The illusive five minutes

Dinner must be prepared at 6 o’clock every evening, whether or not I want to step into the kitchen after a long day at work; after that, the dishes must be washed. During the work day, the report must be prepared. I’m not immune to the urge to procrastinate, but I have learned that matters only get worse when I attempt to battle procrastination by pretending that it is not really there, lurking beneath the surface, tempting me to follow the random thought that has just popped into my head that would lead me to the Google front page and the search field.

The chatter in my mind goes something like this:

I’m awfully curious about how to make crispy courgette fritters, instead of the soft and mushy ones that always materialize on my frying pan. So, Google to the rescue! What’s another five minutes of Googling? I’ll get back to my report in a moment.

or

I will just sit on the sofa for five minutes and quickly read a few pages of my book. After that, I will go straight into the kitchen and start preparing those fritters for our dinner.

You get the idea. It might sound familiar to you. We fool ourselves into thinking that somehow, a five-minute distraction will not make a big dent in our routine, that it might fine-tune our focus. Most often, what happens in my case is that the five minutes make me feel more reluctant to pursue the task. In fact, the seemingly insignificant break makes me resent the task before me. Those five minutes turn into 25 minutes and before we know it, everyone is starving and feeling irritable, and I don’t feel any more enthused about preparing dinner.

I could remind myself to focus on the task at hand, to remember the big picture and why I’m doing what I’m doing (to feed myself and my hungry family; to clean the kitchen in order to ensure that it remains welcoming; to prepare the report because if I don’t do it now, the work will accumulate and weigh heavily on me). That sounds like a valid way of going about it. Yet, I’ve been trying a different approach: meeting myself where I am. I allow myself to sit with what I’m feeling for a few minutes, acknowledging my current state and being honest about the inner dialogue that takes place in my mind. I listen carefully to my justification about why, after five minutes, I might feel ready to finally approach the task. Then, I continue to sit and breathe. Sometimes, I take a walk around the office or our home, moving slowly, breathing deeply. In lieu of a five-minute Google or reading break, I give myself a breathing break. I must say, it is a much more effective way to re-centre my mind and recommit to my intention to stay kind to myself while continually bringing my focus back to the present moment.

Do you have a practice or tips that help you to stay focused and avoid distractions? Please leave a comment below.

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