Can’t Stop Procrastinating While Working From Home? New Study Says This Can Help

Improving your ability to focus is the key to getting work done

By Elizabeth Yuko, Ph.D.
April 9, 2020

There are a lot of challenges that come along with our new quarantine lifestyle, including spending all of our time at home. Those fortunate enough to be able to work remotely are now getting used to a whole new work environment — namely, trying to complete their daily tasks at the kitchen table while dealing with kids, pets, partners, and roommates. All of this, combined with the fact that we’re at home, probably wearing comfortable clothes, and are surrounded by distractions, means that it has never been easier to procrastinate. 

On top of that, this pandemic is mentally exhausting, so even though you’re working in a seemingly relaxing environment, our brains are being pulled in so many directions that it can be difficult to concentrate. In other words, if you’re finding that you’re procrastinating more than usual, there’s a good reason for that, and you’re not alone. Fortunately, a study has just come out with a technique that could help.

The study, published in the International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology, is the first to take a look at whether practicing mindfulness could help us stop procrastinating. Specifically, the researchers wanted to determine whether the ability to be more focused thanks to mindfulness, could have an impact on procrastination. The 170 participants told researchers about one project that they have been putting off for a long time that they hoped to complete, then were split into two groups: one that did a three-minute mindfulness exercise, and the other that did a control exercise where they were asked to reflect on what they did the previous day.

Turns out, the participants that did the mindfulness exercise demonstrated having more of an intention to complete their task than the group doing the control exercise. Specifically, the researchers found that the attention skills gained during mindfulness exercises could explain why it helps stop procrastination.

“Such research might help determine the optimal length and format of mindfulness interventions intended to assist those who procrastinate and might explore approaches to increasing engagement with mindfulness exercises, possibly through innovative technologies, such as use of virtual reality,” the authors write in the study.

Want to give it a try? Though the study didn’t specify which three-minute mindfulness exercises worked for the participants, fortunately, there are plenty of free online options you could try, like this three-minute body scan, or Deepak Chopra’s go-to three-minute meditation to stay focused.  

About the writer:

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is a bioethicist and writer as well as an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham University. She has written for print and online publications, including The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe AtlanticRolling StoneCNNFodor’sLifehackerReader’s Digest and Playboy.

Outlier Disclaimer

This site is for educational purposes and not a substitute for professional medical care by a doctor or otherwise qualified medical professional. The information provided by Outlier Magazine is on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services.

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