Cori Sue Morris on Not Letting Happiness Depend on Check Boxes

Cori Sue Morris is founder of Retreat Foods, a snack company dedicated to fighting stress. She is also a Brand Marketer and self-described Productivity Junkie.

On quiz results

It was a pretty big revelation for me to discover the meaning of “precrastination”—and that I was a precrastinator myself. It helped explain why I get a lot done and am super productive, but have several seemingly counter-intuitive (and frankly unappealing) qualities like always running late or leaving the most important thing to the very last moment. 

Work is definitely the focal point of my life—I am very entrepreneurial, and I’ve spent the last decade alternating between building brands as a marketing director at start-ups and running my own company. I’m currently doing both—leading marketing at a healthcare start-up and building my third business, Retreat Foods, the first snack company dedicated to fighting stress, launching this April. 

Precrastination helps explain why I often get a lot done— but tend to maschocistically leave the most important thing on my to-do-list for the very last minute. People tend to perceive me as highly effective—I get a lot done, and done well, but I tend to privately put myself through the ringer in doing so. And, I’ve definitely dropped the ball on something more than I care to admit—because it was 90% finished 3 weeks ago, but I was just spun up and unable to finish that last 10%. It feels good to know I’m not alone in some of this strange behavior.

While certain productivity tactics — time blocking, project management systems, healthy eating, taking breaks — are common, I’ve had to dig a bit deeper to get at the root of how I am inclined to a bit of self-sabotage. 

Being thoughtful about how and what to prioritize

My precrastination causes me a lot of anxiety—I do a lot of little things, but then the resistance really builds up when it’s time to tackle the big, scary, important one. I’ve found that committing to drafts—”just do the first version today!” really helps. 

I’ve also learned to schedule important creative work—like building a website or writing a client deck—after taking a break. I used to believe I could work all the time—and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to prioritize self care—play and time away from the computer screen spur creativity and more productivity come the following work week. My best work is always after some time away from the computer, spent reading, socializing, or spending time playing—exercise, board games, podcasts are great ways for me to still feel “productive” while not actually working. 

I do tend to project my precrastination on to my poor fiancee—who is a saint of a man and wired entirely differently to me. I’ll burst into the room and say “have you packed yet?” then later “When are you going to finish cleaning your office?” and yet later “I’m not going to be able to help you with that tonight— I have to finish this very important thing!” Poor man. He’s great about it—he’ll just look at me and say “You do you, darling, I’ll do me.” The Australian accent also helps. 

Wired to get things done

It’s hard to separate my precrastination from other facets of “me”—I’m an ENTJ, which is the classic CEO archetype, and my Gallup Strengths Finder results found that my primary drivers were “focus,” “achievement,” and “futurist.” That’s a long way of saying I’m wired and motivated to get things done. 

I’m able to prioritize, focus, and execute on a high volume and variety of tasks, which is crucial when you’re managing marketing, building a business, or in my case at the moment, both. It’s definitely been an asset in my life, but doesn’t come without its downsides.

I expend an enormous amount of energy—and can make things more difficult on myself, by doing too much, rather than just letting things take their course.

Internal and external factors play a role

Growing up, I always did things ahead of time—I was the goody-two-shoes that did her homework first thing and turned in her projects early. Back then, it came without the emotional baggage and fear of failure that comes with adulthood. Growing up as an over-acheiver, and then going through the ups and downs of millennial life: recessions, student loans, zero work-life-balance, and now a pandemic—the society upheavals plus the pressure I put on myself has made things less rosy than “get your homework done first and then you can play outside.” 

Strategies that work for Cori Sue

First and foremost, I look after my health—I try to keep my sleep, hormone, and sugar levels in balance so I’m not on a roller coaster of highs and lows. I sleep eight hours, I take adaptogens—specifically Reishi, Cordyceps and Lion’s Mane— for focus and cognitive benefits. I also intermittent fast and drink a lot of water during the day so I’m not dragged down by that post-lunch crash.

I ruthlessly time block and guard my calendar. I have meeting and non-meeting days. On meeting days, I pack 8-10 meetings back-to-back, so I can knock them all out in one day. I schedule deep work days after days off (e.g. Mondays, or Fridays, after a Thursday evening with friends and I let myself sleep an hour later). 

I’ve also added in breaks—I get up and stretch periodically. When I’m really struggling, I’ll stop, drop and meditate—just 10 minutes via Headspace or a 20-minute yoga class on Peloton

To ensure I’m focusing on big-picture tasks, and not getting too focused on my to-do-list app, Things, I write my annual and monthly big picture goals in a journal. I find that writing things down, vs. typing, gives them more weight. Because to-do-lists aren’t weighted, it’s easy to feel like you’re accomplishing things without focusing on the big picture. It’s easy to get caught in the busy trap. I use Asana for project management and a journal for personal goals and it keeps me on track to move my life vision, my business and my future forward.

Books and products that stand out

I’ll share some books that have really helped me. First and foremost, Essentialism by Gregory McKeown was a game-changer on prioritization and how doing too much can rapidly lead to failure. The War of Art (different from The Art of War) is incredibly helpful for anxiety-induced precrastination or procrastination about the fear of creative failure and how to overcome resistance. 

As far as product recommendations, I switched from coffee to Matcha, which provides a more calming, less anxious high. I love Golde’s powdered matcha lattes at home. In the evenings, I’ve switched from wine to Kin, a company that makes non-alcoholic aperitifs. The “High Rhode” cocktail tastes great and really helps me focus—I spend a few nights a week sipping happily on High Rode and effectively working late into the night.

I want to be accomplished and happy, right now, and it shouldn’t be dependent upon another check box.

Cori Sue Morris

On being preinclined

I used to always focus on getting things done so I could enjoy the future. Now, I want to be grateful, balanced, and present right now. I’ve been working on switching my perspective to acceptance, gratitude and presence: enjoying the moment right now, whether it’s working or living—or some combination therein. It’s an exercise to change from “If I just get this one more thing done then I’ll feel accomplished and happy.” I want to be accomplished and happy, right now, and it shouldn’t be dependent upon another check box.

Photo credit: Josh Wool

Friendship Duo: Jessica and Veronica on Appreciating Each Other’s Precrastination

Jessica is a profound precrastinator and urologist in the Pacific Northwest with a lawyer spouse and two toddlers. Her interests include salad, Crossfit, the library, and checking boxes.  

Veronica is a precrastinator, rather than a profound precrastinator. She hypothesizes that her quiz result was swayed by her love of trip planning spreadsheets and sunscreen (she’s a dermatologist). She lives in New York City and loves running, hiking, chocolate, sending planning emails, and spending time with her kids.


Tell us the story of how you met! Did anyone precrastinate or procrastinate in establishing your friendship?

J:  I really wanted to be friends with Veronica from the beginning of medical school, but she was so intimidating. Her notes had notes! I was too afraid to study with her, but managed to tempt her into joining the club water polo team with me.    

