It’s Friday! At this time of year, you may be wrapping up a week of exams, application prep, or just a busy workweek with some holiday tasks/fun wedged in. Or perhaps, a mix of some or all of the above. You’re likely also looking at a pretty full weekend, and another list of things to do…and avoid doing. Given that we have been talking about procrastination this week, you may be expecting this weekend’s mindfulness challenge to be about forcing yourself to do something you’ve been going out of your way to find excuses not to do. On that note, you’d be half right.
Actually, maybe it’s more like you’d be overshooting a bit. In my last post, I talked about how mindfulness can be helpful in managing procrastination because it equips us to handle difficult thoughts and emotions. When we avoid a task we don’t like, we’re dodging the feelings of discomfort and negative thoughts that come with it more than the task itself. Your challenge this weekend is more about the why than the what. Oh c’mon, you knew by now that I wasn’t going to make it that easy, didn’t you?
Start with identifying a task you’re stalling over. For most of us, if we’re being honest with ourselves, this should take about 5 seconds, if that. Pinpoint something that’s been on your list for too long, but you keep finding/creating new reasons to let it stay there. Find a comfortable seat, take some deep breaths, and when you’re ready, bring the task to mind. Simply, and without judging yourself, notice your reaction to it. What specifically are the thoughts and emotions you experience when you sit with the idea of doing the task? Are you worried about the outcome? Fearful of doing a bad job at it? Just plain uncomfortable with the prospect of being bored by it? Rather than pushing those sensations away as a reaction to them, try simply acknowledging them, and returning your focus to your breath.
A few things could happen. It’s possible that once you stop fighting them, your thoughts and emotions might dissipate a bit. Like most things, negativity grows when we feed it. When given less attention, it sometimes kind of wanders off. Alternatively, you might not notice your reaction dissipate so much as you see yourself grow beyond it, recognizing that individual thoughts and emotions represent only a part of your total awareness.
In either case, you might just find it in yourself to get to work. If not, you’ve still been productive because you are probably a little more mindfully connected to your internal self than you were before you tried this, and that’s no small deal. However, if the task itself seems a little less daunting and a little more manageable, then you may have found a way to use mindfulness to actually get things done, like that ninja we talked about a few months ago. And whether you go to check that item off your to-do list by Monday, or if it stays there a little while longer, don’t forget to give yourself credit for your efforts to “balance self” as well.
Photo credit: Marcin Czaja