The 4 Causes of Procrastination According to Research

Nick Wignall is a clinical psychologist, writer, teacher, and podcaster.

Hundreds of research studies confirm that there are four primary causes of procrastination. Understanding which ones you are especially vulnerable to is the key to overcoming procrastination.

If you’ve spent any amount of time reading about procrastination on the internet, you will have noticed a strong tendency to assume that there is a single cause of procrastination and therefore a single solution.

It seems like every productivity guru out there has their pet theory about what causes procrastination, along with a custom-built solution based on that theory.

But what struck me after doing my own research recently is the strong possibility that there isn’t just one cause of procrastination. And by extension, there can’t be just one cure.

By desperately clinging to the idea of a silver bullet solution for procrastination, we end up never really making any headway on it because no one strategy is sufficient to genuinely help.

This idea that none of us really know what we’re doing when it comes to overcoming procrastination was starting to get a little discouraging until I stumbled upon a very interesting research paper…

In 2007, University of Calgary psychologist Piers Steel wrote a paper called The Nature of Procrastination: A Meta-Analytic and Theoretical Review of Quintessential Self-Regulatory Failure.

The paper was fascinating because it showed scientifically what I was starting to sense intuitively—that the causes of procrastination are actually multiple, and that many of the popular notions of what caused procrastination were either simply not true or had extremely small effects.

Nerdy Side Note: Steel used a technique called meta-analysis which allowed him to combine all the data from decades worth of research on procrastination and show which factors are significantly and reliably associated with procrastinating.

Interestingly, Steel’s research showed that the two oldest psychological theories for why we procrastinate—anxiety and rebelliousness—in reality, had only a weak connection with the tendency to procrastinate.

On the other hand, four primary factors stood out as by far the strongest true predictors of procrastination.

The 4 Causes of Procrastination

  1. Low Self-Efficacy: A person’s belief and expectation that they are capable of completing a task. When we don’t have much confidence in our ability to complete a task (or to complete it well), our likelihood of procrastinating goes way up. This shows up most commonly when we’re uncertain about how to start a task.
  2. Low Value: How enjoyable or painful is the task at hand? In general, the more enjoyable a task, the less we procrastinate on it. Although, it seems that mildly painful and boring tasks are actually more likely to lead to procrastination than extremely difficult tasks—which helps explain why we tend to procrastinate so much on busywork.
  3. Impulsiveness: Difficulty maintaining focus in the face of immediate and more appealing distractions. If we’re vulnerable to lots of distractions—or work in a highly distracting environment—and have a hard time resisting those distractions, we’re much more likely to procrastinate.
  4. Delay: How much time there is in between the decision to take on a task and the point when it must be completed. Basically, the longer you have to finish a task, the longer you’ll wait to get started on it.

The Procrastination Equation

Besides clarifying these four as the most influential factors in procrastination, Steel’s research also showed that they work together in a particular way, what he calls The Procrastination Equation.

The Procrastination Equation says that our likelihood resisting procrastination on a given task will be equal to the product of our self-efficacy and the value of the task divided by the product of how impulsive we are and the amount of delay between taking on a task and its due date.

As a formula or equation, it looks like this:

Odds of Overcoming Procrastination = Self-Efficacy x Value / Impulsiveness x Delay.

This is exciting because it suggests that we may be able to finally stop bumbling around in the dark for hit-or-miss procrastination tips and actually find something that works.

Specifically, it may allow us to generate effective strategies for overcoming procrastination in an individualized and situation-specific way.

How to fight back against procrastination

The Procrastination Equation is an incredible tool for resisting our natural inclination to procrastinate because it’s based on scientifically-validated causes of procrastination.

Here are some suggestions for using this knowledge to stop procrastinating:

1. Be careful of taking other people’s advice about procrastination.

Because there are multiple factors that lead to procrastination, the reasons you tend to procrastinate may be very different than the reasons other people procrastinate.

As a result, it’s unlikely that a particular strategy or technique that worked for one person will work in the same way and to the same degree that it does for someone else.

To some extent, this means that we all have to custom-build our own solutions to procrastination.

