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I am a procrastinator. We all are at some time or another. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but it does cost you in multiple ways. At the expense of £76 billion to the economy per annum, procrastination is no small issue. Fending off procrastination not only decreases this number but also improves your own financial and physical wellbeing. Here’s how and why you should stop procrastinating.
Procrastination is about delaying things (often inevitable or fast approaching) to put off the mental cognition attached to those things. The practice is as old as time and rooted in biology, psychology and your surroundings. Now with more calls on our attention than ever and the next critical 24-months, it’s essential to stem procrastination whenever possible.
Procrastination doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it usually happens when you have some tough work ahead, and your limbic system (the fight-or-flight bit of your brain) goes into overdrive. There are two main ways to stem procrastination; medically and physically (or mentally). Medically is the newest way and has been made famous by Hollywood. A new area of science (‘Nootropics’) is gaining popularity thanks to movies like ‘Limitless’, ‘Lucy’ and ‘Formula 51’. Referred to commonly as ‘smart drugs’, nootropics are essentially hacking the body to increase functions like memory, reaction time, creativity and focus.
Focus research, when it comes to smart drugs, concentrates (excuse the pun) on increasing neurotransmitter production (the body’s messengers). L – tyrosine is an amino acid that helps make dopamine and adrenaline and helps with being alert when tired. When stressed we burn dopamine and adrenaline which leads to procrastination. Other areas that research is looking at include mitochondria production and Acetyl-L-Carnitine (an antioxidant) which can help decrease neurological decline and signs of ageing. Ginseng is also usually found in smart drugs for its mood booster qualities.
The other side of procrastination is more willpower focused. The simple act of saying or thinking ‘just do it now’. There are strategies for this, and it starts with attacking the hardest thing first. The reason for this is simple; you have the most cognitive power at the beginning, so you stand the highest chance of getting the task completed. The other recommendation is the restart your day at 2 pm as this is the time most people begin to look at the clock and see the end of the day. If you set a timer or get into the habit of writing a list of things still left to do, studies show that you get more completed. People who evaluate their day before the end of it complete more tasks too as they can reprioritise and plan better. Finally, create a contract. People who include others in actions complete more of them – think about going to the gym with a friend or calling someone and telling them what you’re going to do. A type of social contract forms where failure carries psychological penalties. Choosing this option adds in an invisible string that tugs at you and forces you to focus in order not to lose face or appear weak without any real risk of damage.
Whatever route you choose, procrastination is worth fighting. Fixing the underlying issues like tiredness and poor time-management skills can also help, but smart drugs and willpower hacks may help make winning the war that much easier.
NOTE: Not all Nootropics are harmless, some are synthetic and have been shown to have mixed side-effects so you should consult a Doctor before taking them.