If you are like most Adults with ADHD, I bet procrastination ranks right up there in the top 3 behaviors you would like to change.
While I’m not much of a betting person, I can be confident of this because I hear concerns, such as the ones below, all the time:
- “I am always finding something else to work on instead of what is important.”
- “I said I was going to do it and I didn’t. I can’t believe I keep doing this!”
- “Maybe I’m just lazy and I need someone to force me to work.”
If these statements ring true for you, I would also wager that in most instances you are also well aware of the stakes involved. And that probably makes your procrastination even more maddening for you…
Good news. Even if you are a diehard procrastinator now, you can change this.
Are you in?
The first step is figuring out the reasons for your procrastination.
Yes, I know this will not immediately solve your problem. But understanding your particular flavor of procrastination will help you create solutions that are best suited for you.
So, that is where we’re going to start.
First, A Primer
If you already have a good understanding of your ADHD related challenges, feel free to skip down to the next section.
If you need a bit of review, check out Dr. Thomas Brown’s model below. You may also want to refer back to this model as you are reading the rest of the article.
I Don’t Want to Fail…
Failing is part of life. How many times have you heard that?! More times than you care to, I bet.
Yet, as is true for most people, fear of failing is likely one of the top three reasons you put off doing something as a means of delaying the anticipated failure.
True, in the long run, procrastination will work against you. You know that.
But in the moment, doing something else, anything else, sure feels better that tackling a task you’re just not sure you can handle. And, no doubt, this fear of failure is magnified for you because of your past missteps related to your ADHD.
What are you putting off because you just don’t think you can cut it?
What if I Succeed?
Alternatively, you may procrastinate because you are afraid of succeeding. Really. Along with fear of failing, this is one of the top three reasons people procrastinate.
Because of a history of inconsistent performance you may be reticent to tackle a task because you are afraid:
- you will not be able to replicate your initial success.
- you will be expected to perform at that new level and don’t think you can sustain the necessary effort.
- you will be expected to keep doing better and better, and the anticipated pressure is just too daunting.
Where are you playing small because of your fear of succeeding?
You Can’t Make Me!
And to round off the top three reasons people procrastinate is… RESISTANCE.
You may resist doing a task because you are hurt, angry or resentful, which can be magnified by your ADHD related challenges with managing your frustration level.
So, when your brain is hijacked by these emotions, thoughts like the ones below swirl about in your head like a tornado:
- “I can’t believe he is asking me to do that! I have too much work already!”
- “I just want to relax!”
- “It’s not my job!”
- “She didn’t help me when I needed help!”
I’m sure you can think of other reasons you resist doing particular tasks.
What is a recent instance where you resisted doing a task because you were hurt, angry or resentful?
I’ll Do That…Some Time
Beyond the top 3 reasons, you may also procrastinate because of your poor sense of time – one of your ADHD symptoms.
It starts when you write another task down on the sticky note next to your computer, while mumbling:
- “I’ll have to get to that.”
- “I don’t need to do that now.”
- “I should do that soon.”
Uh…so, when are you going to do it? If pushed for an answer, “not now” is often the best answer you can come up with in the moment.
This is, in part, because, as an Adult with ADHD, your sense of time is often binary. That is, for you there is now and not now. So, you keeping thinking, “I should do that…soon.”
And, as you turn your attention to something else, not now turns into whenever, one of the key ingredients in the makings of procrastination extraordinaire.
Hmm…I’m Just Not Sure
What can also muddy the waters and lead to putting off a task is when you are not clear about some aspect of the task, such as:
- what the very next action is or even where to start. .
- how to do some part of the task.
- what the task will look like when you are done, your objective.
- the criteria for making decisions about the task along the way.
Your ADHD challenges related to planning and prioritizing likely contribute to your difficulties with adding specificity and clarity to your tasks.
So, whenever the task comes to mind you think, “I need to do that…”
Yet, because of the lack of clarity, you continue to gloss over it in the moment and procrastinate.
There Goes the Fly
While lack of clarity can lead to procrastination, internal and external distractions can make matters worse.
You know …the nagging thoughts, emails, phone calls, texts, knocks at the door that pull at you until you end up feeling like a spinning top.
So, you end up not doing what you set out to do, what you said was important, because you are doing whatever crosses your path
There goes the fly… and there goes whatever it was you said you were going to do.
I Don’t Wanna…
Maybe the task holds zero, zilch, zip, nada, nothing in terms of interest for you.
Sounds like an obvious reason for procrastination, right? And, sure, lack of interest could be a reason anyone might resist doing something.
But, remember, lack of interest can make any task a nonstarter for adults with ADHD. So, for you it really needs to be highlighted and addressed when it comes to procrastination.
Running on Empty
You may not think of running on empty as a reason for procrastinating. But you should.
Because when your body and brain aren’t up to the task due to of lack of sleep, food, water, meds, exercise etc., you will be likely to put off doing something you intended to do.
The car just isn’t going to move when it is out of gas.
And you also aren’t going to be able to move on something when you are running low on fuel.
Next Steps For You
Here is what you can do now.
- As you go about your daily tasks, notice when you are not doing something you said you were going to do.
- Refer back to this list, and try to figure what is getting in your way.
- Keep a procrastination journal, listing what you put off and why.
Then stay tuned for the next post where I’ll offer you solutions.
Look forward to connecting with you then.