Every day, 9 out of 10 people procrastinate, (including me). So, how can we overcome this demon?
Let’s face it:
You’re likely reading this post in an effort not to avoid some other tasks. And to learn how to stop procrastinating. But the clock is ticking…
Why can’t you seem to stop procrastinating?
Though the psychological causes are still debated. There’s a human tendency to over or underestimate the value of a reward based on its temporal proximity. This is often called temporal discounting.
For example, if I offered you $100 today or 110 in a month, most would take the hundred and run. But what if, instead I offered you $100 dollars in a year or 110 in a year and one month? Suddenly, you might say to yourself “if I can wait a year, I can wait the extra month.”
But the time and value difference are the exact same in each example. It turns out that human motivation is highly influenced by how imminent the reward is perceived to be. Meaning the further away the reward is the more you discount its value.
This is often called present bias or hyperbolic discounting. So, being on Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter or Instagram is more rewarding than a perfect score on your test. Until temporal proximity increases the value of a good mark on your test and you cram – all night.
On top of this, every time something enjoyable happens you get a dose of dopamine which modifies the neurons in your brain making you more likely to repeat the behavior. The problem is, video games or browsing the Internet provide many small quick and continuous rewards unlike your school assignment which is a one-time future reward.
So, how do you overcome the intrinsic urge to put off so many tasks?
Unfortunately, there isn’t just one solution. But try rewarding yourself in intervals with a snack, the internet or other enjoyable activities.
The Pomodoro Technique makes use of a timer. Work for 25 minutes straight and when you’re done, give yourself the reward and a 5-minute break. Then start the working clock again. Gradually increasing the amount of work time you put in will improve your high-level executive functioning.
Acknowledge your procrastination
your future self will procrastinate. it’s been shown that creating a self-imposed costly deadline is an effective way to manage your working habits with externally imposed deadlines being even more effective.
Also, try and enjoy the process of achieving something. Instead of thinking 25 min minutes of torture, try thinking “I’m doing something great or I enjoy being productive” to the same token.
Make a list of the reasons you want to complete the goal. Reinforcing that you want to do it minimizes indecision. Oftentimes procrastination is a symptom not a cause. And the power of being properly
motivated can take you far.
Finally, if you can’t remove the temptations, turn off the internet, uninstall your favorite game or work somewhere else. Putting obstacles in the way of your procrastination tools can be a great trick to keep you on track.