V: Jessica always has these amazing adventure plans – neither of us had ever played Water Polo! We decided to meet at the pool to practice swimming before the club tryouts and we were both…extremely early. We couldn’t help but laugh. Don’t worry, we made the (club) team. The funniest thing is that even though we don’t look alike, the one goal we scored and one assist we had the whole season was credited to the wrong one of us! I don’t even remember who scored or who it was credited to though…. 

How do your pre/pro styles differ, and how do they manifest in your friendship?

J: I admire everything about Veronica’s style. She is an excellent vacation planner. I once beat her at a mental math task, which I hold dear to my heart. Otherwise, she is at least 5% better than me at all other aspects of adulthood; I’m not bad, but she is amazing.

V: It’s true that I loooooooove to plan vacations. I like to send a million emails with suggested activities and I already have fantasized about where I will go in the winter of 2022…if it is safe to travel by then. 

I am so amused by Jessica’s retelling because I think of Jessica as *fundamentally better at mental math* than I am. She also has an incredible innate sense of design – she always has the perfect outfit and accessories (in med school it always drove me crazy because her feet are a half size smaller than mine so I could never try on her shoes!). As we’ve become adults it has translated to the most welcoming and beautiful home. All the loveliest items in my own house either were gifts from Jessica or directly inspired by her. 

In what ways have your styles been beneficial to your lives or your friendship?

J: Veronica had a baby two months before I did. It was such a life-saver during this time of upheaval to have a friend to commiserate with who also was consistently a voice of wisdom and experience.

V: That is so nice of you to say, Jessica! What I remember from that time is intensively boring you with thousands of emails about cribs and spreadsheets. 

My favorite Jessica precrastinator story is that when we came to medical school Jessica had this idea (essentially on the first day) that we would do this rotation with the Indian Health Service in Alaska. It took two intensive precrastinators a full 18 months to deal with the paperwork, but we did it, and it ended up being so meaningful and special in ways even the best planners couldn’t have predicted. 

In what ways have your styles made things difficult in your lives or in your friendship? Give us some examples.

J: Two precrastinators who are optimizing for different goals can be rough.  On past trips together, Veronica often wanted to optimize for hiking when I wanted to optimize for ice cream.

V: This is true. When we discovered that our priorities weren’t mutually exclusive it was a lot easier for us to hike and then have ice cream.

What are some surprising aspects of your personalities, or approach to pre/procrastination, that you’ve realized over the years?

J: I’m not very good at resting. I’m trying to get better at doing literally nothing.

V: Me too. But sadly I’ve resorted to scheduling rest time.

When thinking about how you’ve developed your pre/procrastination styles, who or what influenced you?

J: Veronica is chronically early, which I think is the hardest flex in the book. I love it — she is so cool!

V: I do think being chronically early is an extremely hard flex once you have kids. Toddler time defies the laws of physics!

Jessica is responsible for all of my best adventures. I think it makes sense that she is a profound precrastinator on the quiz and I am a regular precrastinator because she has these profound, life-altering long-term visions. For example, she is responsible for my one and only marathon! It took us six months to train for (obviously Jessica made a training plan) but it was so worth it. The best part was spending time together on the long runs. 

What does being preinclined mean to you?

J: I try hard to live by three maxims: 1) Tell the truth, 2) Be kind to your future self, and 3) Sow seeds of happiness. I’ll lend those to anyone who needs a few guiding words of their own. 

V: Jessica is so good at thinking critically about how to improve our lives and those of the people around us. It’s such a lovely big picture pre-inclination and I benefit so much from it every day.

Erin Niimi Longhurst on Aspiring to a Purpose-Filled Life

Erin Niimi Longhurst is the author of Japonisme, Omoiyari, and A Little Book of Japanese Contentments. Based in London, she is an enthusiastic cook and is currently very into pickling things.

On quiz results

My quiz result was Profound Precrastinator. It is eerily accurate – I love lists, but tend to focus on the smaller tasks and overload at the expense of the present! I try to be disciplined about down time – during this latest lockdown I’ve scheduled in time to achieve a proper balance and it’s helped tremendously.

I like scheduling in time to take care of myself ahead of time, whether it’s diarising my exercise or making meal plans for the week ahead. I’m also a big believer in prevention being better than a cure, so I make a lot of my choices based on that philosophy.

On always having something going on…to a point!

I think my precrastination is something I rely on quite a lot, to make sure I’ve always got something going on. My father always used to say that only boring people are bored, and it’s always stuck with me. I like being able to sink my teeth into a project of some kind, and I think the nature of being a precrastinator means that you always have something on the go.

A risk with my precrastination is that I have a tendency to take on too much at once, or all the opportunities come at the same time! I got the offer to write my first book the day before I was due to start culinary school – which I was doing alongside a full-time job. 

Enrolling in culinary school part-time was always a dream of mine, while the offer to write a book came out of the blue. I was tempted to give one up for the other, but it seemed as if two things I’d always wanted were happening at the same time, and it was too difficult for me to give either of those dreams up. I’m not quite sure how I made it work, but it seems to be a recurring pattern that I’m trying to address as I get older.

On finding balance

I used to be a huge procrastinator, and I definitely think I still am in some elements of my life. I think these tendencies are heightened during stressful times in our lives, and I’ve found taking a ‘pre-crastinator’ approach alleviates some of those feelings, but it’s really about finding your balance.

This year, I’ve started journaling in the morning in addition to the evening, which has helped so much. The act of free-flowing, uninhibited writing is extremely comforting, as is reading over and processing at a time when I feel ‘safer’ to do so.

I value yoga and breathing exercises as well – I used to practice yoga on a more regular basis prior to the pandemic, and fell out of practice. This month I made it a priority to practice every other day, and it’s really helped me to prioritise and set boundaries with my work.

I’m a big list-maker, and so having a section for ‘creativity’ as well as ‘self-care’, and making sure those are just as non-negotiable as other sections is something that is extremely beneficial.

On investing in well-being

I recently invested in a reMarkable tablet, and couldn’t recommend it enough. I think it’s so important not to look at a screen, and the act and practice of writing is so important. Being able to digitise these notes and drawings and share them has been game-changing.

I use Todoist for my to-do lists, and my fancy yoga mat is another lockdown purchase I invested in. It makes me so happy every time I roll it out that it was worth every penny.

There is a Japanese proverb, the prime of your life does not come twice, and it’s so apt. I love it because it’s not to do with age, but potential, and to really seize the day.

ERIN NIIMI LONGHURST

What being preinclined means to Erin

I love the concept of preinclination, because it’s such a great way to describe the way in which I strive to live my own life. There is a Japanese proverb, the prime of your life does not come twice, and it’s so apt. I love it because it’s not to do with age, but potential, and to really seize the day.

My writing has always been shaped by my upbringing, in particular my Japanese grandfather, who was a successful businessman but also a temple elder. Growing up, I saw a version of him getting ready for work each day – he’d often look stern, serious, deep in thought – but just as often I would see him come back home and cook something delicious for lunch, or tend to his garden, go for walks. What inspired me was the balance he had, and yet how this time he had to play (for the lack of a better word) was also integral to success in other areas of his life. He was preparing and building his career, alongside his future for himself and his family, but he also took the time to appreciate things, have long baths, and live in the present. 

