Thinking Yogi

The intersection of two loves: yoga and writing.

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Posted by on in Writing


      I've spent the past four days


      doing the one project I really needed to get done.

      Every morning I put it on my to-do list, but once I sit down to work something else always seems to take priority. Even when I schedule time into my calendar to work on the project, I find that other shiny objects - a fun conversation that emerges in

the studio

      , the new article a friend recommended, or that thing I've been meaning to research - pull my attention away from buckling down to just get the work done.

      I've been frustrated at my procrastination because it feels like I'm continuously breaking a promise to myself. 'This time,' I said yesterday morning, 'I'll really get it done.' But my behavior didn't change to support the promise, so another day went by with my task list unchanged, the project grew even more monumental in my mind, and I began to think maybe I wasn't suited to completing it.

      Why do we procrastinate?

      It’s not necessarily because the task at hand is all that difficult or time-consuming, in fact it's often quite the opposite.



      I procrastinate when I’m afraid of bringing important work into a state of completion because it means of putting it out in the world to be evaluated and judged. I don’t want people to think this is the best I can do, so I convince myself that if I just had a little more time I could do better. This is where the perfectionist meets the procrastinator, and when the two traits team up it makes for a paralyzing combination.

      One of the most important things I've learned from 17 years of yoga practice is that the best I can do is to show up and be the fullest expression of who I am right now, however imperfect or out-of-shape or tired or overworked I am. Yoga is not about wishing for what could be, it's about being with what is.

      When I place my body in a yoga pose, it doesn't matter what the pose could look like on another body. When I practice conscious breathing, it doesn't matter how full my breath is compared with the person next to me. What matters is that I'm practicing awareness in my body and in my breath rather than being carried away in my thoughts. Yoga is a practice of consciously choosing what to do and what


      to do from moment to moment.

      I understand how to do this on a yoga mat, so I found it frustrating that I was having trouble translating that to my worklife.

      Recently my friend and colleague

Tina DeSalvo of The Soul Purpose

      introduced me to a tool that has become key in my anti-procrastination toolbox. It's called the NOT To Do List.

      Every morning after I make a plan for the three things I hope to accomplish in my day's work, I also list (mentally or on paper) the things I will not do in that particular work session. There are always so many things pulling at me, so many deadlines going at the same time, and it can be tough to realistically prioritize. The NOT To Do List is a way of acknowledging the fact that all those shiny objects will be distractions from the work that needs to get done. Identifying them makes it easier to avoid unconsciously slipping into that behavior.

      On my NOT To Do List for today was: responding to every email in my inbox, researching the

Chicago Symphony Orchestra family matinee series

      a friend just told me about, searching for a slow cooker, watching a new TED talk, and finishing up revisions to a story I've been writing.

      It's not to say that these things aren't important to do. They're just not important to do today.

      The NOT To Do List gives you permission to prioritize, to set boundaries, and to consciously decide how to spend your time on a moment-to-moment and day-to-day basis. It empowers you to make conscious choices rather than feeling as if you're constantly breaking promises you've made to yourself.

      Procrastination is nothing more than an excuse for holding back. As long as I have a sprawling To Do List waiting, I can reasonably tell myself there’s no way I can take on that bigger project I've been putting off - a project that might require me to open up, to be brave, to change, to be vulnerable. As long as that To Do List is waiting, nagging, there’s always a valid reason why that other bigger project can’t happen.

      But in the end, it can happen if you want it to, if you make time and space for it. It's all about priorities and making conscious choices regarding how you spend your time.

    To do, or NOT to do. That is the question.
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