Neurosurgery and Brain Health The Science Behind Procrastination By Neurosurgery, July 28, 2015 You’ve waited too long — the pantry is empty, your inbox is full, everything is late — you’re overwhelmed and not quite sure how things got this far. Maybe it was the night spent binge-watching Netflix or the nap to make up for the subsequent lack of sleep, but you’ve managed to push off all of your duties to the last minute. What Is Procrastination? Procrastination is a plague to which we are all susceptible. Essentially, procrastination is the avoidance of work or necessary tasks by focusing on more satisfying activities. It’s easy to chalk procrastination up to a lack of self-motivation, lazy habits or incompetence. But in reality, procrastination is chemical; there’s a science to why we prefer relaxing activities to the required. Procrastination boils down to a battle between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex. The limbic system is a set of brain structures containing the pleasure center, while the prefrontal cortex controls planning and decision making. The prefrontal cortex is less developed and thus weaker, so often times the limbic system wins out, leading to procrastination. Types of Procrastination There are a few different “types” of procrastinators, including those who can be categorized as thrill-seekers, avoiders, or indecisive. Thrill-seekers enjoy the rush that comes with racing to meet deadline, and so they procrastinate to catalyze that experience. Avoiders procrastinate out of fear of being judged for both successful and unsuccessful work. Indecisive procrastinators put off tasks to avoid the blame for a sub-par end product. How to Overcome Procrastination Overcoming procrastination is difficult, but possible. The most effective method is taking preventative measures. Schedule and complete tasks ahead of time. For example, if you are able to work a little bit on a project each night, you’ll have much less (or nothing!) to do when the night before deadline rolls around. Don’t focus on a perfect, finished product, but rather getting a head start; all of the free time you have later can be dedicated to refining the project. So get out there and get started; you’ll be thanking yourself later.