In many ways my grandfather died before he was truly able to enjoy the fruits of his labour and retirement, but it wasn’t as though he had dedicated his life to work – he had a full, purpose-filled life in other aspects too. It’s something I aspire to, and take inspiration from.

Spencer Yang on Finding Balance on Both Sides of the World

Spencer Yang is Senior Product Manager at Coinbase, the leading cryptocurrency exchange in the US. He is a Singaporean based in Las Vegas, and enjoys snowboarding, wakesurfing, and playing poker, among other hobbies.

On quiz results

I am a Perhapstinator based on the quiz, and it definitely seems to be accurate. I find that certain activities appeal to me over others, so I will precrastinate on those I enjoy and procrastinate on those I don’t.

Deadlines – whether they are self-enforced or set in stone – help me to get tasks done. I tend to prioritize tasks that others are depending on me for, over timelines that can be self-managed.

Having a firm vision drives outcomes and process

At work, I have a firm vision of my goals. Because of that, I am able to prioritize and focus on things that drive towards the desired outcomes. I usually don’t miss deadlines and plan sufficient time to get things done well.

I enjoy working with others as I find it helps to create better outcomes. When there are more people involved, having a central view for every project becomes critical for each stakeholder to get on the same page. Since I am in a product role, it’s important to share my vision with stakeholders to get their buy-in and commitment.

Being responsive keeps global relationships going

I enjoy interacting with friends and I’m usually quick to respond whenever friends get in touch or when they have questions I can help with. Since I’ve lived in both Asia and the States, I need to be extra proactive in keeping up with friends across different time zones.

My family is also living apart from me, so I converse with them virtually too. I try to be available for them and make the time to call them often. On the other hand, I’m not great at getting gifts for family members. I usually procrastinate until the last week – or even the actual day – before getting it shopped and shipped.

Creating a healthy and invigorating schedule

I keep a weekly schedule of exercising 3 times a week in order to stay healthy. When I travel, I tend to lag behind on my exercise schedule, but it has been fairly easy to stick to it in the past year due to the lack of travel! These days, I go for a run by the Las Vegas Lake around 7am.

While I’m on top of my exercise and diet, I procrastinate on getting regular health check-ups. However, I seek treatment quickly when things don’t feel right, and go to the doctor immediately. 

However, I am a precrastinator when it comes to finding interesting activities to do or places to see. Over the past year, due to the lack of travel activities, I discovered a new sport: wakesurfing. I am often the person who plans the wakesurfing sessions, pre-booking them ahead of time, and getting everyone together for them. It’s a good sport, I enjoy it so it boosts my mental health, and it’s a fun small-group activity outdoors! (P.S. This was in Singapore, which handled the pandemic well and allowed for activities up to eight people.)

The dark side of procrastination and learning to overcome it

Growing up, I wasn’t always a precrastinator. In fact, I used to procrastinate a lot; the harder the task, the more likely I was to procrastinate. The tasks were really not that difficult in hindsight, but that’s just me looking back with the benefit of experience.

I often put off completing assignments and studying for tests during middle and high school. I prioritized other activities such as games or sports over school work. Unsurprisingly, it caused my grades to slip – but I also realized that as long as I put my mind and effort into it, I could overcome my tendency to procrastinate.

My experiences have motivated me to not let myself slip again, and to always tackle the hard things first. This attitude has undoubtedly helped me later in life.

Finding the balance between precrastination and procrastination

Precrastination has benefited me greatly in my work. It helps me to get ahead of things and makes sure I’m productive and can fight for and deliver important projects.

However, precrastination can sometimes weigh down on me. I feel the urge to push for things to be done ahead of the deadline. I sometimes find forced procrastination to be helpful just to break the loop of always “just doing things”.

That being said, procrastinating has given me anxiety. When I feel like I’ve procrastinated on something too much, I get this feeling of pressure at the back of my mind, and it causes me to lose sleep. Thankfully, it hasn’t led to any long-term issues for me!

Apart from work, being precrastinatory has helped me to actively seek and plan trips with my family to discover new experiences. I often plan personal trips around business trips, when possible, so it maximizes new experiences. I find it one of the more fulfilling parts of precrastinating.

The profit from procrastination

As a funny foil to my precrastinatory nature, I can recall an instance in which procrastinating actually led to a better outcome. I was in charge of managing the treasury for a previous company. We manually converted the cryptocurrency we received to USD. By procrastinating on converting these cryptocurrencies, I accidentally helped the company earn significant amounts from conversion. The price of the cryptocurrencies went up in value while I was just sitting on it. I count this as one of the best outcomes from procrastination I can recall. I coin it: Procrastination Capital.

Using tools to plan your time and reduce interruptions

A notebook and a pen are my best friends for getting started on difficult tasks. Sketching an outline of the plan is always a good place to start.

I’ve also found that utilizing Google Calendar to block out times for productive work in your day is hugely helpful. This just means adding “deep work” times to your calendar so they are unavailable for meetings with you.

Oftentimes, co-workers will schedule time for meetings with you based on what’s convenient for them, so you have to actively manage your own calendar. If you don’t schedule your time in this way, you may end up with slivers of time during the day in which it’s hard to focus, with no gaps of 2 hours or more for the deep work you want to get to that day. I try to avoid that by consciously blocking out time in the calendar for myself.

Ultimately, most of us put up with things in our lives that don’t give us joy. I think it’s a privilege and a journey to fill our lives with what we truly enjoy, and do the things that we really want to do.

Spencer Yang

What being preinclined means to Spencer

We don’t have a time machine to turn back time to when we’re younger. To me, that means living so you don’t kick yourself for passing up opportunities or deprioritizing important people or activities in your life. If I become aware of doing or not doing something, that I’ll look back on in the future and ask myself why, it’s a sign for me to take action to course-correct it.

However, I’ve also learnt to be kinder to myself. It’s important to forgive yourself for the times you slipped up, in order to find your lessons from it and build new habits that allow you to move on. Self-compassion is always the best way to start. Self-blame can lead to more destructive behaviors, which will certainly take you further from being preinclined.

Ultimately, most of us put up with things in our lives that don’t give us joy. I think it’s a privilege and a journey to fill our lives with what we truly enjoy, and do the things that we really want to do. It’s something we can all strive for!

June Dennis on Embracing Perhapstination and Keeping Priorities in Order

June Dennis is based in Queensbury, West Yorkshire, in the UK. We connected with June thanks to her post about procrastination pencils on Twitter! 

Background on June’s Portfolio Career

Having worked in marketing management roles and running my own marketing business for the first 10 years of my career, I became a lecturer in marketing when my younger daughter was a few months old, thinking it would be an easy job to do while my children were little. I stayed in the sector a bit longer than I intended – my daughter was 21 when I left Staffordshire University as Dean of Staffordshire Business School last year to set up Mountain Top Perspectives.

I now have a ‘portfolio career’ working with organisations in the higher education sector,  providing strategic marketing support for businesses and offering coaching and mentoring support for marketers and career academics. I’m an expert witness in marketing and have provided evidence for intellectual property disputes and several criminal cases. I’m also setting up a job club in Bradford in an area which has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the country.

