TRANSCEND I NG  PROCRASTI NATI ONA Three-Step PlanFor Regaining YourFocus In Your Work  CHRISTOPHER R. EDGAR
You know what you want to do, but you just can’t seem to do it. You knowyou want to look for a new job, write that book, c...
across what are often called "mindfulness" or "spiritual" practices, like meditation,yoga, qi gong and tai chi.With the go...
about half an hour of fully-focused work. For that brief period, he manages tohold out even if he’s nagged by curiosity ab...
So, this is what I think procrastination is, in a nutshell: we procrastinate when werun away from an uncomfortable experie...
So, the first step in letting go of procrastination is to watch ourselves closely aswe work, and notice the experiences th...
The purpose of this exercise is to make you aware of whats happening in yourmind and body, in that "clutch" moment right b...
Miriam Adahan writes in Living With Difficult People, Including Yourself, “whenyou keep breathing calmly or moving purpose...
Step Three: ChoiceWhen you get enough practice accepting, rather than escaping from, anuncomfortable inner experience, it ...
Instead of escaping from the feeling, try saying to yourself "Yes, Im feelingtension in my jaw, And Im going to keep my at...
If you want to delve deeper into the ways mindfulness practices can help youenter a deep state of calm, focus and motivati...
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Transcending Procrastination Special Report

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This special report is about letting go of procrastination and regaining your motivation through the use of mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga.

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Transcending Procrastination Special Report

  1. 1. TRANSCEND I NG PROCRASTI NATI ONA Three-Step PlanFor Regaining YourFocus In Your Work CHRISTOPHER R. EDGAR
  2. 2. You know what you want to do, but you just can’t seem to do it. You knowyou want to look for a new job, write that book, clean your desk, or somethingelse, but it just never seems to happen.It’s one of the most common and frustrating human problems, and there’s beenno shortage of efforts to solve it. You know the usual “tips and tricks” for gettingyour work done: reorganize your e-mail inbox, color-code your folders, makemore streamlined to-do lists, and so on.Unfortunately, if youre like most people Ive worked with, these tools dodisappointingly little to help you get efficient and motivated. Often, althoughpeople learn these tips and tricks with the best intentions, they never “getaround” to using them. In other words, they procrastinate about overcomingprocrastination.This is because, when people try to use these productivity tools, they’reconfronted by the same thoughts and sensations that come up when they’redoing their everyday tasks. That heaviness in their stomach, tension in theirshoulders, or some other discomfort arises, and they stop working because theydon’t want to feel uncomfortable.In the end, no system can work unless you can work—unless you have someway to handle that discomfort. That’s what we’re going to talk about here.Inner Productivity Principle: No organization or time management system can work unless you can work.A while back, when I was a lawyer working long hours at a big law firm, I startedlooking for ways to reduce the stress I felt in my job. In my search, I came 1
  3. 3. across what are often called "mindfulness" or "spiritual" practices, like meditation,yoga, qi gong and tai chi.With the goal of relaxing in my rare off hours, I started a regular routine of someof these practices. Although they helped me unwind after work and get a goodnights sleep, the most interesting and unexpected thing I found was that theyalso brought me focus and peace in my work. The deeper I got into mymeditation and yoga practices, the more easily I could concentrate, and thecalmer I felt, on the job.Among other benefits, the ideas and techniques I learned gave me a whole newperspective on what procrastination is and how to deal with it. In this report, Imgoing to share that perspective with you.What Is Procrastination?How do you let go of your habit of putting things off? First, I believe, you need tounderstand what procrastination is and why it happens.Ill tell you a story that illustrates well what procrastination is all about. My friendDan is what some productivity websites would call a "productivity ninja"—hereligiously follows books, articles and blog posts on organization and timemanagement.Dan’s latest goal has been to reduce the time he spends checking e-mail, so hecan focus on more important tasks. His plan sounds promising in theory: checke-mail only twice a day, at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.Unfortunately, despite a month of trying, he’s never been able to stick to thisschedule. When he arrives in the office in the morning, he’s usually able to get in 2
