• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 6:24pm

Hang on ... while I talk about putting things off

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 September, 2011, 12:00am

We've all been students - and I'm sure almost all of us have felt an emptiness in our chest when we've realised that most of the summer has passed and there's still a pile of work to do.

Like many high school students, I tend to plan my summer activities during the actual school year - 'this summer, I will study hard and prepare for my upcoming exams'. Unfortunately, this hasn't happened. Although my homework is still undone, I can relish the fact that I am not alone - procrastination is something we all suffer from, to some extent. After all, few of us actually keep our New Year's resolutions.

Procrastination happens when two individual parts of your brain battle it out against each other. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that tells you to finish your homework or risk being grounded, and the limbic system is the part that tells you to take a break, even when you don't deserve one. They essentially play the parts of an angel and devil - in your brain.

Dr Piers Steel, an associate professor of human resources at the University of Calgary's Haskayne School of Business, says 95 per cent of the population are procrastinators: people like you and I who tend to be impulsive and easily distracted, but hardworking when faced with deadlines.

He has even devised a Temporal Motivational Theory to explain why we put things off: Motivation = (Expectancy x Value)/(Impulsiveness x Delay)

Steel has written a book about procrastination (go to http://procrastinus.com). One of his best tips is to work during our peak periods of productivity (10am-2pm) and enforce the 'five-minute rule' - order yourself to work for five minutes and then, at the end of that period, commit to another five.

I wish I had known this sooner. I'm writing this at 5.46pm, barely 20 minutes before I'm off from work. I guess I've failed, but there's always ... er, autumn 2011 - a new school year ... and a new start!

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