On quiz results

Apparently, I’m a perhapstinator. I honestly thought I would come out as a procrastinator but, on reflection, perhapstinator is an accurate description. I know I’m a procrastinator when it comes to doing some tasks like writing a difficult report and I do leave things to the last minute. I usually get them done on time, but I’ve submitted too many conference papers at 1 minute to midnight for my own good! I don’t like letting people down though so that usually motivates me. It’s rare that I’m all sorted days before a work deadline as deep down I’m a perfectionist and there’s always more I can do to improve what I’m doing. However, I am mega organised when it comes to significant events such as planning for a trip away or organising a party (the ‘nice’ stuff!). I love checklists!

Running her own business has made her a different person

I like to be prepared at work and know what I’m doing but I rarely have enough time to be as prepared as I would like to be. I also like interacting with people and enjoy having ad hoc conversations throughout the day, which can scupper plans. I find it very difficult to turn people away but I’ve had to learn to do that. I tend to catch up on my work in the evenings. 

As a Dean, I was expected to attend loads of meetings that I couldn’t miss or delegate to – sometimes more than 25 hours in a week. I often had back to back meetings with no time to dash from one side of the campus to another which meant I would be late for meetings or had to skip lunch in order to get to the next meeting on time. It did stress me as I hate being late for events. Now that I manage my own diary, this rarely happens and I enjoy having time to prepare for meetings and follow up afterwards. 

I always like to allow a lot of time for travel and get agitated if for any reason I can’t get to the airport 3 hours before a flight, for example. However, if I’m not busy, I know I get easily distracted by the interesting sparkly things that give immediate results or feedback. Similarly, if I’ve got to write a report that I find difficult, I tend to procrastinate and will find 101 other things to do before I get around to tackling it – suddenly housework can seem very attractive! Usually, once started, it’s never as bad as I feared. 

For a long time, I succeeded in hitting deadlines and getting work done by just extending my working day – working until late evening and getting up early in the morning, but if like me you need 8 hours sleep a night, that’s not sustainable. Since running my own business and having direct customers, I’m a different person and I’ve even submitted reports to clients well before the deadline, which has surprised me! I actually like planning out my days in a realistic manner.

The best time management tool ever invented

Having children was the best time management tool ever invented! It’s amazing how much I could get done in the last half hour of work when I knew I had to leave the office at 5pm so I could collect my daughters from nursery or after school club. I was totally laser-focussed! Similarly, when you don’t know when the baby is going to wake up, you do the most important thing first. 

I do tend to be a precrastinator when it comes to booking important events, such as holidays and treats well in advance, so they’re in the diary. Otherwise, we would never get around to doing anything as life takes over. For 9 out of the last 10 years, I’ve worked away from home during the week, so we’ve had to be very careful to ensure we plan our weekends as that’s the only time the family is together.

How the pandemic allowed her time to focus on health

Until recently, I seriously procrastinated on my health, and it is one of the reasons why I decided to leave my last job and set up my business. It’s very easy when you’re working long hours not to plan meals properly or give yourself time to make a meal from scratch and end up buying a ready meal on the way home. Similarly, because I was working long hours I didn’t permit myself to have the time nor the energy to do any exercise. Now that I’m working from home, I’ve started exercising more, going out for walks, eating better and I have at least an extra hour’s sleep a night. I feel so much better for this. I even voluntarily go out for walks at lunchtime when it’s raining! I still procrastinate about the housework though!

Recognizing missed opportunities

I’m sure there’s been a lot of things that I’ve procrastinated on in the past and missed the opportunity. Sometimes, it can be as simple as not making a phone call or sending a card to someone and then regret it when the opportunity passes. Other times, it’s meant that I was too late to put an application in for a job I was interested in or didn’t allow myself time to write a conference paper. When I do try to be organised and do something in plenty of time, I often forget to complete the task. So, I’ve been known to write out a birthday card a week before it’s due to be posted and then never take it with me to put in the post. Looking back, this was mainly due to being so busy and overwhelmed with work that I didn’t make time to plan ahead. Now, my precrastination tendencies are becoming stronger.

The benefits of being a perhapstinator

As a perhapstinator, being flexible with my time has meant that I have been able to follow up ideas or deal with emergent issues and opportunities without stressing about sticking rigidly to plans. If I’m honest, I do enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes with working to a deadline. Do I do better work when I plan and pace myself? I really don’t know but it would probably improve my blood pressure if I did.

Embracing curveballs

Procrastination can waste a lot of time and energy and I do sometimes wonder what I could have done if I hadn’t wasted time on diversion tactics. However, I’m also pleased that I can cope with unexpected curveballs and some of my best opportunities have occurred when I’ve embraced them. There are times when I’ve ended up working late to complete a project I’ve procrastinated on and had to submit something I’m not particularly proud of or haven’t proofread as a result.

On procrastination and perfectionism

I definitely procrastinated when I was younger. At school, I think I was so scared that I would get my homework wrong that I didn’t want to do it. Fortunately, I was also quite a goody two-shoes, so eventually I would produce something so I didn’t get told off by the teacher.

A memorable trip that almost didn’t happen

We had booked a holiday in Russia in August 1991. It was cancelled less than a week before we were due to leave due to a coup. We dithered about trying to find another holiday for that week but couldn’t find anything we both liked and had resigned ourselves to not having a holiday that year. A few days later, the holiday was reinstated and we were on the first flight out of Heathrow following the end of the coup. We arrived in Moscow at a pivotal moment, visiting the Kremlin whilst the country’s leaders were determining the future of the Soviet Union. It was an amazing trip.

I believe it is important to fit work around other priorities rather than the other way around – and I’m beginning to practice what I believe.

JUNE DENNIS

Strategies for overcoming procrastination as a leader

Obviously, as a senior manager and leader, you cannot get away with being a procrastinator, so we have to find ways to address it. I’ve several strategies.

  • Firstly, I don’t like letting people down, so having deadlines set by other people is great for me as I’ll do my best to hit them.
  • I share my goals and intentions so I make myself accountable to others and they might just prod me into action.
  • I like the Pomodoro technique – setting a timer for 25 minutes and focusing solely on the task in hand. I then permit myself to make a cuppa and check emails for 5 minutes before resetting the timer.
  • When I’m really procrastinating on getting started on something I think might be boring or difficult, I permit myself to spend just 10 minutes on it and see how I go. Most of the time, I stick at it for much longer.
  • I only have one diary and put everything in – even my hairdressing appointment. I block time out for big projects when they come in and then try to stick to it. I also colour code activities and allow space either side of meetings for preparation and taking actions. Deadlines in my diary are in Red with a warning 24 hours before
  • When I’m in charge of my diary, I schedule time to enable me to deal with the day to day issues that crop up.
  • I have to turn off social media and notification of emails when working on a project.
  • I also colour code/flag ‘pending’ emails that do not require immediate action by week or month so I don’t miss them.

Why productivity tools haven’t worked for her

I’ve tried using productivity tools but I don’t keep them up to date nor look at them often enough to work.

