Reading for Leading #27: Just five minutes…Creating wide open ways in

Just five minutes…Creating wide open ways in

Reading for Leading is a weekly leadership tip shared every Monday morning as a pithy suggestion, question or reflection. You can find the whole series here.

There’s a joke I heard recently about meditation where one practitioner turns and asks another how her practice is going. To which she replies,  “Oh, you know how it is: I spent 45 minutes not meditating today.”

And yet it’s always a day away…
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And it’s not just meditators that have challenges with sticking to their to do lists. Sometimes, despite knowing that something is good for us, or needs doing because someone is waiting on us, or is something we promised ourselves we’d do as part of a longer term goal, we find that when faced with the time to actually do it, pretty much anything else is suddenly more attractive. We think of the task and it’s too big, too daunting. We’re not feeling creative enough, clever enough and we can sense ourselves constricting, withdrawing from facing it head on.

And so perhaps the inner turmoil starts to manifest in avoidance tactics and bargaining: “I’ll just wash the dishes and then I’ll get around to it – I won’t be distracted by the mess then.” or “Maybe if I ring my mother I’ll get some inspiration about how to turn this jumble of thoughts into slides.”

Yes, sometimes when we need to make a difficult decision or come up with a creative solution taking some space can be helpful. But when we’re procrastinating we’re not usually looking for inspiration and we’re not even successfully fooling ourselves: we’re simply avoiding the task in hand and we may even be further closing down our ability to do it thanks to the stressful internal dialogue.

What happens if instead of doing the dishes or picking up the phone you stop, acknowledge the strong feeling of avoidance, and instead try an experiment: just 5 minutes with the task. Those slides? Open your laptop and start with the title slide and see where you get in 5 minutes. That’s all. If you’re utterly hating it after those 300 seconds, fine. Stop. Put it down and go wash those dishes. But how many times when you take off the pressure to deliver the whole thing and just take a gentle exploratory entry into it do you find that suddenly it’s not so bad after all?


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