Procrastinators have different brain scans than others
Scans suggest that those who are reluctant have a larger amygdala
Overthinking or fearful of action leads to hesitation or delay in responding. Learn how to overcome procrastination.
Are you hardwired to hesitate?
Are you the type of guy who looks at your to-do list and puts everything off until the last possible moment? It can be difficult for others in your life, like your spouse or co-workers, to understand how you always seem to find something other than to tackle the task at hand right away. You may not be able to adequately explain your reluctance to complete tasks, but now you can give them an answer: your brain made you do it. Yes, that's right, there is new research to suggest that some of us are just hardwired to be procrastinators.
The study, conducted at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany, found that the brain of people who tend to procrastinate is different from the brain of people who generally take care of things right away. These results are based on a study in which 264 healthy men and women between the ages of 18 and 35 participated. None of the subjects were previously diagnosed with psychiatric or neurological problems.
After completing questionnaires designed to assess propensity to either complete tasks immediately or delay completing them, each subject underwent a brain exam. A series of MRIs were done to get measurements of multiple regions of the brain and the connections between them.
How the amygdala affects procrastination
The scans provided evidence that those with a tendency towards “poor action control” – the scientific terminology for procrastination – have a larger amygdala, which is the area of the brain responsible for motivation. In addition, the images showed that the connection between the amygdala and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dorsal ACC), which affects our ability to act, is weaker in those who hesitate.
Interestingly, the amygdala is involved in assessing situations, with a special focus on the negative outcomes of our actions. This seems to be at odds with what we might expect in people with a larger amygdala, since delaying a task is more likely to lead to an adverse outcome. However, one theory suggests that over-thinking or fear of action leads to hesitation or delay in responding.
The research was limited by the relatively small sample population. In addition, all of the volunteers were relatively young adults, so it's impossible to know whether these abnormalities in the brain can also occur in children or the elderly – or maybe the result of years of delay rather than its cause. Despite these issues, the results are compelling and add to our understanding of how brain structure can affect behavior.
Helpful Tricks: How To Overcome Procrastination
But what does this all mean to you if you are a hesitant guy? Unfortunately, not much at this point. From current research, we don't know if there are ways to strengthen the brain connections between the amygdala and the dorsal ACC that could help you take action more quickly, or whether you might simply by knowing that your propensity is hardwired can exercise more willpower to overcome it.
However, there are a few tricks you can learn to become less of a procrastinator. A helpful method is to get organized. Make a detailed list of your tasks and set goals for completing one or more of the tasks in a set time. Another way to get motivated is to break each task down into smaller components. Many of us are scared of realizing how much we need to do, but having each item broken down into tiny steps can make it far less daunting.
If sometimes your problem is due to difficulty focusing on the task at hand, then you should try meditation. A 2010 study at the University of California at Davis found that meditation can lead to better focus even when performing tedious tasks. And when you use a natural brain-enhancing formula that contains herbs that can help you achieve a state of relaxed alertness, improve focus and attention span, and improve your chances for novelty-seeking behavior, it may become a lot easier Tasks in the here and here now.