A Break is a Change of Activity

12 May

It’s that sort of day: a list of things to do and a mind/body/soul completely resistant on doing anything. You stand paralysed in the middle of the room, staring blankly at your ‘to do’ list. With a distracted mind and a tired body, your whole being rejects the idea of doing any of the tasks at hand. “No!” it screams “I do not want to sort out my bank statements. I do not want to call the phone company and I certainly do not want to fill out all those forms”. And that’s it; you’re on strike.

We all have days when we sigh and grumble getting out of bed, when every task seems like a chore and when we are so overwhelmed by banalities that they block us from getting anything done. Our head spins and our body freezes; the only thing we seem capable of doing at that moment is hiding under our bed covers. But stopping all activity at a household choresmoment like this is the exact opposite of what we should be doing. In order to get ourselves out of this rotten mood, we need to do something – anything – that does not require emotional or mental effort.

Don’t feel like sorting out your bank statements? Wash the dishes. Can’t face calling the phone company? Put up that book shelf. Don’t want to fill out those forms? Take the dog for a walk.

By doing something productive that requires no emotional or mental effort, we are making it easier for ourselves to tackle those tasks that we are reluctant on doing. We are distracting ourselves from the things that are blocking us, we are giving ourselves a break from negative thoughts and we even feel good about having done a useful activity. If, in these moments, we stop everything and sit on the couch feeling sorry for ourselves, we give ourselves even more reason for grief.

Yesterday, I froze up at the thought of spending my afternoon calling various companies, filling out forms and reading endless information about jobs and courses online. I was so overwhelmed by the things that I had to do, that I felt like jumping into bed and sleeping through everything. Instead, I put on my sandals and went to pick flowers for a hair mask in a nearby field. I then cooked a meal using a new recipe, and by the end of it all, I was feeling so happy and satisfied that I sat down to complete my other tasks with a smile on my face.

But be careful – distracting yourself with other, more menial, tasks is a solution for getting things done and not an excuse for putting things off. When you are overwhelmed – mentally, physically or emotionally – by your ‘to do’ list, taking a break and changing activity is refreshing and energising, but using menial tasks as an excuse to delay completing more important things is procrastination.

As my grandma always says “A break is a change of activity”.

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2 Responses to “A Break is a Change of Activity”

  1. tammyrowlandcoaching 13/05/2011 at 21:10 #

    Great perspective on creative procrastination! While avoiding some difficult jobs for a time, there are typically a list of other mindless tasks waiting for the time and energy. I like the reminder that they are not attached to emotional stuff so easier to get to, thus little guilt for having POSTPONED the emotional stuff. Yes it was just a blip, but getting the hard stuff OFF the list FEELS SO GOOD!

  2. sailingspirit 20/05/2011 at 23:41 #

    Very well put!

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