Are you ready to get more done and stop procrastinating today?
Procrastination is often caused because we distract ourselves. Our focus keeps switching. Every time we start to do the task, our brains remind us of other things we need to do. We become almost paralyzed. It’s like a stop light comes on in our brains.
Why Your Brain Makes You Procrastinate
In a nutshell, it’s a battle between the pleasure center (limbic system) and the little manager in your brain (prefrontal cortex).
So when you procrastinate, the limbic system is taking over your prefrontal cortex. And all your plans appear to go awry for the sake of pleasure and relaxation.
The limbic system is one of the first systems to develop within your brain, and is responsible for protecting you against unpleasant actions.
In a prior blog, I talked about how your amygdala often pops in and takes over to keep you from trying big new things. This is the same system and for the same reason.
Your prefrontal cortex, on the other hand, is developed later. It’s more of a conscious choice instead of an automatic process. When you step back to plan or evaluate a situation, you’re using your prefrontal cortex.
But that’s not the only reason….
We also procrastinate because we get a dopamine rush when we put off something, and then complete it at the last second. We get a reward for completing it like a “hero.”
So instead of realizing that we should manage life better, we go for that dopamine hit.
Manage Your Time, Manage Your Life
It’s important to keep track of your time. You don’t want to be a slave to the clock. But if you decide to take a mental break on social media for a “few” minutes, make sure it doesn’t turn into hours.
So how can you manage to overcome procrastination?
Get better at recognizing when you’re procrastinating
There is something called “metacognition.” It’s thinking about what you’re thinking about. Sounds silly, doesn’t it?
But take a few days with a stopwatch or a timer. Every fifteen minutes, take a few seconds to jot down what you were doing, what were you supposed to be doing, and how were you feeling.
4 signs of a procrastinator
Do you see yourself in any of these characteristics?
- Choosing to work on lower priority tasks
- Spending the day rereading emails instead of acting on them
- Accept a high-priority task, and then go get a cup of coffee
- Leave the most important task on your to-do list undone…for more than a day
There’s more. And I’m sure you can think of a few signs as well. One of the biggest problems of a procrastinator is waiting for the right time or the right feeling to do a task.
Ways to beat procrastination
First, find an accountability buddy. This needs to be someone you trust completely.
Reward yourself for completing tasks. You need to do more than pat yourself on the back if you want to change a habit.
Hold yourself accountable. If you didn’t do what you said you would do, ensure that you don’t get the reward anyway. Or decide to sit down and finish the task right then and there.
Keep your to-do list simple. Have the three top things you must get done, and the keep a running list of all the little things that pop into your head. Spend some time at the end of the day and first thing in the morning reviewing it. Then you can plan how you want to take on the tasks.
Set priorities as well. And don’t be shy about asking your boss about priorities. Something you think may be urgent is really not to them. It’s best to get done what your boss thinks is most important. Especially if you’re your own boss!
Try to estimate how long something should take. Then see how long it really takes. I was talking with a friend about unloading the dishwasher. It’s the kind of thing she procrastinates on thinking it will take forever.
She timed herself and discovered it took less than five minutes.
Is There Good Procrastination?
Yes, there actually is. Sometimes, we rush in to things. Maybe it’s because we want to look good. Maybe it’s because we want to help.
But if someone asks you to do something, it’s okay to ask for some time to think about it. Procrastinate and let your brain and heart percolate on how you really feel about it.
You can also pretend to procrastinate to trick your brain. If you set a fake deadline, then rush to get your work done, you will get your dopamine reward.
This is a great way to get something done that you really don’t want to do. But don’t use it constantly as it will increase your stress levels.
If you find yourself procrastinating, it’s a good time to step back and ask yourself if you’re really the right person to do the job. Maybe you need to delegate parts or all of it to someone else.
Say ‘No’ to Worthless Activities
One of the best ways to avoid procrastinating is to only take on what you can handle.
If you have five assignments at work and three committees at your children’s’ school, you don’t want to sign up to bake 6 dozen cookies for a fundraiser. (Well, maybe you do. My point is to spend time thinking about it before agreeing to it based on your load and your priorities.)
Say “no” to things people try to pass off on to you if you really aren’t the best person for it. You will look like a team player if you are part of the solution in getting it done. That doesn’t mean you have to agree to do everything.
And this includes requests from friends and family. We love them dearly. But maybe they should learn to look up things on the internet or figure out how to do something on their own as a part of their personal growth.
Look at your procrastination activities. Maybe it’s time to say “No” to social media for a week or two. Then you can make a smarter decision about how you spend your free time.
Saying “No” is not a bad thing. Having boundaries is good since it gives you more time for your favorite things and peace.
My Final Thoughts
Procrastination can be a harsh term. But there is good procrastinating while you percolate on an idea. Or give yourself time to find out more information.
It’s important to take action when the time comes. When you put off deciding because you’re afraid of making the wrong decision, it makes the situation much more difficult.
Procrastination can keep you from having a wonderful life because you put off that which you need to do. And we sometimes need things to be difficult in order to grow. Procrastinating keeps us in a safe spot and can lead to us regressing.
Spend some time today identifying important tasks you’ve been putting off, and start getting them done. You may need to put a task on your calendar or diary so you don’t forget it. But promise yourself you will get to them.
Work towards your goals every day. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. But also know when to step back and let a situation develop before rushing in.