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Beating ADHD Procrastination

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ADHD procrastination is one of the biggest complaints I hear as an ADHD Coach. There are many reasons why people with ADHD procrastination and sometimes procrastination can even be useful. However, usually procrastination doesn’t make you feel good. You feel lazy, unproductive and the thought of the unfinished task looms heavily on your mind, spoiling any enjoyment doing other activities.

While it is not a new idea, breaking big projects or tasks into small, manageable chunks is a great way to beat procrastination and get things done. Evidence that this idea has been around for hundreds of years I the Chinese proverb that states “A journey of 1,000 miles starts with just one step.” A seemingly impossible journey that appears overwhelming at first can be broken down into simple stages and completed. After all, you know how to take a single step, then after that you take another. Take enough single steps and you are there! Mission accomplished. When you think of a task like this, then you can do ANYTHING. It’s a very empowering thought. A modern saying in the same vein is “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

When I was little I wasn’t a good eater. I would look at a plate of food and not know where to start, so I would barely touch any of the food on my plate. My mum realized this and would put a small portion on a side plate, which I would be able to eat and then she would put another small portion on the side plate and I would eat that too.

When something seems so big it seems impossible, just focus on a small part you are working on. Don’t start thinking about everything you still have to do because that will make you feel overwhelmed and  you will freeze (which has the same outcome as procrastination).

So the next time  you are faced with procrastination and resistance to starting a project, follow these steps:

  1. On a piece of paper or on your computer, break the project down into steps.
  2. If one of the parts still feels overwhelming, it’s because it needs to be broken down further. The idea is to make each item so small that it’s no longer painful. For example, if your project is to send your CV to Mr. X, here is what your action list would look like:
    1. Find CV on my computer
    2. Print CV out
    3. Address envelope to Mr. X
    4. Put CV into envelope
    5. Go to the post office to buy stamps
    6. Stick stamps onto envelope
    7. Post off the CV

    While you might feel a bit stupid for breaking the project down into such tiny steps, e.g. stick stamps on to envelope, please don’t. It doesn’t matter how basic each step is. What matters is that you are moving forward on a project that is important to you.

  3. As you are working through each step, don’t worry about the next step. Or step number ten. When you get to that step, you will be able to do it.
  4. Tick each step off when you have completed it. The sense of accomplishment keeps you moving forward.

As always, celebrate your success of a job well done!

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