  4. 4. about half an hour of fully-focused work. For that brief period, he manages tohold out even if he’s nagged by curiosity about what’s waiting in his inbox.But soon, Dan’s curiosity about his e-mail starts getting so intense that it actuallybegins to cause physical discomfort. His shoulders start tensing up, and if hetries to keep working, the tension intensifies into an ache, and sometimes even asense of shortness of breath. At this point, he can only endure a few moreminutes before fleeing for the safety of his inbox to relieve the tension.We Put Off Working To Avoid Unwanted ExperiencesDan cant seem to make his e-mail checking strategy work because, when hetries to use it, uncomfortable thoughts and sensations—what I call innerexperiences—come up. Because he doesnt like those sensations, he distractshimself from them by checking e-mail.Many people Ive talked to can relate to Dans experience. For each person, theuncomfortable thought or feeling that comes up while theyre working is different.For some, like Dan, its tension in their bodies. For others, its a painful memoryfrom the past that keeps nagging at them. For you, it may be something totallydifferent.But the way most people react to that inner experience is the same: they runaway from it. Instead of just letting that thought or sensation be, they check e-mail, play Minesweeper, instant message with friends, or do something else totake their minds off what theyre feeling.The trouble with distracting ourselves, of course, is that it keeps us from gettingour work done. We cant draft that board presentation while were messingaround on social media. 3
  5. 5. So, this is what I think procrastination is, in a nutshell: we procrastinate when werun away from an uncomfortable experience that comes up while were working. Inner Productivity Principle: We procrastinate when we run away from an uncomfortable experience that comes up in our work.Step One: AwarenessHow do we stop putting off our work? By learning to accept those troubling innerexperiences, without resisting them or distracting ourselves from them, and moveforward in what were doing.This is easier said than done. Most of us arent even aware that we procrastinatebecause we dont want to deal with certain thoughts and sensations. Wevebecome so accustomed to running away from those experiences that were nolonger conscious that were doing it—it just seems to "happen" automatically.Think about what its like to drive a car. When they see a stop sign approaching,experienced drivers dont need to consciously decide to stop. They do itautomatically, without even thinking about it—they just find their foot putting theright amount of pressure on the brake pedal, as if it were acting on its own.In the same way, when an uncomfortable inner experience arises as wereworking, most of us habitually, unconsciously turn to some distraction—whetherits e-mail, instant messaging, or something else—to take our attention off thethought or sensation. We suddenly "find ourselves" playing FreeCell or surfingthe web. 4
  6. 6. So, the first step in letting go of procrastination is to watch ourselves closely aswe work, and notice the experiences that tend to bother us and the ways wehabitually avoid those experiences. We can only gain control of our habit ofputting off our work if we understand how and why it happens. Inner Productivity Principle: The first step in letting go of procrastinationis to watch ourselves closely, and notice how were running away from our experience.An Awareness ExerciseHeres a great exercise to help you do this kind of self-observation. Pick a spotsomewhere in the world—perhaps an object on your desk, or a point on the wall.For five minutes, simply hold your attention on that spot.As you focus on that point, youll probably find yourself getting bored orfrustrated. Ordinarily, when you have this kind of experience, you may be in thehabit of turning your attention to something else.But in this exercise, instead of turning away, closely observe the thoughts andsensations coming up inside you. For instance, is some part of your bodytensing up? Are you thinking about things youd rather be doing—the vacationyoud rather be taking, perhaps?Once you get some understanding of the inner experience youre having, gentlyreturn your attention to the point youre looking at. Afterward, if the boredom oragitation comes up again, take a close look at it again. Repeat this cycle until thefive-minute period is over. 5
  7. 7. The purpose of this exercise is to make you aware of whats happening in yourmind and body, in that "clutch" moment right before you start putting off yourwork. In other words, the goal is to help you see exactly what it is that youretrying to avoid feeling when you procrastinate.The mere act of understanding the experience youve been avoiding, I think youllfind, can help make that experience easier to tolerate. As Fritz Perls, the founderof Gestalt psychology, said, "awareness, in and of itself, is transformative."What youll start to see is that the thought or sensation youve been running fromis just that—a thought or sensation. Its not actually a threat or danger to you.For example, you may realize that just allowing your curiosity about your e-mailto be, without giving into it, isnt going to hurt you.Inner Productivity Principle: Just becoming aware of the experience youre avoiding can make that experience easier to tolerate.Step Two: AcceptanceOnce you become aware of the inner experience youve been usingprocrastination to escape, the next step is to accept or allow that experience,instead of running away from it. Simply allow that experience to be, exactly as itis, without resistance.Heres one way to practice this: The next time youre working, and you find thatdifficult thought or sensation coming up, dont run away from the feeling. Instead,relax your body, and breathe deeply, until the experience passes away.Focusing on our breathing reminds us that, no matter what we may beexperiencing on a mental or emotional level, we’re still alive and okay. As Dr. 6
