You really shouldn’t have


There’s a very particular kind of moment I have sometimes. I’ve had them as far back as high school, perhaps even farther. Maybe I’m not the only one. They come around when there is so much I’m supposed to be doing, that I can’t do anything at all. Well, that’s an overstatement. I can do some things.

I can scroll social media, and browse online clearance sales. I can vacuum dust bunnies from under the couch. I can start organizing my shoes. Clear out the spam in the email account I have just for collecting spam. You get the idea.

I’ve always thought of this as an occasionally noble form of procrastination, which it probably is. The tasks I’m avoiding doing are ones with deadlines whose glaring eye contact I’m desperately avoiding. And yes, the online sales are clearly not as pressing (although time sensitive!), but it’s not like I’m wasting the time. I’m just using it for the wrong things, at the wrong time.

I’m a BIG list-maker, so I’m know what I should be up to and when. I know what comes first, and what can wait until later. I also know what’s not on the list at all, even when I’m doing it.

So, the other day I spent a whole morning in various corners of my apartment-sized house, doing things that weren’t on the list. They’re just want I wanted to be doing. By lunch, I was like…sh*t. What am I doing? Here I go again. THAT MOMENT is back.

Then I stepped back for a second, and realized that the things I had chosen to do instead were useful. They weren’t on the “morning list,” but they were on the “eventually at some point, in the near or perhaps very distant future” list. They mattered to ME. I chose to do them instead.

Sidebar: here’s an important fact you need to know about me. If I tell you I’m going to do something by a certain date, I will. You will have it, full and complete, as promised. For better or for worse, I am reliable in that way. I’m not going to let you, or myself, down in that way.

The real point here, if I can pretend to be a scientist for a second, is that there is information in this data. As a human, you have different energies at different times of day, week, month and season. You are also wired for survival, which means you have the instincts and abilities to meet your needs, which may be different by time of day, week, month and season.

We’re in an interesting moment right now for experimentation. Well, the privileged among us are. Some of us are on the front lines of healthcare and essential services, with less control than ever over our time. Some of us are required to report for duty to laptops and video conferences per usual, whether it strikes our mood or not.

To some extent, however, many of us have some time on our hands. We’re not commuting, going out to brunch, or running errands. So, what do we do with that time?

This is where the information starts flowing. What do you want to do? Sleep? Dance? Binge watch? Bake? Read? Stare out the window?

There are no wrong answers. There are only your answers.

There isn’t just going to be one of them, either. What’s your answer right now? Cool. If you do that thing, then ask again later. See what the mood is then.

It’s a bit of an experiment to see what rhythms emerge. Do you get to all the things on your “must do” list? Or are there things you just never want to do? If so, look at them. Are they like, your taxes, which aren’t really an optional thing, or are they things you have the power to back away from?

Like I said, it’s data, which equals information. What they You have to be paying attention to gather it, though.

Your mind and your heart are trying to talk to each other, and work something out. That something could be the difference between a list of priorities that feels aligned to you, and one that feels like it belongs to someone else.

Why not use some of this time to listen, and let that list begin to write itself?

Photo credit: Kristin Hardwick

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