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The Neuroscience of Procrastination


At some point in life, most of us have procrastinated – generally defined as putting off an undesirable task despite knowing the negative implications. Procrastination affects between 20% and 25% of adults worldwide. In a local study published in the Malaysian Psychology Journal, 22 out of a sample of 310 students reported they almost never procrastinate but 92.9% acknowledged procrastinating in study-related activities. Of course, there may be good reasons to leave certain tasks for later. The problem arises when procrastination tempts you to repeatedly do so.


Many people think that procrastination is due to lazy habits or just plain incompetence, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Procrastination finds its roots in our biology. It’s the result of a constant battle in our brain between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex. Because the limbic system is much stronger, it very often wins the battle, leading to procrastination. We give our brain what feels good now. In fact, procrastination can also be seen as the result of a battle between your present self and your future self.


The process of procrastination is an emotional roller-coaster between the peaks of charging one’s self up to do the difficult task and the despondency about succumbing to a time-sucking temptation. Most of us have ridden this ride before. Consequently, the experience of a difficult task carries its own dread as well as the dread of another cycle of committing, procrastinating, and nagging one’s self back to work.


Overcoming procrastination is about two things: the pain and pleasure principle and to work on your emotional drivers, using brain techniques. Join us in our next free masterclass. Stay tuned!

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