I rely heavily on Outlook to manage my electronic diary and email properly. If used correctly, it can help with scheduling your time.

On being preinclined

I believe it is important to fit work around other priorities rather than the other way around – and I’m beginning to practice what I believe. For me, that means planning holidays, special events, time with family and, most importantly, time for myself before determining how much time I have for work and other activities that make demands on my time. I now proactively make time to go for a walk, join a yoga class and cook food from scratch and I’m seeing the benefits in doing so. I try to prioritise work based on the cumulative benefits it provides for the future and also whether it gives me enjoyment. I suspect that I’m at a time in my life where perhaps preinclination comes more naturally to me anyway. If I have to complete something that isn’t enjoyable, I try to limit the time I spend on it and focus on how I will feel when it’s completed.

Riley Heng on Productivity Fatigue and Finding the Why

Riley Heng, 29, is the Australia Country Manager for MetroResidences, an accommodation platform. She is based in Sydney, tasked with the mission to launch and grow the company’s hospitality and accommodation operation in Australia, beginning with the launch of a hotel in Sydney. Due to the pandemic, the game plan has changed and her focus is to maintain business sustainability amidst the global crisis.

She is passionate about cooking but doesn’t quite enjoy eating, so she actually finds joy in spending hours cooking up a storm for friends. 

She developed a passion for diving after her first dive in 2018. She had a goal of clocking 30 dives in Australia in 2020 (which of course went out the window!). Dive gear was the third item on her packing list going to Australia, right after her wallet and passport.


On quiz results

I’m a perhapstinator, but quite often, I lean towards being a precrastinator. I completely agree with this assessment from the quiz: “You may have a good sense of your priorities and take care of each thing in its own time, or you may be a bit disorganized in your approach.”

I try to get things done by starting on them as early as possible to save myself the last-minute rush and anxieties that come with doing so. (More on that below.)

The fear of regret also motivates me to get things started. I often play out the worst-case scenario in everything and ask myself if I can live with the consequences of procrastinating – and if the answer is “no,” then I have to do something about it right now.

That mindset helps me to prioritize my tasks. However, I have the tendency of taking on multiple new projects, and that means a long list of things to do – so something’s gotta give. I suppose this is where procrastination kicks in, and I put off the less pressing tasks and tackle them based on their priority level.

Planning enough time for the team to work

I’d say I’m more of a precrastinator at work, but one aspect of the definition may not accurately be applied here. “The initiation or completion of things in advance, before they need to be handled.” I think what I strive for is to handle work when they actually need to be handled. Not way too early, not too late. So maybe it’s right that I’m a perhapstinator!

One of the key factors that drives efficiency is practicing workflow management, and that involves reviewing the different aspects of the project and parties involved and parking the tasks right where they should be across the timeline. I try to plan my work, especially tasks that involve others, in a way that allows everyone sufficient time to do their stuff. 

Being spontaneous and enjoying the moment

With relationships, I think it is important to enjoy the moment and the presence of my company. So I prefer spontaneity, not to have too many things planned, go with the flow, and do whatever I feel like at the moment.

Mental health isn’t visible, but should be a priority

It’s a mixed bag with my approach to health. On a daily basis, I try to eat well and workout regularly to ensure that I keep my health in check, and avoid any health problems in the future. But when I do notice any issues with my body or health, I tend to sit on it, observe, hope that it’ll go away – and only seek medical help when I’m not recovering, which is bad!

This is especially detrimental when it comes to mental health, because it’s not visible and I struggle to figure out when the scale tips from “I can do this” to “I need help.” I find myself overstretching my mental capacity, to the extent where the effect of stress starts showing as physical symptoms.

Precrastinating on financials to get a headstart in life

I think that getting my financials sorted since my teenage years has benefited me greatly. I wouldn’t say that I’m savvy with insurance/financial matters but I guess knowing it is something that is part of “adulting” got me thinking that I might as well get these things taken care of earlier.

I had a Financial Advisor sort out my insurance matters when I was 17 years old and set up bank accounts with higher savings interest at an early age so that when I started working and earning proper income, I could benefit from the interest earned. Precrastination with my finances allowed me to tap on the power of compounding and I think it is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.

Procrastination – never again

On the flip side, I literally cannot think of a moment when I thanked myself for procrastinating! Here’s a funny story about procrastination that has stuck with me for life.

When I was 16, on the day of my first Cambridge “O” Levels paper, I procrastinated getting ready for school. When I got to my bus stop, I realized that I had missed the previous bus that would have gotten me to school on time. So I waited for the next bus and contemplated taking a cab to school.

Just as I was about to flag down a cab, my bus arrived. With a lapse in judgement, I hopped onto the bus. When I eventually alighted, I sprinted to the school – and by the time I reached, I was 10 minutes late, out of breath, looked a mess but thankfully was allowed into the exam hall.

Five minutes after sitting down, I started seeing stars (from all the sprinting) and had to throw up. I was hauled out of the exam hall to rest. Luckily, I did manage to complete the paper and got an A… so all’s well that ends well?

I have never arrived late for an exam ever since.

Going from precrastination to preinclination

The anxiety of not wanting to start on tasks at the last minute, together with the idea of not allowing myself to rest until my work is done, has definitely affected my health in many ways over the years. This is something that I am working on improving, to shift from precrastination to the concept of preinclination.

Extending my earlier response on procrastinating on managing my stress levels, I tend to prioritize everything else around me, but myself. Often, I allow stress and exhaustion to accumulate until my body forces me to rest.

Having moved to Sydney to launch a hotel and getting hit by the pandemic, the goal was to keep the business running. My physical and mental health took a backseat for the whole of 2020. Right now, I’m learning to be more aware of my well-being, and understanding that it is okay to slow down a little sometimes. 

Seize the moment because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed

I’m sure I was more of a procrastinator growing up, thinking that I will always have time. I lost some loved ones over the years, and those experiences have taught me that life is uncertain, and tomorrow is not guaranteed. I think it motivates me to get started on things, and to get as much done as possible because we don’t know how much time we have.

On a lighter note, I also recall going through my polytechnic days and procrastinating on assignments. I had to burn the midnight oil constantly, furiously typing out essays and reports on my laptop at 5 a.m. and telling myself “Gosh, this last-minute rush is NOT for me”. 3 years of that and I’m pretty sure I learned my lesson.

Practice productivity, but don’t overdo it to the point of fatigue

Two concepts that I practice to manage my pre- and procrastination tendencies:

After Action Review (AAR)

This is typically a structured tool used to review a project/event and seek areas of improvement, but I apply the concept to minor tasks at work and in my daily life. This helps me to assess and distinguish between being effective and efficient. 

Precrastination focuses on being efficient with tasks but they may not be the most effective, so it’s a mental habit for me to replay a task or situation to assess the execution and establish how things fit in the larger context.

Mindfulness

This is so essential and simple, yet it is something I only learned to properly practice towards the end of last year. It just takes a minute to check in with yourself, observe your thoughts, emotions, mental state, and how those translate into your actions. It helps me to recognize where and how I dedicate my energy to things.