2. Identify your unique vulnerability to procrastination.

The next time you find yourself procrastinating, think about the four factors in The Procrastination Equation (Self-efficacy, Value, Impulsiveness, Delay) and try to determine which one tends to be strongest for you personally.

Do this routinely, and you should start to see patterns and trends. Understanding these individualized patterns will be important for anticipating and effectively dealing with future procrastination.

3. Use targeted anti-procrastination strategies.

Once you’ve identified which of the four factors is the strongest in your case, implement a strategy to combat that specific factor.

Here are the four factors along with some suggestions for how to address each:

  1. To address problems of Self-Efficacy, create small wins. Procrastinating on that big report you have to write? Break it down into smaller sections and commit to just completing one doable section. Still procrastinating on your smaller section? Break it down even more. By giving ourselves small, quick wins, we build up our self-efficacy and belief in ourselves, which increases our odds of getting started on future elements of the task.
  2. To address problems of Value, create “artificial” systems of reinforcement. Ideally, all of our work would be incredibly meaningful, interesting, and enjoyable. Sadly, this isn’t the case for any of us all the time. And when a task is not intrinsically enjoyable, the next best thing is to make it artificially enjoyableHate processing a weekend’s worth of work emails Monday morning at the office? Create a Monday morning routine where you go to your favorite coffee shop, order your favorite fancy coffee drink, and process your weekend emails there before even getting to the office. Once you pair an aversive task with something enjoyable, it’s overall value increases—which means your likelihood of procrastinating on it decreases.
  3. To address problems of Impulsiveness, ruthlessly eliminate distractions. Addicted to facebook but have an important afternoon project to complete? Leave your phone in your car until it’s done. Social butterfly but need to turn in your TPS reports by Friday at 5:00? Work on them in the smelly basement conference room nobody will dare visit you in. TV junkie but need to get your taxes done by the end of the week? Unplug your TV and put it in the garage until they’re done. The key element will all of these is this: Don’t rely on willpower to resist distractions; change your environment instead.
  4. To address problems of Delay, set micro due dates. Similar to Step 2, when the due date on a task is far away by nature, we have to artificially make it sooner. Do this by breaking down a project or task into reasonable chunks, and making each chunk its own task with its own specific due date.

4. Remember that procrastination is highly situation-specific.

Just like different people tend to be vulnerable to different causes of procrastination in different ways, different situations or contexts can make us differently vulnerable to procrastination.

For example: While low Self-Efficacy may typically be your issue when it comes to procrastination, it’s still possible to procrastinate in an area you’re very talented in—in which case the factor you need to address may be Value rather than Self-Efficacy.

Similarly, you may be someone who’s typically pretty good about maintaining focus and avoiding distraction, but when you’re around a specific person, your ability to resist distraction crumbles. Rather than getting down on yourself about this, anticipate it and have some strategies ready at hand.

5. Consider working with your procrastination rather than fighting against it.

With a little outside-the-box thinking, it’s possible to approach the problem of procrastination in an entirely different way.

What if instead of fighting against procrastination, we used it to get things done? Sound like a contradiction in terms?

Check out this article I wrote about how I use procrastination to actually be more productive: Productive Procrastination: How to Get More Done by Procrastinating on Purpose

Summary and Conclusion

Procrastination is a complex phenomenon with four primary factors that contribute to it: low self-efficacy, low task value, high impulsiveness and distraction, and a long delay between task onset and completion.

The key to overcoming procrastination is to understand how we are uniquely vulnerable to procrastination and then to tailor our strategies to those unique vulnerabilities.

For more on procrastination, I’ve included a section below that compiles some of my favorite resources and reading related to procrastination.


Five ways to radically multiply your time and boost productivity

Scott Steinberg is a bestselling expert on leadership and innovation, and the author of Netiquette Essentials: New Rules for Minding Your Manners in a Digital WorldMillennial Marketing: Bridging the Generation Gap and Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty. The founder of SELECT nightlife and entertainment magazine, and among today’s leading providers of keynote speeches, workshops and seminars for Fortune 500 firms, his website is

As fast-paced and hyper-kinetic as today’s business world is, we all want to get more done – and in less time. Happily for modern professionals, it’s never been easier to take back control of your schedule, and take back control of your working life. Using a few simple tips, tricks, and high-tech solutions, including a variety of apps and online services, virtually anyone can get a handle on their workday again, and get back to feeling more organized.

