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The Hidden Truth that Keeps You Procrastinating

The Hidden Truth that Keeps You Procrastinating

We’re half way through the first quarter of 2013, the excitement and enthusiasm of New Year’s resolutions has started to wear off and have become a vague memory for many. Time passes as you settle back into your ‘usual’ routine and life continues, but what happened to the goals you were once so excited about? Most people will laugh it off to procrastination or just being really busy, but the truth is, there may be another hidden key player in this entire holdup.

It is normal if you procrastinate to some degree or another, but it starts to become a big problem when it undermines your results and hinders normal functioning. It is almost like self-sabotage, yet we continue to do it, why? There are many reasons why you might procrastinate, in fact most of the time it can actually be related to someting more serious and your first symptom is procrastination.

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The Internal War

However, procrastination is in fact, an avoidance behavior on a physical level as well.  Two parts of our brain are having an internal war when we are procrastinating, the pre fontal cortex and the limbic system are fighting each other to either ‘do the work’ or ‘relax a little longer’.  Your prefrontal cortex is the part of your brain which is located behind your forehead and it is really good with planning ahead, making decisions, strategizing, etc. It is the weaker, newer part of your brain which is not on automatic. The limbic system however, is on automatic and it doesn’t get tired easily, this is your pleasure seeking part of the brain. It is the more powerful part of your brain and it just wants to give you immediate satisfaction.

When you are not consciously engaged in a task, your limbic system usually takes over. Knowing this can be good and bad news. The good news is that there is nothing seriously wrong with you – it’s normal, you were not born with a deficiency in your productivity genes. The bad news is, however, that you will always have these two parts of your brain going at each other, although you can make it easier for yourself! Here’s how:

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Moving Forward

If you are procrastinating and it is affecting your results negatively, here is what you need to do.

1.     Identify

First you need to identify why you are procrastinating. You want to get to the root cause so take note of the emotions you are feeling when you procrastinate. Are you feeling unmotivated, lacking clarity, confidence or fearing failure? Think about what you would need to have in place that would make it easier for you. Remember that it could also just be your biological factors testing your will power again.

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2.     Plan

Now that you have a clearer idea why you are procrastinating, make a plan and learn different ways that you can break the barriers and finally move forward to achieve the results you know you can get. Learn how you can beat procrastination once and for all.

3.     It’s nothing serious, just an internal war

If you are convinced that you don’t have serious procrastination problems, just an over active limbic system, here’s what you do

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  • Inhibit the limbic system – You need to remove all your temptations and distractions because the limbic system definitely gets more powerful when temptation is close, so take it as far away from you as you can! You know what I’m talking about – turn off the internet, your email notifications, try to reduce the tangibility of things that tempt you.
  • The long term solution – Keep exercising your prefrontal cortex. Your brain is like a muscle and with repetition, it will become stronger and easier to focus  when needed.

Imagine how much more you could achieve if you stopped procrastinating, how different would your life be right now? If you want to kick your procrastination habits – start to identify why you might be procrastinating, follow the simple steps above and take control of your results now!

 

 

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Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

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Last Updated on June 18, 2019

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Making Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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