Please, someone help me stop procrastinating
Well my friends, today has been one of those days. I just cannot get it together. I have a MOUNTAIN of things to do, and do you think I’ve done any of them? The answer is a big, fat no. I don’t even know why. I’m usually quite highly motivated, and I love writing and researching, but today is just not my day. I’m feeling a bit tired, unmotivated, unable to prioritise, and unable to make a start. I am feeling a bit lost today, perhaps even a feeling of being overwhelmed by ‘stuff’, and I’ve been unclear why.
I wondered if it was just that I need a good break. And I mean real break, a fun one perhaps involving the beach, or a little holiday. Not one of those ‘breaks’ where you end up doing laundry, or cleaning the house, or doing a week’s worth of cooking so you don’t have to some time later in the week. I mean a real break. But I don’t know that’s the problem. I think I’m just suffering from a severe case of procrastination.
That is my motivation for today’s blog – trying to get to the bottom of procrastination. It is universal, and it can be beyond frustrating. So when I finally felt like I wanted to do some research (after what seemed like an eternity), I discovered some interesting procrastination facts.
Procrastination facts – our brains are to blame
It turns out I’m perfectly normal (well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). Procrastination happens because science has programmed us this way. That’s right, we procrastinate thanks to science. Our brains are the culprits. Our brains are wired in such a way that procrastination happens when our limbic system and our prefrontal cortex are faced with a dilemma.
The limbic system
Our limbic system is one of the more dominant parts of our brain, and is on automatic pilot. It controls our mood and our instinct. The limbic system controls our basic emotions such as fear, anger and pleasure.
The limbic system is also home to our ‘fight or flight’ response. An example of this is when our limbic system tells us to run away from a wild beast, or stay away from open flames. Our limbic system is the voice of reason when it comes to removing us from unpleasant tasks.
The prefrontal cortex
Another part of the brain at play here is our prefrontal cortex. This is a weaker part of the brain that assimilates information and helps us to make decisions. It is the prefrontal cortex that helps us to complete tasks. Unlike the limbic system, it is not on automatic pilot. It requires effort in order to function.
When the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex are at odds
Once we have lost our focus on a task (thanks to the prefrontal cortex), the limbic system takes over.
When we are feeling overwhelmed, our amygdala (part of the limbic system) has some different responses. Say we have a particular task that just feels too hard. Our limbic system, specifically our amygdala, either decides to fight (resist) or flight (ignore). This is when we stop what we’re doing and decide that we’d rather play Candy Crush and eat chocolate.
This is our brain’s way of protecting us from something negative. Our brains naturally want us to feel good. If the task is likely to produce dopamine (a neurotransmitter that helps us focus and gives us reinforcement) then our brain urges us to do that rewarding task and ignore the other task.
Be kind to yourself
So you are completely normal when you procrastinate. The limbic system wants to avoid an unpleasant or undesirable activity, and our brain wants us to do activities that produce dopamine, making us feel good.
Don’t beat yourself up too badly if you suffer from procrastination. At least now you know there is a scientific reason as to why it happens. There is nothing wrong with you. However, now that you know more about procrastination, there are things you can do to help manage it and get you back on track. It is worth considering the real reasons why your brain wants to resist the activity in the first place. Let’s take a look at some main causes.
Some key causes of procrastination
Lack of motivation
It is very normal to put off cleaning the oven or scrubbing the shower. For most people these are not highly desirable tasks, and usually we don’t feel a sense of excitement about doing them. But the fact is, if they have to be done, they have to be done. We might need to ask ourselves if we need to readjust our attitude. It might be our attitude that is preventing us from feeling motivated. Perhaps we need to evaluate why we think that every thing we do has be interesting, and perhaps we need to consider that tasks that may not be riveting can still take us step by step to where we need to be in the future.
Lack of knowledge or skill
This is a really common one. If you don’t know how to do something it’s only natural that you will avoid it. The only way you’ll get around this one is to find out how to do it, and this may involve seeking help from other people. It is always satisfying to learn something new, even though it may be difficult, so persist with it and feel the rewards when you have mastered it.
Fear of failing
Sometimes people put off doing something for fear that they will be no good at it, that they will fail, and they will end up looking or feeling foolish. My take on this one is that it is better to have tried and failed, than to have given up before you’ve even started. We can certainly change our mindset and the way that we approach tasks. I have written about mindset before, and I encourage you to have a look here:
Now that I’ve got that off my chest I’m feeling re-energised and ready to go! My career from home is calling me, and it’s saying ‘get back to work now’. I am ready.
How do you deal with procrastination? Leave me a comment or a question here and I’m happy to help.