I have been meaning to write about this topic for a while….but I procrastinated.
We all procrastinate, even the most productive folks amongst us. While some people procrastinate simply because they’re lazy, the others procrastinate because they need a last-minute adrenaline rush in order to function.
But our preferences and habits are not the only things that lead us to procrastinate, there are a lot of other reasons behind our tendency to delay tasks for later. And like most things in life, it boils down to how our brains are wired and the chemicals produced in our brains.
Procrastination comes from the latin ‘pro’ meaning ‘forward’ and ‘cratinatus’ meaning ‘till next day’. Pretty self-explanatory, right?
If we think about it logically, it makes no sense to procrastinate. If we know we have an important task that needs to be dealt with, and we know that dealing with it as soon as possible will eventually lead us to feel less stressed and it will also enhance the quality of our work, then why don’t we do it?
Aristotle used the word akrasia—or “weakness of will”—to describe this state of acting against one’s better judgment.
And no matter how much you tell yourself “I perform better under pressure” or “I procrastinate simply because I still get the job done anyway”, it’s not true. Procrastination affects your ability to make good decisions, your creativity, and has a negative overall impact on the outcome. It is scientifically proven that Procrastinators perform worse academically than those who finish their tasks immediately.
Procrastination can be seen as a battle between yourself and your future self, your present self wants to feel good NOW by not doing a hard task, whereas your future self would rather you finish the task now and relax LATER, in the future. This battle stems from different parts of your brain – The Prefrontal Cortex and The Limbic System.
The Prefrontal Cortex is the part of our brain that makes us different from animals, it’s the part we use to express our personalities, take decisions, make behavioral patterns. This is the part that tells you that you need to finish a task now, so you can do it better and relax later.
The Limbic System is the more dominant part of the brain that controls your feelings, emotion, response to stimuli, and other “automatic” processes. Now, since the limbic system is associated with feelings and emotions, as compared to the prefrontal cortex that is associated with decision making and reasoning, the limbic system tells you to delay the task for later and feel good now. And because the Limbic System is much more dominant than the Prefrontal Cortex, it often wins, and we end up procrastinating.
Now you know the neuroscience behind Procrastination, but just because our actions are pre-defined by what’s happening inside our brain, it doesn’t mean we are completely helpless. We can aid our Prefrontal Cortex in the fight against the Limbic System with the help of a few ‘tricks’ and ‘hacks’. Here are of some of them that you can use to avoid Procrastinating.
1) Divided your task into smaller task that do not consume all your mental energy at once.
2) Start with the worst task first, the sooner you get it out of the way, the better. You also have a better chance of finishing it at all, if you start with it first.
3)The good ol’ treat yo’ self – When you finish a small task that, give yourself a little treat, the treat could be anything. A youtube video, an icecream, a little phone call. Anything that can incentivize you.
While these tricks work for the short term, if you really want to get rid of your habit of Procrastination you need an entirely new process and a systematic approach towards working, that we will probably discuss some other time.