If you have ADHD it is kinda likely that you procrastinate. Some of your friends might say it is one of your defining characteristics. I have to admit, it is not my favorite of the ADHD traits. Procrastination is responsible for a wide array of heartbreaking situations. Despite not loving the topic, it is absolutely worth us talking about for a few minutes here.
Too much time is spent agonizing over WHY we wait. The collective we (you, me, our friends and community) have given wayyyy too much weight and meaning to why we avoid certain things to the extent that we do. There is a swirl of accusatory answers to why we wait that could include: self sabotage, not caring, not trying, wanting to fail, hating success, being stupid, etc. These labels are not helpful or true. There is a swirl of accusatory answers to why we wait that could include: self sabotage, not caring, not trying, wanting to fail, hating success, being stupid, etc. These labels are not helpful or true.
Let me put the shame, blame and agony to rest right now. Here is the answer to why we wait: we ADHDers procrastinate because we have a disability that impacts our ability to pay attention properly. You simply cannot do certain tasks without paying attention to them. That’s it.
It is pretty unlikely that we procrastinate on our college applications and most of our written assignments because we don’t want to go to college or succeed in life. We don’t want to fail. We do usually want to get the darn thing done. I have never been convinced that any of the cases of procrastination that I’ve witnessed were about someone trying to sabotage their own efforts, hurt someone else, or limit their opportunities with failure. Those lines of thought can weigh us down with so much guilt and shame it can be crippling! The judgement sucks too. From the many, many people I’ve coached and from my own agonizing experiences I find that the answer to why we can do the activity only at the last minute is: we use the high stimulation of a deadline to stimulate our brains enough for action.
If this is a new line of thought for you, please take a few minutes and let that sink in. We have a problem in our brains that has to do with attention. We struggle with tasks that require attention if the task doesn’t naturally provide the right level of stimulation. We rely on the high stimulation of the last minute to get our brain chemistry primed for action. If we look at procrastination as a mismatch of stimulation needed vs stimulation provided then we can let go of all the emotion. The answer is chemistry based, not emotion based.
My deepest hope is that someone will read this blog and drop some of the guilt or shame they’ve been carrying. Or maybe someone will replace judgement with compassion. Feel free to share… this is absolutely one of those misery loves company types of topics;) While you’re reorganizing how you think about procrastination I’ll be working on another blog to talk about strategies to combat procrastination.