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Why You Procrastinate: 7 Possible Reasons You Can’t Get Anything Done

Why You Procrastinate: 7 Possible Reasons You Can’t Get Anything Done

If you can’t get anything done, you need to confront these seven harsh truths that reveal why you procrastinate.

1. You let distractions interrupt you constantly.

I’d like to emphasize the word LET. People like to complain about how “distracted” they are, and most of them aren’t willing to accept that they are responsible for that reality. No one is holding a gun to your head and demanding you to answer texts the second you receive them or accept more responsibilities than you could possibly handle. If you feel overwhelmed, you need to deal with the fact that it is your fault. I don’t say this to judge you, because I’ve been guilty of both those things myself, but you need to accept personal responsibility; if you can’t do that, don’t even bother reading the rest of this article. 

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2. You brag about your ability to “multitask.”

Focus is a skill that is in short supply in the information age. Everyone is so obsessed with doing more things that they never stop to consider the fact that it might be more productive to do fewer things more effectively. How productive would it be to take a customer phone call while performing a transaction in person if juggling those two things results in mistakes that otherwise could have been avoided? How efficient is it to stop writing an article or essay every five minutes to answer a text that isn’t urgent? How successful do you think you will be if you’re so accustomed to distraction, that you don’t even know what concentration feels like? If you really think multitasking is a good idea, I dare you to answer those questions to prove me wrong.

3. You think long and hard, but don’t do much.

Planning is a prerequisite for long-term success, but as the saying goes, “there can always be too much of a good thing.” The best plan in the world is worthless if you never take action. George Patton summarized this point nicely when he said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

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4. You blame your problems on other people.

If you get upset when another person gets a promotion instead of you, I’d like to take this opportunity to invite you to cry me a river. Look — even if you deserved the position, how productive is it to gossip about another person? If anything, you’ll just alienate that coworker and make yourself look like a sore loser, which isn’t going to help your cause the next time you pursue an opportunity for advancement.

5. You obsess over stuff you have no control over.

“Obsessing over things I can’t do anything about sure makes me feel better about myself,” said nobody — anywhere — ever. Do NOT fall into this trap, because it will only result in self-inflicted stress and regret.

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6. You can’t say “no” to anything, ever.

While it’s great to have friends you love to hang out with, you can’t expect to achieve anything worth talking about if you spend all of your time with other people. Highly effective hustlers know they must spend the occasional night working alone if they want to achieve their goals.

7. You read articles like this all the time, but never actually apply them.

I love to read, because it gives me the opportunity to discover new thoughts and ideas that challenge me to grow; however, the best self-help article in the world can’t save you if you’re not willing to implement the material in your life. Leave a comment below telling us how you’re going to take action. And if you’d like to help your fellow procrastinators who can’t get anything done, make sure to click the share button below.

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Featured photo credit: Lazy Cat/55Laney69 via flickr.com

More by this author

Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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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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