Procrastination: It’s pretty much all in the mind

We tend to think of procrastinating as a matter of willpower and drive. But what if a lack of focus, or a tendency to dither, or hold back, is actually an emotional problem? New study suggests that there is physical evidence to support the thesis that an inability to filter through competing emotions may be at the heart of what makes some individuals more prone to procrastination. Armed with an array of questions and scads of scans, researchers decided to get a bead on whether proactive types were similar, or dissimilar, speaking brain-wise, to their less proactive colleagues. What they found was that there were indeed physical, discernable differences. Centers of the brain that has to do with processing feeling and taking action showed differences in size and connectivity capacity, which correlated with whether the individual showed an innate ability to move forward easily, regardless of emotional stimuli, or whether the individual was more apt to be a ditherer. However, though science makes a case for physical predisposition, there is no reason not to input some personal brain training of one’s own. With effort one can learn what is not necessarily hard-wired in. If procrastination is an ongoing concern, learn to keep distractions minimal. Cut tasks into bite sizes. And don’t despair. Productivity is always achievable.

Reflect on these key points:

  • 1To separate the proactive from the procrastinators, researchers scanned the brains of 264 participants.
  • 2The scans showed that one part of the brain, on the temporal side, was larger in the procrastinators.
  • 3The larger structure in the procrastinators was the amygdala, which is almond-shaped.

“Experts say the study, in Psychological Science, underlines procrastination is more about managing emotions than time.”

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