A Conscious Approach to Ending Procrastination
“Things may come to those that wait, but only the things left by those who hustle” - Abraham Lincoln
You’re a go-getter, and you don’t mind working hard. And despite your incessant scheduling of tasks on your iCal, you still manage to wait to the last minute on important deadlines or fall behind on tasks. Whether you’re the creative type that has trouble with demands to rush your art or the blogger falling behind on writing, learning to end procrastination will help you reach your goals and ultimately your dreams. Also as you develop the habit of overcoming procrastination and completing your goals, you’ll increase feelings of self-worth and self-fulfillment.
If you feel like you’ve tried everything but you still delay important tasks, consider a conscious approach to ending procrastination. Many people address only the behaviors that are associated with procrastination and ignore the underlying causes. That’s like treating each symptom of the virus, without killing the bacteria causing them. Taking a conscious approach to ending procrastination means looking at the unconscious feelings and thoughts that contribute to procrastination and consciously addressing them.
Here are three common feelings that contribute to procrastination and how to address them.
Whenever you think about the hour long presentation you have to give your heart skips a beat and your stomach sinks. Or maybe you experience shortness of breath every time you are reminded of the deadline you set for that book you are writing. Whatever the large project may be, usually the underlying fear of large projects causes procrastination. It’s like being confronted with a dragon the size of the Eiffel tower, and due to feeling completely overwhelmed by the task of slaying this dragon you stand there frozen, paralyzed in fear.
Unless you work to become aware of the fear that may be under the surface of your procrastination, you will never slay that dragon of a project. Use awareness to become conscious of underlying feelings of being overwhelmed, then consciously reframe your perspective. Here’s how:
- Whenever you notice yourself procrastinating on large projects, find time to take what is known as a three minute breathing space. While engaging in deep breathing, take three minutes to close your eyes and notice your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. If you notice worrying thoughts, anxious feelings, or arousing sensations, take a moment to acknowledge them without judging yourself for having them.
- Once you become aware that you may feel overwhelmed by your project, take steps to reframe your perspective of that project. Essentially slay your dragon, once swing at a time. Find ways to break your larger goal into smaller less daunting goals, and celebrate each achievement along the way.
Besides feeling overwhelmed other fears you should watch out for include fear of failure, fear of succeeding, and fears of letting yourself down. Confronting your fear, and reframing your perspective is a conscious and sustainable way to end procrastination.
Solution: Fill Yourself Up
Let’s face it, sometimes you’d much rather work on curating your company’s Instagram page than reviewing your website's analytics. When you feel deprived of fun, those easy, fun, and glamorous tasks move up the to-do lists, and take time away from important, although boring, other tasks. You aren’t helping yourself reach your ultimate goals and sometimes your hours spent on what is essentially busy work is in vain.
No matter how boring you may think the task, sticking to completing your priorities in a timely and efficient way will separate you from your competition and help you reach your goals faster. The key is to make sure you fill yourself up. The solution to deprivation is satisfaction. Here’s how:
- Satisfaction is a first chakra issue and can be addressed using grounding techniques to stay present. Here are a few grounding exercises to try:
- The next time you put off a task, force yourself to think of three things you will be grateful for as a direct result of completing the task.
- Then, take a moment to get in touch with the present moment and remind yourself that you have everything you need to get started on this task.
- Another way to address feeling deprived of fun is to fill yourself up with pleasure. Pleasure, a major component of the second chakra, is not only motivating but it kicks procrastination to the curb. Find ways to make tasks fun like listening to enjoyable music while working or taking 5 to 10 minute breaks to do something fun at least once an hour. Finally schedule fun things into your calendar so your mind knows that there is designated time for pleasure but right now it's time to hustle.
You have a looming deadline for a report at work, your dog needs to go to the vet, you have a brilliant inspiration for a poem, and your new website is launching in one month. There seems like a million things to do, but you have no idea where to start. With your mind racing, you find yourself in a sea of confusion with no idea how to get to shore. Let focus be your life raft.
Dharana, is the sixth limb of the 8-Limb Path of Ashtanga Yoga, and teaches us the art of contemplation and focus. Dharana is the second step towards meditation, and is achieved only after withdrawing our senses (pratyhara). After we become aware of our confusion and separate our identity from this emotion, we have the power to decide what we want to focus our energy on. Beyond prioritizing, this sort of contemplation demands we align our attention and mental resources with one intention or task. Here are some tips to help you achieve this conscious level of focus:
- Start your day by setting intentions. And then use everything you have to stick to this intention.
- Visualize yourself sticking to your top priority with as much detail as possible before starting your task.
- Curb distractibility by having a mantra you can repeat yourself to bring you back to the present moment and task at hand. Brian Tracy, author of Eat That Frog, suggests telling yourself “back to work, back to work, back to work”.
- Starting a meditation practice is a conscious approach to improving focus. Meditation will help you become the observer when you are confused, which allows you the freedom to decide where to focus your energy.
Staying conscious of feelings lurking beneath the surface of procrastination will help you end procrastination for good. Stay aware of your emotional state and use these tools to gain control over your calendar and life. For more tips on staying conscious, sign up for our Conscious Lifestyle Newsletter: Click Here
Important disclaimer: Problems with panic and anxiety related to procrastination may indicate deeper issues with anxiety that may be better addressed in psychotherapy. Similarly, not being able to pay attention unless things are stimulating, as well as losing focus are also symptoms of ADHD, a brain disorder that extends beyond procrastination problems. Consciously approaching procrastination is not a substitute for medical treatment and if you think you suffer from ADHD you should consult a psychologist for testing and treatment recommendations.