The next time you catch yourself putting something off for ‘later’ try asking yourself the question: “what’s wrong with now?”
What’s happening right now that’s making me put the work off? Why can’t I do it now?
I find the value of this question comes in a few ways.
It makes us truly aware of what we’re actually doing. The spiralling of bad habits such as procrastination, binge-eating, excessive gaming/movie watching, are often born from mindlessness. Asking this question brings us back to the present moment and makes us aware.
We look at what we’re doing and honestly assess whether it’s more worthwhile than the other important task.
Say I’m watching something on Netflix and remember I have an essay to write, assessing my situation lets me understand that what I’m doing isn’t actually going to help in the short or long-term. I can put the show to the side and work on my essay instead. Most of the excuses we use often appear weak when we put a little bit of pressure on them. The movie can be paused, Reddit won’t shut down and we can save YouTube videos.
What happens when we face an excuse that actually has some strength behind it? At that point we can set priorities. If we’re doing something that we honestly feel takes priority, then we’re doing the most important task. Which is the main goal. After the first task is done, we can move onto the next without guilt.
Answering this question requires honesty but that mustn’t be mistaken for self-hatred or criticism. This isn’t a plea to fill all of your waking hours with meaningless work. In fact, I think that would be counter-productive. Resting after work or just taking a day off with friends can be the most important thing to do.
Now, deciding which task is genuinely the most important is slightly more difficult. However, that’s fine as it’s just something we have to wrestle with at times. Asking this question helps us start deciding what to do instead of getting lost in distraction and later being disappointed at the end of the day.
As with many things, taking advantage of the moment and overcoming your internal fear of starting (or finishing) a task requires practice. There are still times when I ask this question with another task in mind, answer it with ‘nothing’ and continue putting it off. However, it’s still a helpful question that’s made me more mindful of my desire to find procrastination and move onto more meaningful work.
Set priorities. Be honest. Be mindful.
Soon you’ll answer the question and find nothing is wrong with the present moment because you’re doing all you should and want to be doing.