Procrastination – we all do it in some shape or form. We make plans to do something, but then don’t take any action, or we stop halfway. We leave our assignments to the last minute. But why do we do this to ourselves?
This problem is so common to all of us and dates back centuries. Let’s go back 1,000’s of years ago to the ancient Greeks. Aristotle and Socrates developed a word for procrastination, Akrasia.
Akrasia, according to the Oxford dictionary is defined as “the state of mind in which someone acts against their better judgement through weakness of will.”
We all try to overcome procrastination, but it affects some of us more than others. There is growing evidence that indicates procrastination negatively impacts our happiness, and our future success.
Science of Procrastination:
There is a behavioural economics term called “time inconsistency” which helps to explain why procrastination rules our lives. Time inconsistency refers to the tendency of the human brain to value immediate rewards more highly than future rewards
When our brain makes long-term plans for ourselves, like losing weight, or writing a book, or learning a new language. You are essentially making plans for your future self. You are visualizing what you want your life to be like in the future. While you are conceptualizing your future self, it is easy for your brain to see the value in taking action for these long-term benefits.
But when the time actually comes to taking action on the plan that you had made earlier, you are no longer taking actions for your future self, you are now working on your present self. According to researchers your brain finds higher value in the present than in the future. And your present self likes instant gratification, not long-term payoff.
This is one of the reasons why you might go to bed feeling motivated to make a change in your life, but when you wake up, you find yourself falling into old habits.
A study conducted by the department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University studied 1000 children from birth until the age of 32 years. The study revealed that self-control as an executive function helped to promote the brain’s frontal cortex. This is the part of the brain responsible for planning complex cognitive behaviour, personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behaviour. Low self control is direct contributor of early mortality, psychiatric disorders, wealth related problems and criminal convictions.
How to decode Procrastination:
- IMAGINATION – Imagination is a powerful technique for improving willpower. The body often responds to imagined situations in the same way it responds to experienced ones. Close your eyes, or write out a detailed description of what you want to achieve.
- Manage your STRESS – Stress depletes your willpower. When we are stressed our body releases a hormone called Cortisol. Cortisol increases our cravings for carbohydrates. Which can lead to unhealthy habits like overeating and alcoholism or simple sugar intake. Eventually this becomes our habit to deal with stress and it depletes your willpower. Best way to reduce stress is music or something that can elevate your mood.
- CAFFEINE – A caffeine-triggered surge of adrenaline and dopamine works to enhance your motivation. Caffeine can positively alter how we experience what we are doing. An article in Scientific American suggests that taking caffeine consistently can artificially induce a sense of interest in what we would otherwise find uninteresting and might help us tolerate a long-term goal.