procrastination mental health ,time management. planning

The Impact of Procrastination on Productivity and mental health

 “Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin.”

Victor Kiam

So, I recently asked my friends to message me with the things that they believe affect today’s youth negatively. The word ‘procrastination’ came up several times, amongst mental disorders and substance abuse. I thought it’d be right to address that today.3

I’m not claiming to be better than anyone. I actually decided to write about this a month ago but I’m doing it now (the irony, huh). I’m a moderate procrastinator who still manages to meet deadlines but it is still something I need to work on. And I know many of you deal with it too. So here goes nothing.

What is procrastination?

Procrastination is the act of delaying a task for later so as not to do it at a certain moment. This could be one’s job, schoolwork, or chores. Usually, a procrastinator, mostly involuntarily, pushes away the thought of having to do something for the sake of instant gratification. Instant gratification is a sense of happiness or accomplishment we get without having to work too hard. For example, watching a movie, playing games, or any activity that is easily enjoyable. Delayed gratification, on the other hand, is when you study for a test and then nail it, or gain or lose weight after months of effort. Instant-gratification activities could be good for relaxation but do not qualify as long-term goals. Careers, grades, and accomplishments are all results of at least some struggle, and procrastination holds many back from having these.

Unfortunately, procrastination doesn’t stop here. It affects the bigger things in life. Not all of your dreams have a deadline attached to them. Things like starting your own business, learning a new language, taking care of your health (physical or mental), visiting places, achieving your personal goals, etc. will not be reinforced by your workplace or your school.

No one is going to check if they have been done, except you. You could end up living with regrets and what-ifs. If you admit that you are a procrastinator and are willing to try and make a difference about it, I’m glad you made that choice, and I hope I can help. And if you thought of it but kept denying it, this is a sign. It’s okay; it happens to the best of us. Research your doubts, talk to people, and give them some thought. Identifying your problem makes it less powerful and makes you more prepared.

Procrastination and Overall Health

Procrastination is not a disease or a condition. It’s more like a habit. It acts both as a cause and a symptom for mental health issues in addition to physical health detriments. Delaying work until the last minute significantly causes stress and frustration as one tries to fit in days of work into a few hours. If she or he manages to finish up on time, the brain gets tricked into believing that this is a shortcut method and doesn’t try to get rid of the unhealthy act. If the result is failure, feelings of guilt and worthlessness can dominate. Not to mention parental or familial pressure and expectations. All in all, procrastination increases stress levels and the occurrence of negative emotions, making us more susceptible to stress-induced mental disorders like depression and anxiety.

Mental disorders like ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), eating disorders, anxiety, and depression make it difficult to get up and get things done. This is because the conditions cause a lack of energy, motivation, and willpower. And as a result, work gets delayed and ends up bringing more stress and problems in return, and the cycle continues. And even if one isn’t diagnosed with a mental illness, emotions can become too strong to handle and keep us from going about our day like we want to. I know many of us relate to this because it isn’t rare to have days when we just want to sit or lay down doing nothing rather than study or socialize.

Stress is a tough thing to deal with on its own. But when it is felt on a constant basis, it brings about health problems like hypertension, gastrointestinal issues (a common example is that burning sensation in your abdomen when you are extremely upset or worried), diabetes, obesity, headaches, to mention a few.

Being a procrastinator doesn’t mean you necessarily have a mental disorder or body health issues. And having physical or mental illnesses doesn’t mean you are a procrastinator. They are possibilities. Not requirements for one another.

How to Cope and move forward

As I have said before, this is a common issue, and it’s okay to deal with it. It doesn’t mean you are going to fail in life. But at some point, you are going to have to pick up your sword and fight. Below are some tips that I thought would come in handy. I have personally tried some of them and succeeded. The rest I learned from people or the internet. I hope they help.

procrastination time management planning
  • Start slow  If your mind hasn’t experienced accomplishments in a long time (even the small ones like making your bed), it could be hard to go back on track quickly. Think of it as a process. Start with one or two tasks per day if you have to.
  • Your post-wake-up routine really matters. Ideally, what we do is toss around a little after we wake up, grab our phones, and stay in there for several more hours. This could be okay once in a while, but on a daily basis, it keeps us stuck in a drowsy routine. So get up at a time you feel okay with, make your bed, and then continue with your other activities. I know it’s a little too much to ask. But do it once and see how it affects your entire day.
  • Make a to-do list. Not a mental one. Written! Writing something down makes you recognize a goal. Even if the only thing you have to do today is write one email, write that down and enjoy the satisfaction of crossing it out when completed. break tasks down into small chunks. Instead of cleaning the entire house, work on one room at a time. Your mind feels burdened when faced with tasks that are too heavy and tries to avoid them.
  • The Pomodoro Method. You might have heard of this as a study method. Basically, what you do is set a timer for 25 minutes and begin your work. Then take a 5-minute break and repeat. After you do 4 blocks of 25-minute sessions, take a 30-minute break. This helps you get the job done without having to focus for too long or feel fatigued. I haven’t tried this yet but I’m willing to experiment.
  • Avoid distractions. Someone once told me that first-world countries make phones and other devices so addictive because they want to trap third-world youth in a loop of addiction and unproductiveness. It sounds a little biased because procrastination is an international thing, but we are indeed trapped. Enjoy social media and communicating, but put your gadgets away when you think of getting work done.
  • Reward yourself. Remember those instant gratifications we talked about? Well, they aren’t always bad guys. You can use them to your own advantage and delay them, turning them into delayed gratification. For example, ‘After I clean my room, I can watch an episode of my favorite series.’
  • Figure out which time of the day you are most likely to be productive. This skill will help you throughout life. It could be in the morning, afternoon, evening, or even past midnight. Experiment and see which works best for you.
  • Have someone help you out. You aren’t required to do this, but it helps to have someone check on your progress. A friend or a sibling would do. If not, you can text me, and we can work on it together.

“Until you value yourself, you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” ~

M. Scott Peck

Things to Remember

My advice won’t always work. Try to take notes and do whatever suits you.

  • Procrastination is not the same thing as laziness. It is most definitely not a choice. People who experience it cannot help but delay tasks. They keep doing it unconsciously and constantly ask themselves, ‘Why am I doing this?’. It affects more people than you can imagine, and it can be reversed with effort.
  • Take care of yourself. You don’t have to dive into work right away. Take constant breaks, do what makes you happy, and look after your mental health.
  • Does anyone remember that cheesy line teachers or parents use? ‘Your brain is like a muscle; the more you read or work, the stronger it will get.’ There is just so much truth in that. Considering the pandemic and all, you could have strayed away from your work mode and might struggle with getting back on track. You don’t run a full marathon on the first day of practice. It’s a few meters at first. The same applies to you.
  • Have room for failure. Some days it will happen, and some days it won’t. And that’s okay. You’ll bounce back. You’re a warrior.
  • For people who feel a lack of energy. What you are going through will not miraculously go away and give you your vigor back. It could take time, depending on what it is. But in the meantime, you do have the chance to be a much better version of yourself. That is in your power. I haven’t felt energetic or motivated for months now. But as of yesterday, I’m trying to actually fight whatever state I am in and not give up for once. Because I am worth it. The people who believe in me are worth it. And so are you.
  • It is now or never. Do you realize how short life is? And that we don’t know exactly when it will be over? You have enough time to make your dreams come true. It’s now or never.
  • I believe in you. I know you got this.
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