Many of us are familiar with the situations when doing nothing makes you feel better than working or being active when you wait just before the deadline to start your work or watch a movie instead of completing the task, or simply can not stay focused on the working process.
You are not lazy. All these symptoms show us that procrastination might be your problem. And this problem it is not just yours. 95% of people in the US procrastinate (the other 5% are lying). About 20% of us are chronic procrastinators.
Behavioral psychology presents us a phenomenon called “time inconsistency.” That means that our brain wants immediate rewards for our actions, and in most cases don’t get it.
You can understand it better if you imagine that inside you there are two persons – Present Self and Future Self. You know that sport will keep you fit and healthy, so you plan your exercises. Your Future Self can plan and dream, however only Present Self can take actions.
The problem is that your Present Self wants an instant gratification, and doesn’t really like the long-term play off. That is why you go and take donut instead of lettuce.
Procrastination is not something we were born with, it is a habit, and it is automatically activated in your brain.
Basically, your brain is your own worst enemy.
Chinese neuroscientists used tomograms from 132 volunteers to create a brain profile for procrastinators. They discovered that every time we have to take on a complex, long, boring, or irritating task, the brain fights itself.
In one corner of the boxing ring is the limbic system, which always wants to have fun and is driven by primal instincts – your Present Self.
In the other corner is your Future Self – the prefrontal cortex which is a relatively new part of the brain that helps us make long-term plans, think through our decisions, and focus on tasks that require a lot of brainpower. It’s located right behind your forehead, which might why people who are trying to concentrate will often touch the forehead.
The problem is that the prefrontal cortex requires a lot of energy to function properly.
Once you run out of energy, your limbic system takes over and sends you right back to Facebook, where you’ll waste hours scrolling through your feed.
Here are some triggers which activate procrastination in your brain:
If you feel bored, and task you need to accomplish is not inspiring at all, you can change location. Go to some new place: coworking, cafe, library, or park. Set up your environment with your favorite drink or snack. Remember about your Present Self who desires a reward, and add in the process some gamification. How will you encourage yourself? A new book or favorite pasta, a ticket to the cinema or new piece of clothes – celebrate your small victory rewarding yourself with something that you like.
You might perceive some tasks as difficult once, it might be new for you, and and you feel incredibly frustrated because of that. However, what we don’t realize is that failure is a good thing!
“It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case you fail by default,” said J K Rowling in her Harvard commencement speech.
Failure provides us valuable feedback so we can move on and learn from our mistakes.
To prevent fear of failure, you can
- Break the big hairy scary task into little steps. It will help you to simplify the monster
- Plan the project including all details to feel that you can control situation
- Set strict deadlines
- Use timer
- Get rid of things which distract you: Facebook, Twitter, news reading or list of informative articles which never ends
Fear is holding you back from the success, remember that. Don’t let it paralyze you, and get things done.
In XXI century the question “Why I do what I do?” is really important. We seize for meaning in our actions, jobs, and care about making this world a better place.
That is why some simple and small task might irritate us because it seems like you waste your time doing something useless.
Victor Frankl – one of the greatest physiatrists and founder of existential analysis said that we have an ability to choose our attitude in any given set of circumstances. You can change your behavior with the right attitude.
Try to understand how this task will contribute to something bigger – a project you are doing, your vision or vision of the company you are working for. Ask yourself: “Once I finish this task, what is possible?” Often, knowing what is possible later will help motivate you to finish it now. It will help you to feel better.
A job which needs to be done makes you worried and stressed. Bad moods lead to low self-esteem, bad relationships and even may cause health problems.
Repeat like mantra ‘Let’s do it TODAY’ I can watch this new episode/check Facebook profiles of my ex-classmates/cook this new dish/organize my pencil case TOMORROW. And tomorrow repeat the same mantra ‘Let’s do it today’
Tim Urban in his TED on procrastination greatly admitted that the most important things like calling your Mom, start jogging or give up smoking don’t have DDLs. Control your life and be happy.