I don’t say this to mean that I occasionally put things off. I mean I procrastinate on basically everything of importance in my life.
For everything else, you know the big things that I’m super invested in like my yoga practice and studies, I will procrastinate all day long. When I finally lay my head down to sleep, I’ll shame myself and think that I must be the least dedicated practitioner in the world.
It’s an exhausting cycle and has become a deeply entrenched habit that requires inward compassion and outward dedication to tip the scales in the other direction.
I’ve heard all the tips and tricks to inspire my practice and generally be a functioning adult, but sometimes it still feels like I can’t cultivate the discipline to accomplish the things that I so desperately want to or make an active choice to spend my time doing something worthwhile vs. wasting it on my phone or computer.
Earlier this year my husband, who is also a serial procrastinator, was lying in bed scrolling articles and videos online (you know, procrastinating) when he googled, “why can’t I stop procrastinating.”
Before I knew it, he was sending me these long form articles from the website Wait But Why, specifically this series: Why Procrastinators Procrastinate.
My mind was blown.
If you’re also a professional procrastinator, do yourself a favor and pop over and read that first article but in summary: our rational selves that want to grow as humans and be responsible adults are being hijacked by the part of our brain that is conditioned to love instant gratification.
Our rational selves may say, “At 11am I’m going to do a 30 minute asana practice followed by pranayama and meditation and it’s going to feel so good and I’ll feel so accomplished!”
But when 11 hits, our instant gratification selves rebuttal, “yeah you could do that but instead let’s scroll social media, then google an obscure question, and go down a YouTube rabbit hole!”
Then begins the internal battle of the rational self saying, “okay that’s enough, go do something productive.”
And the instant gratification self responding with a very articulate, ”nah.”
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. It’s a frustrating cycle.
The biggest reason I believe I personally procrastinate in my practice is because I’m afraid to take a step towards something I really care about for fear of not being good enough.
We’ve been conditioned to see yoga as grandiose postures that push our physical limits, and although I know this is changing, it’s still engrained at least a little bit in a lot of us.
That fear and conditioning of not being good enough, not inspired enough, not strong or mobile enough, or too scattered brained and unfocused in meditation leads my rational self to give in to my instant gratification self often.
Because of this, I irrationally convince myself that procrastinating and not engaging in my asana, pranayama, or meditation practices is somehow safer for my ego.
Thus is the inspiration for this article. I’m not perfect and I certainly haven’t become the master of my time, but I work at it little by little, day by day.
As I continue to navigate my own procrastination and that little instant gratification self in my head, especially when it concerns my yoga practice, I’ve found there are a few things that help.
1. Put a large rug in the room where you spend most of your time at home.
This is the weirdest tip in the bunch but hear me out on this one.
As an active teenager who participated in yoga asana, tumbling, and cheer, I would often sit down on the rug in my family living room to stretch and do mini calisthenic exercises while watching TV, readying, or studying as a way to sneak in some extra training time.
I recently thought to myself, “well if it worked for me then why don’t I try that now!?”
To test this I put an 8x10 rug with a cushy pad underneath in my living room so it’s large enough to fill the space and still have extra room on the rug to sprawl out.
This simple change has increased the amount of time I spend on the floor stretching vs. slumped over on the couch. It gives me a small sense of accomplishment knowing I did something good for my body that day and sometimes even encourages me to take my practice off the rug and onto my mat for a longer session.
2. Set a timer when you practice at home.
It’s essential that you set a realistic duration, not an idealistic one. I often roll out my mat or sit down for meditation and set the timer for anywhere between 3-10 minutes. Personally, if I was to set a timer for more than 10 minutes and I don’t make it to that idealistically set time I feel like I’m letting myself down. However, when I set a realistic amount of time and I complete it, I empower myself.
As a self described control freak, this puts the power in my hands. Once the timer goes off and I want to get on with my day I can with a sense of accomplishment. However, occasionally I may also feel inspired to set another timer right after to continue! I get to decide what’s best for me that day.
If you sprinkle in movement and meditation while working like I do, I highly recommend the Pomodoro method. You set a timer to work for 20-30 minutes to stay focused on a particular task and once that timer goes off you get a 5-10 minute break to get up, get a snack, stretch, meditate, whatever! It’s an easy way to sneak in a few intentional moments in between a busy work schedule.
3. Schedule your day the night before and pencil in your practices.
If you find yourself procrastinating in your practice because you lack a schedule or routine this will be extremely helpful.
I left a job in early 2021 that consumed my entire life schedule. Afterwards, I had no idea how to fill my time or what to do. Per recommendation from my husband, I began planning out my day the night before in my phone calendar, a journal, or simply on a post-it note. My preferred method is using my phone calendar because it will send me reminders but also writing everything out bullet journal style.
I mostly put in an overview for what my day will generally look like and include events like teaching, climbing, training, and time blocks for writing as well as reminders for things to do and when I’ll dedicate time to practicing.
Rarely does it look exactly like how I planned, but that process of planning offers in itself a sense of routine and stability which has been a lifesaver when my brain starts to get distracted. Just knowing that I’ve carved out the time to get on my mat and practice, whatever it looks like that day, affirms that the time is there and need not be created, only used.
4. Let go of perfection and expectation of what your practices should look like.
This is the most important tip I have to share and it’s also the hardest one to follow through with.
There will be times when you don’t want to practice asana and when meditation sounds like a chore, even after you’ve set a realistic timer.
Give yourself permission to allow your practice to look and feel different that day. For example, I’ll often immerse myself in one of the many books on my shelf.
Yoga is so much more than physical practices. Like a multi-faceted jewel, it has many faces and it’s so much more than the shapes we make or the classical view of meditation.
5. Write about your practices.
You may get on your mat or the cushion and get frustrated because you feel stiff in your body or over-stimulated in your head making your practices difficult.
I believe there is a delicate balance between working through these things and simply letting them go and moving on with your day. I can’t tell you where to draw that line, but I can recommend writing down your experience when this happens.
Ask yourself how you feel physically and why. Mentally and why. Emotionally and why. I learned this tip from Rod Stryker and although I don’t always do it, it’s helpful when I do.
On this same note, don’t just write about the times when you struggle. Write about your successes in your practices and when your body feels good and your mind feels clear. Don’t be afraid to celebrate the little things!
6. Sit into grace.
We all procrastinate to some extent and occasionally no matter how good our best intentions are, we still may be hijacked by our instant gratification selves.
Extend to yourself the same amount of grace you would to someone else who is struggling to stay focused or dedicate time to something they care deeply about. You wouldn’t shame them, you’d hold space for them with compassion and listen to them share their experience and thoughts. Why treat yourself with anything less than the same amount of love?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Rebekah Boatrite is a yoga teacher, writer, outdoor enthusiast, and travel buff based in Colorado. To find out more about her, go to: www.RebekahBoatrite.com