When you go: ‘I shouldn’t be doing this right now’

By johannatime On March 10, 2015 Under Quality of Life and Work


You may know that restless feeling that you are wasting your time. The sense that there is something else right now that needs your attention more. It makes you feel overwhelmed and it takes away your flow, and worst of all, your productivity drops so nothing else gets done either.

Things you shouln’t be doing right now

You will probably know countless examples of doing something else:

  • You may find yourself organising your desk, or your entire office, instead of writing that report. You may even believe you can’t start writing until the cleaning is done.
  • Or you’re watching tv when actually you should be going for a run.
  • Or you can’t resist snacking on your e-mail late at night when you were planning to go to bed early.
  • And of course you’ll often go browsing on facebook when you should be processing your inbox to zero.


It also happens on a more subtle level. You are doing useful work, but still, there is this anxious or guilty feeling. Let’s investigate: The task you are avoiding is likely to be something

  • difficult;
  • time consuming;
  • unpleasant;
  • messy;
  • scary or outside your comfort zone;
  • partly or fully unidentified;
  • or a combination of the above.

And instead of just doing that nasty task, you automatically choose to do something easier. Meanwhile, that task you are avoiding, is nagging at you, compromising your focus, your productivity and your sense of satisfaction.


Your brain can only do one cognitive task at the same time. One! But subconsciously, many things and thoughts happen simultaneously and warnings are given about tasks that are due soon. So whilst doing something else (useful or not), you’ll get reminders of open loops, and because you can only do one task at the same time, you’ll feel overwhelmed or even anxious.

Good listening

Deep down inside you know very well what must be done first, if only for the fact that it were off your plate. And if you feel that everything is equally and incredibly important and urgent, it’s time for you to start making a to do list today. There is always a task that gives you the highest pay-off in the given circumstances and at a given time. Sometimes that is determined by the task itself, often by the circumstances you are in and the time you have available. By all means give yourself a break and do that task!

Do you deliberately choose to do what you should be doing? Please share your thoughts in the comments below:

Johanna Jansen

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Emma
    March 11, 2015
    8:21 pm #comment-1

    I find the best motivation for doing the “tough” task is first thing in the morning. I then like to think I can reward myself with a bit of down time around lunch picking back up again with some smaller wins in the afternoon.
    I have also turned of my email screen alerts to keep distractions down to a minimum.
    Great article thank you

    • johannatime
      March 13, 2015
      12:23 pm #comment-2

      Thank you for commenting, Emma, and I’m glad you like this post. You seem to be well in control of your work flow, keep that up! Cheers!

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