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Do You Have the Procrastination Gene?

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You could be doing your work, chipping away at your inbox, getting ready for the gym. But instead, you're delaying the inevitable, looking at cat gifs on the internet or checking Instagram for the billionth time. And a lot of the time, you don't even know why.

Turns out, you maybe able to blame your procrastination on your parents. About 46 percent of the tendency to procrastinate can be attributed to your genes, report researchers in the journal Psychological Science. They studied fraternal and identical twins to determine how much of the trait comes from nature, and how much from nurture. Basically, if you have the procrastination gene, you'll be more likely to procrastinate and find it harder to stop, says Sharad P. Paul, M.D., author of the newly published The Genetics of Health.

Interesting, and maybe another thing we can pin on mom and dad (along with fitness levels and belly fat)—at least, in part. "Genes are our blueprint, not our destiny," says Dr. Paul. To override a genetic predisposition toward the "I'll do it later"s, start with this expert advice.

Take More Breaks

Sounds counterintuitive, but it works. More and more studies are showing that taking short breathers throughout the day can actually improve your ability to focus on your work. The brain isn't built to pay attention to one thing for a prolonged period of time. When you do need to hunker down a single task, making sure to schedule regular breaks can give your brain a chance to rest, and re-focus. That way you can take control of your time-outs, rather than slowly getting sidetracked and wasting hours checking email or Instagram when you should be working.

Recruit a Friend

Part of the reason procrastination is so hard to quit is that we build up routines around it—see a full inbox, head to Instagram to avoid. We repeat the behavior so often, it becomes entrenched in our psyche. "It's helpful to have a partner to push you a little bit," says Dr. Paul. Even if you just shoot a quick text to a friend—Help, I'm online shopping at work again!—it can help you recognize your habits around procrastination so you can break free.

Reframe Your Thinking

"Procrastination is actually a finely tuned evolutionary adaptation that tells us our plan is basically not refined enough yet," says Dr. Paul. Trying to see your procrastination as helpful rather than a failure may help you move past it. When you find yourself drawn away from your work again and again, remind yourself that your brain is just trying to help you make the strongest final product. Ask yourself where you're afraid you're falling short, and tackle that first.

Try the "Two Minutes Test"

This is an oldie-but-goodie that works every time: Commit to working on the project you're putting off for just two minutes. Even if you're procrastinating going to the gym—spend two minutes getting ready, rounding up workout clothes and gear or drawing up a workout plan. The hardest part is getting started, so once you've begun you're more likely to keep going. And even if you don't, at least you're two minutes closer to your goal.

 

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