But, as an adult with ADHD, your ADHD symptoms may exacerbate your tendency to procrastinate.
When talking with clients about procrastination I often hear some variation of, "But everyone can do it! I should be able to do this!"
Shaming yourself is never a good strategy to motivate yourself into taking action. Has it ever worked for you? In fact, I bet you are more likely to procrastinate when you heap a "big dose of shame and blame" on yourself.
What is helpful, though, is being aware of why you are procrastinating in each situation, and being will willing to adopt strategies that will work with your ADHD.
Where To Start And How To Proceed
A common challenge for those with ADHD is being able to plan the steps in order to complete a project. Is this true for you?
If it is, you may find yourself procrastinating when faced with such a task because it seems insurmountable.
While the linear thinking needed to create a plan may not be your strong suit, you can build this muscle with the right support. One way to do this is to process aloud with someone else. Many of my clients are surprised at their ability to plan when they can think aloud about what they need to do.
Find someone with whom you feel comfortable to talk through the steps of what you need to do. You may even give them permission to prompt you with questions for each step, like:
- What is next?
- Do you need to do anything else before that?
- Can you break that down even more?
- Do you need any preparation to do that?
- Is there anything that might get in the way of doing that?
- Are you aware of potential roadblocks? Is there anything you can do to prevent or minimize the roadblock?
If you are really stuck, you may need to ask for help from someone (boss, friend, family member, colleague, etc.) who has the expertise in what you are trying to do.
You may need to go through this process several times. When you get stuck, stop and think about what you need to do to move forward.
The Task Is Too Hard
Even after you create a plan you may procrastinate because you anticipate some aspect of the task is going to be too hard to do.
You may try to avoid thinking about the task or you may ruminate about it. In either case you are using the valuable mental energy you need to think about how to approach the task, as well as be present to other areas of your life.
When you find yourself in this situation, stop and ask yourself:
- What am I afraid of?
- How can I get rid of this roadblock?
- If I need help or information, where can I find it?
- If I am new at the task, am I willing to give myself permission to stumble a bit as I get better?
Then get the help or information you need. If your are new to the task, continue working at it however imperfectly that may be; we all start somewhere.
Overwhelmed By Too Much To Do
What if you have a plan and you have identified potential roadblocks, but you are still procrastinating because you feel overwhelmed with the sheer immensity of the task?
It is common for adults with ADHD to become overwhelmed with all the thoughts of what they need to do.
If you are procrastinating because you have too much to do remind yourself that you do not have to do everything today. Yes, Rome was not built in a day.
Then, if you have not already, break down the task into discrete tasks with accompanying deadlines. Focus on what you need to do right now, not on what you have to do three weeks from now.
Bit by bit you will get it done.
Perhaps the reason you are procrastinating is that a task just does not appeal to you. And when you have ADHD, lack of appeal can make initiating and follow through even that much harder!
But, depending on the nature of the task, there are ways to make it more appealing to you:
- Consider how doing it is in alignment with your values. You may not want to write that report, but you do want to be viewed as a professional. Cleaning the house may not be fun, but having a comfortable place for your family may be important. Remind yourself of your values when you are procrastinating.
- If rewards are motivating for you, give yourself a reward for completing the task.
- Do the task that you least like first; check out this video, Eat Your Frog First.
- Set a timer and do as much as you can for a short amount of time each day. Perhaps knowing that you only have to work on it for a bit will make it easier to do.
- If the task lends itself to doing it fast, set a timer and race against the clock; make it into a game.
- If music helps, listen to music.
ADDEd Perspectives Bottom Line
While procrastination is a universal problem, your ADHD symptoms may increase your tendency to procrastinate.
First, identify why you are procrastinating, and then experiment with strategies that will help you move forward.
Need help? Contact me, and we can talk about how I can support you in reaching your goals.