A Very Nice Take on Procrastination

Why does one procrastinate? Fear of failure? Lack of will? Those were old answers. However, one Cal Newport has a different take on procrastination:

…the complex planning component of your brain evaluates this plan — as it has evolved to do — and then rejects it as not sound. (Grinding it out all night at the library is as haphazard a plan as charging the mammoth with a spear: your frontal lobe is having none of it!)

Here’s the second relevant question: What does this rejection feel like? Complex planning is a pre-verbal adaptation, so it’s not going to manifest itself as a voice in your head exclaiming “plan rejected!” Instead, it’s going to be more intuitive: a biochemical cascade designed to steer you away from a bad decision; something, perhaps, that feels like a lack of motivation to get started.

In this telling, procrastination is not a character flaw but instead a finely-tuned evolutionary adaptation. You shouldn’t lament procrastination, but instead listen to it. Treat it as a sign that your skills as a student need more work.

So, next time a thing is being being procrastinated by us, see why the plan does not seem so good and how we can make it good.


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