Brainpower concept with illuminated brain illustration. Brainpower concept with illuminated brain illustration.

From Thought to Action: Breaking the Cycle of Procrastination and Negative Thinking

 

Our brain is the most complex organ of our body, the controlling and coordinating center of the body. It decides and tells all our body parts what functions do they have to perform, so basically, the brain is the leader of our body.

Does this, in any sense, imply that we can not control our brain, or can we not outsmart its working? Surprisingly, the answer is no, and let’s see how.

1. The Decision Making

We clearly know that all decision-making is done by a leader, but it is our brain, and we are eventually the leader of this leader, so that means that we have to take care of the big decision-making process.

Let us understand where we lack, how the brain reacts, and what changes we can make to bring about the desired action.

So, let’s assume a situation where we are given a task to perform and assume that it is outside of our comfort zone.

How to Outsmart Your Primitive Brain
Image by holdendrils from Pixabay

Now, this can be different for different people; for some people, public speaking is very challenging. For others, it might be learning how to drive, yet for others, it can be something as basic as interacting with new people at a social gathering.

In such cases, we need to take care of the words we choose to describe the tasks at hand. If we say, I’m scared to do this/that, so I cannot do it, or I’m not so good at it so that I might fail or other similar phrases.

In an interview with the Icy Whiz team, Victor Trasoff-Jilg, the VP of Sales at Bombing Science, shared his insights on mastering decision-making and productivity. Here is what he had to say:

Victor Trasoff-Jilg
Victor Trasoff-Jilg

I’ve learned that nurturing a positive mindset is the cornerstone of sustained productivity. It’s about seeing challenges as opportunities and maintaining an environment that constantly feeds this outlook.

To effectively organize tasks, adopting a system that resonates with your personal and professional rhythm is crucial.

Whether it’s leveraging cutting-edge digital tools or sticking to the tangible simplicity of pen and paper, the goal is to declutter your mind by breaking down tasks into manageable segments.

This clarity is instrumental in distinguishing between what demands immediate attention and what can be scheduled for later, ensuring a streamlined and focused approach to your work.

Prioritization goes hand in hand with organization. It’s essential to differentiate between tasks that appear urgent and those that are truly important—focusing on the latter ensures that your efforts align closely with your overarching goals.

This strategic alignment not only boosts productivity but also ensures that your actions have a meaningful impact on your professional trajectory.

The importance of balancing work with relaxation cannot be overstated. In a culture that often glorifies overwork, it’s vital to recognize that true productivity isn’t about being busy, but about being effective.

Integrating regular breaks and personal time into your schedule not only prevents burnout but also enhances creativity and motivation, making you more efficient and focused when it’s time to work.

Cultivating gratitude is perhaps the most transformative strategy. Acknowledging your progress, the lessons learned, and the support of those around you fosters a positive work environment and personal well-being.

This mindset promotes a culture of appreciation and collaboration, essential for a thriving professional community.”

2. The Negative Thinking Loop of the Brain

Before even beginning a task, our brain can become trapped in a cycle of negative thoughts about the task, potentially hindering our ability to complete it effectively.

What should be done is that you should not create a mental situation where your cerebral brain thinking moves to the limbic brain.

This happens because when you are scared or skeptical, the logical and informative part partly shuts down, and the emotional and reaction-producing part of the brain gets activated.

This obviously does not work in your favor because the task at hand can not be handled emotionally.

Rather, you should take a timeout and a few long breaths so that your cerebral brain can catch up with the limbic brain and make more viable and logical reasoning to get the work done.

Discussing the psychological aspect of decision-making and procrastination, Steve Carleton, LCSW, CAS, the Chief Clinical Officer at Porch Light Health, discussed his valuable thoughts with the Icy Whiz team in an interview. Here is what he said:

Steve Carleton, LCSW, CAS
Steve Carleton, LCSW, CAS

“Everyone procrastinates at one point or another. For some, it’s brief and doesn’t cause much harm. Unfortunately, some constantly put things off, so much so that it can lead to extreme anxiety and reduced motivation. Sometimes it even causes depression.