I have tried using a scheduling app (Timetune) where I set the time and duration for everything I want to do in the day, e.g. attending to my emails twice a day, 20 minutes each slot; spending 1 or 2 hours on a task and regardless if I completed the task, I have to move on to the next one while making a mental note to reschedule the incomplete work to the next day, taking into consideration the amount of time I took. Honestly, I was making very effective use of my time, until I began to experience “productivity fatigue.” Everything was scheduled to a tee and I was too conscious about following the schedule that I wasn’t as present in the task and I was glancing at the time every 15 minutes to make sure that I was on track.

I stopped using that after 3 weeks and went back to my notepad – just listing down my to-dos for the day.

What works for others may not work for me, so for me to enjoy looking out for myself, I need to find the pace and tools that suit me.

RILEY HENG

On being preinclined

To me being preinclined lies in finding the purpose behind what we do and knowing how that applies to the bigger picture. What works for others may not work for me, so for me to enjoy looking out for myself, I need to find the pace and tools that suit me. Sometimes it means doing my own research to find the “why”. Sometimes I turn to people who are already at where my future self is and are reaping the benefits, and I seek their advice and take inspiration from them.

Lisa Grimm on Optimizing for Happiness

Lisa Grimm is Chief Product Officer of DEMI, a platform that connects communities through food. She is based in New York City.

On quiz results

I wasn’t familiar with the term “precrastinator” before, but when I heard it, it instantly made sense to me.

My official quiz result was “profound precrastinator,” but I don’t think it applies in all parts of my life. I had a hard time choosing answers for several of the questions. One of the questions was about traveling — do you plan your itinerary, pack everything in advance, etc.?

I would say that I approach trips really practically. There are elements that I prioritize and will plan ahead of time. But I also find it really easy to pack for a trip, so I can definitely do that last minute, and I hate waiting at the gate in an airport, so I always arrive just in time to board.

In my personal life, I actually feel quite laid back, though if there’s something unknown, I go out of my way to become more informed. I have certain habits I can rely on in order to prepare and prevent anxiety. Let’s say I’m going to a meeting — I’ll look up the address and make sure I know where I’m going, but I’m not crazy about it, and it’s not something that causes me anxiety. Staying on top of things keeps me from feeling anxiety.

Moseying along vs. scheduling every detail

When planning travel, I think about the intention behind the trip. One of my favorite travel experiences was a trip to Paris I took on my own. I had accumulated lots of input from friends ahead of time, but I purposely didn’t plan every detail. I wanted it to be a moseying kind of trip. I pinned all these recommended locations on Google Maps, and then when I found myself in a given neighborhood or choosing a route to walk, I was able to look and see what was around me. In the evenings, I would decide which museum I wanted to visit the next day and book my tickets ahead, just to save time the next day, but I definitely didn’t have every minute planned out.

A friend and I once went to Tokyo together, and on that trip, we collaborated to plan all of the details ahead of time. We knew we wouldn’t be back anytime soon and wanted to make the most of it. But at one point during the trip, I told her I just needed to sit and stare. I had tired of the back-to-back routine. It had become unpleasant.

How transitions impact precrastination

I’m more likely to precrastinate during transition phases of my life. A year ago I changed up my diet, and I found I had to plan everything really carefully — what to buy, what to make, when to make it. But now I’m accustomed to it, so I don’t need to plan nearly so much, and I’m more comfortable preparing meals spontaneously.

I also precrastinate when it comes to apartment hunting. Searching for real estate in NYC gives me a ton of anxiety, so I start very early. The stakes are really high in that situation.

On finding enjoyment in taking time

I enjoy cooking, and one of my favorite things to do is spend a day at the farmers market. I don’t need to have a plan for it. I can see what’s fresh, talk to the farmers, gather ideas, and improvise. It’s like a hobby. I’m not extreme with this hobby though — some weeks I’ll do really involved meals, whereas other times I’m content with cereal and eggs.

Leadership requires staying on top of things

In my professional life, I’m definitely a precrastinator. I’m so much more detail-oriented in work settings, largely because I’ve been in leadership roles. If I don’t do my job really properly, the stakes are higher. People are more reliant on me.

I don’t let things go to the last minute. That will bug me. Kicking the can down the road is something I don’t understand.

Life has been ups and downs, and that won’t change. I’ve learned that the onus is on me to find my happiness.

Lisa Grimm

Optimizing for happiness

For me, doing things early is about managing anxiety, and as a result, I’m not high anxiety. I’m constantly trying to optimize for happiness, and a big part of that is avoiding stress and anxiety in my personal life. I’m getting really happy with my presence, my ability to be present. I try to be aware of my present self, and carve out what my future self needs.

I attribute my ability to be present and optimize for happiness to the fact that I’ve dealt with some trauma at a pretty young age. Therapy has helped, and so has meditation. I don’t have a daily meditation practice, but learning how to meditate has helped me be in the present.

Riding the highs and lows is difficult. I feel like I’m in a moment of strong control right now, but I know I won’t always feel that way. Life has been ups and downs, and that won’t change. I’ve learned that the onus is on me to find my happiness.

Jake Mendelson on Moving Quickly, Not Hastily

Jake Mendelson is Director of Sales at Brightflag, an AI legaltech company based in Dublin. He also surfs and plays on his local soccer team, Ear Inn. 

On quiz results

My quiz result was Precrastinator, which seems fairly accurate. I manage a large team across multiple time-zones, so it’s imperative for me to prioritize tasks by urgency and importance. I’ve also learned the hard lessons of burn-out. This has forced me to schedule breaks throughout a workday (made much easier by working at home).

Bigger projects with lengthier due dates allow me to think critically about them (when I make the time for them). However, there are many areas of my job where I have to accomplish tasks immediately, prioritized by importance.

On serious matters, I would say my work mindset of precrastination takes hold. I make pros and cons lists, think critically and speak with trusted friends/mentors/advisors before making an important life or financial decision.

On deliberately making time for deep work

I’d argue that taking the time to get good outcomes is a problem for everyone at a startup. One way that my company has alleviated this problem is by making every Wednesday a no-meeting day so employees can accomplish deep work. This has made a difference in getting the necessary time to think critically and creatively on big projects.

On procrastination

When it comes to relationships, I’m more of a procrastinator. I tend to live more in-the-moment, especially when it comes to planning vacations or trips. It’s something I’ve been working on.

I’m also more of a procrastinator when it comes to health. I’m forgetful about doctor and dentist visits as I feel healthy from my active lifestyle. Even in that lifestyle, it is not one of immense planning.

On less serious matters, I’d say I’m more of a procrastinator than a precrastinator. I tend to wait until the weekend until I’ve planned what to do (unless I plan to surf). I’ll spend 30-45 minutes thinking about what to do with a Saturday after waking up on one. I don’t plan what books I want to read, but simply choose a new one when it’s time to pick.

On avoiding haste, to a point

I’m circumspect about my life decisions – nothing is done hastily. In terms of work, it allows me to be pragmatic and move quickly, but not hastily. In the frenetic environment of start-ups, this has served me well.

