The clock is ticking, you’re behind schedule, and the deadline is approaching. Yet you still find yourself distracted by anything and everything except the task at hand.
Why do we do this? Why can’t we do what we know we need to get done?
Is it laziness? A lack of willpower and discipline? Or is there something more to it?
And most importantly, what might we be able to do to fix this problem?
Procrastination and Mental Health
Procrastination is not exactly a mental health disorder, but it may be closely linked to your mental health.
For example, people with ADHD or depression are more likely to procrastinate. This may be due to how these conditions can make it difficult to focus and be proactive.
Procrastination can also be entangled with stress and anxiety. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, you may be more likely to put off tasks that might worsen or seek out distracting activities to take your mind off it. In turn, procrastination can then lead to even more stress and anxiety.
This creates a vicious cycle—a downward spiral of worse procrastination and worse mental health.
Mindfulness Meditation for Time Management
Breaking out of this vicious cycle may not be easy, but it is possible. One promising evidence-based approach is mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness is all about being present in the moment. However, you happen to be right now. This may sound simple, but it can be quite challenging. After all, our minds often wander off into the past or future, worrying about what could have been or might be.
You can try it right now. It doesn’t need to take up a lot of time.
Pay attention to your breathing. Notice the sensation of the air moving in and out of your body.
Observe your posture. Where are your feet? What are your hands doing?
Can you feel the sensation of your clothes on your skin?
Do you notice the feeling of your legs pressing down on your chair?
What other sensations can you notice?
Listen. What sounds can you hear? What do your eyes see?
What thoughts are racing through your mind at this moment?
What mood or emotional state are you living in right now? How intense is it?
Try to stay inside this moment for as long as you can. Your mind will wander off sooner or later—that’s perfectly normal.
Stress and anxiety are often linked to thoughts about the past, future, or distant things that are out of your control. With this simple practice, you’ll likely find your stress and anxiety melting away, at least a little bit.
You may also now find that you are better able to manage your time more productively.
Turning Off Autopilot
As you continue to practice being mindful, you should start to see how often you’re on autopilot, and not in a good way.
You react to things without even thinking about them. You do the same thing daily without any real purpose or intention.
You might find that you’re wasting time on activities that don’t really matter to you or that you don’t even enjoy. But you continue to do them because they’re easy and familiar.
Mindfulness can help you break out of these autopilot behaviors. It can feel like a space is opening up or like time is slowing down, allowing you to pause, change course, and make a deliberate choice.
It’s in these moments that you can start to take control of your life rather than letting it control you.
Checking In, Stepping Back, Then Moving Forward
A minute of mindfulness creates a moment to check in with yourself.
How am I feeling right now? What am I doing right now? Why am I doing this?
Is this really important to me? Does this align with my goals and priorities? What exactly are my goals and priorities right now, at this moment?
Then, once you’ve checked in and assessed your priorities, you can move forward with a clear mind and purpose.
You’ll find that you’re able to focus more easily on what’s important and that you’re better able to stay on track. You might discover a better way to do something or realize that you don’t need to do it at all.
All because you took a minute to look inwards rather than just react impulsively.
This might not be a perfect solution for everyone. But it doesn’t cost anything, and it doesn’t take up much time. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you always have the opportunity to be mindful and present at this moment.
And sometimes, that little bit of self-awareness is all it takes to make a big difference in your level of productivity.