We’ve all done it at some point. We’ve all decided that the best thing to do at some particular moment when we should be doing something else is to go for a walk.
It happens to me a lot. I’ve often worked right up to deadlines, handing in my essays at university in the middle of the night the morning before they were due. I’ll be in the office or at home, and there will be something that I am supposed to be doing. I’m not ready to do it though – maybe not mentally, or maybe not physically, or both. I won’t be able to put my finger on what it is that I need to do to trigger the start, and it will become distracting in itself. Why am I not just diving in?
When that happens, going for a walk seems like a good idea. Just get out, start putting down steps, and see what happens. Sometimes that walk helps trigger thoughts, plans, ideas – the repetition of step, step, step is metronomic and keeps thoughts flowing like music to a beat. Sometimes it’s also like a ticking clock that’s saying time is passing, building pressure to break down whatever mental barrier is holding me up.
Walking as procrastination is one of those activities you do when you tell yourself you’re a person who works best under a deadline. Counting down to that deadline so that you’re getting closer and closer to a crisis is a deliberate means of setting off a flight or fight response. You put off the task by walking in order to trigger the adrenaline rush that helps you to stop “flight” and start “fight”, to dive into your task and keep going.
Is it helpful to walk as procrastination? Probably sometimes it is – you need to prepare and walking (exercising) releases endorphins that calm your mood and reduce anxiety. Think of it as stretching and warming up ahead of a workout. As long as that procrastination doesn’t continue indefinitely, you’ll get to your goal eventually and in the meantime you are getting some exercise.