Procrastination and ADHD: Four Exciting Ways to Stop Postponing Now!
Laundry piled up waiting to get done, a desk so cluttered you can’t see under all the mess of, that big important project you aren’t making any headway on --- most of us experience procrastination in some way or another, but when you live with ADHD, procrastination can be chronic and debilitating.
The emotional fallouts of procrastination for individuals with ADHD can range from feelings of irritability, frustration, anger, and regret for not being able to accomplish what’s important. There can also be academic, work, family, or financial disappointments and setbacks for failing to follow through on deadlines and other meaningful responsibilities.
Here are four exciting ways to stop postponing what's important to you so you can live a more fulfilling life with ADHD.
Face the Negative Emotions
For the ADHD’er, who can struggle with emotional self-regulation, the costs of procrastination can be challenging. Putting things off provides the rewards of temporary relief. At the same time, when failing to do an intended task, negative emotions set in, such as guilt, boredom, resentment, anxiety, and depression.
• Expect that when you have negative emotions associated with a task, you will most likely find that you may not want to do the task later.
• Let go of having to be interested, motivated, and wanting to do the task.
• Prepare yourself but do it nevertheless. “I know I won’t feel like doing it tomorrow, but I will do it anyway.”
Challenge Your Fear of Failure
If you procrastinate you won’t have to face any restrictions on your ability. It’s more bearable to blame yourself for disorganization, distraction, forgetting, lateness, or laziness than to view yourself as being incapable or deficient.
• Recognize that the fear of making mistakes or the tendency to try performing a task perfectly may be to protect your self-esteem.
• What if there is no perfect? What does “good enough” look like?
• Notice any misleading and negative self-talk, such as, I’m a mess,” “I can’t do this,” “it’s not that important,” or “I have lots of time to do it later,” and get started on the smallest possible concrete task.
• When we address our limitations, we are more able to self-regulate and uncover our greatest strengths.
Procrastination sets in until the "now" or deadline gets closer when stress can trigger the brain to freeze or panic from overwhelm.
• Break down the tasks involved in a large chore or project.
• Get the support of a partner or colleague to select the smallest possible step and get started on it.
• Batch similar tasks and do them at consistent times each week so that they become habitual.
• Know your best times to focus on various projects, such as desk work vs. house chores.
You feel really good about yourself that you got started on a section of your project that you’ve been putting off. After you’ve been working for a while, you get to a point where you need to figure out a problem. You then get a ping from your friend to work out at the gym. You convince yourself you’ve done enough for today, especially because you haven’t worked out in a while.
• Be proactive about removing distractions. Turn off notifications, put your phone in another room, work on a new tab on your computer, and/or turn off your phone. Allow yourself to check (and respond) to email at certain times in the day.
• Set boundaries for yourself:
• If a receive an invitation, I will say “I wish I could, but I need to spend some time on my work first.” Or,
• I will let you know in 10 minutes. A built-in delay in deciding can curb impulsivity and help you make conscious choices before you commit to an alternative intention.
• Work on structuring concrete tasks. This way, if you get stuck on a problem, you can take steps to define what you need to know. Using a timer can also help so you stay within your intended parameters.
• If and when you catch yourself climbing down a rabbit hole of distractions, go easy on yourself. The first step is awareness. Give yourself permission to forgive yourself and make changes one step at a time.
• Challenge Your Fear of Failure
• Get Started
Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, Pychyl, T.A., (2013), New York, NY.
Procrastination, Why You Do it, What to Do About it NOW, Burka, J.B. and Yuen, L.M., 1983 & 2008, Cambridge, MA.
PS. Need more assistance overcoming procrastination so you accomplish what's most important to you?
Contact me for an ADHD Strategy Assessment and we can talk more about setting up a practical game plan that you can stick to!