From: Study Hacks (edited)
Our brains are built for creating complex plans. That's what distinguishes us from earlier types of human beings. We can create two plans of action and judge them and choose the best.
Notice that planning has two steps. You create a plan, then you judge its value. Judging plans is an automatic, unconscious function of the brain.
If your brain evaluates your plan and rejects it as not sound, you're not going to want to do it. And what does that feel like? Complex planning is a pre-verbal evolutionary adaptation, so you're not going to hear a voice saying “plan rejected!” Instead, chemicals are going to be released that make you feel unmotivated in order to steer you away from a bad decision.
If this idea is true, then you would expect people with good plans to struggle less with procrastination. And, that's what Cal found when he studied elite undergrads: they were hyper-organized and only a few reported procrastination as a serious problem.
So, he believes that procrastination is not a character flaw but a finely-tuned evolutionary adaptation. You shouldn’t moan about procrastination but treat it as a sign that your plan needs more work.
Procrastination and Fear
Cal insists that fear is not the cause of procrastination but his idea about a natural aversion to bad planning fits neatly with the idea that the procrastinator backs away from action out of fear and he, himself, gives a good example to prove it.
Let's say an early man comes up with two plans to attack a mammoth. First, he sharpens a spear and plans to charge the elephant. Then, he realizes that he can sharpen a spear and throw it from a distance. The first plan would be rejected because it is dangerous and dangerous plans generate fear.
It's easy to see, then, that a bad plan can lead nowhere and be a turn-off for that reason but it can also put you in danger and that means that bad plans and fear are often inseparable.
What the brain needs to move forward is a convincing plan. Procrastination is your brain's way of telling you to put more thought into how you are going to reach your goal. The solution to procrastination is a good plan and a good plan eases fear.
Here's another point about fear: it's often irrational. So, you might have an exaggerated fear of a perfectly rational plan. For instance, it might be wise to cold call people for business but you might feel that if they don't like you, you are going to die. The thing you need to work on there is your irrational vision of danger not your plan because that's the source of your procrastination.
From: Study Hacks
Cal Newport says he's counseled many people suffering from deep procrastination. The causes are always the same: a goal that doesn’t match the person’s real interests combined with a difficult workload.
When hard work is required by a goal that’s not in line with their real interests, people see it as an intrusion from an outside entity and they develop a strong aversion to it.
To avoid this problem, you have to figure out what you like to do. You might want to do things that don't please you. For instance, you might choose a path because it seems the most practical. You might want to do something to impress other people. Or, you might want to prove that you can do something to satisfy your ego. But work that meets these goals is not work that's chosen because it pleases you.
Cal has a theory about procrastination. The ability to create complex plans is what distinguishes us from earlier humans like the Neanderthal Man and he believes that our brains automatically reject bad plans by making us feel unmotivated.
He sees everyday procrastination is an aversion to a bad work plan and deep procrastination as the rejection of a bigger plan, like a bad life plan.