Now or Later: Why we procastinate

How many times have you told yourself “I’ll do it later”? What is it that makes some people so driven and focused on their goals while others prefer to push off things for a later date so as to be able to enjoy the here and now? The answer lies within two distinctive regions of the brain. The first is the prefrontal cortex which is basically the seat of will power while the second is the thalamus which responds to the more pleasurable things in life. Initially as a person starts off a task the prefrontal cortex is on full drive. Distractions or thoughts of procrastination rarely arise or are pushed away. However as time goes by and the prefrontal cortex starts getting drained, the thalamus starts receiving the upper hand and impulsiveness and thoughts of relaxation and pleasure start overriding the will power that emanates from the prefrontal cortex. At this point if a person is given a new task they would be more likely to procrastinate than work. However the good news is taking a break, even as short as 15 minutes, allows the prefrontal cortex to charge up allowing it to regain control over the thalamus. For some people the time it takes to drain the prefrontal cortex is much shorter than for others. A good indicator of the power of the prefrontal cortex is the ability of a person to focus and concentrate. The longer a person is able to concentrate on a given task, the stronger the will power of their prefrontal cortex and the less likely they will be to procrastinate. Therefore increasing your ability to focus and concentrate through methods such as meditation, awareness training and psychotherapy would lead to an overall increase in productivity and a resultant decrease in the tendency to procrastinate.

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