ADHD and Procrastination: How to Get Stuff Done
Procrastination in adults with ADHD is common. ADHD makes it very difficult to start tasks, especially big tasks that aren’t very interesting. This ADHD-related procrastination interferes in daily activities, work- or school-related tasks, and decision making. ADHD and procrastination don’t have to continue to make your life difficult. This guide will show you how to get stuff done.
Why is Procrastination a Problem in ADHD?
Procrastination and ADHD are almost guaranteed to go together. Among other things, ADHD involves difficulty with focus and concentration, distractibility, and impulsivity, all culprits in making tasks feel overwhelming.
Other components of the disorder that link ADHD and chronic procrastination include:
- Difficulty estimating the amount of time it will take to complete something
- Being easily overwhelmed and feeling paralyzed by looming tasks
- Easily giving in to the desire to do other things first
Additionally, procrastination is often a coping mechanism for people living with ADHD. Low self-esteem creates feelings of failure or incompetence. These inner thoughts and feelings make tasks seem impossible to begin and accomplish. Procrastination and avoidance come to the rescue; however the longer someone procrastinates, the more daunting the task becomes and the more difficult it is to start. So the procrastination continues. This cycle can be difficult to break, but it is definitely not impossible to break it.
How to Stop ADHD Procrastination and Get Stuff Done
You can stop ADHD procrastination in its tracks, and in doing so, you will have the ability to start the things you need to do.
- Prioritize your tasks. Looking, all at once, at everything that has piled up is daunting. It’s almost impossible to imagine diving into such a big to-do pile and actually surviving. Good news: you don’t have to dive into everything at the same time. Make a list of things you need to do, and then determine which are the most important and which are the least.
- Break it to bits. Starting with just one task, the one you’ve identified as the most important, and break it down into small steps. You can even use timelines to keep yourself on track with these step-by-step components. Knowing how to approach something is an important component of ending procrastination and getting your stuff done.
- Create your own personal planning system. Planning your tasks, your schedules and obligations, and more will help you know how to focus and begin. When you know how to dig in, it’s easier to pick up and use that shovel. Your system can be a paper planner, a white board, software, or smartphone apps for ADHD. Use a system that is user-friendly for you.
- Have a routine for planning. Set aside a set amount of time (perhaps 15-30 minutes) every day to plan the next day’s major tasks. Knowing what you need to do ahead of time will help keep you on track the next day. Make the planning time pleasant, something you look forward to. Sit in a favorite spot, use a special pen, drink tea from a favorite mug—whatever you find pleasant so planning becomes a pleasant task.
- Establish deadlines. As you break your tasks into components, assign your own deadlines to them. Knowing what needs to be done and by when it must be completed will help you stop procrastinating.
- Remove distractions. It’s a common occurrence in procrastination and ADHD: You are sincerely ready to start and set to dive in. But something catches your attention, and you head off in that direction. Hours later, you may or may not return to your original task. To avoid procrastination, limit and remove attention-stealing distractions.
How to Want to Stop Procrastinating When You Have ADHD
Sometimes, someone might claim that they like procrastinating because they work better under pressure. While it can be true that some people do their best work under pressure, there is a huge drawback to this: procrastination is mentally unhealthy behavior because it can increase stress and cause anxiety. These ideas just might make you want to end ADHD procrastination.
- Make tasks more enjoyable with your favorite music playing in the background.
- Turn chores into a game. How many towels can you fold before the timer goes off?
- Develop a reward system. After a certain amount of time passes or after you complete certain components of your projects, take a break and reward yourself with something pleasant.
- Change your location. Moving to a different place to work on your task can often provide enough new stimulation and diversion to keep you going.
Procrastination in adults with ADHD can cause problems. Devising a system that works for you and adding some fun to what you have to do can help you get stuff done.
Last Updated: 01 November 2017
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD