Why We Procrastinate and What You Can Do About It

Procrastination. Wow, if you wanted to talk about what has been my Achilles’ heel since college (and even before then)… it’s probably this. I’ve been doing a lot of research lately in trying to figure out a fix for my procrastination. And what I’ve come to find is that there is indeed a reason for why we procrastinate. In a nutshell, the following video by Vik Nithy shows the psychological reasoning behind why we do it:

If that description is too analytical for you, then you can find a drawn out and very relatable version here.

The Gist of Why We Procrastinate

There are two parts of your brain (literally and figuratively) that are at odds with each other when it comes to getting stuff done. You have a smart part, and a dumb part.

The smart one, which holds your personality and all of your good intentions, is telling you that you have something that needs to be done.

However, the dumb one, well, all it wants to do is just surf the web, play video games, or go screw around outside. Funny enough, part of it is in charge of decision making, play, and panicking.

It also doesn’t help that the dumb one also stores the factory of Dopamine. And let me tell you something about it… Dopamine is a hell of a drug. Gaming to me in the past might almost be as good as cocaine. (For more info on why people do cocaine: Cocaine stimulating Dopamine release.)

So, obviously, the fight between the smart part of your brain vs the dumb part is actually kind of won before it even starts if our brain is more receptive to short term rewards than long term ones.

In short, the more you’ve given in to short term rewards in the past, the more your brain is literally addicted to their effects – whether or not you had long term goals or not.

Three Steps We Can Use to Effectively Battle Procrastination

In the video above, Vik talks about 6 key things you must do to battle procrastination:

  • Plan Goals
  • Plan Time
  • Plan Resources
  • Plan the Process
  • Plan for Distractions
  • Plan for Failure

I’m going to kind of theme them together in three steps so that it’s something you do a little more automatically when you’re trying to avoid procrastination when starting a new project.

You want to do something? First, you need to research the hell out of it. What do top experts say in doing that? What does it look like when you’re done? Is it worth your time in pursuing it? This is how you start planning your process. The dumb part of your brain should have no difficulty looking this stuff up – especially if it’s something you have a passion to do. (If it does, you might need to plan this phase out too.)

As part of your process planning, figure out what you have and don’t have to get the job done. Are you trying to learn a new language? A new skill? Do some inventory checking and get those missing things of what you’re going to need. (It might be as simple as downloading an app!)

Effective Journaling and Planning Your Week takes care of goals and time. However, as you’re planning out your week to work on a project or your months to work on a new skill, I’d plan for almost twice as long to get the thing accomplished.  You’re going to run into some bumps in the road (failures and distractions). Either the dogs will want to go out three times during your project or the kids might want for you to go watch them at their baseball game in the 2nd week of your training. But when you’re done with those distractions, you’ll come back and be able to get right back on track because you’ll have your goals written down.

Homework:

So the next time you’re wanting to do something, be it recording a podcast, or even learning how to ride a bike at the age of 34, I want you to see if you can set yourself up from inception to completion: Research, plan and journal your activities. Come back and let me know how it works out for you! Or, if you’ve already implemented it, drop a comment below.

Extra Points: Identify what kind of procrastinator you are here. If it doesn’t exist, name it and let us know why you came up with that name.

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