Don't leave for tomorrow ... I better leave it: The habit of procrastinating

Don't leave for tomorrow ... I better leave it: The habit of procrastinating

Procrastination is one of the most common and deadly diseases, and its dire effect on success and happiness is very large. Wayne Dyer (Psychologist)

Procrastination is making the decision not to do something even though you know that in the long term it will be worse. Tim Pychyl (Psychologist)

  • Mario, you need to do your thesis and think and think and think and search and search and search, but do not know what you are looking for and what you think ?, then he takes the blame for not moving forward and better leave everything for tomorrow.
  • Luisa, wants to confront her family and have the intellectual status achieved with her schoolmates, in terms of being recognized as an enterprising and intelligent woman, but no matter how hard she tries to convince her family of the person she is now Something always happens and you can't talk to them because you haven't found the right time, even in the innermost thing you are afraid to do it because you know they won't believe you.
  • Lety, he wants to clean his closet. Her shoes are not accommodated as she likes, every time she dresses and opens it she thinks the same thing: "I'm going to clean and accommodate everything." Two years have passed and he still thinks that from one moment to another he will be able to do it.
  • Bety, expect to wake up one day and see all the housework already done, almost by magic. This does not happen and keep waiting.
  • Richard, he feels uncomfortable with his shirts, now they are very fair and he thinks, it is time to go on a diet, but he always has an important date and a delicious dish in his way. His best solution has been so far, to buy clothes a larger size, because he does not lose weight.
  • Roberto, you need to deliver your work project. The search for his song on the web begins very encouraging, but he listens to a Beatles song and decides that a little time will be given not only to listen to it, but also to know the translation of it. Watch an announcement of an interesting documentary about the black holes and at the end of the day he realizes the lost time and again his main theme got out of hand.
  • To Lupita, her friends are called "Sindi", she thought she was affectionate, but she learned about her nickname once she told them about her dreams: traveling, starting a business, buying a car, studying languages, exercising, stopping smoking, having a balanced diet and due to not achieving any, the nickname "Sindi", is because among them they comment: You look like Lupita, the girl "Sindi" No direction in your life.


  • 1 The procrastination
  • 2. Background
  • 3 What is an automatism?
  • 4 The human connectome
  • 5 The connectome and the synaptoma
  • 6 Fear of the new
  • 7 How does a habit form?


Do you know someone like that? The common thing in all these characters, including you reader friend, is the habit of leaving their activities for tomorrow, evading them, hiding them, leaving them stored for another time, not facing them, that is: postponing them (procrastinate them), with the undesirable consequences and the discomfort of having left them pending. Doing this produces: guilt, fear, stress, discomfort, discomfort, insecurity, remorse, anguish and anxiety. When the proposed tasks are not completed, the same cycle is repeated again (habit), it is like the snake that bites its tail.

The consequences associated with our actions determine our future behavior (Cubeiro, 2014). Tim Pychlyl, one of the world's leading experts on the issue of procrastination, says that: “it is the most serious problem in education today and it affects grades, mental and physical health and increases the dropout rate” (Pickles, 2017).

Not facing new things is a form of self-protection so as not to leave the familiar, of the comfort zone.

This is the metaphorical zone in which you are when you move in an environment that you dominate, in it things are familiar and comfortable, whether they are pleasant or not. For example, being stuck in traffic every day is being in your comfort zone, because that is what you know. What your boss crushes you in the office is a comfort zone, because that is what you know. Enjoy or fight with your partner, it is comfort zone, because it is what you know. Your habits, your routines, your skills, your knowledge, your attitudes and your behaviors are also part of your comfort zone (Gama, 2013).

Look for the most vital just, what is necessary
And forget about worry, just the very essential
To live without a battle, and nature gives it to you.
The most vital (From the jungle book)

It is not a behavior that is exclusive to some area of ​​knowledge, but of all human beings without exception. We all have somehow or other pending things. For example, among the unfinished works of the master Leonardo Da Vinci are: The great horse and the adoration of the magicians. And, it is known that his famous work the Gioconda, a really small painting took about four years to complete.


Leaving things pending has its most remote origin in the education received by our parents and / or caregivers. That same environment also produces the confidence of being curious and seeing life not as an obstacle, but as an opportunity to do things and grow. And all our learnings and important events in life are mediated by emotions!

