illustration woman reading book with feet up on desk, notifications surrounding computer | mindfulness based time management
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Procrastination is a clever strategy for avoiding discomfort. Often, the thought of getting started with a big project (or anything that even resembles a project) creates feelings of impending doom and anxious dread. Nobody wants to feel dread and doom, so we distract ourselves by playing Minecraft or scrolling through social media.

The unpleasant feelings that lead to procrastination are usually fed by negative thoughts: I’m not in the mood for this now—maybe I will be later. I’ll never get this 25-page paper done. I don’t know how to start on this abstract painting. What if I can’t explain this economic theory? What if I fail?  

Avoidance and distraction get rid of the head-crushing feelings, but they don’t get the work done. (And no, you won’t be in the mood for it later.) Fortunately, by adopting a few mindful habits, you can be ready to tackle procrastination head-on.

How to use mindfulness to stay on track

1.

Get off autopilot

Take a deep breath. Try to notice the thoughts and feelings that fuel the procrastination. Once you’re aware that they exist, you don’t have to be controlled by them.

2.

Recognize that thoughts are just thoughts

Think about it. They have no substance. Even the uncomfortable ones are temporary. And besides, what’s a little discomfort?

3.

Get in sync with your (physical) sensations

Notice how your body feels. Feel your feet on the floor or your fingers on the keyboard. Feel your breath moving in and out. 

4.

Make a commitment to get started

Eliminate distractions, then turn your attention to your work. Decide to work on it for 20–30 minutes, no matter how many thoughts urge you to do otherwise. Science shows that simply getting started on a project makes you more likely to finish it.

5.

Take a second

After you have worked for half an hour or so, take a short break—a few minutes to check Instagram or to make a green smoothie (just try to keep the break under 10 minutes). Then start again with step 1.

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