Internal battle of a procrastinator


by Sheruni Boteju

Procrastination is the act of purposely delaying the completion of an important task that needs immediate attention up until the last possible moment leaving the procrastinator in a panic-induced sprint to meet the deadline. Scientists have concluded that procrastination is a battle between two sections of the brain and is an issue with emotions rather than the common misconception of them being lazy.[1]

The battle is between the “Prefrontal Cortex” and the “Amygdala” of the brain, where the Prefrontal Cortex is trying to get you to complete the task making you focus by predicting the ramifications of one’s actions of not completing the task.[2] This is overpowered by the Amygdala who recognizes the task you are avoiding as a “threat” because of the emotional response it has created which has induced anxiety and frustration thus igniting the “fight or flight”[3] response. The Amygdala then responds to the threat to make ourselves feel better by avoiding the task.

Simply, think of procrastination[4] like being in a toxic relationship cycle[5] you just can’t seem to get out of. Let me break this down to you by showing you a glimpse of my toxic relationship.

Firstly, the “Honeymoon phase”

It started with my Ordinary Level examination in 2017 with wishful promises I made myself as I constantly distracted myself from even thinking of studying. I kept promising myself that this time it will be different than before, that in this case, I will definitely start early and that I shouldn’t worry and just have faith in the process. That I had two years ahead to prepare and for now, I could just relax.

Next comes the “Tension Building phase”

This is when the weight of the exam started to slowly gloom over me. When my term examinations came out with extremely alarming results. Here I started to reason with myself trying to keep that intrusive anxiety-inducing thoughts at bay, agreeing to whatever my mind said to just keep me in a good mood. All the while knowing that the pressure is slowly boiling within the surface. I started to criticize myself, badgering myself as to why I didn’t start earlier while making sure no one else found out about my failure and betrayal to myself for if they did it meant I would have had to face the reality of the dire situation I was in.

Finally comes the “Acute Explosion phase”

This is when the dread finally took over me when in one of my final practice tests I found myself failing “Science” scoring a measly 21%. Now with less than 6 months to my exam, I realized the deadline has come too close to comfort. Full panic ensued as I broke down in stress and anxiety, belittling myself as to why I led myself to this position yet again. Here I finally put my brain in full throttle and crammed two years’ worth of lessons in six months determined to finish the task within the limited time gap I had boxed myself into. I ended up scoring “A” s in all of the subjects which I had been failing earlier that year and I promised myself never to procrastinate again.

This is exactly how every procrastinator’s mind works for we know, no matter how much we procrastinate we end up getting the job done. This locks us into a false sense of security making us continue the cycle yet again; however, with time this will cripple us one way or another and it is best for any procrastinator to seek support to break this vicious cycle.