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Why It’s OK To Procrastinate: Staying In The Zone.

When I was getting my Masters in counseling psychology my teachers would always say, Do your homework early!

I took it very seriously and most times went straight home after class to start writing my papers due the next month. I’m what some psychologists coin a pre-crastinator.

I overcompensated because I procrastinated as an undergrad. I had to prove to myself I could do well in graduate school.

Adam Grant wrote in his essay for The New York Times Why I Taught Myself To Procrastinate that nearly a century ago, the psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik found that people had a better memory for incomplete tasks than for complete ones. When we finish a project, we file it away. But when it’s in limbo, it stays active in our minds.

Frank Lloyd Wright spent almost a year procrastinating on a commission, to the point that his patron insisted that he produce a drawing on the spot. It became Fallingwater, his masterpiece.

And Hemingway said, The best way to write is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will be never be stuck.

What I’ve found is that the pressure to get something done can cause a block. When I don’t listen to self-incriminating thoughts, I’m in the flow.

Whether you’re typically a pre-procrastinator or a procrastinator the trick is to stay connected.

Sometimes creative work needs some space around it, like a fruit—it needs to ripen to drop. I can sit at my desk to write something but like nature, if forced it can leave you with a sour taste.

Or I may need to stop putting it off and get my fingers moving. When I do, I offer permission for it to come.

Even when I’m not in a painting mood, I’ll walk by my painting, pick up a brush and do something small. Eventually I get absorbed and I’m back into the groove.

Kinda like passing an acquaintance several times and you finally say, Hey let’s do lunch!

If I’m unsure of what I’m writing, I’ll meditate on it, or discuss it with fellow writers, read other books for inspiration, make notes, or write a different piece to explore my present circumstances.

Somehow, in some way I stay associated with it.

Both pre-crastination and procrastination can get in our way because whether something is too easy or too difficult, our whole being still needs to be involved.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the Hungarian psychologist and world leader of positive psychology states, Repression is not the way to virtue. When people restrain themselves out of fear, their lives are by necessity diminished. Only through freely chosen discipline can life be enjoyed and still kept within the bounds of reason.

We’re happiest when we’re so involved in a project time stops. But there’s no right or wrong way to captain that ship and we can’t always be consumed by it.

What’s most needed is staying aware of our patterns and to know when resistance arises.

Resistance to anything is just fear. But the WILLINGNESS to continue to meet challenges leads to our best accomplishments.

Wishing you a week of being in the zone!

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Lynn Newman