Monday, May 28, 2007

Procrastination and Depression

Procrastination is a complex behavior disease that we all suffer in a way or another. Consists on delay systematically all those tasks we may do that acre crucial for our development. Instead, they are replaced by some other one less relevant but more pleasant to perform. Sometimes people call it just "laziness"
Affects to a lot of different people's profiles (the executive who delays a meeting time after time because he foresees it as very conflictive, the student that delays the time to start studying for his final exams, etcetera), and it's becoming a more serious problem everyday that affects psychological health of individuals so then the social health is also affected.

Procrastination is a phenomenon whose complexity is so that it's difficult to analyze, because of its difficulty roots as well as the so many feedbacks it has inside. So the whole picture is a polyfacetic panorama so hard to analyze. In this article I'd try to take a "sneak peak" to this subject, with the help of some references inside the scientific literature.

Procrastination comes as a poor time management. Procrastinator tens to overestimate the time left to complete a task, or to underestimate the time needed to perform it. These are just a couple of the self-tricks that procrastinator does. As we'll see later, some of the typical behaviors in a procrastinator is a great self-confidence, feeling of self-control and security. As an example, let's say we have 15 days to complete a report. In our inside we think we can do that in just 5 days, even less. So in that moment we say "I have a lot of time ahead, so I won't even start doing it!” And then it gets procrastinated day after day, because in our mind that task was "already finished" when in reality it has never been started. When deadline approaches dangerously, suddenly we notice that we won't be able to deliver on time. Then we think "I don't have this under control, I won't do it" and then we start to work on that in a very stressful way. In that point another self-trick appears: "I just work fine under pressure". But... is there another option?

So frequently this behavior is typical of self-confident people. But if that person is really capable, may be that task will be done and delivered on time. That sends a wrong message to the procrastinator ("look! finally I've got good qualifications after all!") that sees how his stressful way to work has been finally rewarded; so he'd keep doing that way, even though it carries out anxiety and problems.

The causes that can lead anyone to procrastination are so diverse and complex that it would be very hard to write them down in a single article. There are people that procrastinate as a result of a depression (depression leads to states of lethargy). Some other love perfectionism, and this feature keeps them from starting projects like they are afraid they won't be able to complete it as perfect as they wish... and that leads to a lack of motivation. They also have low tolerance to frustration, and that helps to "put off" things, being afraid that will be overwhelming us so making us feel guilty. Another classical profile but so different would be of those people that they just enjoy generating ideas, but they are unable to fully implement them because they soon become busy generating new ones one the fly. So they put off completion of each and any of the projects they start.

Probably you could identify yourself while reading these lines. You'd probably remind yourself reading the newspaper in your office with a long "to-do" list, going to cafeteria as the first step to complete a task, surfing the web while your phone was ringing with an annoying customer/boss on the other side of the line, etcetera.

The fact that procrastination is a commonly extended disease and that is a complex, rich phenomenon makes it very interesting and worth the study, both at an academic level up to individual interest.

(Extracted from Society of 2000 magazine)[http://www.societyof2000.org]

Depression:

Depression is a mental disease whose consequences are terrible. It almost annihilates the capacity of a person to think properly and to keep relationships with others... in a word, to live. One of the symptoms of depression is the lethargic state. A depress person doesn't want to know anything about reality, he's always looking for the bed to sleep trying to find peace in the world of dreams, the peace inside the unconsciousness of the true reality. So activity, to deal with projects, means kind of "get back on track" to life, so to reality and that's why a depressed person procrastinates the tasks he should perform and keeps substituting them by non-relevant others that provides him with a more instant, easy pleasure. So in such these cases, as procrastination is so bond to depression, the healing of this one would lead to the healing of that one.

That feel themselves so confident about -whether they have reasons to do so or not- distort so sharply and permanently their time's perception, so they make a very poor management of it. A person, whose cognitive intelligence has been rewarded continuously during his lifetime, can let astray the ability to perform forecasts with efficiency. For instance, if for just one time, somebody completes a complex task in less time than provided, he would greet about that. This feedback can make this person to extend this attitude to other subjects in his life, leading to an excess of self-confidence. As most of the task are delivered with regular timeframes / deadlines, the so called "self-confident procrastinator" finds that he has a lot of time to perform it, so he decides that he's "bored" and then goes thru other irrelevant tasks that give him pleasure rather than his true duties. This is the key point, because these irrelevant tasks, even they are so superfluous, they usually are so time-consuming. So at the end, the procrastinator finds himself in the middle of a maze wich doesn't know how to exit. If such these desperate situations are common, procrastinator can fall in a depressed state, that is also a source of procrastination itself, as seen in previous point.

Solution to this kind of procrastination is not straightforward. A possible technique could consist on systematically and artificially enlarge the timeframes we need to to absolutely anything, so we could adjust deadlines more properly. Another one could be to "explode" each and every tasks in a series of "sub-tasks" that are easier to time every mind's a world, and every intelligence has its own features. There are people whose intelligence tells them to act, to persevere. That kind of minds can go so far in this life, but mostly about a specialized subject, may be two. Other minds, that I use to call "Flying minds", tend to leave in a second plane the performance. In this case, the simple generation of ideas is a perpetual task that consumes all the time of the person. A constant source of ideas that will never see the light of reality. Why?. Because during the implementation of any of these ideas, another new one appears suddenly. So the newer the idea, the more priority it has, and then the performance of previous idea are just abandoned. This kind of induced procrastination is so common in creative minds.

What to do about it? Hard to tell, may be looking for the coordinated help of others who are better in "executive intelligence" rather than "creative intelligence" could be a way