What Our Brain Thinks: Major Fears Hidden Behind Procrastination

One task after another, too many distractions, working on several projects at the same time - are just some of the reasons we procrastinate.

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I’ll do it tomorrow.

We’ve all done this. Postponed doing something till tomorrow. 

We can get so creative when it comes to thinking of different excuses why we can’t do something. We are too tired, too busy, too many other things on our minds. 

This is especially noticeable when it comes to work. 

One task after another, too many distractions, working on several projects at the same time  – and voila – you end up postponing quite a few tasks until tomorrow.

No worries, I will have enough time to do it tomorrow.

What happens when that dreaded tomorrow comes? 

Do we really have the time to complete the tasks?

Before you even know it, you get caught in a vicious circle of procrastination day after day, because as the old Spanish proverb says – Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week.

So, the question is..

How do we end up procrastinating and coming up with excuses about the tasks that we were supposed to complete?

Let’s start with answering this question by looking into the reasons we procrastinate in the first place. 

Why do we procrastinate?

Procrastination is an old dilemma. As old as the chicken or the egg dilemma. 

Psychiatrists and psychologists have been looking into the reasons we create excuses in our heads for quite some time now. The reasons we are quick to justify our behavior and actions rarely have anything to do with logic. The more we let things pile up at work, the more we feel confident about our avoidance tactics. 

However, social scientists argue that we really DO have too much work to do, which is the number one reason we procrastinate. 

Teresa Amabile, the coauthor of The Progress Principle, explains that “many people procrastinate because they fear the drudgery or the difficulty of the task they are avoiding.” But, only getting things done will make fear go away, right? 

What do our brains think?

The brain tries to protect us by removing the burden of responsibility. 

Without the responsibility, we start to feel more confident about the results we will (perhaps) accomplish tomorrow. 

When a person doesn’t know their own foibles and shortcomings, there’s a high probability that the work will be put off. 

Science explains that procrastination is a result of having two parts of our brain fight for dominance when we come across an unpleasant situation: the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex. 

Limbic system is our unconscious side that includes the pleasure center and the prefrontal cortex is a newer portion of the brain that deals with information and decision making process. So, why are these two parts of the brain in constant disagreement? 

Limbic is one of the oldest and most dominant portions of the brain. As such, it involves and deals with the strategies for our basic survival. In a word, this part of the brain is automatic and involves our instincts. 

You know you need to pull your hand away from the fire because of the limbic system.

The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that controls instincts and stimulus, and thus, separates humans from animals. 

Unlike the limbic system, the prefrontal cortex needs to be “stimulated” to get the job done, it is not automatic, but “conscious part” of our brain, thus when we are not present and consciously engaged in work or other activities, the unconscious part takes over. 

The conclusion? 

We put off things for tomorrow when the limbic system wins. 

Our mind tends to make the tasks or work seem scary and daunting, and the logical reaction of the brain is to do anything to avoid pain or embarrassment. 

This is the moment when I’ll-do-it-later-behaviour happens. 

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