The rebel in us tends to put things off when it comes to meeting deadlines and targets. “I will do it later” seems to be the mantra of the procrastinators and when the ‘later’ part does arrive, it calls for another “a few minutes more” to postpone the job. Procrastination can slow things down and can even lead to stress and anxiety, so it’s worth understanding why we procrastinate on our tasks and how it can be avoided in the modern world.
The most common answer to procrastination is because the task is unpleasant or to avoid doing something we don’t like. And more than we would like to admit, it occurs on a regular basis. A common example would be sitting on an assignment and yet browsing Facebook because the task of just completing it sounds enormous.
So before we do a How on it, let’s get a quick roundup on the Whys.
The Overwhelming Mountain of Tasks
The human brain is taught to reproduce and survive on every aspect. Survival being the key, if the brain detects the tiniest morsel of a threatening situation, it would straightaway put up an emotional response (which will relieve the stress a bit).
And how does it do it? It finds different ways to lay off the stress. Say, for instance, the quarterly report needs to go out at 12 PM and you have a meeting after that. While the practical and reasonable thing to do is to go with the flow, but that will be too mainstream, right?
As soon as this overwhelming situation is judged by the brain, it takes a jiffy to put up a defiance against any reasonable responses.
And if we talk numbers, as per Maribeth Blunt it takes roughly 1/32th of a second.
So instead of continuing with the work, you’ll either end up playing Clash of Clans or browsing the internet. Anything, but the task on hand.
In scientific terms, its the amygdala of the human brain who puts up a ‘fight it or ignore it’ response to the task at hand. In the meantime, the sense of overwhelming generates norepinephrine which induces fear and anxiety. And coupled with adrenaline, the dopamine factor kicks in. And thus starts the hunt for pleasureful activities.
Till now, its has just been 1/32th of a second and the amygdala has already sent out its emotional response — beating the reasonable part of the brain by a whopping 3 seconds.
And that’s how procrastination is born.
How to Avoid Procrastination
Well, surely our brain is wired to put up an emotional and non-threatening response to work pressure and assignments, but that doesn’t go down too well with our associates. Yeah, we live in a society, where a given work is considered ‘earned’ if one delivers it not just in time but also how it was delivered. Moreover, howsoever, skilled are we, seldom is a rushed work is seen as a good end-product.
Fortunately, there are various ways to keep the reasonable part of our brain intact. Of all, the most common remedy is to write down the task, break it down and analyze why you may feel threatened by it.
And in doing so, the brain will start seeing these as doable tasks rather then unquantifiable jobs. And in the process, it’ll feel less threatened and increase the productivity.
Avoid Procrastination — The Techie Way
Thankfully, we are not alone when it comes to procrastination and we have ample apps and extensions to help us.
1. Momentum for Goals [Google Chrome]
Since the basic response to procrastination is jotting down goals, no other extension can do it better than Momentum.
All you need do is install it and jot down your day’s goal.
2. Stay Focused to Get Rid of Distractions [Google Chrome]
Now that the goal is set, how about banning all the other distractions like YouTube or Quora? Say Hi to StayFocusd. This app will only give you a few minutes of precious time per day to view the distraction-full websites.
If you ask me, it’s quite effective in raising the productivity levels. I have programmed it to kick me out after 10 minutes (cumulative through the day) of activity on Facebook, Pinterest, and Quora.
Surely, distractions aren’t just limited to online browsing. They exist in the form of various apps on our smartphones. And to stop yourself from reaching out to such apps, install the Keep Focus app for Android.
Once you set the name of the apps and the time, it won’t let you access the app during the timespan. Though it can do with an additional lock, I suggest, ask a friend of yours to hide the app from plain sight.
A much more serious alternative is the Keep me Out app. True to its name, it will lock you out of your phone for a particular duration of time.
A Parting Shot
It’s safe to say that we all procrastinate — be it the laundry business or writing a report. Often people just needs a push to complete a particular task.
Are you confused if you are a systematic procrastinator or just plain lazy? Take this quiz at MindTools to find out.