The Brain Connections Involved in Procrastination
Are you a procrastinator or not? Most people can answer that question. You know whether you have that tendency to put things off or whether you ascribe to the “don’t put off til tomorrow what you could do today” mantra. But what does that tell us about your brain? If you are a procrastinator, you probably have a larger amygdala — one of the brain structures involved in emotion, particularly fear — and the connections between that large amygdala to your anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) are probably less strong. The ACC monitors the salience of emotions, particularly fear, and plays a role in initiating action.
The researchers who discovered this explained that this may cause you to focus on the potential negative consequences of the action, and lets the fear of those interfere with getting started on the task. But just because your brain is “wired” a certain way, for example to make you predisposed to procrastinate, that doesn’t get you off the hook. As Alice Walton put it in a recent Forbes article, “In fact, there’s a neurological underpinning for just about every behavior we do—but, happily, the brain is very plastic and able to rewire, with repeated practice at something.”
So if you tend to procrastinate, you can literally talk yourself out of it, and the more you exercise the part of your brain that regulates that fear, the easier it will become. In this way, as many others, you can rewire your own brain to a greater degree than you believe.