Procrastination and focusing

work meeting
(Photo: Unsplash)
For better or for worse, life is full of deadlines. Whether it is for school, university, or work, it can be difficult to stay focused sometimes. It can be even more difficult to find the motivation to even start a task unless there is pressure to get it done. Unfortunately, those who procrastinate often know no other way. Although there may be benefits associated with procrastinating, it can also have a negative impact on mental and social wellbeing. اضافة اعلان

What is procrastination?

To put it simply, procrastination is the act of delaying tasks until the last possible minute, or past their deadline. Often times, this delay is irrational and happens in spite of potentially negative consequences. Even the most well-organized and highly motivated individuals have likely procrastinated at some point or another. There is no single reason why people procrastinate; it can sometimes be a combination of factors.

One of the biggest contributing factors is that we do not feel motivated enough until the anxiety of failure or missing a deadline drives us to complete the task. There are also many cognitive factors that contribute to procrastination. At times, we can be relatively bad at estimating. We tend to overestimate how much time is left or how motivated we will be in the future, and underestimate how much work is left. This cognitive distortion is done subconsciously in order to provide us with a sense of security until the time of the deadline.

There are also mental health conditions that can make procrastinating even worse. For those with depression, feelings of dread, hopelessness, and a general lack of energy it may be difficult to start or finish even the simplest of tasks. Depression may also cause self-doubt, which can make one feel insecure about one’s own ability to complete a task.
Even the most well-organized and highly motivated individuals have likely procrastinated at some point or another.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a condition where the individual has specific ideas of perfectionism which are often unhealthy. Despite being perfectionists, those with OCD can frequently procrastinate. This is mostly due to the fact that more time is spent obsessing about whether something is being done correctly instead of actually completing the task. Lastly, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition where an individual can become easily distracted by any stimuli, be they internal or external. Unsurprisingly, those with ADHD also struggle with procrastination.

Type of procrastination

Many psychologists and researchers put procrastinators in two main categories: passive procrastinators and active procrastinators. The former are defined as those who delay tasks due to indecision and the inability to act on them. The latter intentionally delay tasks because they need the pressure and challenge to feel motivated. There are many other sub-classifications, such as perfectionists, worriers, and crisis-makers, but all are a derivative of active or passive procrastination. There are also definitions centered around a more clinical approach. Chronic pathological procrastination is defined as those who have a high tendency to delay tasks or work at a habitual and personality level. Symptomatic procrastination is defined as a condition of those who suffer from an underlying condition, such as OCD or depression, of which, procrastination is a symptom and not a choice.

(Photo: Unsplash)

Conscientiousness and procrastination

Conscientiousness is a personality trait from a broad disposition of traits outlined in the Big Five Theory of Personality. A person who is conscientious has high levels of self-control and self-discipline. In general, such a person tend to be more organized, determined, responsible, and prefer long-term success over immediate personal gratification. Unsurprisingly, those who do not procrastinate tend to exhibit higher levels of conscientiousness.

Impact of procrastination

Procrastination may not necessarily be a bad thing, and research has found an interesting link between anxiety and work output. A 2020 study set out to investigate the role of procrastination in creative thinking. Active procrastinators tended to have high self-reported and expert-rated levels of creativity when placed under time pressure. It is believed that this is because delaying work forces an active procrastinator’s thought to go through an unconscious process which can yield better results of creativity than the conscious process. The study also assessed emotional stability’s role in work output and creativity. What it found is that those who were more emotionally stable tended to do worse in creativity than those who were generally anxious. The explanation for this is that anxiety and high stakes can help a person optimize his mental resources and strategize to provide the best result. It concluded that moderate anxiety and arousal can result in maximum output.

However, those with high levels of anxiety were more closely linked to passive procrastination and did not produce the same level of work output. Additionally, there is a tendency to fit one into active or passive procrastination, but certain contexts may cause some individuals to switch between the two categories.

Generally, procrastination is a concern when it becomes chronic and begins to have a serious impact on daily living. The poor management of time can extend from school or work to important aspects of life, such as paying bills or filing taxes. Additionally, it can impact a person’s mental health by causing unnecessarily higher levels of stress and illness, as well as increase the burden placed on social relationships due to resentment from peers, co-workers, or even friends.

How to focus better

Passive procrastination is reason for the greatest concern. The indecisiveness associated with it can make it difficult to find a starting point. Starting a SMART goal might help with complex projects that have you feeling overwhelmed. SMART is an acronym used to help deconstruct large projects into smaller parts and help one remain goal oriented. S stands for specific and is used to help specify exactly what the goal for each step is. M stands for measurable and represents how one will measure progress. For example, if you have an essay you need to complete for school, a word count can represent your M and 300 words per day can be your S. A stands for achievable and should help decide whether one’s goal is realistic. This often requires introspective consideration of one’s skills and time management. R stands for relevant, and should be used to assess whether one’s goal will help achieve the final outcome (e.g., finishing your essay). Finally, T stands for timely and should be used to look at the big picture. It takes into consideration all the other aspects of SMART and assesses whether the task can be accomplished before the deadline.

Treating the underlying cause for those who suffer from symptomatic procrastination is important. OCD, ADHD, and depression are serious conditions that can greatly impact one’s mental health. Consulting your doctor can help you come up with a strategy for treatment, along with lifestyle changes to help with procrastination.

If you are overly anxious, cutting down on caffeine might help and if your find yourself demotivated, small doses of caffeine may actually improve focusing. Regardless of the type of procrastination, staying focused can be difficult. Avoid distractions such as your phone or social media, get plenty of sleep, and eat the right foods in order to give yourself the energy you need to focus and complete your tasks.

Read more Health
Jordan News