Adult ADHD Procrastination Prevention – Remedies and Tips
Adults with ADHD can be very misunderstood; too often they are thought of as irresponsible, lazy, uncaring and maybe even less ambitious or less talented than their peers, when very rarely are any of these things true. Due to the nature of ADHD, serious issues can take place in professional environments where work productivity, timeliness and follow-through are critical performance points that your supervisors use to judge your worth in a particular job or to consider you for a promotion or raise. For professionals with ADHD, this can be a living nightmare, because procrastination tends to be one of the most common traits within this disorder, and while medication may be helpful in augmenting focus and concentration, there is no pill in the world that will help motivate you to complete a task or follow-through on a project component-right now.
Therefore, there are tips and strategies that adults with ADHD can use to help them overcome the great obstacle of procrastination.
- Preparation: Set goals and prepare to achieve them the night before. Things like setting out your gym clothes next to your work clothes, reminding you to head to the gym before work or to prepare for beginning a large project or presenting at a meeting by doing your research and creating files for the project the day before you need to start, triggering a positive response for you to begin the day with this project that you already have underway and prepared for the next step.
- Avoid Multitasking: While multitasking may be a work productivity buzzword, it’s a recipe for disaster for most adults with ADHD. Put away distractions and only have the task you are currently working on visible at one time. Have everything else put away, organized and out of sight. Also, when you have to pick up and start another project or task, find a reasonable stopping point for the project you are on, specifying where you stopped and give yourself instructions on what to do next for when you have to revisit the task.
- Use Technology: Software programs such as Microsoft Outlook Task or the app Errand can allow you to manage projects and tasks associated, set priorities, record progress, establish deadlines and even set notifications and alarms.
- Divide Up Small Tasks: Large projects can seem overwhelming and therefore difficult to start. Instead of considering the project as a whole, assign smaller hourly and/or daily tasks to yourself to ensure continual progress is made towards completing the whole project. For instance, if you have to complete a report that requires research, data analysis, summaries, conclusions and overviews-determine which steps should come first, and assign only those steps in sequence to yourself. Eventually, the whole project comes together.
- Set Routines/Good Habits: Developing routines and good habits can make an enormous impact on addressing problems of procrastination. If the first thing you do every day is “X” and the next thing is “Y,” this pattern will eventually form into a habit. Getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, taking a shower, eating a healthy breakfast, working out, etc. can become a habit as easily as it is to prepare your day 15 minutes before work begins, review your task list from the day before, determine your task list for today, check your emails, communicate project status to your team and items needed from them, begin your first task, etc. You can even set a timer to help you segment out the time spent on each task, ensuring that each task assigned for the day receives the attention needed to move towards completion. Set a routine for closing out your day, too, such as preparing for the next day.
- Ask for Help: For instance, ask someone you trust for help in making sure you stay on task, to develop a measure of external accountability-ask them to call you in an hour to make sure you’re still working on your project. If you have trouble breaking a project down into steps, ask someone to help you with that process. Ask for help in organizing your office or your hard copy or electronic filing system. Sometimes a little help to assist you in starting something or initiating momentum towards completing something is all that you’ll need to help break through the barrier of procrastination.
- Begin with the End in Mind: How will you feel once you have completed this task or project on time? How will you feel if you fail to complete this task or project on time? Sometimes thinking about how great you will feel once you complete a task can help motivate you to get started and work through to completion. Once the task is complete, you’re free. You no longer have to think about it, feel guilty that you should be doing it, start crafting your excuse or making a story to cover yourself when it isn’t complete on time, etc. That’s often a stronger motivating factor than ruminating on what you should do, how difficult or boring it will be, etc.
Just know that you are not lazy or a bad employee if procrastination has gotten in the way of your success. ADHD is a disorder that often leads to procrastination, interfering with executive functioning and interferes with daily functions by inserting noise and distractions. Although, while procrastination is common among adults who suffer with ADHD, you don’t have to be a victim of it. It may take a little work and dedicated practice, but using strategies and building skills such as the ones listed above can help you overcome procrastination and lead to towards greater success in your professional and personal life.