13/52: Play (Or What Tim Urban Forgot to Say)

by Suzanne L. Beenackers/ LS Harteveld   

This posts starts with two summaries.
And if you like summary 1 better, you’re done reading, and you can get busy doing more useful, productive things.
If you like summary 2 better, then you will want to read on. Because this post is for you, and will solve many problems you think you have, into blessings.
Summary 1.
If you end procrastination (and restlessness), you will loose your creativity.
With creativity being something that is useful to arty, crafty people.
Summary 2.
Procrastination and restlessness are characteristics of your internal
“Instant Gratification Monkey”
And yet it is this monkey, who created everything in your life that holds any value to you.

Now the loved 2! I ve got 10 minutes! Spill the beans!  version

This morning, with coffee and a hairmask, I got behind my desk to write this weekly blogpost. Now for those of you new here: for 52 weeks I m writing about a card deck (Crazy Sexy Love Notes). Due to my creativity these posts barely ever go as planned. Even worse: as long as the post still goes as planned, I know I m writing a lifeless thing. That this could be a post as featured in any other mind body blog. Or printed on a 5 euro imitation wooden tablet to put on the wall over your bed.
As long as things go as planned nothing interesting is happening.

I intended to write about decluttering today (With the card “Spruce up your nest”) but then during inevitable Social Media procrastination, something happened. I saw not one, but two posts that gave me such a stir! And that got me to understand something that I have been trying to analyse and dissect for so long!
Where procrastination and restlessness fit into Life.

The first was a piece from a journalist Ignaas Devish (here on Blendle, Dutch)
He has published a new book, called Restlessness, and he states that we might think we want peace and calm, but we don’t. At least: if you admire career driven people, successful sportsmen, entrepreneurs or anybody else who made it into the world, other than your meditation teacher, you are not admiring them for their ability to live balanced lives.
Which probably means that you too, are not motivated to create one for yourself.
Ignaas says we need to learn how to endure restlessness. We need to accept it as a part of life.
But what his line of thinking gave me was:
We don’t need to endure restlessness. We need to celebrate it.
It is not “part of life”. It IS life!
My thesis in yoga school, 11 years ago, already held the conclusion that Buddha was depressed. Creating a whole religion on the notion that “Life is suffering” will only appeal to the misanthropic; not to the shiny happy creatures.
Such as, the Instant Gratification Monkey.
Which is what the second link was about:

This second AHA moment was from TED talk from Tim Urban, that was released just this week: What Goes on in the Mind of a Procrastinator (14 minutes).
Now here he explains how non-procrastinators have a brain that functions as
“A Rational Decision Maker”
Whereas procrastinators have another character there
“The Instant Gratification Monkey”
As long as the Monkey is having its playtime, anything you were set out to do will not happen. The only thing the Monkey listens to is a third character:
“The Panic Monster”
As soon as he enters the stage, the monkey is gone, and your Rational Decision Maker can take the rudder and sail to more productive waters. Except now its too late. The boat has drifted so far off, the destination can not be reached anymore.

In situations where there are no external deadlines, the Panic Monster never shows up. This explains why procrastinators are incapable of “writing that novel” (guilty). Of “going for their goals” (guilty). Basically, the bigger and the more dominant your instant gratification monkey is, the less capable you will be working against your will.
I would say: incapable of working for others (employers) even, but maybe that’s jumping to conclusions.
Either way: the Instant Gratification Monkey is a powerful force!

If you re a procrastinator, there are 3 possible strategies.

1. Learn to summon the panic monster.

For a long time this was my best bet. I thought if I could just work with imaginary deadlines, or let other people hold me accountable for my results, my Panic Monster would show up. But it never did. Luckily for me, because I now strongly advise against this solution! It’s a MONSTER!

2. Train, chain or kill your monkey

This is when you set a timer, to work undisturbed for 2 hours. When you limit your email box time to checking it a few times a day. When you turn off all Fb and Twitter notifications.
…. okay. You’re still there? Does that work for you in ANY way?!
Then you re not a procrastinator. You don’t have that monkey.
Because An Instant Gratification Monkey doesn’t listen to timers! Not to planning. It doesn’t respect ANY form of boundaries. It’s A MONKEY!
Any planning book I have read so far, any book on productivity, is written for people whose Internal Gratification Monkey is either non existent or seriously mutilated. I know that now. And I m very happy that I never got “hold” over mine. I have contained mine, at times. But only to then see it escape, and take life into a completely different direction.
Which brings me at number 3.
The final coping strategy.
And the one Tim Urban managed to miss.

3. Befriend the monkey

Who is this monkey? Who is he really? What are its qualities?
I ll tell you who he is: this cheeky animal is your Creativity. It is what separates you from the Saint. From the hard worker. From the warrior. From the robot.
The Monkey, if you have one, is what is making your life worth while because it brings you joy and fun.
The Buddha once said that it was the Monkey Mind that was causing people’s unhappiness. He could not have been more wrong:
It is the absence of a monkey.
The ones who don’t have monkey, they re the ones who are unhappy and deserve our deepest empathy.

Happily Ever After

While I m writing this I have Twitter open AND my mailbox. And when a message comes in, I check it, delete it, or answer it. It provides the same function as my cigarettes once did, or staring out of the window: it opens my mind.
It takes my mind off and that is a GOOD thing!
I read a piece on “deep work” recently: this is the ability to work concentrated and undisturbed. Which is super handy if you re a computer programmer or a rocket scientist, or if you are actually bothered by people walking into your office, or bothered by the content of your emails or messages.
But if you are like me, and what you read and click on actually inspires you, and you have no trouble ignoring what you don’t care for, then distraction actually gives your mind a breather. Internet solitude closes off the gateway to your Creativity. You’re constraining your internal monkey.

What I like most about the term Instant Gratification Monkey is that it indicates exactly what kind of activities your monkey likes!
– they need to be gratifying
– instantly, or at least (I d say) within a day
So instead of trying to work like a hermit, or a marter, or plan your day hour by hour,
add Immediate Gratification to the things you make a living of, and just watch that monkey soar!

My biggest productivity boost came when I went from writing offline, to publishing my work online. Or from making premeditated business plans, to developing a new class or yoga course, and immediately teaching it or putting it online. I compare it to being in love, or flirting; once something has got your attention you just make time for it. It pushes everything aside.

And suddenly it’s noon, and I still have my hairmask in. I m on my third coffee and I forgot to eat. But I did just write a blogpost that I could not have written if I had insisted that my workflow was a rational, linear flow.

I could not have done it without my best buddy:
The Instant Gratification Monkey.

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3 thoughts on “13/52: Play (Or What Tim Urban Forgot to Say)

  1. Totally get what you’re saying here. I don’t know if the Monkey is called creativity, because my husband was a professional photographer for many years and he certainly don’t have that Monkey and I totally do and I don’t work on anything creative, but I can see how instant gratification IS the Monkey. Him and me have discussed that before because I’m a type A that needs immediate results, he is a type B that can wait and wait and wait until he gets the result he wants, I have tried all the tricks under the sun and I have become very proficient at focus/concentration, timers, closing windows, etc, but I can see that’s not my strength, so this year I’m changing gears. I’ll work with what I have, I’ll embrace interruptions. I used to practice Ashtanga in a Mysore setting and I found your blog thru your old one because I’m going to give Tara Stiles a chance, I need to move from structure, rigidity and schedules, into more feeling and flow.

    Nice blog, I like your 52 weeks project.

    P.S. I used to have a blog for the same reasons. I tried to write novels, shorts stories, etc but nothing was as satisfying as having a blog, instant gratification I guess.

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