How to procrastinate like a pro (with neuroscience)
“Progress isn't made by early risers. It's made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something."
- Robert Heinlein
Are you feeling too productive? Maybe you feel like a robot churning through repetitive tasks, prioritizing delayed gratification and future growth instead of short-term happiness.
Well, I got good news.
There are scientifically proven ways to procrastinate like a pro while activating neural plasticity to form a less productive brain.
Let's dive in.
Sleep with a phone next to you
“Reality is finally better than your dreams.”
- Dr. Seuss
Lack of sleep helps you be less productive the following day. With incredible mobile contents flooding apps like YouTube, it’s easy to sleep with a phone next to your bed. A study from University of Texas at Austin revealed that “your cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when your smartphone is within reach — even if it’s off”.
The research team assigned multiple tests to different cohorts. They found that “participants with their phones in another room significantly outperformed those with their phones on the desk, and they also slightly outperformed those participants who had kept their phones in a pocket or bag”.
This means that even if your phone is off, the physical closeness will eat away your brain's attempt to the dream land. Its mere presence will keep you awake, helping you scroll through YouTube’s rabbit hole.
Get big wins over small wins
“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
- Vince Lombardi
Nobody cares about small wins. We all love those superstars who made it to the top overnight. Plan big things and strive for it from the beginning. For example, since meditation about love can help you build stronger relationship with your significant other, start with an hour of meditation per day instead of five minutes. Buy some candles and don’t start until you read everything about gratitude.
Research suggest that you get internal dopamine spikes when you obtain small wins. But small wins don't give you a three-run home-run. You can only trigger an overdose of dopamine when you reach the summit.
Don’t schedule. Rely on your gut
“Creative minds don't follow rules, they follow will.”
-Amit Kalantri, Wealth of Words
Scheduling never works out as planned. You miss a goal here and there anyways. Instead, you should be productive on a whim and rely on primordial instincts of your gut.
Some neuroscientists argue that "analytic thinking may simply consist of post-hoc justifications or rationalizations of decisions based on intuitive thinking”.
Why care about planning your meals or activities? Your gut instincts sway your emotions and overall actions. Stop planning and remove that nicely organized calendar off your screen. You are already perfect.
“Don’t give up what you want most, for what you want now.”
Delayed gratification asks you to wait for meaningful rewards in long term. But that’s painful and boring. Us busy modern people have no time and patience for such philosophy. Instead, search for short term feel-good activities.
Need to read a 15-page research paper today? Don't be so fast. There's nothing wrong with watching a new episode of a hot Netflix series before working. A cognitive psychologist, Tali Sharot, spoke at TED that rewards are essential part of being more productive. Why don’t you enjoy yourself first? You can get back to work after some shots of dopamine.
Always start at the last minute
“If you believe you can accomplish everything by cramming at the eleventh hour, by all means, don't lift a finger now.
Stanford neuroscientist, Andrew Huberman, explained that stress and urgency are the gateway signals of productivity. When you feel agitated, that’s when you need to push through to enter the deep state of productivity.
Why not create such urgency all the time?
Have a YouTube video to make? Start filming 1 day before its due. Have an exam? Accelerate your urgency by pulling an all-nighter to maximize information intake. You’ll get a boost of adrenaline to stay focused.
How many of these do you tik off? If you're feeling down from not being able to stay on track, try listing up what you're doing wrong and laugh it off. Look at “what I’m doing wrong” to turn negativity into a source of good energy.
if you are looking for an effective way to alter your brain and break bad habits, try out our neuroscience habit app, braintingle! Experience our cognitive behaviour therapy in action to discover your triggers and solutions, and connect with others for accountability.