“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can let alone.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
Procrastination. Just the word itself inspires dread. Most of us view procrastination as something that prevents us from reaching our highest potential. But is it?
Lola Jones, author of Things are Going Great in my Absence, argues that when you procrastinate, it’s a signal to do something else, something that interests and inspires you. This concept is known as inspired action:
“One hour of inspired action replaces thousands of hours of busy I-should-do-this-hard-work action. How do you know when an action that comes to mind is inspired? When the mind is quiet and peaceful most of the time, just about anything that comes in and feels good is inspired thought.”
How do you know it’s time to redirect? Ask yourself these questions: Is this something I want to do? Is it something that would enjoy at another time? Why am I resisting? If it is a task you would otherwise enjoy, see if you can wait.
Or try to do something to lower your resistance and put yourself in a more conducive frame. Go for a walk. Do some yoga. Run on a trail. Listen to music. Browse at a bookstore. Get out of your office and set up at your favorite coffee house.
“A busy mind can be very productive. If you get too many thoughts to do all at once, write them down to capture them, then put them away. The timing will come to do them, and you’ll know when.”
I’m learning to work smarter not harder, and inspired action is one of the keys for me. As an example, last week I was preparing for a talk but I found myself resisting. So I waited — even though I felt like a slacker, and I worried that I’d be rushing at the last minute to get it done. Later that night a seed of a new idea was forming. I awoke the next morning with a novel framework for the talk. Within 40 minutes of feverish writing I had completed a detailed outline.
Had I pushed myself to work on the talk the previous day, I am sure I would not have developed the framework, and would have worked harder and longer on something that would have been far less inspiring.
Jones identifies resistance as a message to back off – and get clear before you start:
Often when we’re fearful or fatigued when we think of a task, that’s a message to get clear before we jump into action.
Procrastination is often a sign that your energy is not lined up with the subject at hand, so why waste it? When your resistance on that subject has relaxed, you will suddenly feel guided and compelled to do some action, and it will work much better.
So act, yes. But you can’t buck the natural forces and win. It just makes you tired. Relax, listen and go with the natural tailwind that supports you. Are you doing what your heart desires, or are you following someone else’s idea of success?
The action should be rewarding to you. If not, look at where you might be resisting. In the midst of action, if you begin to slide down the scale or grind your gears, STOP. Relax, take a break, release resistance and re-align your energy.