Why do we procrastinate? The answer is simple, we think. Sometimes, we give negative reaction and emotion when facing the tasks that we resist to do (such as doing homework), that’s how we procrastinate.
So how can we beat our serious procrastination problem? The answer is also simple, we control our thoughts and emotions. In other words, mindfulness is the fastest and most effective way to help you beat procrastination. Once you’ve controlled your mind and soul, positive actions will take place. This article focuses on how to use mindfulness to overcome procrastination.
How Your Thoughts & Emotions Make You Procrastinate
You are neither your thoughts nor your emotions. These thoughts and emotions just pop up and go with the wind. They are like the weather. Sometimes it’s sunny; sometimes it rains. Similarly, sometimes you feel happy and motivated; sometimes you feel sad and depressed.
Let’s try an experiment. Notice what pops into your head when you read the following statements. Don’t make any effort, just watch what happens:
- Every cloud has a…
- Blondes have more…
- Plenty more fish in the…
- Children should be seen and not…
See what happened there? Without any effort of your own, the “right” sentence completions just popped into your head. “Blondes have more…fun!” “Every cloud has a… silver lining!” You didn’t author these thoughts – they just popped up out of nowhere.
If you’re trying to finish your essay, meditate, hit the gym, or do anything else worthwhile, chances are that negative thoughts and emotions will pop up. You feel a sense of anxiety, you feel overwhelmed, you feel stressed out, and you certainly don’t feel motivated. Your mind is telling you to do the task tomorrow. That’s when you’ll feel like it, that’s when you’ll be motivated.
You see, your mind is a reason-giving machine. It will rationalize the shit out of anything that’s just a little bit uncomfortable and create endless excuses as to why you shouldn’t do something now. Those excuses are irrational, but sound superficially reasonable:
- “I’ll do it perfectly tomorrow!”
- “I’ll work better under pressure.”
- “I’m trying, but it’s not working. What’s wrong?”
- “I don’t feel like doing it today”
- “Damnit! I should have started earlier. Now it’s too late. I might as well give up.”
Sounds familiar? Of course.
However, there’s always the ways. We can stop these negative thoughts and emotions once and for all.
How We Use Mindfulness to Overcome Procrastination
As I mentioned earlier, procrastination is an emotion management problem.
So, how do we get better at this? How can we loosen the grip our emotions and thoughts have on us? How can we do the thing whether we feel like it or not?
Step 1: Become Aware
The first step is to become aware of any negative emotions you feel and the myriad of excuses your mind is telling you right when it’s time to work on a task.
When your mind tells you stuff like “I’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow” or “I’ll first check Facebook; it’ll only take a minute,” you need to become aware of such thoughts. Recognize that it’s just your mind trying to keep you from doing what you want to do.
When you’re feeling anxious, bored, restless, or frustrated, you need to become aware of those feelings. “Oh, I’m feeling resistance towards this task. I feel an urge to procrastinate.” When you feel the urge to check emails, go on Facebook, have a cigarette, or run away in some other form, you need to notice that as well.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, a mindfulness teacher, puts it well in his book Wherever You Go There You Are:
“If we are unaware of what we are doing a good deal of the time, and we don’t particularly like the way things turn out in our lives, perhaps it’s time to pay closer attention, to be more in touch, to observe the choices we make and their consequences down the road.”
If you don’t know that you’re about to procrastinate, how are you going to prevent it? You’ll just follow your unconscious urges and before you know it, you’ve wasted an hour dilly-dallying on Facebook.
The point is, we need to become aware of what’s going on. Only then can we change something. It’s like they say, with awareness comes choice. Once you see your thoughts, feelings, urges, desires from a certain distance, you can choose a different response. And that’s step 2…
Step 2: Learn to Deal Effectively With Emotions
Our natural tendency of coping with negative emotions is avoidance – we feel anxious, frustrated, or bored when faced with a task and we run away. We distract ourselves with something that feels better; we give in to feeling good, we procrastinate.
So, what should we do? We must learn to tolerate negative emotions. We must realize that emotions are not the end-all-be-all. They are merely bodily sensations. Yes, they may feel uncomfortable. So what? They are just emotions. They come and go. We don’t need to react to them. Instead, we can just accept them and do the thing whether we feel like it or not.
Remember, emotions are just action tendencies. We can feel angry but act calmly, anxious but act courageously, unmotivated but do the thing anyway.
That’s the whole secret to overcoming procrastination. Become aware of negative thoughts and emotions. Let them be there. Accept them. Do the right thing despite them.
Now, the remaining question is: how do you get better at this? How do you become more aware and how can you learn to deal with those negative thoughts and emotions?
Your Strongest Weapon
The best way to get better at what we’ve been talking about so far in this article is the practice of ‘mindfulness’. The dictionary defines mindfulness as ‘a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.’
Bringing it back to procrastination, it allows us to take action despite experiencing negative emotions. First, it raises our awareness of what’s going on. Second, it lets us stay with negative emotions without reacting to them, giving us the opportunity to do the right thing, regardless of how we’re feeling.
All in all, mindfulness offers the following benefits regarding procrastination, it:
- Raises our awareness.
- Lets us act regardless of whatever emotions or thoughts we’re experiencing.
- Makes us more self-compassionate.
- Improves our self-control and emotion regulation abilities.
- Helps us tune out distractions (read more about distractions here).
- Makes you a better entrepreneur.
- And much more.
This isn’t just wishful thinking by the way. Research has proven that mindfulness is an effective strategy for dealing with procrastination. Here’s how procrastination researcher Timothy Pychyl puts in his articles on Psychology Today:
What I want to emphasize and make clear in this post is that effective self-regulation relies on emotion regulation, and this emotion regulation in turn relies on mindfulness. There is clear evidence that mindfulness is related to less procrastination
Mindfulness makes me more aware of my thoughts, emotions, urges, and drives, allowing me to consciously choose to either react to them or not. It allows me to stay with negative emotions and thoughts, and to just let them kind of be there in the background while I’m doing what needs to get done.
Mindfulness, ultimately, is one of the most important skills needed to overcome procrastination.
One of the best ways to strengthen our mindfulness is of course meditation. If you’re not yet in the habit of meditating daily, I highly suggest you get started as soon as possible. My recommendation is to simply download Nirow app and start to learn how to meditate and establish a daily routine.