acted upon by an external force. Sounds about right. One can stay inactive (and avoid the thing) forever it seems; it takes what seems like so much energy (i.e. external forces) to get going to start doing the thing. But once doing the thing, we can often get absorbed and keep going for quite awhile, just like a chemical reaction that takes a lot of energy to start, but once started, may go quite quickly.
Of course one always has to weigh out the cost and benefit of the thing vs. other things in life. Maybe, after going to bed too late, getting the extra sleep instead of getting up early to make progress on the thing is going to serve you better today. Other times, honouring the commitment and getting up with the extra early alarm is the way to go. Only you know what feels right for you.
Just remember how much easier it is to think yourself out of doing the thing, or distract yourself from doing the thing, than it is to actually do the thing.
This writing is the thing (ok … and the running) I have been meaning to do but not doing. Now that I pushed through the activation energy and I’m doing the thing, it’s much easier and more fun now that I’m in the middle of it, to keep typing despite the distractions.
What’s the thing that you keep putting off? Stop thinking about the thing and do the thing.