If you feel like your day-to-day life and mental health are being affected by your constant delay of tasks, then maybe it’s time for you to seek professional help.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective form of treatment for those with procrastination tendencies. CBT is a type of psychological treatment that is used to treat patients with various mental conditions and behavioral issues.

The therapy has a structured approach that helps patients deal with negative thought patterns, beliefs, and behaviors that contribute to their emotional difficulties.

CBT takes on a problem-focused method that aims to help individuals address the specific problems associated with diagnosed mental disorders.

One CBT method for tackling procrastination is stimulus control. This technique examines and reduces the triggers that instigate this habit.

The main goal of using stimulus control in CBT for procrastination is to help individuals recognize and manage the environmental or internal cues that contribute to their constant delays. In doing so, they can take hold of their actions, thus improving task initiation performance.”

3. Feed Your Brain

You must have noticed that when you have a task with a deadline, you try to complete it as soon as possible because your effort might go completely to waste if the deadline passes.

If you compare the same with actually important tasks but without a deadline, you will observe that our brain tries to push those off or procrastinate somehow.

How to Outsmart Your Primitive Brain
Source: Depositphotos

This is a problem, but the solution to the problem is very easy and it is just that the brain needs to be fed with the exact and requisite information about each task. So, try to make small listicles or whiteboards for tasks that need to be done.

Decide days and fix times and schedules for each task. Make sure you have some form of constant reminder of what all needs to be done, and you have it in front of your eyes to create that mental trigger.

The Icy Whiz team talked to Michelle English, LCSW, the Co-Founder and Executive Clinical Manager at Healthy Life Recovery, on the issue of procrastination. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Michelle English, LCSW
Michelle English, LCSW

“Procrastination is a struggle for us all. It could be fear, anxiety, or just a lack of motivation that keeps you from making that important decision. Students have a hard time getting started on their assignments because they’re difficult and long.

Entrepreneurs can’t make tough decisions to save their lives. Either way, it’s not good and unhealthy for your mental state.

Here are some tips that might help you out though:

  • Find balance: Taking breaks when working is key to keeping sane. If all you do is work, then trust me, everything will never get done the way you want it to be done. Burnout is real, and pushing yourself too hard isn’t healthy. You’ll just end up overwhelmed and not wanting to do anything.
  • Practice gratitude: Instead of focusing on everything bad in life, focus on what makes you happy and grateful. Every day, take a little time out of your day to think about what brought you joy in the last 24 hours or whatever floats your boat.
  • Prioritize and organize tasks: Make sure you know exactly what needs to be done before doing anything else. List things based on importance and urgency so that if something doesn’t get down, it won’t throw off everything else.

Formulating a clear plan will also put ease into your routine, preventing you from having an overwhelming mess full of stress. This will also help you to focus on one task at a time instead of trying to tackle everything at once.”

4. Preventing Procrastination

However, it is crucial to remember that these seemingly boring tasks are essential for maintaining order and productivity in our lives. From doing the dishes to organizing paperwork, completing these mundane tasks helps create a sense of accomplishment and control over our environment.

When we tackle these tasks, we are exercising our ability to focus, prioritize, and manage our time effectively. By breaking down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable steps, we can approach them with a sense of purpose and clarity.

This can also help reduce feelings of overwhelm and stress that often come with a long to-do list. Moreover, completing mundane tasks can actually have a positive impact on our mental well-being. Accomplishing even small tasks can trigger the release of dopamine in the brain, which is a feel-good neurotransmitter.

This can boost our mood and motivation, making us more likely to tackle other tasks on our list. In addition, by taking care of these mundane tasks promptly, we free up mental space and energy for more enjoyable or creative pursuits.

When our environment is clean and organized, we are better able to focus on activities that bring us joy and fulfillment. So, next time you find yourself procrastinating on a mundane task, try to reframe it as an opportunity to cultivate discipline, productivity, and a sense of accomplishment.

