Everyone procrastinates in some way. “ I can start preparing for my exams tomorrow” or “Oh! there is still another week left for submissions”. Many of us are guilty of procrastinating over little things – like doing the dishes, taking care of bills or even starting a fitness regime. So why does the human mind have this argument with itself, where one part feels guilty for not doing something and the other part wants to be playful? Is it possible that it’s not in our control? Over the years
psychologists have proposed many theories to try and explain why people procrastinate.
A recently presented research paper suggests that our tendency to delay, could be linked to our genes. Researchers have analysed why certain people tend to put off tasks all the time, by using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). They identified two brain areas around the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, which are linked to an individual’s ability to control their actions.If the connection between these two areas is impaired, then your ability to control your actions is also reduced.You then feel no hesitation in putting off an activity that needs to get done. This hampers both personal and professional success, and may even affect physical and mental health.
The same team conducted another study to find out if there was a connection to our genes. The participants underwent a genetic analysis and also answered a questionnaire which determined the level of control they had on their actions. The researchers could not find a correlation in male participants, but with the female participants they found that when they carried a certain variant of the gene called TH, they were more likely to procrastinate.
So do we blame it all on our genes and do nothing? Chronic procrastinators will agree that they are quite tired of being called lazy ,irresponsible or lacking in commitment. They are bored with all the “ to do lists’ and “Organisers” which don’t usually work. So here are some tips to avoid the embarrassment.
The first step would probably be to accept that you do delay action and that it’s affecting both your personal and professional life .
Secondly and more importantly, you also accept that no one is perfect and that any behaviour can be improved with practice and commitment and is not an innate trait.
Today the easiest way to focus on your work is to get off your social media and the likes of Netflix until you get into the habit of completing your tasks as expected. That way you minimise your distractions.
When you are inundated with commitments ask a very good friend to keep a check on you. It would be better if it is someone who won’t judge and only help keep you on track.
When you are given a task tackle it immediately and don’t leave it for later. Get started even before your mind begins to find reasons for not doing a task. When things pile up they look far more intimidating than they actually are. Just divide the work into little blocks of activity and complete one block at time. Breaking up a task that is complex, into chunks, makes it look doable .
Start with the most difficult task in the beginning of the day and then move to easier ones as the day wears on. That way fatigue will not affect your judgement.
Promise yourself a reward if you complete your work on time or at the very least a pat on the back. Right from the time we are school going kids, we have always responded to the rewards and punishment system. So it is also important that you think of the consequence of you inability to complete a task. When you realise that the consequence is too big to risk it, then you are more likely to complete the task on time .
Procrastination brings down productivity and slows down progress, but it can be overcome with determination and a little help from friends and family . The important thing is to share your concerns with them.
Sujatha Kumar, Clinical Psychologist,
Mind Your Fitness!