• Kim Foster

Procrastinating makes you feel better. But doesn't help you.

I'm sure you've never thought about how procrastinating makes you feel, but take a minute and think about it. When was the last time you had something important to do but it could actually wait until tomorrow until it absolutely had to be done, so you put it off till later and you felt better? Funny, right? It's true. You might even say,'I do better under pressure anyway, so I can wait until later to do it.'


Procrastination is a negative emotional response to accomplishing something that we end up giving in to--it's often a feeling of resistance which translates to unpleasant emotions that we avoid feeling by putting things off until later.


But there's good news, because simply knowing that procrastination is constructed this way puts us into a place of making a choice. Mindfulness practices have taught us that you can choose the emotions on which to focus, or even simply let them go without attachment to accomplish goals you set to meet. Emotions such as frustration, anger, boredom, resentfulness, depression, anxiousness or guilt often serve as emotional culprits that trigger wanting a short term mood repair. But noticing the connection between thinking about what you need to do and how that makes you feel can set you on a path to 'just doing it anyway.'


According to Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D., author of 'Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change,' two necessary preconditions need to be in place for change to happen. First, you need a deep commitment to the change and second, you need to really value the change.


Let's look at an example. For several weeks, I've been struggling to reestablish my regular yoga practice. I would often register for a class that was happening the next day instead of the current day. That's okay, as I'd tell myself I like the teacher teaching tomorrow more than the one teaching today, so I could wait. Then the next day would come around, and that feeling of resistance would appear, and I'd cancel class because I didn't feel like going. However, once I became aware of the emotional resistance that I had (that being that it was going to be hard, I'm out of shape and I might be sore the next day,) I created the preconditions I needed to make the change. I decided that I would not listen to that voice inside my head that suggested I cancel going, and made cancelling class not an option. I just stopped paying so much attention to that voice in my head telling me to cancel. And I of course really value the change as I want a regular yoga practice to be a part of my healthier lifestyle. I broke the chain of procrastination and am so glad that I did.


After all, you don't need to feel like it in order to accomplish it.


Remember, resisting and ignoring any emotions or excuses sets up procrastinating. But if you acknowledge emotion and then choose to get started anyway you will break the habit of procrastinating.

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Hermann G. Simon 'The Stubborn Mule.' (1881) The American Gallery.


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