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Neuroscience Says Our Brain Is Wired to Procrastinate

Most of us procrastinate finding ways to avoid doing what we feel and know that would make a huge difference in our lives.

Neuroscience says our brain is wired to procrastinate. Our limbic system is this part of the brain that helps control our behavioral and emotional responses and playing a key role in our survival adaptation. Our limbic system only focuses on the proximate and immediate, on the present, on the “Now” moment. By contrast, our neocortex is this part of human brains that deals with higher-order brain functions like cognition, spatial reasoning, language and making decisions that affect our future.

While our neocortex realizes and is telling us that we have to do something about our live, our limbic system prevents us, to take immediate action. That is why we procrastinate: our limbic system and neocortex are always engaged in a constant battle, one that the limbic often wins unless we find ways to take it out of the equation or fool it into thinking it is winning.

The key to procrastination avoidance is to find a way to align all possible future outcomes with our present and actual outcomes; to make something now that we know is good for us in the long run and also feel good in the short term.

How do we do this?

First, we have to shift our focus from the future to the present. We have to find ways to trigger the “now” portion of your brain. Then, we have to modify our goals without upsetting our limbic system. The goal is to avoid our limbic system influence and interference completely. If there are recurring tasks we often put off, we have to find ways to automate them. This way, our limbic system will no longer get involved in our decision-making process and the things we want to do will always get done. The other thing we want to do is to adopt and follow the 5-Minutes Rule.

If we resent doing something, we have to make a deal with yourself to give it at least five minutes of our time. In most cases, after five minutes doing what we resent to do, we will end up doing the whole thing. Once we get started, something magical happens: We realize that what we were afraid of starting is not so scary after all. The endorphins kick in. Our mental muscles warm up. Our limbic system loves that feeling and we end up completing the task at hand.

When you are struggling to get started, do not think about all the work involved. Just give it five good minutes of your time. That will quiet your limbic system and the magic will happen. From there, it will be all downhill.

JMD

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