Procrastination – stop stopping yourself starting

Let’s get technical, technical…

Recent research shows that the emotional centre of the brain (the amygdala) is larger in procrastinators than in people who are more proactive. And also that the links between the amygdala (which feels emotions) and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (which processes emotions and helps us make decisions on what to do in any given moment) are weaker in people who procrastinate.

So, what this means is that if you are one of these people, you are more likely to feel anxiety about what might go wrong if you take action and you may find it more difficult to filter out distractions and other more attractive short term options than the thing that you are putting off (which is what the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex is for).

Therefore procrastination, the scientists say, may be more to do with managing emotions rather than managing TIME efficiently, and what may appear to be poor time management is just a symptom of what is going on at the emotional level. This is really important as unless you are in full control of your emotions at all times, you are susceptible to procrastination because at some point you will experience the feelings of anxiety over performing or carrying out something new, or which carries a slight risk, no matter how small that risk may actually be in reality.

So, how can we do to stay focused and avoid procrastination?

Let’s look at these 5 top tips:

1. Break down big tasks

Break down big tasks into smaller tasks so that they have a clear endpoint and don’t look so vague, scary or appear to have a higher potential for failure than they actually do

2. Create a deadline

If there’s nothing that’s making you start a task, create a deadline by putting a timer on yourself to get little bits done in set periods, like 30 minutes, with quick 5-minute reward breaks between sprints.

3. Get rid of distractions

Get rid of distractions like social media or other notifications as those things are designed to make you interact with them. So stop it, switch that stuff off, just for the time that you have set aside to do the task.

4. Find a buddy

For some people, having a buddy or someone to ‘keep them honest’ in carrying out the task can really help. So know yourself and what is more or less likely to motivate you.


5. Self-reward

Whatever it is you’d really like to be doing, make that contingent on completing the thing you are procrastinating over FIRST, then you can get to the thing that you actually enjoy, whatever that may be.

If you’re interested in more on procrastination, there can be quite frankly no better resource than Tim Urban’s TEDTalk on the topic if you want to feel like you’re not alone. You can check it out below.

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