All Aboard: Procrastination Station!

We have all been there before: the sweaty palms, the pacing, the daunting empty page- the cruel mistress Ms. Procrastination. Cue the deadline distress and self-perpetuating cycle of frustration. (Do not worry, I am going to spare you the already well-exhausted spiel about energetic availability during the pandemic.) When we procrastinate it is not that we are poor at time management, rather, multiple scholarly studies and articles reveal that procrastination is an indication of lack of emotional management. It is the fear of the discomfort of a given task that prevents us from moving forward and completing it. There is even an added layer of frustration if your brain is not neurotypical, and diagnoses of ADHD are rising daily. Perhaps this shows up for you as perfectionism, anxiety, or just out-right avoidance of the task at hand. A groundbreaking realization for me was that my meditative practice could be used to combat my incessant urge to procrastinate. A study done by Helen Z. MacDonald, a doctor in the department of Psychology at Emmanuel College, suggested as much:

“Findings revealed that describing, acting with awareness, nonjudging, and nonreacting mindfulness facets were negatively associated with difficulties with emotion regulation, and that observing, acting with awareness, and nonjudging mindfulness facets were positively associated with delay of gratification skills, after accounting for the effects of the other mindfulness subscales. These preliminary findings may have important clinical relevance, as greater self-regulation has critical implications for social, emotional, and academic functioning.”

self care isnt selfish sign Photo by Madison Inouye from Pexels

What that means in lay terms, if scholarly reading is not your vibe (who can blame you),  is that the more mindful and gentler you are about your state of discomfort when a daunting task is presented, the more peace and success you allow yourself to experience. Looking these fears and anxieties in the eye and actively naming your emotions when they arise helps take away the power the threat holds over you. The human brain has a unique way of turning on itself and catastrophizing situations that will not actually be as hard or painful as we build them up to be. Additionally, mindfulness is not just some hippie buzzword, it is a common therapeutic technique that often goes hand-in-hand with self-care. 

If your motivational cup is empty, consider where your emotional cup is at present: ‘Have I had enough to eat today , is my mind racing, when was the last time I was outside or at least out of my bedroom’ ? These questions shed light on the environment in which your brain is “running its operations”- so to speak. Follow those questions up with some reflection and action, like: ‘what do I need in order to feel comfortable right now’, and ‘what is stopping me from getting it’? 

Tea pot with cup of tea Photo by Jakub Kapusnak from Foodiesfeed

Knowing thy self is the best way to meet your own needs and thus perform tasks at the best of your ability, and the more you practice this the more natural it becomes. There are always going to be days where even the simplest tasks seem like the most insurmountable mountains, even if the mountain you are looking at is an expertly disguised molehill below your feet. On those days, be gentle with your brain, it is trying its best to sort through a minefield of emotions and  ruminations and probably needs a tall glass of cold water and some reflection to help it along the way. Sometimes, age-old advice truly is the most valuable at our disposal because it works. When are emotions are present it is because they are meant to be felt, not ignored and mindfulness offers a much more realistic set of expectations that are far more palatable than the alternative cycle of self-punishment. It is okay to feel overwhelmed and to not feel like completing your work in case no one has told you yet, taking care of yourself will actually allow you to do better on the things you care about. People are not designed to complete tasks mindlessly without feeling; in this high-powered, productivity-based society, rebel and be gentle with yourself when the situation calls for it. It will do more good than harm for your overall productivity and maybe, you’ll even finish your homework on time!