Comstock's magazine 0219 - February 2019 - Page 42

n productivity ture Homer,” he says, drinking vodka from a may- onnaise jar. “Man, I don’t envy that guy.” Academic research suggests that Homer is onto something: Procrastination is driven by our inabil- ity to identify with our “future self.” As rational ac- tors, we should do whatever is best for both present and future self. Yet we don’t. In fact, our brains think of future self almost as a stranger. In a 2008 experiment, the researcher Hal Hershfield hooked Stanford stu- dents up to MRI brain scanners and then asked them to think about their present self, future self, and then Matt Damon or Natalie Portman. He found that the brain thinking of future self looked less like the brain thinking of present self and more like the brain thinking about random celebrities. Neuroscience offers some additional clues. “We have a battle in our brains,” says Pychyl, ref- erencing the conf lict between the fight-or-f light impulses of our amygdala and the executive func- tions of our prefrontal cortex. A 2018 study, from the Ruhr-Universitat Bochum in Germany, found that chronic procrastinators tend to have a larger amygdala, so as Pychyl says, “You see a task, and you’ve associated it with all of these negative emo- tions, and the amygdala is screaming, ‘Run away!’” The Solutions The advice of, “Well, just stop procrastinating!” is not particularly helpful. As Tim Urban (of the web- site Wait But Why) has joked, “While we’re here, let’s make sure obese people avoid overeating, de- pressed people avoid apathy, and someone please tell beached whales that they should avoid being out of the ocean.” Yet there is hope. After poring through the books, consulting the experts and trying to incor- porate these strategies into my own life, here are the tips I’ve found to be the most useful. Collec- tively, they nudge us to create new habits that will wean us away from our adrenaline-junkie-driven procrastination cycles. They fall into three catego- ries: The mental hacks, the scheduling tricks and the soul-searching. 42 | February 2019