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  • Writer's pictureRyan Sheridan, NP

Procrastination and ADHD: A Troublesome Duo

Updated: Mar 15, 2023



 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Procrastination is not just laziness!

  2. ADHD and procrastination can create a vicious cycle that can be hard to break.

  3. An integrative provider can help come up with a unique plan to overcome the obstacles caused by the combination of procrastination and ADHD

 

As an integrative provider, I have encountered so many patients who struggle with procrastination. While procrastination is often incorrectly considered a byproduct of laziness, it is actually a complex issue that is tied to various psychological and emotional factors. For those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), procrastination can be a particularly challenging problem. In this blog post, we'll dive into the relationship between procrastination and ADHD and offer some practical tips for overcoming this troublesome duo.

Procrastination: It is Not Just laziness

Procrastination is a common problem, affecting up to 20% of the population. It is characterized by the delay of important tasks or activities despite the knowledge that these actions need to be done. People who procrastinate often find themselves feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious. Procrastination is not just a matter of being lazy or unmotivated, but rather, it is a complex issue that stems from our upbringing, the way our we interpret stimuli, and how we handle stress.

Interestingly, procrastination can be a manifestation of anxiety. Those who struggle with anxiety often avoid anxiety producing tasks in an effort to preempt anxiety. For them, procrastination becomes a way to avoid dealing with the stress and worry associated with the task at hand. See how that can be a vicious cycle? Similarly, perfectionism can also lead to procrastination. People who are perfectionists tend to delay tasks because they fear not doing them well enough. The fear of not doing something perfectly becomes so overwhelming that they put off the task altogether.

The procrastination cycle of anxiety
The procrastination cycle of anxiety

ADHD: A Match Made in Heaven (or Hell) with Procrastination

For people with ADHD, procrastination can be particularly challenging - even debilitating. As you may know, ADHD is disorder that affects one's ability to focus, concentration, manage impulses, complete tasks, and even sit still. ADHD can also be accompanied by executive dysfunction, which refers to difficulties with planning, organization, and time management. All this makes something like procrastination that much more overwhelming and anxiety producing.

The symptoms of ADHD can make it difficult for people with this condition to get started on tasks and keep them going. This, combined with the tendency to get easily distracted, can result in a lot of time being wasted. Moreover, impulsivity and a lack of foresight can lead to procrastination. So those with ADHD are predisposed to procrastination and the anxiety that ultimately ensues.

Procrastination and ADHD exacerbates that vicious cycle we talked about earlier. The more you procrastinate, the more stressed and overwhelmed you become, which just exacerbates the ADHD symptoms and makes it even harder to get started. This cycle can make it difficult for people with ADHD to achieve their goals, causing frustration and low self-esteem.

Overcoming Procrastination and ADHD: Tips and Tricks

While procrastination and ADHD can be a challenging problem, there are ways to overcome them. Here are some tips and tricks that can help:


Break down tasks into smaller, manageable steps


Looking at a task as one big, overwhelming thing probably won't work very well. Instead, break it down into smaller, manageable steps can make it easier to get started and keep going. This can help to overcome the initial reluctance to get started.

Use a timer


Setting a timer for a set amount time can help to keep you accountable. Work on the task only for as long as you have planned. This can help to trick your brain into getting started. Taking this a step further by "time boxing" can be huge, especially for those with ADHD.

Get moving


Exercise is an absolutely critical part of health, especially for ADHD symptoms. Exercise releases endorphins, which can boost mood and energy levels. It can also help to clear the mind and reduce anxiety, making it easier to get started on tasks. But exercise also helps sharpen focus, improve cognitive function, and even grow parts of our brain to ward off diseases like dementia.

Minimize distractions


People with ADHD are easily distracted. Wait, I forgot to send that email! Ahh, yeah even I have ADHD and struggle with this. So it's important to minimize distractions when working on tasks. Turn off notifications on your phone, close unnecessary tabs on your computer, and find a quiet place to work. Time box can help set specific windows where you can play while keeping work time separate.

Use positive self-talk


Procrastination can often be tied to negative self-talk and a lack of self-esteem. It sort of becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy! Try to replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations. For example, instead of saying, "I'll never be able to do this," try saying, "I can do this, and I will get it done."

Seek support


Find a friend, family member to whom you can talk. This might sound silly, but letting someone else in on your goals makes you more likely to achieve them. You may need to enlist the expertise of an integrative provider who can help to identify specific tools to overcome procrastination and develop a personalized treatment plan.


This list is not exhaustive. Yes, medication can be helpful, including stimulant and non stimulant options, but we need to develop healthy behavioral and thought patterns too. Oh, and there is a lot of good evidence to support the need for healthy nutrition and physical activity. Managing attentional disorders even procrastination really requires an all hands on deck approach.


Conclusion


Procrastination and ADHD can be a challenging problem, but it's not impossible to overcome. By breaking down tasks, using a timer, getting moving, minimizing distractions, using positive self-talk, and seeking support, you can make significant progress in overcoming this troublesome duo. If you are struggling with procrastination and ADHD, don't hesitate to reach out for help. An integrative provider can help you develop a personalized plan that works for you. I believe in you!

If you have questions about integrative psychiatry, are interested in seeking adhd treatment in the DC area, or are interested in learning about how to practice integrative psychiatry, please reach out to me via email at ryan@proactivepsychiatry.com. I am working to spread the word about integrative psychiatry, so feel free to repost this blog, just be sure to cite my post!

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