Procrastination, meditation, and your amygdala

"The science behind procrastination and how to overcome it"

By Study International Staff | September 27, 2018 |

This article talks about research that suggests scientists may have identified a neurological component to procrastination. According to the article, a larger than average amygdala may contribute to higher anxiety and therefore hesitation. Another region (the dorsal interior cingulate cortex) usually helps us block out competing emotions, but the connections between this region and the amygdala were found to be poorer than with non-procrastinators. I.e., our brains get "overwhelmed with conflicting emotions and struggling to prioritize the task at hand."Tim Pychyl, a researcher and expert on procrastination, says in the article that mindfulness meditation may be part of the answer because "research has already shown that mindfulness meditation is related to amygdala shrinkage, expansion of the prefrontal cortex, and a weakening of the connection between these 2 areas."

Read the full article here.

Students do worse on quizzes when they use keyboards in class

"To Remember a Lecture Better, Take Notes by Hand: Students do worse on quizzes when they use keyboards in class."Written by Robinson Meyer for The Atlantic, May 1 2014.It seems the pen is mightier than the keyboard. At least when it comes to taking notes. As the article explains, “A new study—conducted by Mueller and Oppenheimer—finds that people remember lectures better when they’ve taken handwritten notes, rather than typed ones."They point out that laptop notetakers tend to take verbatim notes, whereas with handwritten notes it's almost impossible to write down everything that's said. So in one phase of the study they warned subjects in advance, explicitly telling them not to take verbatim notes because it may hinder recall. And guess what?"Knowing how and why typed notes can be bad doesn't seem to improve their quality. Even if you warn laptop-notetakers ahead of time, it doesn't make a difference. For some tasks, it seems, handwriting’s just better."And what happens if you let people study from their typed notes before quizzing them?"If someone took verbatim notes on their laptop, then studying seemed more likely to hinder their performance on the quiz."Many of the patients I work with find that handwriting notes during meetings (including therapy sessions) or classes also helps them maintain focus in addition to improving recall.If you would like to read more about the study, you can read about it in The Atlantic by clicking here.

The "Un-Schedule" as a strategy for successful time management

Podcast: "The 'Un-Schedule' as a strategy for successful time management"Host: Tim Pychyl, PhDProcrastination researcher and podcaster Tim Pychyl describes the "un-schedule," a way of planning out your week that I often use in my own life and with clients. In general, the whole series of podcasts from Dr. Pychyl are excellent.

Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain

"Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain"The New York TimesBy Daniel J. Levitin, Aug 9, 2014This article describes the brain's attentional system, breaking it down into 2 parts; the focused mode (which he calls the "central executive") and "daydreaming mode." The attentional filter is a third component determines when we need to be using the central executive or when it is safe to ignore what's going on around us and daydream.They indicate summer vacations, and taking breaks in general, are an important way to hit the reset button on the brain and allow the daydreaming system to take over. The daydreaming system is important because:"This brain state, marked by the flow of connections among disparate ideas and thoughts, is responsible for our moments of greatest creativity and insight, when we’re able to solve problems that previously seemed unsolvable. You might be going for a walk or grocery shopping or doing something that doesn’t require sustained attention and suddenly — boom — the answer to a problem that had been vexing you suddenly appears."They go on to say that multitasking fatigues the attentional filter. While not an article about ADHD, the recommendations echo those given for adults with ADHD to help cope with distractibility. In particular, focus on a single task for relatively short block of time instead of jumping from email, to Facebook, to a report, to whatever. The author recommends 30-50 minutes, but people with ADHD may find shorter periods more effective. The harder the task is to start or focus on, the shorter the block.To read the full article, use the following link:

Productivity, efficiency, and Peter Drucker

“Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.” — Peter DruckerJust a quick post with a quote from Peter Drucker. Not necessarily directly related to psychology, though I did see the quote on "Rescue Time," a productivity application. This app installs on your computer and tracks how much time you spend on different websites and programs and scores your productivity based on that. It really helps you see where your time goes. Given how much distractibility and lack of "time sense" affects adults with ADHD, it's a worthwhile program to try.It also has a "Get focused..." feature that will selectively block access to things you find distracting for a period of time. I have not tried this feature, but clients of mine have and have found it helpful. It's free, though you have to pay for the "Get focused..." feature. I feel it's a valuable tool even with just the features in the free version.

A Graduate Student Beats Her Procrastination Challenge

A Graduate Student Beats Her Procrastination ChallengeThis is an excellent podcast from an excellent podcast series. The series is called "iProcrastinate" and is hosted by eminent procrastination researcher Dr. Pychyl.In this episode a listener describes how she has taken Dr. Pychyl's recommendations and applied them to her own procrastination. She provides a great summary of how she integrated a lot of different skills to help keep her on track when working. The whole series is worth listening to, but I found this podcast to be a particularly great summary.

Attention Management – Distractions, A Three Part Series

Attention Management – Distractions, A Three Part SeriesCareer Tools PodcastWhile not targeted specifically towards adults with ADHD, these podcasts give sound advice and strategies for managing distractions in the workplace. They do a great job of making recommendations that are specific and broken down step-by-step when needed. You can play them in a pop-up window on their website (see links below) or search for “Attention Management Career Tools” in iTunes and look for the podcasts on April 3, 10, and 17 in 2009.Attention Management Part 1Attention Management Part 2Attention Management Part 3

"Freedom" application blocks internet access to help you avoid temptation

"Freedom" application blocks internet access to help you avoid temptationThis posting isn't an article, rather it's a potential resource for those of us who find we spend more time surfing the web than doing our work.  It blocks the Internet for up to 8 hours at a time and cannot be disabled unless you reboot your computer.  One shortcoming however is that you're not able to selectively block websites. For example, if your biggest time waster is Facebook but you still need internet access to do your real work, it would be nice to have the option to block just Facebook.  If you have any recommendations for other products similar to this, feel free to post them below.

Losing focus? 9 ways to concentrate at work

Losing focus? 9 ways to concentrate at workBy Amy Levin-Epstein, January 26, 2012"Here are some tips, from Nadeau and her co-author, professional organizer Judith Kolberg, for anyone who feels his or her attention isn't where it needs to be. While Nadeau and Kolberg are focused on helping people who have an actual diagnosis of ADD, their advice can help all of us navigate the onslaught of distractions at the office."