Sure, planning is essential to creating your new life, business, screenplay, TV series. But when push comes to shove, actually doing it is the only way you’re gonna score! Don’t just stare at the blank page – fill the damn thing up with something!
by Jane Porter
For most of us, there is nothing more daunting than coming face-to-face with a blank page. Sure, a tabula rasa means you can take a project in any direction, but that boundlessness can quickly become overwhelming.
Sitting down to start a task that requires significant mental energy can often feel like the hardest part of the endeavor. But getting started is about understanding and overcoming the obstacles—be they mental, emotional, or physical—that hold us back from diving right in.
“Procrastination is not waiting and it is more than delaying. It is a decision to not act,” psychologist Joseph Ferrari tells the American Psychological Association. “It is very helpful and useful to gather information to make an informed decision, but when one simply continues to gather beyond the point of adequate resources, then they are being indecisive and the waiting is counterproductive.”
So what exactly is holding you back from that initial push to get started and how can you move past the resistance and launch right in? Here’s what research reveals about our clever procrastination-prone brains.
The Brain Science Behind Our Hesitancy to Start
We’re all outfitted with our own unique set of hang-ups. Perfectionism. Time pressure. Impulsivity. Disorganization. Pick your poison. Research in neuropsychology reveals that the root cause of delaying the start of a task doesn’t come down to one specific factor. It’s based on any one of the nine aspects of executive brain functions getting off track.
“Procrastination is increasingly recognized as involving a failure in self-regulation such that procrastinators, relative to non-procrastinators, may have a reduced ability to resist social temptations, pleasurable activities, and immediate rewards when the . . . benefits of preparation are distant,” write the researchers in their 2012 examination of college students’ study habits.
That means that anything from impulsivity to self-monitoring, planning, activity shifting, task initiation, task monitoring, emotional control, working memory, or orderliness can keep you from getting started on a task. In other words, your challenges with getting started might be altogether different from someone else’s. So while low conscientiousness might be the cause of procrastination for some people, perfectionism could be the culprit for others, say the researchers.