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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

A Mindful Way Through Procrastination

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Jun 25th 2012

procrastinateIn 2007 Piers Steel from the University of Calgary wrote an article for the Psychological Bulletin looking at the nature of procrastination. He found that in 1978 5% of people admitted to being chronic procrastinators and today that number has jumped to 26% where people will do anything to avoid having to deal with something until they have "absolutely no choice." What is it about procrastination that makes it so prevalent and what can we do about it?

Usually behind every procrastination is a physical feeling that arises in our bodies that is uncomfortable.

The very thought of the task brings up this feeling.

However, because most of us practice being up in our heads so much and therefore, so cut off from our bodies, we don't realize this discomfort. In other words, we aren't aware of it.

Some people might label this discomfort resistance while others will say what lurks beneath is often some sense of fear.

Fear of what?

Good question, that's a personal inquiry and only one you can answer. Some people may have fear wrapped up with money, while others fear being successful because of the risk of feeling pain in failing. So they procrastinate in doing the things that would make them successful and home or at work and therefore validate that little critic in their minds that tells them they "can't" be successful.

How do we intervene here?

We have to get to know our bodies better because this is where the feeling lies. The body scan is a great way to do this. This is not about relaxation, but about becoming attuned to sensations in the body so we can become more aware when discomfort is arising.

Give this a shot with a 3-minute body scan from The Now Effect and come back to it over and over again and then move on to refining your strategy with procrastination. 

When we are aware of this discomfort, instead of avoiding it, which is what the procrastination mind wants to do, we can practice something different, something 180 degrees from our habit.

That is approaching the feeling, but approaching with a sense of curiosity. As if you've never noticed this feeling before. Practically speaking, take at least 1 minute out in that moment to observe the sensations that are there in the body from the inside out for even 1 minute.

In doing this, you may notice the feeling actually dissipating or maybe at what arises from time to time is a thought about what this resistance is all about.  

Then you can ask yourself after doing this, what is most important right now and then making a plan to make that happen.

Don't worry, the procrastination will arise over and over again, it's a strong habit, each time practice this again. You are likely to forget, that's natural, and when you are aware of this you are present and can practice again.

Try it out!

As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interactions provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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