How Can You Focus When You Know You’re Going To Procrastinate?

Abhishek Chauhan
3 min readOct 22, 2020

Have you ever found yourself wandering off when you should be focusing on work? Or you just can’t focus all your attention on a single task?

That obviously is, as you would know, Procrastination.

I can go over tens of thousands of ways in which people procrastinate but if there’s one single reason that could claim the title of ‘Mr. Explain-it-all’, it’s actually not a reason but just a simple lack of knowledge of how our brain works.

There are two ways in which our brain focuses:-

  1. Focused mode:- when we are really focusing at the matter in hand.
  2. Diffused mode:- when we try to look at the big picture and our brain tries to make random connections.

Now which one is more important? Ideally, neither.

Both are equally important as focused mode helps us to actively learn the ongoing task and diffused mode helps us to passively internalize it. (if and only if we are successfully able to channelize that into the relevant zone).

But the problem arises when we are not aware of what mode our brain is in. Sometimes we’re trying focus on a task at hand and our brain starts to wander off (diffused mode) at all different sorts of things. This is the main reason why you might be wondering about ‘Global economic crisis’ in your ‘Algebra’ class.

Now that we know that how our brain works, we need some tool that helps us channelize its usage.

And that tool, is our “Consciousness.”

We’ve to make an active conscious choice whenever we are mind starts to switch from focused mode to diffused mode, and that choice is,

“Whether I really need to diffuse my attention and if I’m going to, then can I ‘focus’ my diffused mode to look at the relevant big picture and not at global economic crisis?

The key to find that answer is very simple. But before that, let me introduce you to one term which I like to call, a “Micro-thought”.

A micro-thought is that phase of thinking between when you’re focusing at your work and when you’ve just started wandering off of work.

Now I’ve classified these micro-thoughts in to two types:

  1. Relevant Micro-thought
  2. Non-relevant Micro-thought

Let us look at two simple examples to see what they are

1. You’re at your college, trying to solve a physics problem and you find yourself stuck at a particular equation, and suddenly this ‘micro-thought’ comes to your mind regarding what happened at home back in the morning or what new tv series your friend was talking about in the lunch break.

This is called a “Non-relevant Micro-thought”. And then you start actively thinking about that and procrastination sets sail.

Now, the key is to consciously control all of these distractions at the ‘micro-thought’ stage and put them to the trash bin so that they don’t grow big enough to bother our focused mode.

2. Now consider you are trying to solve the same physics problem, stuck at the same equation meanwhile successfully dodging all the Non-relevant Micro-thoughts and suddenly you have this micro thought that says this just might be solved in a way similar to the one which was used to solve some other problem in Chemistry.

Now this, is a “Relevant Micro-thought” and we have to consider this one before moving ahead.

We all keep having n-number of micro-thoughts every second. They simply can not be avoided but if we can consciously start filtering out these micro-thoughts in the above-mentioned way then most surely, we would be able to focus better at the task in our hand.

But this would not be easy, it takes a lot of patience and practice.

“ By what right do I, who have wasted this day, make claims on tomorrow?” Alain Fournier.