During their development, children may have certain irrational fears or evolutionary fears, it is a stage of childhood, as part of growth and maturity. Fear in a child is part of growing up, being rational, imaginative and anticipating things. To some extent it is normal because the child grows and acquires feelings and emotions; Discover situations, new objects and try unknown foods. One of the child's first fears is the aberration of new vegetables or dishes, but through games and attractive presentations it can be mitigated. Another of the typical fears is to separate from their parents. Some fears are unconsciously unfounded by parents (Martínez, 2014). The world of children, is flooded with many sensory stimuli: the Tablet, the activities in the school, the 120 pay channels, their toys and the huge amount of videos available on the network, makes them have more information today, and in the paradox concentrate less, have a more limited language, sometimes they feel bored and uncreative.

Parents show us a multitude of knowledge, but they do not teach us to trust ourselves, to undertake future projects and incapacitate us to think and face reality without their presence.

On the other hand, an average adult receives around 3 thousand advertising messages per day (in collective transport, in stores on the street, television and social networks, including the cereal brand at home).

So, accordingly the large amount of information incapacitates children and adults to concentrate and leave for really important activities. Nobody escapes the confrontation with the new, older adults also suffer when they have cutting-edge technology in front of them, having the solution to ignore it despite the benefits that it could bring.

Neuroscientist Facundo Manes states that the human brain is the most complex structure in the Universe and ...:

  • To work well, you need to disconnect,
  • Knowing it is important because it will help us understand who we are and improve learning,
  • He does physical exercise well, as it generates new neural connections (synaptomas),
  • Multitasking decreases your cognitive performance. Many people are confused to think that doing many things at the same time will be more productive, and it is the other way around. That is a myth that must be eradicated because the brain works best when one thing is done at a time.
  • When "We are not doing anything"The brain works a lot, and that time is key for it to process the information it acquired when it was attentive (Paperblog, 2017).

Biologist, educator and researcher, Estanislao Bachrach (supported by neuroscience experiments) states that: our brain is extremely lazy. He is always trying to save energy in case he needs it in an emergency throughout the day. Let's say what in an emergency situation, the brain must use all its available energy to react, produce adrenaline and make good quick decisions (Stop, 2013).

What is an automatism?

Fundamentally It is a behavior where the brain tries to save the maximum amount of energy possible.

A motor automatism is a behavior that is done without thinking and that comes from our oldest brain (reptilian brain). Automations are those automatic routine tasks that we know by heart.The more usual a behavior we end up doing it more automatically. A habit is a behavior that is done with sufficient automatism to not only think about executing it as: smoking, driving or procrastinating. And, the more habitual or routine a behavior becomes, the less aware of it we are. In this way a habit can easily become a problem like addictions or in a virtue like being aware of having a healthy diet.

Habits are also present in various mental disorders or diseases such as rituals (do not step on the sidelines or wash your hands three times to avoid a personal or national tragedy) in obsessive compulsive disorder.

When we use automatisms, in this system we don't spend a cellular energy molecule (ATP) and we do all this without thinking, which is very dangerous. The reptilian system when something new comes is not happy, so it has a very important characteristic that threatens it, it is called neophobia, it is afraid of the new. When something new comes the brain needs to use the neocortex (Rosler, 2016). This is one reason for many reasons why we procrastinate, if the brain is weak, it does not like to waste energy because it implies thinking.

The neocortex, is the evolutionarily newest layer of human beings, which spends a lot of energy. Materially we flee from the activities that make us think and let ourselves be carried away by the simple things that are completely digested and even require only a moment of exposure and now, examples of this are: watching television passively or being in a classroom Just as a spectator. Think, spend energy and change, "uncomfortable", but it can be done, only you have to pay the price, so many times we decide to better procast or in the best case for a lazy or saving brain: it is better do not think!. Ahhhh what a laziness!

In neurological terms, four behaviors happen when we change an automatism: 1) the automatisms can be changed, 2) it is not easy, because we are going to make mistakes and we do not want to pass the learning curve 3) at the beginning it is uncomfortable and 4) we do change a automatism, the people around are going to resist change, to our change (Rosler, 2016). The italics are mine.

The human connectome

A connectome is a map of the connections between all brain neurons. Massachusetts neuroscientist Sebastian Seung estimates more than 100 billion neurons that can achieve a billion different connections (Seung, 2010; Punset, 2013). The neurons in our brain are connected and communicate, the environment influences us to learn and thinking also influences us to change the way our neurons connect. In this wonderful influence that is increasingly known through neurosciences, we need to take advantage of our connectome to learn new skills or to further develop the ones we already have.

