The Art of Procrastination

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After declining the lovely offer to socialise due to a crazy amount of school work that urgently needed attending to, my supervisor/pastor/bert said to me “I’m looking forward to reading some good content on the church blog then!”

That’s what happened last time. I blogged here when I was in the midst of what I would call “lock-down-mode”. That’s when I force myself to be a recluse all in the name of finishing my bible college assignments. (hey, i wrote that during my break time!) This time is no different. I’m blogging again, (don’t know if it’ll be any good…? my supervisor will be happy though. maybe he has the gift of prophecy?! haha. or he’s just smart?) but there’s one reason why one tends to find the energy to do everything else under the sun but simply not attend to the most urgent matters at hand: the looming deadlines that are fast approaching.

Reader, yes I am a student. Yes I have deadlines and exams. But everything else looks so much more attractive when you’re avoiding things that do matter. Boy. That’s just called procrastination. And have I mastered it? Perhaps.

And why do some people manage to get their work/studies/revision done all months/weeks in advance, when some of us procrastinate and leave things to the very last minute? Scientifically, is there actually an answer?

There was a talk on radio 4 that I had listened to (gasp! I’m that old to be listening to radio 4 now?! haha. gone are the days of radio 1) and they explained that teenagers have a hard time planning their time wisely and thus leave things to the last minute, mainly because their prefrontal cortex (the part in the brain that is telling us “you should be working”) is still growing and developing, so it takes time and experience for them to learn about time management and prioritising things.
Oh. But does that mean my brain is underdeveloped and I’m still secretly a teenager still going through changes? How about the rest of us that leave things to the last minute?

Apparently there is a battle, not just within teenagers, but in fully-grown adults too. The battle between the prefrontal cortex (the part in the brain that says “you have a very important 50% of your overall module assignment to do. you haven’t started yet. go do it now”) is fighting with another part called the limbic system—that is the part of the brain that wants to play. This dichotomy that plays havoc internally, can be due to the amygdala (a part in your brain that controls fear and anxiety: the whole “flight or fight” response is processed here.) And with that fear comes about either fear of failure, or the task isn’t enjoyable, or just not knowing where to start—our brains want comfort and hence why the limbic system wins—let’s go and play and deal with this later! (there’s a good youth Ted talk on this, go search on youtube “why we procrastinate by Vik Nithy”. I might put the link in here later, if i get round to it.)

And how do we get past all this and stop ourselves from procrastinating? I thought about blogging about this answer tomorrow, but I thought twice, maybe I should just share it now. It’s not The Answer. but it is a method I like to use.

I have found that when you’re super distracted, and you’re tempted to just check once again your email/facebook/instagram/twitter/snapchat/tumblr feeds, or you think you need to reorganise your desk/clean you room/the whole house. Pretty much doing a Martha just to avoid that other pending thing you’re avoiding. Spending a moment with Jesus through prayer can help. So prayer? (i’m sorry if you thought there would be a10-step self-help, buzz-feed like framework to help stomp out procrastination in your life, sorry if my answer is a bit of a let down). But I do find prayer to be effective. It calms you down, realigns your focus, especially when your prefrontal cortex is having a serious street-fighter-esque battle with the limbic system, but then, boom, plot twist: the amygdala comes in to play and before you know it, you’re paralysed by fear, and you’re tumbling down the (youtube) rabbit hole, looking for procrastination-booting videos… I’ve found that God can help in these stormy moments.
I’ve been meditating on these verses:

Ephesians 3:16-21 (ESV)

Prayer for Spiritual Strength

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

And it’s exactly that. God grants us strength through his Son and Spirit, which dwells within us, He gives us power, love that we may not fully grasp, and a fullness of God. But get this, God is able to do far more than what we ask or think. He can help us fight this battle! And He will.

Fellow students: If in doubt, pray. Meditate on a verse or two (or three). Pray some more. And trust God. then go and study.

Time for me to get back to my papers.

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