Rebecca Y. M. Cheung and Melody C. Y. Ng – both from the Education University of Hong Kong – had recently conducted a study, published in the 15 April 2019 edition of the journal Personality and Individual Differences, which suggests that cultivating mindfulness could be a potent antidote to endless procrastination.
“These findings inform practitioners [about] the importance of cultivating mindfulness as a means to reduce procrastination. Likewise, reducing individuals’ tendency to procrastinate can also promote mindful behaviours,” wrote the authors.
The study tracked 339 Chinese college students in a longitudinal manner, asking them to fill out a questionnaire designed to gauge their level of mindfulness or proneness to procrastination at 4 different points in time spread across a period of 6 months.
What the researchers found was that both dispositional mindfulness and procrastination affect each other in a fairly straightforward manner – the higher the level of procrastination measured at one point in time, the lower the level of mindfulness at the next measurement, and vice versa.
As noted in the paper, the findings could – at least theoretically – be explained by the ability of people high in trait mindfulness to simply observe negative sensations and let them go, thereby reducing the power that unpleasant thoughts and emotions can have on one‘s tendency to put off important tasks.
Another potential reason is the skill, whether natural or learned, to simply focus on the task at hand and pay no mind to distractions which could otherwise disrupt people‘s capacity for working on a project.
Even though the study has some limitations, such as its student-based sample, correlational design, and relatively small effect sizes, there is reason to believe that it does point to a meaningful link, as previous research has shown that mindfulness meditation tends to boost self-regulation and decrease procrastinatory behaviours.
Having said that, mindfulness alone may or may not be the solution to procrastination (that would depend on the person and his/her specific problems and circumstances), but given all the other potential benefits, and relatively few risks and downsides, of meditation, why not give it a shot?