I am an amazing procrastinator. I could probably win an Olympic medal, if I ever got around to it. I procrastinate and procrastinate and procrastinate and then panic at the last minute and rush to get it all finished.
This is because I have an intense fear of failing, and I think that if I don’t do the thing I can’t fail the thing, before realizing “OHMIGOD I MUST DO THE THING OR ELSE I’LL FAIL!”
It’s something I do constantly, and while I know I do it, and understand why I do it, I continue to procrastinate. There is actually science behind this though – there is a reason it is easier to do nothing rather than do anything (nothing usually being a pointless activity and anything usually being what you’re meant to be doing in the first place).
When you’re procrastinating, there are essentially two parts of your brain battling it out.
The first is your pre-frontal cortex. If you point a finger at the center of your forehead, you’ve found it. This is the part of your brain that makes decisions and does logical thinking, so the part of your brain telling you that you really need to get some work done. It is also the part of the brain that develops last (usually around the time you’re 20-25 years old), hence teenagers find it difficult to avoid procrastination (and make terrible decisions but that’s a different story).
The second part is your limbic system. This part of the brain is wired to your pleasure center, so looks only for immediate satisfaction.
The pre-frontal cortex can see the long term benefits of studying for a test or doing your maths homework, whereas the limbic system wants to watch TV or check your emails. The problem is that the pre-frontal cortex gets tired a lot more quickly and easily, as opposed to the limbic system which is a lot more powerful.
The way to combat this is to reduce your temptations.
This may sound like a really obvious and simple solution, but the limbic system becomes more powerful the more tangible your distraction becomes. So if you always feel the need to check your emails, turning off the little sound notification you get will reduce the tangibility of the distraction and potentially mean you don’t feel the need to leave your productive work.
Obviously I can’t sit and type out all of the things you need to do to beat procrastination, because everyone will have different distractions. The key is to identify your distractions, reduce the tangibility of them and inhibit your limbic system!
So go forth! Stop procrastinating and get the work you set out to do done!