On the flip side, at times I take too long to make a decision (weighing pros and cons) instead of just acting when I have 70% of the needed information.

When doing too much has gotten in the way

I’ve experienced burnout with work in the past, and at times, I’ve prioritized “doing” over “thinking.” It’s something I’ve been keen to course-correct.

Knowing how to prioritize, and working hard for achievements

I tended to procrastinate in school, but when pushed I had an ability to intensely focus on a task and produce. I think this has transferred to my ability to be comfortable in intense startup environments. I’ve always enjoyed pressure-cooker situations in life, work, and school. This makes sense with the quiz results pointing out the ability to prioritize quickly according to urgency and importance.

I stayed up for 48 hours straight in the library finishing my History Thesis at Lewis and Clark. I smelled pretty terrible when I handed it in and was told by Professor Beckham to “go rest and take a shower.” However, it was one of my proudest achievements, a historical materials study into the Nurenmberg trial of Hermann Goring.

For me, being preinclined means living in the moment (life’s short!), but having foresight into what is and will be important in my life and work.

Jake Mendelson

Deep breaths, long walks, and other tips for preinclination

At work, I take time for deep breaths and breaks throughout the day, like reading for five to ten minutes or doing a quick workout. When I have more time, I like to take long walks or bike rides without my phone. I also find that reading complex fiction (Helen Dewitt, Don Delillo, Denis Johnson, etc.) forces me out of my comfort zone and assists with creativity.

I couldn’t live without my weekly calendar notebook. I’m able to plan every day’s tasks in writing. Once completed, I cross out the task.

For me, being preinclined means living in the moment (life’s short!), but having foresight into what is and will be important in my life and work.

Mindfulness Without Meditation: Knitting

I know several people who swear by meditating. In fact, Carylyne is one such person, and she recently detailed her journey with transcendental meditation.

A Love and Hate Relationship with Meditation

For me, I’ve tried to make a habit of meditating in the past. A few years ago, I set a goal, installed the Headspace app, and dutifully sat mostly still for ten minutes at a time. I also attended morning meditations once a month at MoMA through Quiet Mornings, which was a super special, “only in New York” kind of experience.

Being part of the group meditation at MoMA was meaningful; as is often the case in New York, you can be aware of yourself as an individual and feel quite alone when surrounded by others.

Meditating at MoMA stands out to me because it was distinct from the rest of my meditation practice, and I can recall specifics: a snow falling gently at one session; Dan Harris guiding us through his practice; wandering through MoMA’s gardens and galleries early, before the crowds arrived.

The MoMA meditation sessions are meaningful to me in a way that my day-to-day, sitting-on-my-living-room-floor meditations weren’t. While I’m confident I benefited from making a habit of meditating, I wasn’t so good at letting each thought pass by without judgement, “watching the traffic go by,” as Headspace puts it so well. As a precrastinator, I can have trouble letting thoughts go, especially if they require action. During those meditation sessions, I would often find myself making mental notes of things to take care of immediately afterward, or worse yet, pausing the session to take care of them in the moment.

Choosing an Alternative to Meditation

When I went through a planning exercise last year to establish goals for the year, I deliberately decided not to include meditation in the traditional sense. Instead, I chose to build a mindfulness practice through a quiet hobby that would have me alone with my thoughts and not looking at my phone.

My preferred meditative hobby is knitting, a skill I picked up from my mom a few years ago and that has offered me great comfort in difficult times over the past few years. There’s something very soothing about the repetition of knitting — working with a soft yarn, repeatedly going through the same couple of motions, seeing something as simple as string turn into something lovely that can be worn or given to a loved one. And knitting is forgiving: projects can be interrupted and begun again, mistakes can be corrected, and yarn can be repurposed.

The Many Benefits of Knitting

The cognitive and therapeutic benefits of knitting are many. Knitting has been introduced successfully in a variety of settings. It’s been used to help elementary school students with problem-solving and math skills, Alzheimer’s patients with cognitive and social therapy, and prisoners with focus and patience. Its such a simple craft, and yet it has several ingredients that make it beneficial:

  1. Knitting requires two hands. No scrolling on your phone!
  2. Knitting is repetitive. The same movements are done again and again in a rhythmic manner.
  3. Knitting requires your hands and mind to work together. Studies show that activities such as knitting decreased the odds of mild cognitive impairment.
  4. Knitting projects are patient. Mistakes can be undone and reworked, and projects can be stopped and started again.
  5. Knitting is social. The techniques have been passed down from generation to generation, and there are many resources — both in-person and online — geared toward helping people learn to knit, develop their skills, and connect with fellow knitters.

Learning the Knitting Basics

When I began knitting, I didn’t expect it to be life-changing. I had some downtime on a family trip and asked my mom, an avid knitter, to teach me. She’s someone who always carries around a bag of extra yarn and tools (as opposed to me, a minimalist knitter who only carries around the essentials of my current project). On that trip I learned the basics of knit and purl, worked my way through a simple scarf, and fell in love with the practice.

Knitting in Silence

My preferred way to knit in a meditative way is to knit in silence, aware of my surroundings yet absorbed in my work and in my own thoughts. While complicated patterns and colorwork require focused attention, many patterns have long stretches of the same stitches over and over, and these are the best for sitting with my own thoughts in a calm, non-judgmental way. I often find that knitting in this way gives me new perspective or ideas, similar to how purposely procrastinating can open up our minds to more creativity.

My versions of a favorite pattern: Purl Soho’s Baby Fair Isle Cardigan.

Knitting with Others

When I moved to a new place, one of the things that helped me settle in was visiting a local yarn shop and connecting with fellow knitters. The shop had drop-in sessions that brought a disparate set of people together (pre-pandemic), united by their shared interest in the craft. It was welcoming in a way not all spaces felt to me as a newcomer.

I didn’t expect knitting to be an ice-breaker, but on countless flights, in hotel lobbies, in coffee shops, and even in doctor’s office waiting rooms, I was surprised by how many people would lean over and ask about my knitting, want to see what I was working on, share their own knitting history, or ask how I picked it up.

The pandemic hasn’t put a stop to community knitting for me; instead, it’s shifted it online. I’ve joined the online Ravelry community, a site for knitters, crocheters, and related crafters to share projects and patterns, ask questions, and build friendships. If you’re also a knitter, connect with me on Ravelry!

Knitting During Meetings

I wish it were widely acceptable to knit during meetings. Instead of distractedly checking our phones, scrolling through the latest headlines, or online shopping in the background, our meetings might actually be more productive if more of us were knitting and letting our minds stay focused on the conversation.

The journalist Alexandra Samuel wrote a lovely piece about this idea, “The Day I Brought My Knitting to the Boardroom.” Like many of us (I’ll be the first to raise my hand), the pull to multi-task is strong, and it can be hard to focus our attentions on one thing, especially if that thing is a long meeting. At a conference on digital distraction, Samuel found that pulling out her knitting project helped her truly focus, away from the draw of Twitter and other online distractions. She writes, “For the first time in years, I was able to absorb talk after talk, and presentation after presentation — even if I wasn’t taking notes or tweeting the proceedings. I was able to sit still(ish), lulled by the rhythm of my own needles. I even went hours without looking at my phone, because the combination of manual activity and intellectual absorption kept me fully engaged.”

