It’s procrastination. Maybe it’s caused by a fear. Or maybe there’s things you avoid just because they’re hard to do. And yet so many of these things still need to be done. As Bob Dylan pointed out, no matter who you are you’ll be serving somebody. So how do you do it?
First off, recognize procrastination as an addiction. Your brain gets good at anything it does a lot of, so if you procrastinate you’ll have wired yourself up to do so effectively. That being the case the first thing you have to accept is that it will feel uncomfortable when you first start using different and initially more cumbersome thought structures.
Your brain will tilt you toward your old self. It’ll want to use those old pathways. Expect that. You’ll even lose the battle a few times at the start. But the more you practice doing something else the more you practice being someone else.
So how do you conduct this practice? You must live very intentionally. And it is useful to do so in such a way that you are wiring the concept of presence into every aspect of your thinking. You don’t want to just trick your way past something–you want to become more conscious about what forms your reality.
Let’s say you have a large project. Let’s use me as an example. I’ve been so busy working that a lot of administrative tasks have been left far too long and it’s now a horribly large pile that it’s easy to be intimidated by. I also have to learn some new software in a new program category so that threatens to be daunting, and it’s autumn and so I have certain responsibilities to my yard and house. As with most adults, all of these things are far past the dates I planned to get them done but hey–life can throw us some pretty amazing curve balls so I’ll waste no time thinking my way through a bunch of what-ifs.
So I have a big pile of boring paper and tax stuff, learning new software and a lot of yard and housework to catch up on. I can think that into a pile so big that I could find a reason to have lunch every day of the week just to avoid having to dive into it. But sensing that resistance I do my utmost to stay focused on the section of moments that I’m experiencing and nothing else. This becomes hyper-conscious intentional living.
As previously noted, it can feel strange to do at first, but as you get used to it it becomes something quite natural. What it looks like is this: I break down my day into the smallest level of tasks that I can and I focus on strictly those. So after waking up all I will do is walk downstairs. My next intentional thought might be to fill the kettle then turn it on. That’s it. Nothing else. That small.
I endeavour to do exactly that with great awareness. I feel the weight of the kettle, the temperature of the handle, the scent of the air around me. But as soon as I detect any thoughts I refocus on my task and I stop giving that flow of thoughts my energy. I just fill the kettle then turn it on. And then I go to my next task.
Get two teabags. Yep. That’s it. Nothing more. Then place them in the teapot. That is all. Start the kettle and tidy the kitchen until it boils. Again–any time I sense my thinking is starting to roll away I take the energy away from that self-conversation and apply it to my task. Of course this will feel strange at first but slowly you will see what it feels like to be more aware. You will learn the difference between your ego self and your quiet self.
This process should continue on for most of the day. Note that in those instructions there is no “you.” There is no place for your thought-based opinion, there is only the action. Do that each day for long enough and suddenly it becomes natural to live in the moment. This is what it is to be mindful. You want your mindful of the world around you, not have a mind full of your own thoughts. Those only cloud our vision. Those are an illusion.
If you truly want to live differently become aware. It will make life easier, more enjoyable and more rewarding. Just remember: one thing at a time. Even the biggest task in the world is accomplished one thing at a time. Just focus on that one thing and peace will be with you.
Enjoy your day.
Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.