Procrastination And Stimulation: The ADHD Brain Has A Goldilocks Problem

Procrastination can be a huge problem for those of us who have ADHD. If you remember waaay back to my last blog, Why We Wait, you’ll know that we procrastinate because of our brain chemistry. If a task doesn’t provide the right level of stimulation then our attention deficit kicks in and our brains are not ready, willing, and able to do the task.

In this next series of blogs I’ll touch on 4 ways we ADHDers can beat procrastination. The first I’ll talk about is stimulation levels, then I’ll roll through momentum, chat about accountability and finish off with some attitude.

I could talk about stimulation levels in every single blog that I write, because it is that important for those of us who have ADHD. If a task does not naturally have the right level of stimulation built in, then it is likely to be a problem task for us. In other words, the ADHD brain has a bit of a Goldilocks complex. “This task is too stimulating, this task is not stimulating enough, ahhh, this one is just right.” In my experience, most of the tasks fall in the “not stimulating enough” category, but sometimes it can also mean way too much stimulation.

If you have a task that isn’t stimulating enough you will need to manipulate your stimulation levels in order to think straight. There are many, many ways to increase your stimulation. But let me introduce you to a few and you can extrapolate from there. If you’re on ADHD meds, then you’re already manipulating your stimulation levels. I find that combining multiple tactics gets the best result. Here are some suggestions:

  • If you have an ADHD prescription, take your meds.
  • Exercise just before the difficult task.
  • Pull a bait-and-switch on your brain by doing something really stimulating for a short while and then transition to your difficult task. Be careful not to pick faux stimulation activities like watching netflix or checking facebook. Those keep you pacified, not stimulated.
  • Music can help.
  • Movement works well for most of us. This can include working on a balance ball or at a standing desk, pacing, or rocking in a rocking chair. Many of us take to shaking / bouncing a leg while sitting at the table.
  • Chewing gum can be amazingly effective.
  • Fidgeting in any of the many ways that we fidget can help.
  • Adding activities that engage your senses can help. Consider the full range of smells, sights, tastes and sounds.
  • Use coffee / caffeine / energy drinks with some discretion. Too much isn’t healthy.
  • In general, think about how to increase stimulation to your brain and do that/those things before or during the difficult task.

If you are overstimulated, then you need to bring those stimulation levels down. Consider minimizing visual clutter and sound. Noise reduction headphones may be your new friend. Meditation can help. Your prescribed ADHD medication (if applicable) and exercise should also help.

If you ‘right-size’ your stimulation levels your brain works better and you have a better ability to pay attention to tasks. You will be more able to make yourself do what you want to do and less susceptible to whatever whim or distraction life sends your way.

Stay tuned for my next blog on procrastination and momentum…

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