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The hidden success behind procrastinating

The hidden success behind procrastinating

We’re all familiar with procrastination in some form or other; some of us much more than others and for many different reasons.  The question I ask, is not, why do we procrastinate, but rather what does it mean when we do? It’s quite different. There’s a wealth of information on the topic giving tips and advice on how to overcome this destructive tendency, yet many of us still find ourselves unable to do anything about it. What are we missing?

Where to begin?

Having a better understanding of what procrastination is, what causes it, and what effects it may be having on your life is a must in overcoming it and developing more productive life patterns, but there is something else we might be missing too. We tend to associate procrastination solely with laziness that cannot be helped, but this is often not the case. Procrastination can in fact be helped and actually, help us. With the right strategies it is possible to achieve higher productivity levels that lead to success, as well as to a stress-free lifestyle – even if we procrastinate.

The truth…

The truth is that no matter how great we are at time management, we all occasionally have to put off tasks and activities; but it’s more about not taking action on life-long desires, letting opportunities pass you by or not doing what you really want to and feeling lost as to why – this can happen to the best of us. However, you know you have a serious problem when procrastination starts taking over your life, so much so that it disrupts your path to success.

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Let’s look at it on two different levels:

Procrastination on a Psychological Level:

Dealing with procrastination requires more than simply following a set of time management skills – time management strategies can only work once you’ve discovered the root of your specific problems. Discovering the complex, underlying psychological reasons behind your behaviour is the key to dealing with procrastination and eventually adopting productive time management skills. It is not a time management issue as much as it is an emotional one.

When we are under pressure, lack confidence, or have various fears and anxieties, we often use procrastination as a self-protection strategy. Procrastination allows us to cope with our fears and control the outcome of our actions. Even though results may be disappointing, we use it to avoid  being judged by others, and to make sure that our sense of our own ability is not threatened; if we do not meet expectations, it gives us the excuse of not having enough time.

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We also often procrastinate when we lack the motivation to do something and wait for the “right time” or for inspiration to strike, until it is finally much too late to do a good job. We tell ourselves we could have done a good job if we had enough time to; this way, our self-image remains intact and is not compromised, even though we created such a situation in the first place and set ourselves up to failure.

Procrastination on a Neurological Level:

When we feel exceptionally lazy, there is a battle going on between two parts in the brain; the conflict is between the limbic system that seeks pleasure, and the pre-frontal cortex that is more interested in planning and forward thinking. You can gain the control over which part wins.

On a neurological level, procrastination is said to be emotionally driven; it stems from our inner desire to protect ourselves from various negative emotions (fear of failure and so on).  Simply put, when we feel emotionally overwhelmed by challenging/demanding tasks, the amygdala region in the brain reacts by inducing the fight-or-flight response, which as we know, floods our body with adrenaline. The adrenaline then dulls our pre-frontal cortex (and other planning and reasoning parts of the brain) and leaves us at the mercy of our emotional impulses.

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The pleasure you get in the beginning of procrastination improves your mood, and your body produces dopamine – this hormone is a key player in the encouragement of reward-motivated actions. When you fall into a pattern of procrastination, no matter how negative the results are, your brain often ends up stimulating you to repeat the action – this can result in difficult-to-break cycles of procrastination.

The Procrastination Cycle:

Now that you’re more aware of the psychological and neurological processes that occur during procrastination, you can see how this cycle begins and why it is so difficult to break, with so many contributing factors. You may start out enthusiastic about a project and feel confident about your abilities and schedule, only to be held back by the same overwhelming pattern when the time comes to actually begin the work. This cycle can be damaging to your self-confidence and wears away your self-esteem and determination. It is important to recognize that even though it will be difficult to break the cycle, it has been overcome by countless individuals, and you can do it too!

Where is the hidden success?

If you’ve tried hard to break through the cycle but you are having no luck, you may be feeling like there’s something missing from the equation. What tends to happen is that when we give into procrastination, we walk away feeling despondent and beat ourselves up – then we just do it all over again.

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Use your new-found information on the psychology and neurology of procrastination to dig deeper into your inner self – could it be that your procrastination is the result of an unresolved personal issue? The answer to this question could be the key to moving forward in your life. If you procrastinate because you are not challenging yourself when your limbic system is overpowering, that is very different from procrastinating on those things which you have desired for a longer period, but can’t seem take action.

The fact is that when you need to actually work on/confront/admit or have awareness on a deeper issue – 90% of the time it is not obvious to you – the only symptom you see is procrastination. What people don’t know, is that through a series of asking yourself the right questions – you WILL most likely – get that A-HA moment – when suddenly you realize what is actually holding you back, and then the resistance immediately starts to fade and you can focus on what you really need to, to move forward. Break away from your procrastination cycle, stop going around in circles, and find your path to success by looking for the hidden reason deeper than the ones you always read about. It is not as simple as a lack of motivation or fear at times.

Learning to manage and use procrastination to your advantage can help you lead a healthier lifestyle and achieve success in all areas of your life. Unresolved issues can hold you back, but only if you let them, it is your choice.  There is a hidden secret that only procrastination can reveal, we just need to leverage and understand how our minds are communicating with us more.

“Nothing is easy, but then again, who wants nothing”

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Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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