The Science Behind Procrastination

Is procrastination holding you back? Do you find that whenever you need to do something important, you seek out distraction?

Certain tasks can result in the overwhelming need to binge-watch the next box set on Netflix or aimlessly scroll through Facebook. You might recognise that dreaded feeling of knowing that an important deadline is fast approaching, but that won’t stop you from searching for a distraction.

One thing is abundantly clear from all my clients – procrastination is a universal curse.

But why do certain jobs send us running for the nearest distraction?

It’s sometimes because the task at hand is simply too overwhelming. Sometimes it’s just plain boring. And sometimes it’s because you have an unconscious barrier holding you back from success.

One thing I know for certain is procrastination prevents progress.

Experiencing time slipping away but still feeling unable to focus is all too common. We all procrastinate, and you’re not alone.

But Why Do We Procrastinate? And What Can We Do About It?

Whatever the reason for procrastination, the best way to overcome it is to have a strategy in place to work through it.

In order to effectively strategise, we need to first understand why we procrastinate. And believe it or not, there is proven scientific reasoning behind procrastination.

The cause of your procrastination can come from many places – mental, emotional, and even physical.

It might be because of a lack of clarity in your goals or it could stem from a fear of failure? Sometimes it’s even more complex and can stem from a fear of succeeding!

The Dopamine Trap

Our brain is an amazing tool and is hardwired to react to certain feelings and situations. There is constant communication between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex – a fallback from when our survival depended on our ingrained fight or flight responses.

The limbic system is the part of the brain responsible for emotion and behaviour. It steps in to stop you from doing unpleasant things, like keeping you safe from touching hot surfaces – or those irksome jobs that are difficult or boring but oh so essential.

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for processing information and making active decisions about when to do things. You consciously engage the prefrontal cortex in order to take action.

So, whilst your prefrontal cortex is steadily shifting into gear ahead of your task, sadly the limbic system is ready and waiting to disengage. It rather cleverly recognises those telltale clues that unpleasantness lies ahead and acts accordingly.

It’s Self-Sabotage From The Inside Out!

How your brain responds is to offer up a distraction or more scientifically an ‘immediate mood repair.’

Undertaking a more enjoyable task gives the brain a nice big hit of dopamine (a chemical that helps the brain control our pleasure and reward centres).

So you’re far more likely to continue doing the thing that releases dopamine. In the case of procrastination, the distraction is the reward.

We’re all hardwired to put things off, the science proves this. But our goals don’t care how scientifically predisposed we are to distractions – they need you to get the job done without excuse.

Don’t Give Up On Your Goals Just Yet

If our brains are hardwired to respond like this is there anything that can be done to overcome procrastination?

You’ll be pleased to know that there is. In fact, with a few simple strategies, you can protect yourself from procrastination and get more done in the next 6 weeks than you have in the last 6 months…

Use Your North Star

Clarity is key when it comes to procrastination. If you don’t know exactly what to do and why, you’ll be easily lured away from your tasks.

You’re probably familiar with my north star strategy – it’s a fantastic tool you can draw on to gain clarity. By helping you to define your ultimate goal, and giving you a roadmap to get to it – it can help focus you to complete the tasks that you have to get done.

Check out my new book to learn more finding your North Star.

Get A Coach

Procrastination is where a coach can really help. A good coach can help you to discover how and why you’re procrastinating – a great coach can help you learn how to overcome procrastination!

But that’s not all… Research shows that you have a 65% likelihood of completing a goal when you tell someone about it, but that increases to 95% when you make a commitment to someone specific, like a coach, who will hold you accountable.

Create a Schedule

Creating a schedule and sticking to it religiously can help with focus. To make it even more effective, tell someone when you’re going to have it finished. Schedule deadlines ahead of the due date and be strict with yourself to stick to them. Mastering your time is a skill that some people have to develop, so if you’re not naturally good with your time, listen to my previous podcast here..

Be Honest With Yourself

Being honest about your fears is easier said than done. It takes some serious introspective thinking. I think most people can relate to the fear of failing – but a lot of people struggle more with the idea of a fear of success.

Fearing success is more common than you might think. Succeeding might be scary for many reasons:

  • You might worry about leaving people behind.
  • You might feel that people will judge you.
  • You might feel guilty for surpassing others.
  • You might be afraid of the responsibility that comes with success.
  • You might be worried about the sacrifices you need to make to achieve your goals.

Whatever the fear, being honest and getting it out in the open will help tremendously. A coach can help you to dig deep into what’s holding you back and breakthrough those barriers so you’re free to keep moving towards success.

The Procrastination Battle Will Always Be There…

To be clear, everyone struggles with procrastination. It’s not referred to as the biggest enemy of success for nothing. The procrastination battle will always be there, but with the right strategy, you don’t have to succumb to it completely.

BUT The only way you’ll be able to combat it is by facing it head-on. It takes personal development work, clarity and above all accountability.

P.S. If you haven’t already I would encourage you to take my quiz to discover what type of business owner you are, knowing this can help take you from where you are now to becoming more successful personally, professionally and financially – quickly, efficiently and effectively.

north star thinking book