Below, you’ll find five ways to multiply your time, boost productivity, and get the most out of any given workday, regardless of whether you’re staying put, on the move, or sprinting through crunch time.

Organize and manage your schedule

How can the average working professional (let alone working parent) squeeze in sales appointments, power lunches, after-school activities with the kids, and the occasional yoga class all into the same day? Short of hiring an executive assistant, or cloning yourself, a variety of free and paid time management apps offer the next best solution.

Download myriad options to your desktop, laptop, or mobile device, and you can quickly optimize your calendar – or even let artificially-intelligent advisors automatically find holes in your schedule waiting be filled in. Some can even help you spot regular openings when you can slot in tasks you’ve always been meaning to get to, but can never seem to find time for.

Delegate and outsource tasks

It’s practically in every upwardly-mobile, career-minded individual’s DNA to want to micromanage everything – doubly so for freelancers and other self-employed workers. But until they invent 30-hour days, learning to outsource is the fastest way to multiply your time and output – a task online freelance service marketplaces can assist with.

Got a task or project that needs assigning? From creating killer packaging to building better logos, conducting market research, or revamping your website, countless providers are waiting to bid on it. To connect with writers, graphic designers, e-commerce consultants and more, just login to these online services, write a project description, and set a price – then watch the bids roll in. The next thing you know, you’ll be delegating tasks, freeing up time on your schedule, and sitting back smiling, watching as the busywork gets done while you finally get to knuckle down and focus on high-priority tasks.

Take back control of your time

Ever look up from your desk at 5 o’clock and wonder: Where did the day go? Start tracking your time with helpful stopwatch and timer software programs and keeping daily diaries and you can find out – then cut out all the attention-diverting distractions that keep you from getting things done.

A number of time sheet applications can also help in this regard, as can a few productivity-boosting tips. For example: Waking up earlier each day (to get more done before other distractions encroach). Focusing on the most important tasks first every morning (to get them out of the way faster, and make the rest of the day seem easier by comparison). And, of course, setting specific hours each day during which your door is closed (and email and instant messengers are shut down), so you can fully concentrate on the work at-hand.

Skip the busywork

Need to catch-up on email, send a text, or get back to a colleague stat? There’s no sense wasting time typing everything out when you can simply dictate messages instead. Many popular desktop and mobile devices and applications (as well as in-car-compatible systems) make it simple for you to speak your mind – and transcribe or share your thoughts on-screen in seconds.

Simply activate speech-to-text (a.k.a. voice recognition) features, and/or a Bluetooth wireless headset, and you can quickly get your point across by vocalizing thoughts… all without lifting a finger. Better yet, a growing number of solutions even let you save out lengthier conversations to full-fledged documents. So the next time you’re thinking of writing that great American novel or cutting-edge business book you’ve always dreamed of? Remember that it can be as easy as dictating 600 words every morning for a couple months while running on the treadmill.

Tap into high-tech solutions

You’ve got a great idea for a new or side business, a working plan, and the perfect audience in mind – but how to quickly grow and market it? Easy: Just drag and drop to setup a website, e-commerce platform, mobile interface and more, thanks to a growing range of providers that offer plug-and-play templates for basic business functions. Literally dozens of solutions exist that can help you mix-and-match photos, copy, and online shopping carts to build a homepage, blog, Internet storefront, and more in minutes. Likewise, you can also find countless off-the-shelf providers that can help you fulfill orders, or manufacture and deliver everything from books to branded memorabilia and even streaming online video courses on-demand.

As you’ll soon discover, the moment you’ve got a great idea is the moment you can tap into countless resources for quickly testing and promoting it – so what’s stopping you from prototyping or launching your next great business idea today?


