It’s a familiar scene: the minute you’re given a task, you start giving yourself props for just how early you’re going to start this time. Then cut to you bleary-eyed, coffee racing through your veins, at some ungodly hour, muttering to yourself something along the lines of: Every. Damn. Time.
Procrastination is a tough thing to beat, especially when that fridge needs some serious cleaning. But just how enthusiastically you embrace everything but the task at hand may have something to do with your genetic makeup.
Turns out, thanks to research from both the University of Aberdeen, as well as the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology in Beijing, a particular genetic mutation may lead to a predisposed aversion to getting up and actually doing stuff – and this goes for exercise.
“In mice that had a faulty SLC35D3 gene, the dopamine receptors were trapped inside cells; therefore, these mice became couch potatoes,” explains the author of The Genetics of Health: Understand Your Genes, Sharad Paul. This genetic mutation produces a protein that blocks the body’s “action” responses – the dopamine system.
“You shouldn’t lament procrastination, but instead listen to it.”
And while it can be infuriating to consider just how pervasive procrastination can be, Sharad argues that, in some cases, it’s less of an annoyance and potentially more a warning sign.
“If we stop and think about this, it makes complete sense,” says Paul. “We can identify with those times we had a business plan that we had written up in great detail, but were delaying doing something about. If we were to be honest about it, either we were not ready or hadn’t thought it through well enough. In Newport’s words, ‘You shouldn’t lament procrastination, but instead listen to it.’”
Either way, though, if you do have the gene (which you probably don’t need a DNA test to diagnose), it’s not a forgone conclusion that you’ll be awake late into the evening rushing to finish a project for the rest of your days.
“Our diets, exercise, and environment shape our genes and make them produce different proteins,” he says, adding: “If you have the right genes, this could be perhaps a bit faster, but not by much,” he says. “Therefore, there is hope for us all.”
Need help getting into gear? Try anti-procrastination apps like Strict Workflow (if you’re a fan of the Pomodoro time management technique) and RescueTime to see exactly where you’re spending your time.