Can procrastination be reduced? Is there a relationship between procrastination and mindfulness?
This article on procrastination might be helpful to give you answers on how to stop procrastinating using mindfulness…
If you struggle with being able to stick to tasks and schedules, then it might be time to take a look at the way you approach your day. There are ways to change your mind and get things done without putting off important responsibilities. The role of mindfulness and emotion regulation control has been shown to affect procrastination levels.
Procrastinating from time to time is normal (and can also be your body just telling you that you need a break) but for some people, chronic procrastination or procrastinating for a long period of time can be a problem that negatively impacts their performance at work or school. The condition has also been linked to anxiety disorders, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), substance abuse, and various other conditions.
Procrastinators often put off starting types of tasks because they fear failure, punishment, or embarrassment – they predict negative outcomes. While some people who procrastinate might suffer from a mental issue, others simply prefer to wait until later rather than start something new now. This can relate to menial tasks, everyday tasks, simple tasks, or even the hardest task.
Procrastination is directly linked to the state of our brains and therefore our minds. So it makes sense that if we can alter the state of our minds we might be able to overcome procrastination.
We know by now that the effects of mindfulness can have huge long-term positive influences on our minds.
So… can mindfulness also help us get past procrastinating that perceived ‘dreaded task’?
Firstly let’s touch on what procrastination actually is and how it can be confused with lazy behavior…
Table of Contents
Procrastination vs laziness
Chronic procrastination is often confused with laziness because we think we want to avoid unpleasant tasks. However, procrastination is actually an active process where we choose to do other things instead of what we really need to do. Laziness implies apathy, inactivity, and unwillingness to act. Similarly, it can also be associated with commitment issues towards ‘wanting to do’.
Procrastination usually involves ignoring an unpleasant task, in favor of something more enjoyable. But, giving in to this impulse may have serious consequences. For instance, even minor instances of procrastination can lead to guilt or shame. It can also reduce productivity and cause us to fail to achieve our goals as we already perceive negative outcomes before even starting. Procrastination is a habit that can lead people to feel demotivated and depressed. This problem can be solved to get our minds in a state to take action right away.
It comes down to simply just resetting our minds and redirecting our thoughts in order to take action or change our behavior. Often simply just changing perspective on this delayed task can be enough to get us to do it.
Fundamentally procrastination is a habit of inaction that can be caused by expecting negative outcomes, and as with any habit, we can unravel it and form a new habit that might actually serve us in feeling that sense of achievement or fulfillment.
mindfulness and procrastination
Procrastinators tend to be less mindful than non-procrastinators. Procrastination has also been linked to a failure to self-regulate (mostly negative emotions). People who procrastinate tend to prefer short-term mood regulation over long-term goal achievement. They do this by neglecting necessary but aversive tasks. This causes them to fail to complete important tasks that are important for achieving long-term goals. The lack of commitment to the task can further feed the cycle of procrastination.
Researchers found that people who had higher levels of mindfulness were more likely to be successful at resisting temptation (this could also mean temptation in the sense of avoiding something or doing something else that is more enjoyable).
People who scored high on measures of mindfulness also tended to score lower on measures of procrastination. In other words, non-procrastinators are better at being aware of what they’re doing.
Procrastination causes people to lose focus and become demotivated. When people are more focused and motivated, they tend to be more mindful. When people are being mindful, they are less likely to procrastinate because as mentioned before, mindfulness helps you to accept your feelings and understand what’s going on inside yourself.
This allows you to make better decisions about how to deal with things. You’re more likely to be successful if you’re able to control your impulses and make sense of your thoughts. When we create that mental awareness we can also create an efficient mental plan of action.
Mindfulness helps people avoid procrastination by increasing focus and reducing distractions. Mindfulness also reduces stress and anxiety, both of which feed procrastination and reduce focus.
Mindfulness is a useful tool for avoiding procrastination. Procrastination is linked to anxiety, poor sleep, and poor health. Mindfulness helps reduce procrastination by improving these areas.
Procrastinators should try to become more mindful when it comes time to complete tasks. To do this, they should try to focus on the task at hand, rather than on other things going on around them while refocusing their attention through present moment awareness.
Procrastination is also directly linked to our emotions. The way we feel can cause people to put off doing things until later. When we feel angry or sad, we tend to postpone tasks until later. To combat this, we need to practice mindfulness in order to self-regulate our nervous systems and emotions. We must acknowledge our emotions and let them pass. Then, we can take action. This breaks the cycle of feeling stressed, procrastinating, and then feeling stressed about procrastinating.
Below we have outlined some actionable steps to reduce procrastinating through practicing being mindful.
4 Steps on how to stop procrastinating through mindfulness
Like with anything – in order to change we need to be aware of the issue and then the change that needs to occur. We need to recognize that we are procrastinating. Without awareness, we cannot take the necessary steps to overcome procrastinating. This goes for most things in life. Awareness is key.
Through many mindfulness practices, we can practice our state of overall mental awareness. When we start to practice being aware of our mental states it makes us more intentional in our actions. We learn to filter our thoughts and also come down to the root of our thoughts through self-observation.
Practices such as meditation help us to check in to what is happening in our minds which relates to our thoughts, emotions, and feelings and which further relates to our action … or in this case our inaction.
