Tim Urban talks about the Panic Monster, which is what drives us to work when a deadline is approaching or when we run the risk of embarrassing ourselves in front of others.
He was a government major, which means he had to write a lot of papers. He talked about how he started working two all-nighters 72 hours before the deadline to finish his 90-page senior thesis in college, an endeavor that typically requires up to 12 months of planning.
He has never been able to break this destructive habit, like many of us.
He visited an MRI lab to examine the brains of a procrastinator and a known non-procrastinator in order to better understand his own conduct.
He discovered that although both brains have a Rational Decision-Maker in them, the procrastinator’s brain had an Instant Gratification Monkey (IGM),” which forces procrastinators to interrupt productivity and focus on “things that are easy and pleasurable” at the expense of success. Both brains, he found, contained a Rational Decision-Maker.
This Monkey does not appear to be a man you want in charge of a vehicle. He only ever exists in the present. He is unaware of the past, the present, or the future.
Now, that works just fine in the animal kingdom. If you live your entire life as a dog doing just simple and enjoyable activities, you are a big success!
And humans are just another animal species to the monkey. Keeping well-rested, well-fed, and spreading into the next generation is necessary, which may have functioned all right in prehistoric tribal societies. But in case you didn’t notice, this is not the period of the tribes. The Monkey has no idea what an evolved civilization is like, even though we live in one. That’s why we have a second guy in our brain who makes rational decisions and allows us to act in ways that no other animal can.
Future scenarios are conceivable. The big picture is visible to us. Long-term planning is possible. And he wants to consider all of it. And he simply wants us to carry out whatever makes sense at this moment.
Procrastination has long-term negative repercussions on our mental and physical health, such as chronic stress, general psychological distress, low life satisfaction, signs of depression and anxiety, poor health behavior, and even hypertension.
Over time, I came to understand that procrastination is fundamentally not just about productivity but also about emotions. And thus, while these things are all helpful, the greatest way I have discovered to stop procrastinating is by controlling my emotions. The solution is not to get a time management program, app or learn new self-control techniques. Instead, I made a better, bigger offer to myself.
To put it another way, I rewired my brain by providing it with a higher reward than avoidance. Making it as simple as I can for me to do everything I want to.
Whether we consider ourselves procrastinators or not, we must all work to maintain control over the Instant Gratification Monkey.
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