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Why Our Brains Choose to Procrastinate

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Procrastination is a big problem that many people struggle with, whether it’s putting off an essay or not getting a presentation done for work. Often this can stem from not having your life together and can turn into a vicious cycle, causing life to become chaotic. Even though these two topics don’t seem to be linked, they are in fact closely related, but most people don’t realize it. I have struggled with both issues and have strived to get better at both over the years.

Although procrastination and getting your life together seem like something people can’t control, there is a science behind overcoming procrastination, as well as simple strategies to help get life back on track.

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First what are those two ideas, Procrastination most psychologist see as a sign that, our brains are attempting to take the least painful rout possible. This is a coping mechanism that our brains have, although in the case of procrastination it has gone haywire “give in to feel good, says Timothy Pychyl, a professor who studies procrastination at Carleton University, in Ottawa” (Swanson).

To avoid the “pain” (unpleasant task or fear of dread) our brains often choose to do a more pleasant tasks such as play video games, scroll through Pinterest or do something we enjoy. This tactic makes us feel good for a time but in the long run comes back to bite in the end. To put this in the terms of Urban he statist “Procrastinators all have an Instant gratification monkey in their heads, in the beginning to monkey seems fun but, can get into a load of trouble. Making suggestions of what would be fun, but not beneficial in the long run. As this goes on the panic monster comes out spurring the procrastinator into action”(Swanson) I have found myself choosing to putt of anything that I think will is remotely difficult in favor of following the monkeys suggestion, doing something that I enjoy, usually since in still in school that choosing to watch tv, play music, or any number of things to avoid the pain of homework or chores.

After the reality of the impending deadline sets in, procrastination turns in to gilt or sham. But these feelings don’t stop procrastination they are just another reason to put off the task even longer. With this continuing on and on in a self-deprecating cycle. Our brains search for instant gratification, like a monkey and that usually means putting off a task to do something that makes us happy not focusing on the long-term results.

Although there are different kinds of procrastinators, there are the people who use their time to look up GIF.’s on the internet and the ones who clean their house. There is a graphic that shows exactly this in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, the famously productive president. Eisenhower thought that people should spend their time on what was truly important to them — the tasks in Quadrants 1 and 2” (Swanson). This illustrates the different types of tasks, Urgent, Not urgent, important and unimportant and how they correspond. If these quadrants are flowed correctly they can be helpful to get stuff done and not put if off. But unfortunately, most people who procrastinate don’t follow this, instead they tend to “doing things that may be urgent, but are not important. Occasionally, when the panic monster takes over, they take a very brief detour to Quadrant 1” (Swanson) Our brains are constantly searching for instant gratification, preventing us from focusing on what’s important in the long run, even though the task might seem harder at the time the lasting effects self-satisfaction that is called by psychologists ‘eudaimonic pleasurer”(Swanson). I have found myself seeking instant gratification and doing thigs that my brain deems as urgent in the moment but not at all important. Such as telling myself that it is hilly urgent need to finish the last few episodes of my show because I must find out the ending. But by doing that I’m putting off studying for the test that’s worth 60% of my grad. I would rather have that small moment of satisfaction and just put off the freak out until later. This is a clear procrastination, but in the moment seems like a good idea.

The topics of procrastination and getting your life together might seem disconnected but there not. Getting your life together and procrastination are intertwined together. The problem with getting your life together is that most everything in life that has some value takes effort and some discomfort. “we’re deeply wired to avoid pain, which the body reads as mortally dangerous, and to move toward pleasure, the more immediate the better” (Schwartz) This is the same as procrastination, avoiding pain is one of the things that our brains do well, even though it’s not the most helpful at times. Avoid pain at almost all costs and to move towards what our brains deem as more pleasant tasks. We are exposed to so many temptations, the world is literally at our fingertips “It’s forever beckoning us, like the Sirens singing to Odysseus, who lashed himself to the mast of his ship to resist their call. The sirens sing to us, too: Have the dessert. Skip the workout. Put off the hard work. Surf the web. Checking email. Indulge whims. Settle for the easy way out” (Schwartz) People tend to procrastinate hard work, instead focusing on the easy way out with as little work as possible. Over the years I have found myself doing this more and more. As I have gotten more work over the years I tend to take the easy way out more times than not. One example for me would be, in 9th grade I had a 5-page essay proving the existence of God. But I chose to put it off until the very last possible moment. The least to say it was not my finest work and I ended up getting a poor grade on the assignment. This is just to show that choosing the easy way out may work but it will not get the results that are desired.

To be able to put your life bake together people must see the similarities between the tow, in both situations people tend to take the easy way out seeking instant gratification and not wanting to put in the work to have the long-lasting effects. To have productivity one must have their life together; Make more behaviors automatic, remove yourself from harm’s way, whatever you feel compelled to do, don’t and so on.

This might seem like a lot and a bit overwhelming, trying to tackle two problems that seem so big. But there are some useful tips that can help to start. “Tim Urban points out that the typical advice for procrastinators — essentially, to stop what they’re doing and get down to work, is ridiculous, because procrastination isn’t something that extreme procrastinators feel as though they can control” (Swenson). Even though this seems like the most obvious plan of action it’s not that easy to stop habits just like that. But there are some simple tips that researchers have proven can help procrastinators get to work. things that can reduce procrastination as well as get your life together in the process are; Do the most important thing first in the morning, “Eat energy rich foods in small doses at frequent intervals, Do one thing at a time, Work in sprints, Whatever you feel compelled to do, don’t, Take yourself out of harm’s way, Make more of your behaviors automatic” (Schwartz) these are just a few things that can help remind throughout the day to reduce procrastination and help get your life together.

One of the best things that procrastinators can do to help, is to start forgiving themselves for procrastinating. “A study by Pychyl states, students who reported forgiving themselves for procrastinating on studying for a first exam ended up procrastinating less for a second exam.” This works so well since procrastination is directly linked to the negative feelings gained while procrastinating. By forgiving people reducing the overall negative feelings, which is what cases procrastination in the first place, stopping the cycle from repeating again.

Also, recognizing that most people will not feel like doing that task at all, instead of waiting for a time to do the unpleasant task. Don’t focus on feelings towards that task but think about the next action. Pychyl says “He counsels people to break down their tasks into very small steps that can actually be accomplished” (Swenson). Don’t focus on the big task at hand and instead on a small portion of it and work from there. This can also go back to getting your life together, focusing on small portion of life can make everything look a lot easier to handle. Rather than taking one look at all the problems compiled together and just putting it off, procrastinating once again.

A Master Plan for Taking Back Control of Your Life states that, “98% of us, need at least 7 hours of sleep a night” ( Schwartz). The lass sleep we get the more likely we return to instant-gratification, which in turn causes procrastination. Other than going to bead at a decent time, also people need to wind down 30 minutes before going to bed, this will help reduce procrastination and be more focused through the day. Often when I get less then 7 hours of sleep I find myself returning to self-gratification, since getting less sleep cause self-control to be thrown out the window. But after staying on a strict schedule for a moth trying to get the right amount of sleep I found that I was more productive, focused and could say no to distractions.

Cite this Why Our Brains Choose to Procrastinate

Why Our Brains Choose to Procrastinate. (2021, Jun 09). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/why-our-brains-choose-to-procrastinate/

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