I have been wanting to write about this for as long as this blogsite has been around but I always put it off every time something more exciting comes along. Even when I ran out of topic to write about, which should have shoved me to write about procrastination, I still procrastinated! My attention would always lead me to my TV or sketchbook or my piano or the ever-tempting social media.
The Constant Battle In Your Head: Later or now?
That battle in your head is true! There is a constant battle between your pre-frontal cortex and your limbic system. Think about your pre-frontal cortex as your parents who only want the best for you, while your limbic system is like your cool grandparents who will take you to fun places and have nothing in mind but to spoil you! There is a constant battle between these two guardians.
For instance, one cool afternoon your cool granny tells you that your parents are out-of-town so drop that homework and go out and play in the park. The park is a fun place to go to than being stuck at home with your homework! However, when your parents got home and found out that you are out in the park with homework undone, you’d be scolded and reminded of your dim future.
(By the way, I don’t mean all parents are not cool and all grandparents are bad-influence.)
Your Pre-frontal Cortex Maybe Weak
Your pre-frontal cortex is what you slap when you realized you were stupid and where you point to when you want to think deeply about something. Yes, it is located behind your forehead. It is where you process information logically, helps you focus and in making decisions. Self-control (which separates us from beasts) is what it brings to our lives. This part of the brain tells us that something is essential or beneficial that we need to accomplish, which will require a bit of sacrifice. It is not fun to do but future will be bright as it is rewarding. If this is weak, your ancient limbic system takes over. When this happens, we then put something urgent or important off till tomorrow or the next day or whenever.
Can you blame your ancestors then?
Your limbic system, unlike your pre-frontal cortex, works automatically. This is the oldest part of your brain and is fully developed from birth.
It sits in the deepest section of your brain and stores experiences and key learning learned by your ancestors. It is this part of your brain that forms your instinct so that you move away from anything harmful. It controls mood and basic emotions like pleasure, anger, fear, urges, etc. It will always redirect your attention to anything pleasurable (Dopamine in a rave!)and will make you avoid anything that is daunting or plainly put, not fun.
How do we make both guardians win?
I am a procrastinator myself so clearly, I don’t have any solid tip for you on this. However, if I put my Biologist hat on (of which I usually flinch off especially when the urge to binge hits), there is a way to take advantage of these two groups of brain cells, in a way, they both win.
When you feel the urge to procrastinate paying your bills, think about how difficult it is to lose your phone service or electricity! If you put off car maintenance, imagine how embarrassing it can be on the road when your car engine stops and the faces of people who deride you for the traffic you have caused! When you feel like putting off a project, think about the face of your teacher or boss if he is disappointed or mad or his proud face and hearing the phrase ‘great work!’ if you complete your project on time.
Why some can work better under pressure?
Guilty as charged! It is the adrenaline kicking in and this feeling of rush can be so addicting but it is not the body’s normal state. What if you thought wrong- you actually don’t have time when you thought you had? This work-on-it-at-the-11th-hour kind of system is counterproductive and is harmful to our body.
Your blood pressure will shoot up and heart beats faster as cortisol (stress hormone) is released. Another risky reaction our body makes on situations like this is it would either fight, resulting in haphazard output or derision towards people as you start blaming your boss or teacher or towards the task itself, complaining that it is hard; or flee- quit!
But it can also be beneficial. (Surprised?)
The best wine requires years of waiting. Ideas also require brewing or incubating before they could flourish into great ideas! I-will-sleep-on-it actually works! It would at times be beneficial if you don’t jump into your task just yet and allow the days to go by, and as these days go, you will encounter things that may trigger insights better than the one you had yesterday. However, this can be great for art projects or any project or task that mostly require creativity and of course, if you got enough time in your hands to procrastinate.
If God procrastinated, what will this earth look like if he decided to put off the ocean till the next one hundred years. I am thankful that He didn’t. God is always good!