Where to Start

Though my mom taught me the basics of knitting, I have the internet to thank for upleveling my skills. Following a knitting pattern is like following a recipe: there are certain tools you’ll need to have and techniques you’ll need to understand, and the internet may be the best and most patient resource. There are endless message boards and YouTube videos that you can digest and revisit over and over until you’ve mastered the techniques and can do them in your sleep — or, better yet — sitting alone, with others, or in your next big meeting.

A Few of My Favorite Knitting Resources

  • Ravelry – My favorite social network. Ravelry is a wonderful place to discover new patterns, ask questions, applaud other knitters for their accomplishments and generally nerd out on all things knitting.
  • Purl Soho – The knitting shop that started it all for me. Interesting and accessible patterns, beautiful yarns, and a friendly and caring staff. Pre-pandemic, I visited their shop every chance I got, and I’ve knit my way through many, many of their patterns.
  • Sh*t That I Knit – For ethically-produced knitwear, kits for beginners, an inspiring founder story, and a savvy community of knitting enthusiasts. (Special thanks for teaching us the term “procrastiknit“!)
  • YouTube – I don’t subscribe to any particular knitting channel, but whenever I have a question about how to do something in a pattern, this is my go-to resource.

If you haven’t knit before, I hope I may have inspired you to try it. And if you’re already a knitter, hopefully you now have even more reasons, and resources, to continue your practice!

Meditating into Clarity: A Journey with TM

Around here at Preinclined, we talk a lot about how it’s important to take care of yourself today, even while doing your best for your future. One of the ways that I’ve found most effective to do so day-to-day is by meditating.

Discovering meditation

As you’ve probably experienced, meditation is one of those things that lots of people talk about and regard as important. When I first heard about it in my teens, it was already hyped up to be a panacea for our modern day ills. Predictably, I was skeptical since it was so hyped.

That said, I was curious enough to try, and remember looking at these Web 1.0 sites/blogs that described how to do it. Most of the literature talked about focusing on the breath and trying to keep the mind clear of thoughts. I couldn’t do it then, no matter what I tried. As such, it was unrewarding for me and I promptly dropped the practice (if I could even call it one!).

Flexible Yoga GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Years later, sometime in 2018, I came across the Super Mind book while browsing an online library. I became fascinated by the brain wave activity charts in the introduction. I was still unconvinced, but why not give it a shot, just to experience what it might be like?

Learning to meditate

The books don’t actually tell you how to meditate, so I ended up signing up for a course to learn from a certified instructor.

It sounded complicated when I started, but it turned out to be straightforward once I got the hang of it. What I liked about the Transcendental Meditation (TM) method is that it simplifies meditation to repeating a mantra (which the instructor gives to you). Having that going on over and over in your mind forms a focal point. It overpowers other thoughts in your mind, and makes it easy to come back to if your thoughts do drift.

It was definitely hard to do it at first though. They structure the lessons so they span the course of a week, and you gradually practice it until you get it, like working a muscle. The time of day also makes a difference, and there are some other conditions that make it harder to do, such as meditating on a full stomach or doing it lying down.

Having that going on over and over in your mind forms a focal point. It overpowers other thoughts in your mind, and makes it easy to come back to if your thoughts do drift.

Hardest parts to learn

Ironically, one of the most distracting things for me was my breathing. Every other meditation app or site I’d previously experienced told me to “focus on the breath, in and out.” The TM instructor told me to ignore the breathing and focus on the mantra. It’s harder than I thought — you’re in a quiet place, and the sound you’re making in your head and the sound of your breathing echoing through your head are competing. Sometimes the speed of your reciting and your breathing are completely out of sync.

There are also times when you have sessions when you try your absolute best but end up having an endless stream of thoughts. Sometimes you recall some significant event from 10 years ago randomly, or think about the task you want to get to next. I often recall things I intended to do, but forgot to, during my meditation sessions — which is annoying, because you have to drop that thought and soldier on!

Mad Men Yoga GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

The good thing about having direct instruction is that you can ask questions about contingencies. “What happens if I get interrupted?” or “Can I do just 10 minutes if I’m in a rush?” and so forth. Having a structure to the learning process did help, as does paying for it — it creates a commitment device and makes you motivated to complete and practice it.

Benefits of meditating

My favorite benefit from meditating is that it helps my mind feel clear and focused. On days that I don’t meditate now, I almost feel like my brain is swimming around in a fog (although is that a placebo effect? I don’t know for sure!).

Starting the day meditating is also a great routine to set the tone for the day. It helps me feel calm and in control, so I can be sure what I need to focus on for the rest of the day to make it most worthwhile.

During other critical moments, my regular meditation practice has conditioned me to slow down and think. I don’t try to rush into any conclusions and just suspend (dis)belief for a moment and ponder it. This, of course, helps me to actively procrastinate for a better outcome — having the right frame of mind to pause and reflect is the key.

There are also countless times I’ve gotten divergent ideas while meditating, both life-changing and completely mundane. Equally, I’ve solved many problems subconsciously while meditating, and got around to executing the solution once I’m out of the session.

Another thing that meditation has done is help me appreciate my tea routine more (more on this in another post!). Making tea is also meditative and mindful in its own way, from concentrating on how your actions feel to how the tea smells and tastes.

Focus on what you’re doing, not how you feel about what you’re doing.

Abstracting meditation lessons

When I abstract my learnings from meditation, I find that the most important tenet is: Focus on what you’re doing, not how you feel about what you’re doing. There are inevitably times that we let our feelings or self-doubt cloud what we’re doing, and remembering to focus on just doing it makes all the difference.

Meditation is time-consuming. The time adds up if you do it daily, especially if you do it twice a day as recommended. However, I think that the benefits that I’ve received from it far outweigh the time I’ve spent. It’s investing time in yourself for long-term gains.

Lastly, these returns compound over time. When I think about the state of my emotional stability and breadth of ideas before I started meditating, and compare it to where I am now, I can see that I’m leaps and bounds ahead.

Create the right conditions for yourself to meditate

If you want to try meditating too, my best advice is to commit to it. You must commit and do it, even on days that you don’t feel like it. You must make the time on days that you are busy. You must complete your session even if you feel like it’s not going well and you’re distracted.

One way that could help is to add it to your habit tracker. You’ll start a habit streak that hopefully you won’t want to break! Additionally, scheduling it into your calendar could help, especially as a recurring task that you can check off.

Find or create a comfortable spot you will enjoy going to every day to meditate. I place a big, comfy throw on my couch and drape it over myself when I start meditating. It conditions you to get into that frame of mind, and makes it rewarding for you, since it feels pleasant.

Lastly, observe how you feel throughout the day after you start meditating. Some of the people who started my meditation class with me back then reported better relationships with their partners because they were less anxious (and snappy) almost immediately. Notice how you change over time, and rejoice in the progress you’ve made!