Procrastination or Attention Disorder?
It is already Friday morning and you can’t be more excited about the activities that you have planned for the weekend: brunch with the family, a soccer game with your friends or a romantic dinner with your partner. As you daydream about what the weekend my bring you ahead, you are suddenly stopped on your tracks as you remember that you haven’t finished, for some reason or another, that report that is due for Monday.
You had a whole week to complete it, but instead you chose to do other less urgent or unimportant assignments, probably got distracted reading the latest news and articles on the BBC or even worse, you spent the whole weekend planning your summer vacations in your head.
Procrastinating at work is a common phenomenon regardless of your profession. In some cases it may actually lead to a positive outcome as Bill Gates once said: that he would “choose a lazy person to do a hard job, because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it”. But while procrastinating from time to time may be a good thing for you (I wouldn’t encourage it) especially if you are one of those rare specimens that performs better under pressure, it may actually be a sign of an underlying health condition: “ADHD” (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder).
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), ADHD is a “brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development”. Some people may experience only one of the behaviors, while some others may suffer from both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity.
Probably you have been a victim of inattention: you are talking with your husband and he suddenly stops paying attention to you because he got lost and distracted watching the latest commercial on TV while ignoring you completely. This may be a quite common scenario at home, but if its persistent or severe then you probably may need to get an assessment. NIMH defines inattention as the type of behavior when “a person wanders off task, lacks persistence, has difficulty sustaining focus, and is disorganized; and these problems are not due to defiance or lack of comprehension”. If inattention is severe, it may have negative consequences that could lead to problems on performing routine activities.
Maybe you are one of those persons that have to constantly do something in order to feel happy: you start a new hobby like a webpage or blog, you feel the urge to stand up from your office desk pretty much every 45 minutes to grab a coffee or talk to your coworker instead of calling in a span of 10 hours a day, you hit the treadmill at the gym during your lunch time hours, maybe you have to study for 3 professional certifications that you enrolled at the same time and yet, you “didn’t” found the time to finish that report for Monday.
According to NIMH, hyperactivity “means [when] a person seems to move about constantly, including situations in which it is not appropriate when it is not appropriate, excessively fidgets, taps, or talks. In adults, it may be extreme restlessness or wearing others out with their activity”. Hyperactivity is more common in kids, but it is not rare in adults, and it can bring negative consequences to your life especially when your boss looks for you and you are always walking around.
You know your mortgage is due for the end of the month and that your upcoming salary will leave you with barely enough for covering the rest of your expenses and yet, you decide to buy the latest iphone because, let’s admit it, you couldn’t say no to your own temptations and you didn’t even consider the consequences.
NIMH defines impulsivity when “a person makes hasty actions that occur in the moment without first thinking about them and that may have high potential for harm; or a desire for immediate rewards or inability to delay gratification. An impulsive person may be socially intrusive and excessively interrupt others or make important decisions without considering the long-term consequences”.
There is no cure for ADHD, but treatments such as medication, psychotherapy, or training could help to reduce its symptoms.
But perhaps, the best treatment to your procrastination may be no other than analyzing yourself to see if you are satisfied with your job?