At present it is clearly proven that our positive or negative thoughts not only change the perceived reality internally or externally but also part of the internal wiring in our brain. So, our experiences can change our connectome. The huge number of connections makes us materially unique and different from other people. Seung states: "you are your connectome" (Seung, 2010). It is not uncommon to hear the phrases: "each head is a world or we all think differently." Your brain and mine are different and the way you and I learn is different than mine!

The most important trick in learning is to make ourselves aware of new tasks and put them into practice. Change is not easy, but our connectome can be remade and recoded, and in that change of neural pathways once they are achieved it becomes a habit of life.

The connectome and the synaptoma

We analyze the behavior of the brain and its complexity from the most complex such as the conectoma where all its neurons intervene, to the most linear “synaptoma”, where the way in which a neuron is spoken or communicated with another is analyzed to understand the way how we learn or unlearn behaviors, even as we resist learning as in the case of procrastination.

Thus, there are several levels of brain analysis: one macroscopic - for example, through magnetic resonances - and another intermediate - in which an optical microscope is used and work in microns - that would imply connection maps that would be defined under the Conectoma term. But there is still a more complex third, which is the ultrastructural map of the synaptic connections of neurons, which would be what is known as a synaptoma (Fita, 2013).

Fear of the new

Daily life leads us to save energy in every wayWhen we return home from school or work we will do it on the known routes and will hardly experiment voluntarily for new ones. We will surely do it if our usual path is blocked. But this does not happen only in that environment, it also happens to us when it comes to exploring any form of behavior, some may cause slight discomfort and others a great sacrifice. Imagine changing a little or radically: the way of dressing, eating, interacting with friends or family, in study habits, learning a language, leaving destructive behavior (relationships, addictions, eating habits, wasting money), in Super shopping, in the way of educating children, in our writing or writing style, in exercising, in resting and many more. If we gave ourselves the task of experiencing changes in all these areas, it would be a huge expenditure of energy for our brain, and chaos for us.

It is hard for us to change and break with the routes already known because it implies an additional energy expenditure.

Light or extreme fear of the new is known as "Neophobia" (word derived from the Greek néos (new) and phobes (fear) is uncontrollable and unjustified fear or phobia consciously towards new things or experiences. It can manifest as the unwillingness to try new things or break the routine (Wikipedia, 2016).

How does a habit form?

A habit is an action that is repeated and in behavior there may be actions that help us to grow (learn new things) and others that do not (for example, procrastinate) and our habits modify brain structure and function.

There are habits in which we do not invest much time, however, others seem to require a lot of time and energy. And, they are mediated by the environment and our inner world. We filter the habits of easy access and especially less expensive in terms of energy, to integrate them into our daily lives. Early socialization with parents, by forming daily routines (doing homework, washing hands, teeth and eating poorly nutritious food), help us incorporate them into our lives in good and in bad. If our parents read and read us, the model influences us in the taste for reading. The same happens if we are exposed in the model of our parents to alcohol consumption or even to have no obligations at home.

We must train the mind in the same way that we have learned to train the body. It turns out that, contrary to what we have been told for centuries, we can learn and unlearn, because the brain is plastic, that is, it is a malleable organ (Punset, 2014).

Although habits are an important part of our lives, finding out how the brain converts a routine behavior has been a huge difficulty. The new techniques are finally allowing to decipher the neural mechanisms that are at the base of our rituals. The so-called habit circuits have been identified, that is, the brain regions and the connections responsible for creating and maintaining the routines. The knowledge provided by this line of research is helping to understand how the brain builds good habits and why it is hard for us to abandon not only minor ones, but also those that the doctor or loved ones ask us to interrupt (Graybiel & Smith, 2014).

From the point of view of Psychobiology, as an action repeats and becomes a habit, certain brain circuits are modified, as Bernard Balleine (University of Sydney) and Simon Killcross (University of New South Wales) have tested. The circuits connect the neocortex with the striatum, the center of the basal ganglia (center of our brain). When the behaviors are “packaged,” the striatum cells simply check the beginning and end of the routine.

Learning a new behavior (habit) takes the brain to perform three steps

We explore a behavior (a task that begins in the prefrontal cortex, instead of our brightest thoughts, if it produces a pleasant response, it will have more possibilities to settle).

  1. We learn it by repeating it (the signal is strengthened with the motor part called the motor sensory cortex and a routine is formed when repeated) and,
  2. We recorded it in the brain as a unit of behavior and is supervised by the infralimbic cortex to ensure its functioning (Cubeiro, 2014).