  8. 8. Miriam Adahan writes in Living With Difficult People, Including Yourself, “whenyou keep breathing calmly or moving purposefully, your muscles will teach yourbrain that there is no real danger.”Suppose that, like my friend in the earlier example, you start to feel a burningcuriosity about your e-mail. You experience this curiosity as a tension in yourchest and shoulders that gnaws at you while youre trying to work.In this situation, most of us would habitually give in to the urge to check e-mail.Instead, see if you can relax and keep breathing, without giving in to the urge,until those intense sensations pass away or at least start to feel moremanageable.What I think youll find, if you try this exercise, is that the thought or sensation willpass away quickly. Like any thought or feeling we have as human beings, theuncomfortable experiences that come up as we work are fleeting—that is, theydont stick around for long. When you find this out for yourself, the experienceyouve been fleeing from will become easier to be with. Inner Productivity Principle: The uncomfortable thoughts and sensations that come up as we work pass away quickly when we dont resist them.As you get more comfortable and familiar with the experience that used to botheryou, youll feel the urge to procrastinate less often. In other words, youll becomemore able to persist in the task youre doing, even when that nagging thought orsensation is coming up. 7
  9. 9. Step Three: ChoiceWhen you get enough practice accepting, rather than escaping from, anuncomfortable inner experience, it tends to fade into the background. Becausethe experience no longer seems so painful and troublesome, you dont notice itso much anymore.However, it may take a little while before this happens. You may need to spendsome time sitting with that burning curiosity, or whatever youre feeling, before itstops bothering you. While youre getting more comfortable with the experience,its important to remember what I call your power of choice.By the power of choice, I mean your ability to choose what youre going to focuson, even in the face of intense emotions, thoughts, and sensations. When youreconfronted with an urge to check your e-mail or otherwise distract yourself, itsthe power to acknowledge what youre feeling, but keep moving forward in yourproject anyway.The "Yes, And" MindsetOne powerful tool for persisting in your work, despite difficult inner experiences,is to meet those experiences with an attitude of "Yes, And." Saying "Yes" to anexperience means letting it arise and pass away, without resistance. The "And"part is about the action youre going to take, despite the experience you’rehaving.For instance, suppose youre working on a project, and you feel a tightness inyour jaw coming on. Many of us, when faced with this kind of sensation, wouldtry to distract ourselves from it by calling friends on the phone, playing Solitaireon the computer, or something similar. 8
  10. 10. Instead of escaping from the feeling, try saying to yourself "Yes, Im feelingtension in my jaw, And Im going to keep my attention on my project." That is,youre saying "Yes" to the feeling—youre accepting that its there—but yourealso recognizing that you can still choose what you do with your time, and yourechoosing to move forward in the task youre working on.Or suppose youre drafting a presentation, and a painful memory from the pastsurfaces. Instead of trying to distract yourself by surfing the web, try saying toyourself "Yes, this memory is coming up, And Im going to finish thispresentation." That is, youre allowing the memory to arise and pass away, butalso choosing to continue with your work. Inner Productivity Principle: Remember your power to choose to move forward in your work, even when faced with intense inner experiences.As you do these exercises, its important to treat yourself with compassion—thisnew approach to work Im talking about can take some getting used to. If youfind yourself lapsing into old patterns of putting off your work, it wont help you tocriticize yourself over it—just see if you can gently return your attention to thetask youre trying to do.If you sincerely put this three-step process into practice, I believe, both yourefficiency and your sense of peace at work will greatly increase.Next StepsIf youve read this report and tried the exercises, its probably becoming clear thatweve only scratched the surface of how we can radically transform ourrelationship to our work. 9
  11. 11. If you want to delve deeper into the ways mindfulness practices can help youenter a deep state of calm, focus and motivation in what you do, Id definitelyrecommend checking out my full-length book, Inner Productivity: A Mindful Pathto Efficiency and Enjoyment in Your Work.Inner Productivity, which Getting Things Done author David Allen calls "a greatread and a useful guidebook for turning the daily grind into something much moreinteresting and engaging," offers a fresh "inside out" approach to getting moredone with less effort—from meditations and visualizations to help readers holdtheir attention, to forms of conscious breathing to help them reconnect with theirpassion for what they do.The book is available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle formats, at thelinks below: Paperback Version Kindle VersionIf youd like to find out more about the book, visit www.InnerProductivity.com,where youll find videos, radio interviews and articles describing the books ideas,and information about live events and teleconferences where you can work withme, in person, on the challenges youre facing in what you do. 10

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