Is Procrastination Related To ADHD?


Is procrastination related to ADHD

I was going to write an article about the ADHD brain and procrastinating. But then I thought, “Nah, I need to keep researching and reading, then I’ll be ready.”

So I kept researching and reading.

While doing so I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Kim Kensington of do an interview during the Women’s ADHD Palooza. I can only assume that fate brought the palooza into my life as I was writing this post because I was …procrastinating.

I had been procrastinating about writing about procrastinating because I was trying to avoid what I perceived as an unpleasant task. Not the writing itself, the thinking part. Luckily there are people like Dr. Kensington that are doing it for me.

Thinking is painful, you know?

Americans lose hundred’s of millions of dollars each year because they don’t file their taxes on time. I didn’t know this either, I read about it in an article from the New Yorker. <Here>

This procrastination thing is not a new phenomenon. The ancient Greeks referred to it as akrasia – doing something against one’s better judgement.

Procrastination against our own better judgment certainly makes sense because we all know that the end result of procrastination is stress, even when you do complete the odious task you have been avoiding.

In the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey discusses the idea that human awareness, the ability to analyze our own thoughts and behaviors, is what sets us apart from other species. He is pretty much hitting the nail on the head from what I can tell.

Most of us know when we are procrastinating, right?

As Mr. Covey explains, “between stimulus (such as a major task) and response (completing the task) there is the freedom to choose.”

I recently read that we self-sabotage because failure is less scary for us than facing the unknown. <Via> Yikes!

Is procrastination related to ADHD?

so Is procrastination related to ADHD?

Umm YES. Or at least our inclination to procrastinate is heightened by our ADHD symptoms and the emotional dysregulation inherent to the condition.

We with ADHD are ruled by emotion, and emotion is what causes us to procrastinate.

Take Responsibility

Only you have control over your own actions. If, as Mr. Covey speculates, we make a choice to avoid unpleasant activities then we need to put the onus on ourselves to make a change.

We don’t have complete control over our thoughts. Sometimes what’s going on in our heads is so intense and so tangled it is hard to focus on anything else.

Read more about thought patterns in my post about Emotional Management with ADHD.

But in order to change anything in our lives we have to to commit to doing the work.

Commitment is scary, and not everyone wants to work that hard.

But if you do want to make positive changes..

figure out why you are procrastinating

Personally, I have a lot of anxiety. Every time I start something that will require a lot of my mental energy I blow it up in my mind. And I don’t mean I get a little nervous. I go nuts.

I spend hours overthinking and imagining all of the worst outcomes in startling detail.

Before you know it I’ve convinced myself that I will fail miserably and I should just do nothing. It’s easier to do nothing than it is to try and fail. Right?

In my Anxiety and Depression Workbook I have worksheets for procrastination, negative thought patterns, and avoidance. I developed them because I realized that every time I found myself procrastinating, it was because I was having an emotional reaction that was out of line with the situation.

Ask yourself:
  • What negative thought patterns am I running about this?
  • What am I afraid will happen when I start?
  • What are the consequences if I don’t start?

Eliminate ambiguity

For me to complete any task I must know what steps to take and in what order to take those steps, and I need a measurable deadline. Or it will not get done.

If I cannot name the first step I’ll freeze. Sound familiar?

The ADHD brain doesn’t do well with ambiguity, we see things in a very black and white way. And we really don’t like uncertainty because it makes our anxiety and fear of failure worse.

In life, there is constant uncertainty. So I’m sure you can see why this procrastination thing is so tough for us. And how something that should be fun – like planning a vacation – actually becomes a nightmare.

Sometimes we need a kick in the pants to get out of the thought spiral.

Ask yourself:

  • Can I choose just the first step?
  • Who can I go to for guidance and clarity?

Practice self-awareness

The next time you catch yourself procrastinating get really curious, “what am I feeling right now?” 

Write it down if you have to. Notice any tension in your body as you acknowledge your feelings. Take a mindful minute.

Work to uncover the emotions that are driving you to procrastinate, or avoid, or otherwise self-sabotage.

We with ADHD are ruled by emotion, and emotion is what causes us to procrastinate.

You can change the way you think, but you have to get really self-aware.

Learn about how your ADHD brain works, and how the executive function deficits inherent to ADHD impact your ability to get started and follow through on tasks.

Wanna work with me? Schedule a session. I do my best work one-on-one.

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6 comments on “Is Procrastination Related To ADHD?

    • Hi Marie! Thanks for stopping by. I am sooo not tech savvy. Let me see if I can enlarge it myself.
      I liked the 40 second chasm too, I actually want to read Dr. Kensington’s whole book!

  1. I just read this article while procrastinating to write my thesis… haha. But now I’ve read it, especially the part ‘put the responsibility on yourself, no one else can do it for you’, I’m motivated to start again (after procrastinating for 5 hours), cause in the end I’ll have to get it done and no one else is gonna do it… Thanks!

    • Hi Anouk –
      Glad the article spoke to you. And thank you for commenting!
      When I wrote that I was hoping it wouldn’t upset anyone. Let me know how your thesis goes!

    • Anouk…. I am going though the SAME thing! I took over a month to do one last stupid little step to have my dissertation study approved because I was procrastinating. After some self reflection, I realized that I was putting it off because it was easier (i.e. less painful) to not complete my dissertation this semester because I procrastinated then having my study rejected or not successfully defending the dissertation. With the help/encouragement from a friend and my husband I finally pushed through and I’m pretty sure I’m gonna pull it off! Hang in there….. You got this!!

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