Procrastination and ADHD

What causes many people with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) their biggest problems is procrastination. With adults with ADHD procrastination is often the result of what is called "cognitive avoidance." That is, over time you have learned to deliberately postpone dealing with things because you have found you can more easily focus on them when the deadline has finally come. Pressure = Focus.  There is a second aspect of procrastination that takes on it's own life: avoidance = less stress. We avoid things and as soon as we make the decision or take the first step in avoiding them we feel relieved of pressure and anxiety.  As you can imagine, even if you are on medication to help with focus, concentration and impulsivity, these factors are still powerful.

What are some of the management tools we can use? Well these include management tools used for many other aspects of ADHD:

1. Make sure you are implementing plans to help with organization and planning. This includes a working appointment calendar, a working to-do list, a notebook or other visual means of breaking tasks into parts and subtasks, and strategies for developing "action plans."

Often I hear these things worked, "for a while," but no longer do.  WELL, MEET WITH YOUR THERAPIST OR A BUDDY AT WORK, A FRIEND OR SOMEONE YOU CAN SPEAK TO ABOUT ADHD AND GET SUPERVISED WEEKLY.

You need external reminders, reinforcement and supervision. Find it and use it.

2. Manage your distractibility. If you have a task to do, and you have ADHD, you most certainly will find something else to do instead.  Use a visual system to keep you on track. I often suggest the following"

Take a sheet of paper or a 3X5 card.  Divide it into three columns. Title them as follows:

STUFF     |    IMPORTANT STUFF    |    TO DO NOW

Keep this list and write stuff you think about, don't want to forget, and just find interesting in the first column. In column two write the 10 things that you SHOULDN'T forget. No more than 10. Erase and change them as time goes on, but limit them to 10. In the final column write 3-5 things to have to do TODAY. Not tomorrow, not tonight, now! First. Or else. Important!!  3 items are usually enough.

Constantly referring to this external visual prompt of what needs to be done will help keep you on task. Review it with you "supervisor/consultant/coach/friend"  This list isn't just a list of what's important, it also helps "put away" items that might distract you, and teaches you to pick out what is salient and important. If you didn't have a problem picking out what was important (to do) you'd have no problems. This simple, free, easy to use method is critical to avoiding procrastination. What should you be doing right now? Look at column 3! It's right there.

3. If your getting decent therapy, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy of ADHD, you should be reviewing you "thought records," reviewing "thinking errors" and constantly creating new balanced thoughts.

4. Think visually! Start writing things down. Write out what you might be gaining by procrastinating. Write out what you have to lose, what the consequences are for procrastinating. Draw a line on a sheet of paper and write these things out.  Answer these questions:

What the FIRST step to completing this task?
How many steps are there to this task?
Have I broken it down into parts I can deal with and finish?
Why should I start now?

Don't set unreasonable goals. Don't take on more than you know you can do. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy can also help you understand and alter negative thought processes that are supporting your habit of procrastinating.

Now go back. Look at the three items on your to-do list. The ones marked TO DO NOW.

Do the first one. If you need to write out post it notes with the task written in one or two words and put them on your car dashboard, your fridge, your shirt, your desk. When the task is done, take those stickers and put them somewhere you can start collecting prove that your doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. And THEN take a break.

For more information on ADHD treatment, especially behavioural and cognitive behavioural training for teens and adults with ADHD check out my web page at either http://www.relatedmindsbc.com/adhd or http://www.adhdhelp.ca