“Procrastination is like a credit card; it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.” — Christopher Parker
We all know this feeling. Cleaning the kitchen suddenly seems like the most thrilling thing, reading up on black holes and nuclear waste storage has never felt so important and the project you wanted to complete today has to wait for tomorrow — again!
Our tendency to procrastinate might bring short-term relief, but it only stores up problems for later. By delaying our work we usually just end up feeling more stressed.
Why the hell do we procrastinate?
Let’s have a look at the science.
When we’re facing a task it comes to a battle between two parts of our brains.
The limbic system and the prefrontal cortex.
The limbic system has been around since birth and is our pleasure and emotion center. It is also the center of impulse control:
“Let’s have fun, NOW!”
The prefrontal cortex on the other hand develops only later in life and is the part of the brain responsible for decision-making, planning, and foresight. It is assumed to be the part of the brain that most distinguishes humans from animals:
“Let’s do what is best for you IN THE FUTURE.”
Now, we humans have a tendency to overvalue immediate rewards at the expense of long-term goals. We are pretty good at making a rational choice when thinking about the future, but in the near term, the limbic system with its short-term considerations often wins over our long-term best interest.
This explains why it’s so easy to procrastinate. Most of our significant projects are long-term, with uncertain consequences.
Binging Netflix or even taking on short-term tasks like cleaning up the apartment is just too good to pass up because they are actions of immediate rewards even though they sometimes come along with gathering clouds of guilt and frustration.
What helps us stop?
Deadlines or an impeding personal embarrassment is what usually helps us gain control over the short-term thinking limbic system.
Unfortunately for many of our most important aspirations, there is no clear deadline or person that holds us accountable.
Self-starters are not usually faced by pre-determined deadlines, managers, or peers. And this is what makes achieving self-set goals, like learning to code by yourself, so hard.
How to break the loop if there are no deadlines?
“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” — Napoleon Hill
1. Create your own deadlines!
If you have no one to set your deadlines, create them yourself! Make sure to break your goal into achievable milestones and set realistic deadlines for each of them.
2. Keep yourself accountable to someone else than you!
Find an accountability partner!
Ideally, this is a mutual relationship — an accountability partnership where you hold each other accountable and share the struggles and achievements. It will make the journey way more fun too!
If your goal is to shift into tech, check out Codum to find your Coding accountability partner!
3. Reward yourself!
Focus on progress, not perfection. Don’t forget to reward yourself for any achieved milestone!
You deserved it!