ADHD Procrastination: Causes and How to Beat It

Reviewed by Heather Cashell, LCSW

Published 01/07/2021

ADHD procrastination is a situation that can leave you in a limbo. It would seem that regardless of your attempts, you just cannot muster the drive to get yourself going. If you feel this is you, you should know you are not alone. You are not the only person with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that seems to feel like procrastination has a firm grip over you, nor are you the first person to seek assistance with fighting procrastination so you can get things done.

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Everyone deals with procrastination. When it comes to tasks that are not exactly interesting, most people will simply postpone doing it until later. One might eventually postpone it until you feel overwhelmed with other tasks, or you might just wait until you feel renewed to take on the task another day. The issue only starts when you discover that you keep postponing and avoiding the tasks over and over without actually getting to them later.

An Overview Of ADHD Procrastination

A lot of people with ADHD experience a lack of drive that puts their daily productivity in restraints. If you have noticed this in your child, you may have thought of making the child less lazy. For various reasons, many people dealing with ADHD have to endure the negative mark of poor performance. This may be due to laziness since it is an inherent attribute of some people. However, if the situation gets attributed to laziness alone, it is easy to miss the bigger picture.

People with ADHD are not inherently lazy. Instead, the mind of an ADHD patient just works differently compared to some others. This unique thought process makes it hard for people with ADHD to interact and engage with others. This different processing is also the cause of the many different symptoms, including the high tendency of distraction, disengagement, and procrastination.

Many adults with ADHD deal with chronic procrastination constantly. This issue can cause trouble at work when tasks are not finished until the last minute. It can lead to home financial issues when they continually delay balancing the checkbook or pay bills too late. It may also lead to relationships when they continue to shelve others, making them feel less significant. However, and fortunately, you do not need to live with procrastination. This article will discover the correlation between ADHD and procrastination, the causes, and how to beat it.

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CAUSES OF ADHD PROCRASTINATION

ADHD procrastination does not occur out of the blue. Although people with ADHD might procrastinate more because of the way their mind functions, there are specific indicators that explain the causes of procrastination. By learning the causes, it is a lot easier to work on solutions to beat ADHD procrastination.

The following are factors that may be responsible for ADHD and procrastination. As you consider these factors, think about the ones that fit your life. They are not all applicable to everyone.

Problem Starting The Task

For many people with ADHD, starting a task can be challenging, and they may constantly find themselves ignoring it, especially if that task is not exactly interesting. With many factors, including external stimuli and internal thoughts there to cause distractions, getting to the starting line may seem like a herculean task. Regardless of your attempts to remove all the distractions, it just does not seem to work.

You know that you need to finish the task. The resources to complete it are available, but sometimes, knowing when, where, or how to start is the issue—your mind just refuses to go there. The issues you have with organization play a part as you prioritize, plan, and structure work that needs to be completed to begin and stay on course. According to science, the brain’s physical connections and the way we process information might lead the brain to skip to other things when the focus is required.

When the mind wanders in the beginning, starting projects just becomes impossible. If you find yourself constantly unable to start tasks, you need to learn techniques to settle your mind to the pending task. Your mind should not restrain your productivity. Instead, you need to use and train it to incline toward starting and finishing tasks.

Getting Distracted

Even if you eventually decide to start, you may discover that you quickly get distracted by something more interesting, so you eventually delay the main task. It can be harder when you have ADHD controlling your attention.

After you finally get your mind focused on a task, you may discover that it is harder to hold that attention because your mind wanders. It can be challenging to stay aware, motivated, and on course, especially when the task at hand does not interest or stimulate you. You may discover that when work is especially tedious or uninteresting, you postpone undertaking them until the last minute. At this point, you could find yourself under so much pressure that you get enough motivation to start and finish the task eventually, or you might get stuck not finishing the task and have to face the repercussions.

Deadline-Induced Motivation

Remarkably, for some people with ADHD, shelving tasks until the last minute can cause an emergency – a sense of urgency – that helps push them to get a job done successfully. The fast-approaching deadline (and the awareness of the negative repercussions that will occur for missing the deadline) triggers the focus you need to finish the task.

The issue is that the urgency causes a level of stress and anxiety that has a remarkable effect on you, including those around you. Unavoidably, the jobs completed at the last minute may not have the same quality level as they should have without procrastination.

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Feeling Overwhelmed

Aside from trying to get the mind focused on tasks, many people deal with ADHD procrastination only when they feel overwhelmed. There is a painful sense of paralysis or a debilitating pressure that you are simply unable to make any progress even though you want to start. Since the mind of an ADHD patient works distinctly, it is easy to get overwhelmed easily. After getting overwhelmed, ADHD stress develops, and everything begins to shut down. With stress and anxiety to cope with, it could seem impossible to start anything.

Many solutions for the symptoms of ADHD attempt to free the mind and improve your ability to focus. Without a clear focus, all the sensations hit the mind at once, and the mind overloads. To overcome the crushing paralysis and overwhelming feeling caused by tasks, it is important to get clarity and focus. When you feel you can handle one task at once without feeling like you need to undertake everything, ADHD procrastination will start to reduce.