8 Scientifically Proven Ways To Beat Mental Fatigue

This nice article by  Stephen Altrogge will help you stay alert and sharp mentally.

Are you dealing with mental fatigue?

Picture this scenario: You head to work, feeling as though you’re well-rested, and midway through your morning, you’re already tired. You’re drained and worn out, even though your day is barely started.

Or, through the course of a relatively light day of work — no meetings, no taxing decisions, no major fires to put out — you feel mentally and emotionally exhausted.

Or, you get these same feelings — mental tiredness, lack of brainpower to process even the simplest thoughts — on a Saturday, when things are at their least stressful.

If any of the above sounds familiar or you’ve had bouts with exhaustion, decreased motivation, lack of sleep or loss of appetite, or sustained irritability, you’re most likely suffering from mental fatigue.

Without proper care and attention to your mental health, mental fatigue can turn into far more severe conditions, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Burnout
  • Depression
  • Fluctuations in weight
  • Increased susceptibility to illness

In this guide, we’re going to break down what mental fatigue is, what causes it, and how you can overcome it. 

Photo by Callum Wale on Unsplash

What Is Mental Fatigue And What Causes It?

Mental fatigue or mental exhaustion is just that, the sense that your brain is running on empty. You can’t think clearly. It’s a challenge to process even the simplest information. You’re mentally and emotionally drained.

For many individuals, they feel like their mind is in a constant fog.

A few examples of mental fatigue might include: 

  • Asking someone the same question twice, without realizing it
  • Having to review basic information multiple times before grasping it
  • Snapping at unsuspecting friends, family, or coworkers over petty irritations

Concentration on any one task is nearly impossible, you have trouble focusing or maintaining focus, and even small things seem impossible.

Mental fatigue can happen to anyone at any time, especially those who’ve experienced very little rest over a certain period. Stress is a common trigger and the brain fog can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

For many people, rest is the solution to mental fatigue. In other instances, by simply stepping away from the source of stress for a while, you can take back control of your mental state.

For others, however, mental exhaustion may prove debilitating. If not dealt with properly, it can cause serious health issues that go way beyond brain fog.

In extreme cases, mental fatigue may lead to detachment and isolation from others, deep feelings of anger, apathy, or hopelessness. 

Photo by Finn on Unsplash

Symptoms of mental exhaustion

Although mental exhaustion is primarily associated with your mental health, it can also be detrimental to your physical and emotional wellbeing.

Emotionally, you can experience:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Feeling really unmotivated
  • Irritability (often increasing in intensity as the fatigue worsens)
  • Lack of productivity
  • Trouble focusing on even the simplest, most straightforward tasks
  • Feeling less positive and more pessimistic
  • Anger at the smallest issues or inconveniences
  • Lack of concern for yourself or those around you (even those you care about)
  • Isolation or detachment from others, either on purpose or subconsciously
  • Sense of impending dread or constant hopelessness

From a physical standpoint, mental exhaustion may result in:

  • Headaches
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight gain or loss (often dramatic changes)
  • Aches and pains
  • Chronic physical fatigue, weakness, tiredness
  • Trouble sleeping, including insomnia
  • Greater susceptibility to illness

Chronic mental fatigue will heighten physical and emotional symptoms. What may otherwise be a minor headache can become a crushing pain when mentally exhausted. A fleeting bout of anxiety in normal circumstances can result in uncontrolled worry.

Outward signs of mental fatigue

Beyond your mental or physical state, mental fatigue will also impact your behavior. If left unchecked, it can create rifts in your relationships, both personal and professional.

Mental fatigue places a strain on your social interactions, either causing you to lash out at others or withdraw from those closest to you.

You can also experience a sudden lack of motivation. The worse the mental exhaustion, the more likely you are to call in sick, look for reasons to avoid or miss work, or reject social or work-related commitments. 

In the worst cases, your productivity may drop dramatically, and you may not recognize the person you’ve become.

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Causes of mental exhaustion

Mental fatigue can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime, and in any environment. It can be caused by many different factors, both personal and professional. 