In simple words setting a new habit involves many brain circuits and a feedback loop or sequence between them, a unit of memory or behavior recoding (chunkig) is created, but if we are not able to excite the brain (neocortex), communication with the area is not established to act automatically or analytically to decide if it is carried out the action located in the basal ganglia. And, if in addition to getting excited, that behavior generates pleasure, we end up repeating it in good or in bad.

Learning a new habit is also related to the way we perceive reality. It is the way to relate to our environment, to discover what happens outside of our body and our brain as the psychologist Philip Zimbardo (2012) points out. The primary task of our visual system is to obtain accurate information about the world around us and not only from the images of our retina, to feel, perceive and understand our world we use two very different processes:

  • First our sensory receptors detect external stimulation, and send this raw information to the brain for analysis, this is called "bottom-up processing."
  • Second, then the “top-down processing” enters the scene, adds what we already know about such stimulation, what we remember from the context in which it normally appears and how we label and classify it in this way we give meaning to our perceptions.

Once you have learned something, even without realizing it, it is very difficult to unlearn it, because you have already created a physical, chemical, and electrical path in your brain. That's why it's so hard for us to change! To learn and unlearn mental and physical habits, you have to train the brain with patience and perseverance ... You can only change what you understand (Punset, 2014).

When we procrastinate, we look for the easy and fun and run away from the difficult and less pleasant. Tim Pychlyl points out that: we are trying to improve our mood by avoiding doing something that seems unpleasant (Pickles, 2017), we achieve it in the short term, but that in the long term complicates our lives.

The brain of a procrastinator seek simple, immediate, more emotional gratifications and lives in the present. The brain of a non-procrastinator is a glider and seeks delayed, more rational gratifications and lives in the future.

Tim Pychlyl, a psychologist at Carleton University in Canada, points out that Procrastination is more common among the most impulsive people, prone to perfectionism, overwhelmed by their expectations and fearful of failure (Pickles, 2017).

On the other hand, Tim Urban (2016) distinguishes two types of procrastinators: 1) those who have deadlines to deliver a job, and 2) those who don't have deadlines to deliver it. Long-term procrastination makes them feel that they are spectators of their own lives. Frustration does not come from not being able to achieve your own dreams, but from the fact that you cannot even start chasing them (Urban, 2016).

Final reflection

Psychobiology teaches us that to create a habit we need to make conscious the behavior we want to install and have an interest in wanting to learn it. Make the brain analyze the new habit by showing paths through a model that makes it easy to see. This should take into account the personality and abilities of the apprentice, as well as the actions that may motivate him. Showing the new habit in a motivating and interesting way can create in the apprentice, neural routes that are attractive and that lead to action. Then repeat and repeat the routine until it becomes automatic. And, finally, the apprentice's own supervision, in his self-learning to reaffirm and recode the behavior, as well as the supervision and accompaniment of the model that taught the habit, can offer greater possibilities that the new behavior has been learned. It's difficult but not impossible!.


  • Practice meditation techniques to quiet our restless monkey that we all have inside.
  • Get your brain out of the comfort zone: Perform small major actions to accustom it to change: place your trash can in a different place than usual, return by a different route home, eat healthier to better nourish your brain, put the watch on the other wrist. The point is ... exercise your brain and get it out of the automatism and help you get out of fear of the new.
  • Concentrate on the goals to be achieved and give as a reward the activities that distract usFor example, those who invest a lot of time in social networks, can first move forward with their goals of the new habit to learn and give as a prize to navigate aimlessly in social networks, but first things first. Of course, with schedules to work and get distracted.
  • Divide the overall objective you want to achieve into small goals and work on it constantly.
  • Place in front of you, little ones motivational messages including the goal to be achieved on a daily basis.
  • Organize your environment: If your environment is in chaos, it is easier for your brain to be distracted by any distracting element and since we do not order it, we cannot create an order, a cosmos to go solving things one by one.
  • Visualize the objective to be achieved and imagine as closely as possible How will the day you achieve it and how will you feel to achieve it?
  • Divide very large goals into small ones: If you are going to write the best book of your life, it will not begin with sitting down transcribing large and voluminous ideas, but small paragraphs that create pages and chapters with really interesting content. Divide the goals
  • It is important start moving the things that you have stuckBut maybe not today, you can start better tomorrow (sarcasm).

No one gets rid of a habit or a vice, throwing it out of the window at once; you have to take it down the stairs, step by step.Mark Twain (Writer, speaker and humorist)

Related tests
  • Personality test
  • Self-esteem test
  • Couple Compatibility Test
  • Self-knowledge test
  • Friendship test
  • Am i in love