Distorted Sense Of Time

Sometimes, it is the distorted sense of time that makes starting tasks difficult. If you cannot estimate the time required to finish a task correctly, you might postpone it, believing you have enough time to complete it. ADHD can make it harder to track time passage too, so you may discover that the deadlines come too soon before you realize it.

Fear Of Failing

Another cause of ADHD procrastination is the crippling fear of failure. The fear of failure is considered one of the emotional signs of ADHD. Like other signs of ADHD, this is also treatable. Sometimes, especially if you have suffered recurrent frustration while trying to undertake a task, you may consciously avoid the tasks to avoid the negative feelings induced by working on those tasks. One might look at the projects at hand and be convinced that completing them will be impossible. You may refuse to start because you believe you will end up failing miserably or simply achieve less than your goals.

Many people with ADHD fear failure because they have tried many times without accomplishing their desired outcome. Sometimes, the anxiety becomes so much that it presents a greater inhibition. The fear of imperfection, fear of not performing the task correctly, and failure can contribute to procrastination.

How To Beat ADHD Procrastination

Understanding the causes of ADHD procrastination makes it easier to identify solutions to the issue successfully. Due to different personalities and triggers, some of the solutions might be more effective than others. What to do to resolve ADHD procrastination is to fit your personality with the correct solution.  You can attempt some of the solutions until you find something that fits and works for you.

Start Somewhere

ADHD procrastination gets the best of people because they think they cannot start at all. The first step of any project is usually the hardest and appears to be a fence that is hard to surmount. Luckily, most tasks that tend to get postponed are not exactly a track race or marathon where you have to start at the starting line and end at the finishing line. Starting at the beginning is not essential; instead, you can start in the middle or at the end.

This works for ADHD procrastination because it only requires starting, and it does not matter if you begin at the end or the beginning or with an easier task that should be done last. If you can figure out how to start, do not start at the beginning. Approach your task from an easy angle. After starting, you will discover that you have beaten procrastination. Once everything is in motion, you are likely to keep pace until you finish or get closer than you would be if you did not start at all.

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Create Small, Achievable Goals

As mentioned before, the fear of failure prevents many people from starting. The reason ADHD is so paralyzing that it makes us believe that the task at hand is too big. It seems as if we can never climb the mountain at all. To beat ADHD procrastination, you need to eliminate the thought that the task seems too large or epic. Certainly, the overall project may be big or extensive. That does not mean, however, that you cannot get to the goal through smaller steps. After all, the journey of a thousand miles starts with a step.

To get to the destination, you need to start creating small achievable goals. For instance, if you need to plan meetings for an entire year, start by creating the meeting plans for one month. Accomplishing the smaller objectives means you have to do less work to reach the final objective. You eliminate the bane of procrastination and fear of failure. Once you finish the first small task, set another, and continue. The small achievable goals will give you the boost you need to keep moving.

Eliminate All Distractions

As will most people struggling with ADHD, the fight against procrastination must include getting rid of distractions. The overwhelming feeling and the stress that hinders you from starting all goes back to the distractions present around you. If you want to start anything, you need to learn to free up your mind and pay attention to the task that requires completing. When that objective is the only thing that occupies your mind, starting becomes a lot easier.

One way to get rid of distractions is to ensure you begin a task after getting enough rest and food. It is difficult for the brain to focus if one feels hungry or sleepy. Also, you can remove distractions by getting the right setting to work in. You need to work in a space where people, electronics, and noises will not cause distractions. This could be a library or a quiet spot at work or at home.

Finally, you can fight distractions by being aware of your thoughts and mind. A way to eliminate distractions includes practicing meditations to free up your mind. When meditating, you can pause and take a breather to free your mind of distracting thoughts. Also, an excellent way to get more focus is to listen to music. Science shows that music helps focus the mind and remove outside distractions.

Regardless of the approach, it would help if you found the most suitable way to kill distractions. Once the distraction is gone, you will discover that starting is a lot easier. Ultimately, procrastination will stop.

Take Breaks

ADHD can trick the mind into thinking the task will never end, so you refuse to start altogether. Your mind assesses the task and believes that the time needed is too much, and you need to get onto something more straightforward and less overwhelming. To fight this thought, you need to practice taking breaks. Breaks can give your mind and body rest after working for periods. Many people with ADHD cannot focus for long periods. Taking breaks regularly helps if you are making progress.

Sometimes, you may feel like you cannot take breaks as you may never actually get back to completing the task. This can be accurate, depending on the break patterns. The break should have a limit and a goal. The limit should be a set of time, preferably up to 30 minutes. The goal is to refresh the brain and get back to the project. If there are no limits or a goal, the break may make you give up, and procrastination will get the best of you.

Get Rid Of ADHD Procrastination

For many people, it is easy to feel like the battle is lost before it even starts. But having a plan can help you stay focused.

As mentioned in this article, ADHD procrastination has several causes. Also, regardless of the cause, there are many resources available to fight and beat ADHD procrastination. The tips included in this article can help you fight back. You can also talk to a mental health professional to learn tips on coping with the symptoms of ADHD. You can take an online ADHD assessment test to get started.