Some causes of mental fatigue and exhaustion include:

  • Jobs with high levels of stress 
  • Working extended periods without taking breaks
  • Having to make too many decisions, leading to decision fatigue
  • Constantly switching between tasks
  • Poor balance between your personal and professional life
  • Lack of satisfaction with your current job situation or being unemployed
  • Financial struggles
  • Living with a serious illness of having chronic health issues
  • Having to care for someone with a serious illness or who has chronic health issues
  • Being isolated socially

Bottom line: If you don’t pay close attention to your emotional health, social support system, or overall work-life balance, you’re more susceptible to mental fatigue.

Photo by Edu Lauton on Unsplash

8 Scientifically Proven Strategies For Overcoming Mental Fatigue

Thankfully, if you suffer from mental fatigue, there are ways to alleviate the mental drain. 

From changes in lifestyle and work habits to taking time for yourself, eliminating exhaustion isn’t difficult. It does, however, require developing healthy habits and sticking to them.

Structure your day to match rising and falling energy levels

One of the first steps to reducing mental fatigue is getting in tune with how your energy levels rise and fall. Even at your most rested, you deal with ebbs and flows of energy throughout your day. 

Everyone does. You have periods of high-energy and moments when that energy wanes. These up and down cycles are called “ultradian rhythms”, and each cycle lasts somewhere between 90 to 120 minutes. 

In their book The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz note:

These ultradian rhythms help to account for the ebb and flow of our energy throughout the day. Physiological measures such as heart rate, hormonal levels, muscle tension and brain-wave activity all increase during the first part of the cycle—and so does alertness. After an hour or so, these measures start to decline. Somewhere between 90 and 120 minutes, the body begins to crave a period of rest and recovery.

You’re at your most productive in 90 to 120-minute peak energy cycles and your least productive during 20-minute “troughs” in between.

To take advantage of your body’s natural rhythms, figure out when your peaks and valleys occur and schedule your day’s task around them. To learn your ultradian rhythms, keep a log for a few weeks of your energy levels each hour. This will give you a fairly good feel for when your energy is at its highest and when you need to take breaks. Alternatively, you can use the Rise sleep app to help you calculate your ultradian rhythms. 

Structure your day so that your work on your most important tasks when your energy levels are highest. When your energy levels dip, tackle the mundane stuff – answer email, review reports or saved articles, or perform low-priority tasks that don’t demand too much or your brainpower.

Spend energy on high-value activities

If you want to make the most of your brainpower, don’t let it go to waste. Like a vehicle left out in the elements to rust and decay, your brain loses its edge when it’s not regularly challenged or engaged. When you’re less engaged, it’s easier for mental fatigue to creep in.

Build your mental strength by engaging in high-value activities, like reading books (and not Facebook), learning a new skill, or doing hobbies and tasks that enrich you. Find activities and socialize with individuals that will improve your quality of life.

Obviously, there’s a time and place for turning your brain off and binging Netflix. But when your mind is constantly engaged in things you find fulfilling or with people you value, your mental health is less likely to suffer.

Eat foods that will fuel your brain

This is somewhat obvious, but it needs to be stated. Nutrition is a key factor in staying healthy and performing at peak levels.

Simply put, eating good foods will make you feel good. Eating bad foods will make you feel bad.

If you want to keep your mind at peak performance, eliminate refined sugars and heavily processed foods from your diet. Limit caffeine. When you eat, focus on proteins and snack wisely. Avoid candy bars or chips in favor of nuts (such as almonds), fruits, and whole grains.

Additionally, drink lots of water. Aside from the headaches it can create, dehydration impacts your ability to think, reason, and process information. Staying hydrated also maintains your energy levels and keeps fatigue at bay.

Reduce decision fatigue

If you’ve ever felt drained after having to make a bunch of decisions, then you know what decision fatigue is. 

In addition to draining on your ability to think clearly, decision fatigue can drain you physically. It can feel like you have a thousand pounds of weight on your head and your shoulders.

To avoid decision fatigue, which often comes from taking on too many tasks at one time, try setting aside specific blocks of time to address specific tasks.

