Deferment causes us to do things better tomorrow than today. A study now shows that we can simply blame it on our brains. But can you still do something about the constant urge to postpone?
What you can get today, postpone it until tomorrow: This variation of a well-known saying is typical for everyone who suffers from the so-called procrastination. That means: Even if something is actually important, we simply cannot pull ourselves together and postpone it until later. But is it really just laziness when we procrastinate or is our motivation so often underground for other reasons?
Aufschieberitis - all brain matter!
Sure - often it is also a question of personality, whether you can complete tasks quickly or rather put them on the back burner. Some may just have bad time management or stress and therefore leave things behind. This can cause mild depression but is not a broken leg. And for everyone else, researchers at the Ruhr University in Bochum are now giving the all-clear: the tendency to postpone things and give in to distractions is largely determined by our brains.
The scientist Caroline Schlüter and her team asked 264 male and female subjects in detail about how strong their tendency to procrastination is and how well they would rate their own action control. The participants' brains were then scanned. This enabled the researchers not only to measure the volume of certain areas of the brain but also to see how well they are networked with one another - and thus find out what causes are responsible for procrastination.
When our feelings are in our way
In the study, it was noticed that there were clear differences in the brain between people who liked to do their tasks quickly and those who were more likely to be put off. In comparison, those with delayed inflammation had an enlarged amygdala (also called the almond kernel), an area of the brain that is considered our emotional center. In addition, the amygdala is important for assessing and recognizing situations: for example, it warns us of the possible negative consequences of an action. The researchers conclude that procrastination sufferers simply hesitate to do something out of fear of the consequences - so they postpone it.
Linking areas of the brain affect procrastination
But that's not all: Those who are prone to the postponement, the amygdala is also weakly linked to another specific area of the brain. The so-called dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (“dorsal ACC”) largely determines the control over our own actions. Based on the relevant information, he estimates the possible outcome of actions and then selects the one that will be implemented.
So that this action can then also be completed, the dorsal ACC also suppresses competing influences. An example: He decides that we finally have to finalize the shopping list and at the same time ensures that we are not distracted from other activities.
The researchers also have a guess as to why this affects procrastination. If the connection between the two areas of the brain is weak, the dorsal ACC is limited in its ability to determine one action and suppress others. The inhibiting influence of the amygdala, on the other hand, increases - we no longer dare to act and give in to disorders more quickly.
Simple tips: this is how you set priorities
So there is nothing we can do about procrastinating? Yes, but we need a bit of the will to do a task so that we don't postpone it. These tips will help you to declare war on procrastination:
Sort your tasks by priority and start with the most important one
The prospect of a reward afterward motivates to get done
Build pressure on yourself by telling others about your plans and tasks
Divide big tasks into several small ones and do it piece by piece
Make to-do lists with circles to check off - psychologists say that's more satisfying than crossing out something!
Set yourself specific daily goals
By the way, you can get tips for reducing stress in this article!