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How To Stop Procrastinating Once And For All

How to stop procrastinating? Well, as psychologist and former New York Times reporter Daniel Goleman suggests: Starve your distraction, feed your focus.


Put down the phone. Step away from Instagram. Turn off the TV. In other words: Stop procrastinating. Why, though? And how?

Procrastination is, at its core, an “avoidance” coping technique, and one that usually sets in when we are fearful. Subconsciously it is bringing up our self-doubts, our lack of confidence, our fear of failure and even our fear of success. While we may not be consciously aware of this fear, we are certainly aware of the need to distract ourselves from the task we are avoiding.

And, perhaps surprisingly (or not!), mindfulness is the key to moving past the hold that procrastination has on us, that stops us from achieving our goal. It can stand in the way of learning new things, it can make us unhappy or stressed at work, it can keep us from pushing our boundaries. Needless to say, not one of these scenarios is a great option for a positive, productive life.

If, however, we can be aware of procrastination when the urge to do so kicks in, we can best set intentions to help us power through. A great way to put this into practice, for example, is when you start your next work day or session. When you, say, log on to your computer, think about why you are logging on.

Ask yourself:

  • What do I want to achieve?
  • What is my intention?
  • Is it in sync with what I originally set out to do, or did I get sidetracked along the way? (In other words, am I currently surfing Facebook instead of opening the document I need to work on?)

Keep the momentum, and check in with yourself throughout the day. Are you on track? Have you allowed distraction to get the better of you? Do your actions match your intention? Look for any procrastination. If it is present, why do you think it is there?

There are usually some strong indications that you are procrastinating. You will be looking to do anything other than the intended task. You may also experience physical discomfort when you think about the thing you need to do, like tightness in the chest.

By consciously recognizing these indications, you can mindfully start to address the fears and emotions that result in your procrastination. Remaining in the present moment allows you to concentrate on the task in hand, not looking forward to what the results or the outcome may be. If you can catch yourself stalling, stop and observe the feelings; don’t act on them, essentially just do nothing and especially don’t divert to default distraction mode. This makes it that much easier to wave goodbye to delaying tactics and get motivated to start, continue or finish the project you are avoiding.

We all know that amazing feeling when we complete that overwhelming task that we have been putting off. The sense of achievement makes the effort and discomfort worthwhile. So, by staying mindful at these challenging times brings these rewards much sooner.


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