For example, if you’re like most, you read and respond to email throughout the day. Instead, set aside a block of time in the morning and afternoon to address them all at once. Use Freedom to block your email except for those set times. 

In addition, take on your most important or pressing projects early in the day when your alertness and energy levels are at their highest. Your mental abilities will be clearer, your mind more focused, and your attention span longer.

By optimizing your time and keeping your attention on one thing at a time, you’ll be more focused on the decision-making process without them overwhelming you mentally.

Kill distractions

Of all the ways to beat mental fatigue, eliminating distractions is perhaps the most straightforward. And the most difficult to master.

After all, with so many online distractions to steal your attention from what’s truly important, wasting time is a modern-day pastime. Surfing the internet, scrolling through Facebook, watching YouTube videos, perusing Pinterest, curating playlists on Spotify, playing any number of addictive app games. And on and on.

All of this sensory overload, however, also overloads our brains. The more we engage with time-wasting distractions, the more stress they can create. 

Use Freedom to block the apps and websites that distract and overload your brain. Create a recurring session every morning so that you do deep work first rather than wasting time doomscrolling on Facebook. 

Photo by Gabe Pierce on Unsplash

Make exercise and sleep priorities

When it comes to your mental health, exercise and sleep are invaluable.

With exercise, it doesn’t require the time commitment as many people think. Moderate exercise – walking at a brisk pace every day for 20 to 30 minutes – can do wonders for your mental well-being.

Beyond helping you get into better shape physically, exercise boosts your immune system and increases endurance. It’s also a great stress reducer and will improve both your mood and anxiety levels. 

It’s critical that whatever your exercise routine, it’s easy for you to follow and stick to.

Sleep is also critical. Few things will improve your health faster than getting consistent, sustained periods of sleep. And the truth is, how you sleep (i.e. sleep hygiene) is equally as important as how much.

Your environment should be conducive to a good night’s rest. The room should be dark, quiet, and at a cool, comfortable temperature. Try to avoid electronics, particularly smartphones and tablets, at least two to three hours before bed. (Reading a physical book before bed is perfectly okay.)

As with exercise, create a sleep routine that is consistent and easily repeatable. Keep it calm and ensure that it occurs at the same time every evening (and that you wake up at the same time, too) to ensure the best night’s rest.

Take regular breaks throughout the workday

Conventional wisdom says that the harder you work, and the fewer breaks you take, the more productive you’ll be. While it may feel like you’re getting more done by “powering through,” the opposite is true. 

The reality is that your work slows, your focus drifts, and you grow less productive as the day wears on. You also stand a greater chance of increasing your stress levels versus those who take periodic breaks during the day.

Get up from your desk. Take a walk or do some other form of exercise. Sit outside. Visit with fellow coworkers for a few minutes about something other than work.

Even if it’s just for five to ten minutes, briefly removing yourself from the stresses of your day can be very calming. It also gives your mind a break and lets you quickly recharge for the next block of tasks. 

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Embrace the power nap

Finally, if your brain is on overload, or it feels like your mind is about to melt, shut it down, unplug it, and take a nap. Seriously.

Naps, especially power naps, are the equivalent of plugging in your smartphone in the middle of the day to get a little extra charge.

You may not be tired. You may still have plenty of gas in the tank. But a quick nap between 10 to 30 minutes can get your energy and performance back to their early morning levels.

Albert Einstein used naps to power his brain. His strategy was to hold something in his hand that would make a loud noise when it hit the floor. He would then settle into his armchair and nap until his hand relaxed and the thing he was holding hit the floor. This would allow him to drift into a light doze without falling into a deep sleep. 

Take Back Your Brain

Mental fatigue and exhaustion is a serious condition. Not only does it impact your mental and physical health, but it can also harm your productivity at work and your personal relationships at home. 

Worse, it can change who you are as an individual, result in depression, and seriously limit your capacity to function normally.

However, by taking stock of your mental health and employing one or more of the above methods for addressing mental fatigue, you’ll find yourself healthier, far more focused, and free from debilitating stress.  