Try this simple mindfulness exercise.
Close your eyes. Divert your focus to your inner thoughts. Ask yourself how you are feeling in this moment and notice all the thoughts and emotions and feelings coming up for you in this present moment. Ask yourself why you might be feeling like this? Now take three big deep breaths into your belly. Inhale through your nose and exhale slowly out your mouth. Allow the breath to calm your nervous system down and feel how your mind becomes clearer.
2. Practice being present in the moment.
We all struggle with being present at some point in our lives. It can be hard to stay present when you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed. You may find yourself constantly thinking about the past or future. Or maybe you are stuck in the middle of doing something and you keep getting distracted by your phone or computer.
Being mindful means paying attention to the present moment. Being present allows us to experience the world around us without judgment or attachment. Mindful living helps us to live in the here and now instead of always looking forward or back.
A lot of the time the reasons for procrastination might be linked to feelings of anxiety (living in the future) or depression (living in the past). We become overwhelmed by the to-do list so we end up doing nothing at all.
Through meditation we can practice tapping into being present – this then allows us to ask ourselves what we can do right now in order to get the specific task done. We are therefore not waiting to be ‘in the right mood’ or for the ‘right time‘ but we take an actionable step towards ticking the task off. This step might be small but it gets the ball rolling and puts us into a better frame of mind with more intention to achieve what we need to.
3. Getting down to the root of it
Being present and aware brings along realization. Practicing both helps us notice why we might be putting off this certain task. We might realize that it isn’t even about the task at all but that we are just feeling stressed from life in general and this is depleting our capacity to take anything else on.
Maybe we notice we are suffering from burn out and we do not have the mental or physical energy to give to anything. We might notice there is a deeper cause to our procrastination and if we can learn to address that first it will decrease our desire to procrastinate.
Through self-observation, we can invite more joy (and therefore energy) into our lives by simply noticing what serves us in a given moment and what doesn’t. It invites intention into our lives. When we live from a place of joy even the mundane tasks become less monotonous and the hardest task becomes less daunting, as we know it forms part of living through intentional purpose. This snowballs into us taking more action in our lives. Making our lives happen for ourselves instead of waiting for life to happen to us.
On a practical level, the role of mindfulness motivates us to get the hardest task done first and then all other tasks seem more doable.
4. Acceptance and compassion
Mindfulness is the tendency to purposely pay attention to the self and to the environment, as they are in the present moment. Mindfulness emphasizes non-reactive awareness and non-judgmental acceptance of thoughts and emotions, and as such is viewed as an attentional self-regulation strategy.
A failure to self-regulate leads to a delay in the initiation or completion of tasks. In many cases, people are driven to procrastinate by an impulsive preference for short-term mood regulation, which procrastinators accomplish by neglecting necessary but-aversive tasks, that are important for their long-term goals, in favor of activities that are more pleasant in the short term.
Compassion and acceptance are two of the most essential elements of this process of dealing with negative emotions or difficult circumstances. Perfectionists tend to be extremely critical in their views because they have high standards that need to be met. If they don’t acknowledge and rationalize their inner critic, then they can become overly pessimistic and closed-off and therefore are more prone to procrastination.
Mindfulness is a good place to start when trying to improve your sense of self-compassion and acceptance. It may seem difficult at first but if you dedicate just two or three minutes of your time to meditating regularly, you’ll see some amazing results.
Being more compassionate with self takes a softer approach – it lessens the pressure, expectations, and stress which might be the cause of inaction. Mindfulness also allows us to practice accepting uncomfortable or ‘negative’ emotional and mental states. Instead of resisting these feelings, we learn to accept them and then move through and past them. This leads us to a more emotionally regulated state, calmer nervous system, less stressed out mind, and therefore our minds and bodies are prepared to do and not get stuck in a cycle of rumination.
Acceptance and compassion cultivate intentional action (without the stress of expectations).
- Mindfulness involves purposely focusing on the self and the environment as they are in the present while accepting thoughts and emotions in a non-judgmental manner. It is a form of emotion regulation.
- The current study of the effects of mindfulness suggests that there is a bidirectional relationship between mindfulness and procrastination, where increased levels of mindfulness predict lower levels of procrastination, and vice versa.
- Based on this, and on additional research which has been done on the topic, it’s likely that increasing your mindfulness could lead to a small but meaningful reduction in your tendency to procrastinate, while also improving your general wellbeing.
- In order to benefit from being mindful, you can try to focus more on tasks as you engage in them, which will limit the degree to which distractions cause you to procrastinate on your work.
- You can also try to accept negative emotions in a non-judgmental manner as you experience them, which will help you overcome them and move forward with your work.
meditation for procrastination
There is most definitely a relationship between mindfulness and procrastination. Mindfulness and as an extension meditation have been researched to greatly reduce bouts of procrastinating through the process of dealing with negative emotions and stress. This is due to the non-detachment, self-acceptance, increased emotional awareness, reduced stress, and practice of being present that describes the nature of practicing mindfulness. An increased state of awareness results in an increased state of intention and therefore need to take action towards difficult tasks, simple tasks, menial tasks, or everyday tasks.