Our brain is designed in a way that we seek gratification, so we are wired to find tasks that give us quick satisfaction and gratification.

How to Outsmart Your Primitive Brain
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

When this happens, we feel a sense of accomplishment and happiness, which releases a hormone called dopamine in the body, which provides us pleasure and, thus, motivation to do more and better.

4.1. Hardest First, Easiest Last

No matter how easy, quick or appealing small tasks look like, always do the more time consuming difficult tasks first, in this way you will not carry the burden of finishing it all the time.

Plus, when you do the most difficult task, you will feel very happy and satisfied and have a good dopamine kick. So, now doing other tasks will be super easy.

How to Outsmart Your Primitive Brain
Source: Depositphotos

4.2. Make Mini Umbrellas under your Big Umbrella

Since we know getting dopamine rushes is somehow the key to success at getting your tasks done, design your work in a fashion broken down into small tasks that can be completed easily.

Now, each time you complete a task, you will be motivated for more, and this will eventually help you complete your big goal.

How to Outsmart Your Primitive Brain
Source: Depositphotos

4.3. Take Timeouts and Reward Yourself

Try timed working; set up small time-based goals throughout the day, like 10-30-minute tasks.

After completing each task, take a small break and relax. Basically, you first work and then reward yourself with whatever makes you happy.

How to Outsmart Your Primitive Brain
Source: Depositphotos

With all the information that we have gathered by far, we know a few things. Firstly, we should not be stressing so that our cerebral/logical brain keeps on functioning and does not give access to our limbic/emotional brain.

Secondly, that gratification or dopamine release is necessary to motivate yourself continuously. So, to facilitate that, make sure you are aware of your gratification so you can either talk about your feelings or, even better, write them down in a journal.

Lastly, learn to be grateful for everything in life, appreciate life, and live happily.

Gary Tucker, Licensed Psychotherapist, D’Amore Mental Health, talked to the Icy Whiz team about conquering procrastination effectively. Here is what he had to say:

Gary Tucker
Gary Tucker

“To combat procrastination effectively, decision-making plays a pivotal role in steering us towards our goals. By actively choosing to focus on our objectives rather than succumbing to distractions, we set the stage for productivity.

Breaking down large tasks into smaller, manageable ones also alleviates the overwhelming feeling that often accompanies daunting projects.

Moreover, maintaining a clear understanding of our long-term aspirations amidst daily tasks is essential. By continuously reminding ourselves of the significance of each task in the grand scheme of our journey, we regain clarity and motivation to tackle them efficiently.

Organizing tasks is another cornerstone in the battle against procrastination. Leveraging digital tools such as to-do lists and productivity apps provides structure and clarity, enabling us to stay on track and focused.

Additionally, delegating tasks or seeking assistance when necessary is a prudent approach that ensures tasks are completed effectively and efficiently.

Prioritizing tasks based on their urgency and importance further streamlines our efforts, rather than randomly selecting tasks, focusing on the most pressing issues first prevents us from feeling overwhelmed and enables us to make meaningful progress.

Finally, balancing work and relaxation is paramount for sustained productivity. Regular breaks throughout the day foster mental clarity, enhancing our ability to tackle tasks with renewed focus and energy.”

Guest Author: Saket Kumar

Last Updated on April 23, 2024 by aleeena

Author

Anushree Khandelwal
  1. Every point in this article is so helpful and comforting. Knowing you can control your brain is definitely helpful. The ‘feed your brain’ part is definitely something I wasn’t aware of, but my brain always asked for it, and I wasn’t aware of what was missing. But now I know, it’s natural, and our brains ask for deadlines. I definitely do need to have deadlines so that I can complete tasks without being stressed throughout the day and doing them at the very time I have set aside for it. I now know it’ll be a natural dopamine boost for me too, so both ways are extremely helpful for me and my ‘lazy’ brain. Haha.

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