6 Signs You’re Addicted To Caffeine ( With Audio version)

Amy Marturana Winderl, C.P.T. Amy is a freelance writer who covers health, fitness, outdoors, and travel. She holds a B.A. in journalism from the SI Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, a personal trainer certification from the American Council on Exercise (ACE), and a CPR certification from the American Red Cross. You can find her work on SELF, The Healthy, Health, Martha Stewart Living, Health Central, and more. When she’s not busy writing or editing, she enjoys hiking, running, cooking, and lounging on the couch watching the latest Netflix documentary.

Other than the fact that your Starbucks barista knows you by name.

It’s perfectly normal to hear someone claim they can’t socialize before their first cup of coffee. You may even nod along, signaling your respect and solidarity.

While a dependence on caffeine isn’t usually dangerous-it doesn’t threaten your health the way other drugs do—it’s never good to feel like you need a substance to function. And becoming addicted to caffeine is way easier than you might think.

“Nowadays, we don’t realize caffeine is in a lot of things we normally wouldn’t think it is,” Rachel Salas, M.D., an associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine who specializes in sleep medicine, tells SELF. “We think coffee or soda, but now it’s also in energy drinks, certain teas, and even different foods like waffles and gum.” We’ll add chocolate to the list. This makes it even easier to take in too much. Chances are you’re consuming more than you even realize, making your body recognize a low level of constant caffeination as the norm.

Like any other drug, the clearest evidence that you’re addicted to caffeine is that you experience withdrawal symptoms when you’re not taking it. Here are some red flags that you’ve become a little too reliant.1. Your head starts pounding if you skip your morning mug.

Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it makes the blood vessels slightly narrower, restricting blood flow. This makes it an effective headache reliever (that’s why it’s in some headache meds). But if you are used to a constant flow of caffeine, skipping it one day can actually cause a headache—it’s a classic symptom of withdrawal. According to theJohn Hopkins Medicine Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit, about 50 percent of people experience withdrawal headaches if they skip caffeine for one day. Some people never experience headaches when they don’t have caffeine, even if they’re used to drinking it daily, but science doesn’t really have an answer for the discrepancy.2. You’re super grumpy before your first dose.

Caffeine is a stimulant, and it stimulates our pleasure center. “It stimulates the dopamine receptors in our brain, kind of like cocaine and other certain drugs, just not nearly to the same extent,” Dana Hunnes, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., senior dietician at UCLA Medical Center and adjunct assistant professor at the Fielding School of Public Health, tells SELF. “It also stimulates adrenaline release.” This is addictive in its own right, because it simply makes you feel good. If you’re in a bad mood when you go without, it’s a sign your brain is relying on the drug to feel good.3. You can’t concentrate without being caffeinated.

Caffeine gives your body a boost of adrenaline, which can help you stay alert and focused. If you’re used to that boost every single day, you may experience brain fog or trouble concentrating and completing tasks without it.4. You need more to get the same effects you used to get.

It’s called tolerance, people. If you drink a lot of caffeine every day, you’ll develop it, and your body will then need more caffeine it to produce the same effects. If one cup of coffee stops making any difference on your energy levels, or you can drink a cup right before bed and have no problems zonking out, it’s a sign your body has become immune to its effects thanks to all the unbridled exposure.5. You’re always a little on edge.

High doses of caffeine can lead to the jitters-for some people, it takes less to cause that jumpy feeling than others. Loading up on caffeine can also lead to anxiety and increase panic attacks in some people, especially those who are prone to mental health issues. If you’re more anxious than usual, take stock of your caffeine intake and try cutting back for a while to see if you feel better.6. You just can’t bear to say goodbye.

Quitting anything cold turkey is tough. If you can’t just wake up and say “I’m skipping coffee today!” or if the thought kind of just freaks you out, you’re addicted—at least mentally. Try cutting back a bit instead of just giving it up completely. If you do it slowly, you can eventually wean yourself off the liquid lifeline. But coffee’s got some health perks, so keeping it in your life isn’t a bad idea. Just keep it to a reasonable amount—Hunnes suggests no more than two to three 8-ounce cups daily. “If it’s used correctly and in moderation, that’s the key,” Salas adds. “Just be aware of your own body and know that any stimulant or medication can affect us all differently.”


