How to Stop Procrastinating with Adult ADHD

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If you are an Adult with ADHD it is most likely you are a procrastinator. Although it may sound harmless, it can cause problems in professional and personal relationships.  When adults with ADHD fail to complete tasks on time, people may see this as a sign of disrespect, incompetence, or laziness. Luckily, there are some strategies you can use to help overcome chronic procrastination.

Do The Worst-Task First- One way is to do the worst task first. If there is something you hate doing, get it over and done with first, and then all the other things you need to do will seem easy after that. This works very well for small, but dreaded tasks (e.g., calling someone you don’t want to speak to).

Find Your Energy -  Another way is to start doing a task that you like and gives you energy, and then without a break quickly switch to a task that you have been putting off. The idea is to use the motivation you get from the task you like (e.g., cooking), to help you get through the task you don’t like (e.g., cleaning the fridge out).

 Just 10-Minutes A really useful approach for getting started on tasks is to plan to spend just 10 minutes on the task. This is such a small amount of time, so you will feel you can tolerate just 10 minutes. At the end of the 5 minutes reassess and see if you can spend just another 10 minutes on the task, and so on. You may decide to make the chunks of time a little larger (i.e., 20 minutes or 30 minutes), if this seems more reasonable for you. The idea being set just a small amount of time to get started on a task, at the end of which see if you can go just another small amount of time more. You will be surprised at just how much you are able to extend your time working on a task, once you have gotten the ball rolling.

Set Time Limits A different approach is to set a specific amount of time to work on a task, and stick to just that, rather than extending things even if you feel you can. If you know in the back of your mind that you are going to expect yourself to do more when the time is up, it may stop you from starting in the first place, as it can feel like you are just trying to trick yourself. Whereas, if you know you only need to do 30 minutes and that is it, regardless of whether you feel like doing more, you may be more willing to get going

Choose The Right Time of The Day - Choosing the right time of day to approach a task can be helpful.. You might need to figure out what time of day you are most productive or have the most energy. . The idea is to attempt tasks when you are at your best.  You may be a ‘night person’, a ‘morning person’ or a ‘middle of the day’ kind of person. Also, there may be different times of day that are better suited for different types of tasks. For example, all the ‘dry’ tasks (e.g., household chores) you may be better at tackling in the morning, and ‘creative’ tasks (e.g., painting or drawing) you may be better with at night. Another example is that you may find it easier to follow through with a new exercise routine in the morning compared to the end of the day, or vice versa. The important thing is to become aware of what time of day works best for you, and seize those moments to get going.

Choose The Right Place - It is important to choose the right place to work on your task or project. You need to be aware of what types of environments you get more done in, and what types of environments have distractions that make you more likely to procrastinate. For example, trying to get a task done while there are lots of people around, means there is the potential for distractions, which isn’t going to help you get going. Therefore, you may need to isolate yourself for a set period of time in order to get work done. In addition, attempting tasks whilst there are other distractions within arm’s reach (e.g., TV, fridge, telephone, etc), is just teasing yourself and tempting procrastination.  Try to seek out environments you can work in with minimal distractions (e.g., the library versus your home, your desk versus the lounge room or your bed, etc).

Remember-Then-Do For small annoying tasks that often slip your mind, a good strategy is that as soon as you remember you need to do the task, grab a hold of that moment to follow through. Rather than putting it off and forgetting about it again, use your remembering of the task as a sign to take action now.

Reminders If forgetting tasks is a big part of why you procrastinate use visual reminders and prompts to help you. If the things you need to get done aren’t ‘in your face’, then it will be a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. So take steps to make sure that the tasks you need to get done are ‘in your face’. This could involve writing notes or lists and placing them in prominent places (e.g., fridge, bedside table, bathroom mirror, desk, diary), or using other reminders (e.g., mobile phone, email manager, asking someone else to remind you).

Visualize Another way to approach your tasks or project is to visualize yourself doing it. If you are good with imagination, bring to mind a very vivid and real picture of doing the task. Try to use all your senses to make the image as real as possible. In this image notice any obstacles coming up that get in the way of the task, and visualize yourself successfully overcoming those obstacles and following through with the task to completion. Focus particularly on the good feeling you have when the task is complete. Once the task is successfully completed in your mind, use the momentum from the visualization to get going on the task in real life

Focus If you feel a little at ease when you begin working on a task, take a moment to close your eyes and focus on your breath. Try to slow your breathing  down to smooth, slow and steady breathing. Take in normal and comfortable volumes of air, and try to allow yourself to breathe from deep in the lungs and belly, rather than shallow in your chest. Just focus on the breath. It may even be helpful to count your breath to yourself (e.g., “breathing in-2-3-4…hold…breathing out 2-3-4-5-6”), counting whatever rhythm feels comfortable to you. Spend 5-10 minutes using your breath to settle and focus, and then return to the task. Anytime you notice yourself becoming unsettled, again just focus on a couple of slow and smooth breaths. Just observe the unsettled feeling, rather than being irritated by it. Let go of the feeling by imagining each exhalation as carrying that unsettledness away from the body, as the breath leaves the body.

Reward Yourself - A really important part of approaching tasks and projects in a productive way is to actually plan rewards and ‘play time’. Often the things we could use to reward ourselves (e.g., pleasure, socializing), are the very same things that distract us and get us procrastinating in the first place, and in the long run it  make us feel guilty. But, there is a difference between these activities interfering and distracting us from what needs to be done, and instead using them to reward ourselves after something has been achieved or as a well earned break from a task. The more you plan regular rewards for your achievements, the less you will feel like you are missing out or being deprived of something, and hence the less likely it is that you will procrastinate. The key is to let these rewards be guilt-free, by having preplanned them and fitted them around the work that needs to be done. Some adults with ADHD  may  often think “I don’t have time” or “I don’t deserve rewards or fun”. But think of it this way, the things you don’t like doing tend to zap some of your energy, whereas rewards, leisure and pleasure help replenish you energy, allowing you to do better quality work in the long run. It is all about a balance between pleasure and achievement.

 

 

 

3 Responses

  1. I often tell myself I will only work for 2 minutes but then often finish the task since I am already up and moving. Good story Jenna
    • adhdcoach
      You can take a much time to work on a task as long as you feel comfortable. Be sure to take breaks in between, you dont want to overwhelm yourself.
  2. good post. I'll link to it (when I get around to it, of course). Thanks Doug

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