Let me begin by admitting that I am a procrastinator, have been one for a long while now. The prospect of writing papers and preparing for tests somehow makes tidying my wardrobe, reading for leisure, and sleeping very tempting to me. I cannot trace the origins of this tenacious tendency of mine (probably because I have been a student for most of my existence), but can vividly remember several panic-stricken hours I endured because of it.
So, despite the anxiety and panic caused due to procrastination, why have I not been able to get rid of it completely? I think, the answer to this question lies in my fairly large arsenal of rationalizations for putting things off until the very last minute. One explanation is that after having spent a fairly large chunk of my life being a student, some intelligence native to that role has crept up on me, so I know which shortcuts to take while preparing for a test or writing a paper. Another rationalization is that I think I produce my best work when working under pressure. However, I know that not every task can be accomplished well if it is postponed. Perhaps the intermittent nature of positive reinforcement I have received by procrastinating makes me sustain it. An acquaintance of mine, who happens to be a counselor, once told me that rationalizations for procrastinating are self-sustaining lies.
I do not intend to make a case against procrastination here, however, for those who find procrastination to be a source of concern, using mindfulness might be useful. I have recently started being mindful about my tendency to put things off and feel that I have benefitted from attending to the psychological minutiae of procrastination. Being mindful about the potential costs and benefits of procrastinating can be a helpful start. Having said that, I do feel that no one should abandon their guilty pleasures completely; instead, realistically determining how much time a particular activity will take might do the trick. Attending to one’s visceral and psychological reactions to an imminent deadline might be useful to lessen the negative impact of procrastination. Take into account all the negative reactions you might experience when you can almost hear that deadline whooshing past you and work on mitigating them one at a time. Practicing mindfulness while indulging in pleasurable activities could amplify those experiences, so while watching a movie, make sure you are not thinking about what needs to be done next. The same applies to tasks like studying for a test or working on a presentation, being mindful of the task at hand makes us more productive. Mindfulness might seem counterintuitive in an age where multitasking seems to be the byword and stress, a badge of honor. However, I feel it is the best way to ensure one’s sanity in the long run. So, my fellow procrastinators, keep persevering mindfully! And, now, time for me to practice what I’ve preached and move on to my next assignment.