Metacognition

Metacognition simply means thinking about thinking.

We all realize that procrastination or any other behavior is a function of the brain. It is all about understanding why your brain reacts the way it does. To understand, we have to monitor our thought processes and reaction to stimuli. This process of analyzing the functioning of our mind is called metacognition.

Why is metacognition important ?

To improve or create any behavior we have to analyze the root cause and need of the habit. When we observe the functioning of our mind, we rise above our emotions and rationally evaluate the situation, action, and reactions. It is like controlling your brain and guiding you in the right direction.

An easy way to do metacognition is to evaluate the situation and listen to your brain from a third person’s point of view. The shift in perspective lifts the cloud of confusion in life and gives you enough clarity to make rational choices.

Procrastination is a very common problem. What works for one may not work for the other. To figure out what can help you, you have to first understand what is creating that problem in the first place. Hope this week’s research has been helpful for you.

Let me know your views on this.

Competing Motives

Every motivational speech and self-help book emphasizes greatly the importance of internal motivation.

Isn’t that true?

But very few talk about the root cause of that motivation and the way it impacts us in the long run. There are two types of internal motives:

Approaching motive- When we have a goal in mind and our motivation comes from a desire to achieve that goal, it is called approaching motive

Avoidance motive- If my motivation comes from avoiding something, it is called avoidance motive. For example- failure, debt, breakup, etc.

These two kinds of motives exist within all of us and also influence us in different ways. It has the power to alter your perspective about the entire situation. But sometimes, we reach a state of mind where the two motives are in equilibrium. For example, when you want to start something new, it is your approaching motive. But, you are also scared to lose. This is your avoidance motive. As a result, neither do you give up, nor you pursue it. This generates a sense of conflict within you.  

How to overcome this state of mind?

If you find yourself in this state of mind of being stuck up, you can try these three things:

  1. Develop self-awareness
  2. Pick a side and disturb the balance between the competing motives
  3. Challenge the Performance=Ability=Self-worth model (To know more about it https://digurself.wordpress.com/?p=1177)

But firstly, rethink your reasons for pursuing something and what is that you want. This one question will give you a clear picture and help you pursue what you truly want amidst this confusion.

Relationship between Self-worth and Procrastination

Every person should strive to understand before they die what they are running and to, and why

James Thurber

Self-worth is a psychological need to be seen by ourselves and others as competent, able, and worthy. Maslow had placed it in his hierarchy of needs just below self-actualization.

Have you met somebody who whenever talk to you puts you down all the time? How does that feel? Even if they are good people and have your best interest at heart, a lack of appreciation from their side will surely put you off.

Why is that?

Because self-worth is important!

Deep inside, we want appreciation from the people we love. More importantly, we want to feel important and competent within ourselves.

How are self-worth and procrastination related?

The relationship between self-worth and procrastination can be better understood with the help of this basic self-worth model in our heads.

Performance= Ability= Self-worth

If we closely look, we associate our performance levels with our self-worth. When we undertake a task, our inner desire for self–worth generates a fear of failure within us. Subconsciously, we keep postponing the task until the situation becomes alarming. We will work under pressure and accomplish the task. There are two possibilities:

  1. If we succeed, knowing that we finished the same task in lesser time, our self-worth increases
  2. If we fail, knowing that we spent less time on the task compared to others, we associate the failure with our laziness. Subconsciously, it shields us from feeling incompetent. 

Either way, our self-worth is not attacked.

Only if we realize that performance level grows with time and has nothing to do with our self-worth, we can overcome our habit of procrastination.

How to stop Procrastination

Procrastination, a habit that can slow down the growth of even the most skilled people influences each of our lives. What is the point of our potential if we waste all of it by procrastinating?

Piers Steel came up with a motivation equation that can help us better understand procrastination and overcome it.

Equation- Expectancy x Value / Impulsiveness x delay

We want to increase our expectancy and values, and decrease our impulsiveness and delay.

Expectancy refers to how much you expect to succeed at doing the task and thereby getting the anticipated reward. The more success we expect, the more we will be motivated. Following actions can help you increase your expectancy:

  1. Get clarity on what you want and study or talk to someone who has already done that.
  2. Divide the entire task into small goals that are easy to accomplish. Write down your daily task in the morning and focus on accomplishing those
  3. When you feel stuck up, remind yourself of why you started in the first place. Success will not be served to you on a silver platter. You will have to prove your worth by staying consistent
  4. Believe in yourself

Value- How much do you enjoy doing the task and, how much you will enjoy the result. The task you assign yourself will not always be fun. But knowing that by accomplishing these tasks, you are taking a small but firm step towards your goal will give you enough motivation to proceed

Impulsiveness- Impulsiveness here refers to distractions. We procrastinate only when we find something better to do than actually finishing our task. You need to make sure that your work environment has fewer or no distractions, especially, digital distractions. Social media can be highly addictive and can add to your habit of procrastination

Delay-Delay occurs when we feel that we have a lot of time to do something which can be done in lesser time. Have you ever noticed when you are given two hours to finish a work, you will finish it in two hours? But, when you are given an entire day to finish the same task, you will drag it on. This is called Parkinson’s law. It states that work expands to fill the time allotted to it. So this means that we can use it to our advantage. By setting a realistic but short deadline, we can save more time and get more things done. 

All the above steps would be effective but the foremost step is determination. You have to make up your mind and put in conscious effort to overcome the habit of procrastination. But one thing is for sure, the result will be worth the effort.

Let me know your views on this.

Why do we procrastinate?

“Don’t wait! The time will never be just right”- Napoleon

If we have a deadline of one week for completing a task, it’s not rocket science that giving our best and finishing some part of it every day will give us a better result than just piling up the work. But still, we keep on convincing ourselves to postpone work.

Why do we do that?

I was listening to a TED talk by Vik Nithy, which was about ‘why do we procrastinate’, where the speaker, being a psychology student studied this subject.

We have two parts of our brain known as the Prefrontal cortex and Limbic system

The prefrontal cortex always convinces us to work and go forward with our tasks, on the other hand, the Limbic system wants us to play and enjoy all the leisure activities. Whenever we come across any task, it’s all a matter of who wins the argument between these two.

But, have you noticed that until the situation gets alarming, the Limbic system tends to win most of the time.

Why is that?

When we procrastinate we experience mild anxiety because of an approaching deadline, our prefrontal cortex shuts down. The Limbic system then takes charge. The anxiety can be due to the following reasons:

  1. Not knowing where to start
  2. Dreading the displeasure of doing the task
  3. Fear of failure

On sensing the anxiety, the Limbic system decides to postpone the work. The fact that we did not give our best, or, we spent less time on the task compared to other people is used as an excuse if you fail. So by accepting that we are lazy, we avoid losing face due to failure.

Procrastination is not necessarily bad. Some people perform well under pressure. Either we hold on to our comfort zone and don’t leave until necessary, or, we postpone because we are too scared to fail. The act of procrastination may or may not be a problem but the root cause needs your attention so that they don’t impact other areas of your life.