Procrastination. We all do it, but people with ADHD do it more often and better than Neuro-Typicals. Take this blog for instance. I’ve known I had to write it for two months. I started it 4 days before my personal deadline. I could tell myself that this way is more efficient because I saved myself a lot of time by not engaging in the constant revisions that my inner Perfectionist would have required. But that’s just an excuse. For me, two other barriers to action drive my procrastination. First, I need that adrenaline boost that comes from an impending deadline, and, second, the whole idea seemed overwhelming (all rationality aside). Whatever it is for you, it is not because you are lazy or a disorganized mess. Researchers believe that it is caused by the inability of people with ADHD to self-regulate their negativity relating to the task at hand.
Here are the strategies that I used to overcome my procrastination: hopefully, some of them will work for you.
First: just get started. The feeling of being overwhelmed will subside once you have taken the first couple of steps. Even writing just one sentence can be enough to get going. Sometimes that one sentence is brilliant and ignites your interest; other times, it’s less than brilliant and ends up in the trash. The point is set a goal to simply take the first step. Then the next step will be easier.
Second: on the day you start, set aside a limited amount of time to work on the project—something not overwhelming, but enough time to actually accomplish something. I set aside 30 minutes to work on this blog with the idea that I could get the first paragraph or two done in that time. It worked! Once I had momentum, I completed 3 paragraphs.
Third: I divided the project (writing the blog) into chunks. I had a mental outline of what I wanted to say, and I divided it into smaller sections: introduction, types of procrastination, strategies and conclusion. Every time I completed a chunk, I took a break or rewarded myself.
Fourth: I set the aforementioned deadline, which was 4 weeks before my target publication date. I knew that would ensure that it was done on time and actually give me leeway for reasonable revisions.
Fifth: I was working with a work buddy. Andrew, another ADHD coach, and I had agreed to exchange articles for buddy review. This provided social pressure and support to get the blog written in a timely fashion because I had made a commitment to get my draft to him by a date certain. Incidentally, if you are interested in Andrew’s article send me an email and we’ll get it to you.
Sixth: I turned off my phone to limit distractions for 30 minutes.
There are many solutions for procrastination and an ADHD coach can help you find a customized solution that works for you or your task. Be prepared to experiment with different approaches and recognize that different projects may require different strategies. Procrastination can be controlled.