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Want To Stop Procrastinating? You Should Fine Tune Your Mindset In This Way

Want To Stop Procrastinating? You Should Fine Tune Your Mindset In This Way

While procrastination is thought to be a prominent barrier to growth and long-term development, it can also have a debilitating impact on our everyday lives. After all, procrastination prevents individuals from completing tasks that must be done, whether they are important in their nature or regular, household chores such as ironing.

To understand the impact of procrastination further, let’s consider how such an outlook may be detrimental to your long-term finances. If you delay the repayment of monthly or ad-hoc bills, for example, you can quickly accumulate debts and create a scenarios where you are unable to claim credit in the future.

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How to Fine Tune Your Mindset and Avoid Procrastination

While the potential impact of procrastination is clear, the question that remains is how can such a mindset be avoided? The key to overcoming procrastination lies with initially understanding its triggers, before creating a solution that tackles this issue directly.

In many instances, procrastination is caused by the complexities of long-term planning and the way in which this can overwhelm the human mind. So even if you have clearly-defined goals, attempting to plot a long-term growth course and achieve your objectives over time can be extremely challenging.

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The obvious solution to this is to compartmentalize tasks and larger-scale projects into manageable portions, but your execution is key to ensuring that this is successful. You therefore need to chose a strategy that is easy to implement and capable of delivering measurable returns.

Why You Should Think Only in the Frame of 24 Hours

One strategy that should be recommended is to think only in the frame of 24 hours, as this is an excellent way of compartmentalizing goals and the individuals that are required to realize them. This not only negates the stress, anxiety and confusion that long-term planning can cause, but it also improves your daily productivity and ensures that objectives are easier to achieve.

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This strategy could not be easier to implement, either, regardless of the long-term goals that you are trying to achieve. Let’s say that you looking to lose a predetermined amount of weight in two months, for example, and want to create a plan that can drive success. Starting with the first 24 hours, you set the manageable goal of eating as healthily as possible and enjoying as much exercise as your schedules allows during this time.

You then repeat this process every day, adhering to the same basic objectives for the duration of the two months. At the end of each day you spend 10 minutes considering your priorities for tomorrow, while at no point do you think about the following day or the weeks ahead. In terms of measuring your progress, simply weigh yourself and mark down any losses that you have achieved each day in a journal.

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How to Implement This Strategy

When used correctly, this strategy can be extremely successful and enable you to create a wealth of positive habits. Its most important advantage is that it negates the often overwhelming nation of longer-term planning, helping you to maintain clearer thought processes and enhance your daily productivity. Above all else, it eradicates much of the pressure associated with goal setting and accomplishment, which can cause widespread procrastination and doubt.

In terms of implementing this strategy, you should remain true to its structure and maintain a rigid focus on each, 24-hour period. If you find that you are not achieving initial success, you should look to set more specific goals within each time period and create actionable steps rather than generic ones. This could enhance your daily productivity further, while also making it easier to complete everyday objectives.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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