Why Productivity Is Always About Focus and Never About Time

Sabir Semerkant is the founder of GROWTH by Sabir and a productivity couch.

Many entrepreneurs struggle with productivity. They don’t work as hard as they can or as much as they should, and no matter how hard they try, they keep falling into the same patterns of procrastination.

They desperately search for answers, ways in which they can become more productive and more efficient, but more often than not, they look in the wrong places. Because, contrary to what you might think, productivity is about focus and not time.

Why Productivity is About Focus and Not Time

Giving yourself more time won’t necessarily make you more productive.

It should be obvious, but it’s a mistake that many people make. They realize that they are not working as much as they should and so they try to eke more hours out of their day, doing everything they can to save an extra hour here and there.

The problem is, they usually spend that extra hour lazily browsing on Facebook or staring at an empty Word document.

If you’re struggling to be productive, it means you’re struggling to focus. All of the time in the world won’t fix that but changing your environment and your approach to work might.

Some of the ways that you can quickly improve your focus include:

  • Start Working: Believe it or not, the best way to cure writer’s block is to start writing. It doesn’t matter what you write. If it’s terrible, you can delete it. What matters is that you actually start writing, as that will trigger the creative process. The same is true for most other types of work. Just make a start and your natural instincts will take over.
  • Breathe Deeply: Trying to move from mindless Facebook browsing to productive work can be difficult as your mind is unfocused and chaotic. Instead, just sit in silence, breathe deeply, and try to clear your head before you begin.
  • Take a Shower/Bath: There’s a reason you seem to have your best ideas in the shower or bath. It’s the silence, the lack of distractions, and the fact that you have some time to relax and think. If you’re struggling to get started, take a shower, clear your head, and move straight onto your work.

Being Productive When You Are Self-Employed

I’ve been self-employed for many years. I work with writers, designers, developers, marketers, and entrepreneurs who are also self-employed. Every single one of us struggles to be as productive as we would like, but such issues are rare as we’ve learned to adapt. We’ve found ways to work even through the distractions of home life.

But the same can’t be said for people who are only just acclimatizing to remote working.

It’s one of those things that everyone wants to do. The idea of working from home and setting your own hours is the dream for many Americans.

There is no commute. No noisy workplace. You can work when you want and where you want, and you have tea/coffee, and snacks within reach at all times.

But as many people discovered during the pandemic, when millions more Americans were forced to work from home, it’s not quite as easy as it seems.

When the constant pressure of employers, co-workers, and deadlines are replaced with the distractions of pets, friends, family, and Netflix, it’s hard to stay focused.

You will adapt after a while. But there are a few ways that you can hasten that process and become more productive much earlier.

One of the most important lessons that all self-employed individuals learn is that everyone is different.

It’s a cliché, I know, but it’s also something that many people forget when it comes to working from home.

Every single guide to remote working includes a section that advises you against all distractions. They’ll tell you to find a quiet workspace — preferably a room that no one else uses — and to make sure that there is no TV in that room.

But can you really work for 10 hours straight without anything to stimulate you? There are no conversations with colleagues to break the monotony. No music or phone calls. It’s just you, a computer, and complete silence.

It’s enough to send you insane.

The most productive freelancers I know all work while watching TV. Sure, it’s more of a background thing, and they’re not always paying attention, but the more experienced they get, the easier it becomes to enjoy films and TV shows while still producing great work.

Some prefer to listen to music. Others prefer to watch YouTube videos.

A writer friend of mine watches horror films and series for most of the day and has a subscription to pretty much every streaming service available. He works 7 days a week and 10 to 15 hours a day, and those films and shows are the reason he’s so productive and the reason he loves his job despite working 100+ hours a week.

The point is that there is no magic solution, and the articles that provide specific tips on procrastination and productivity might not work for you.

The most important thing is that you stay focused on the work at hand. If you have 10+ hours ahead of you, silence likely won’t encourage you to remain focused, but music or TV might.

Summary: Focus = Productivity