HOW TO HACK YOUR BRAIN FOR MOTIVATION: The Power of Deadline By James Mapes

I have realized and accepted the harsh fact that I sometimes keep myself busy without being productive, that is – I procrastinate. Recently, guilt has begun to creep into my consciousness and guilt in any form is unacceptable to me. So, here I am writing about how to break through procrastination.

Admittedly or not, humans love to procrastinate; to avoid confronting something they feel will be unpleasant, awkward or painful. Their procrastination may take the form of posting on Facebook or Tweeting on Twitter, talking to or texting endlessly to friends, or avoiding confrontations. There are endless ways our minds trick us into thinking we are doing something meaningful when we are actually dawdling to avoid a task.

But, eventually when we realize the task still looms – full-frontal, we suddenly awaken to the fact that time is running and we still must do what we have to do. As time compresses, motivation increases. This is the power of – a deadline.

The historical definition of a deadline is: “a line drawn around a prison beyond which prisoners were liable to be shot.” Deadline in modern times is defined as, “a date or time when something must be finished: the last day, hour, or minute that something will be accepted.” The later definition often applies if you have a boss, a teacher, colleague or a partner who holds you accountable. In this scenario a missed deadline might result in criticism, anger, wrath or even the loss of a job.

But, what happens when you are an entrepreneur and you not only set the rules for your productivity, but are also only accountable to yourself? This is where the power of a deadline can pump up your motivation, IF – you are cognizant of the following fact.

Despite good intentions, many people suffer from a common perceptual issue known in psychology as the “planning fallacy.” This phenomenon occurs because of our inability to accurately predict how long something will take to complete. Worse yet, our brain is designed to be strangely optimistic about our ability to get something done quickly Therefore, if we are not realistic about how much time a project might take, we can end up pressuring ourselves with enormous negative stress.

What if your self-imposed deadline is huge? First, divide the project into smaller tasks and set deadlines for each one. Your brain can wrap around that.

Let me get personal for a moment. My intention for months has been to create a new one-man show involving storytelling woven with a little, let’s say, enchantment. I have been writing ideas down, studying some new communication techniques but I was having trouble putting the pieces together. I fantasized about trying it out in front of an audience. But, when?

Last week I committed to performing three shows as a benefit at a theater in Connecticut. BOOM! Motivation x 3 mixed with a healthy amount of anxiety. I hacked my brain for motivation with a deadline and I’m now moving forward.

It is generally agreed as most people approach a deadline that they become more motivated, more focused, improve their performance and work harder at the task. But, here is the real key – all humans move towards pleasure and away from what they perceive as pain.

When you set a deadline, you trigger a mechanism that will guide you to avoid the pain of failing to complete the task and you feel the pleasure of achieving it. That is nothing short of cool and provides you with the perfect way to hack your brain for motivation!