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The Impact of Procrastination on people with ADHD

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

Do you find yourself constantly putting off tasks - both big and small - when you know they need to be done? Maybe it begins with a promise to do it later, but "later" often never comes? If so, you're not alone. Procrastination is a common occurrence for many individuals with ADHD. The list of unfinished tasks can quickly pile up and lead to feelings of guilt, overwhelm and self-doubt, ultimately causing the individual to spiral out of control and leading to a decrease in productivity levels. However, with proper understanding and guidance, individuals with ADHD can overcome procrastination and recognise their potential. In this blog, we'll explore procrastination and its effects on people with ADHD.

Although procrastination is a common trait amongst most people, individuals with ADHD have a challenging time with managing their tasks due to the intricacies of their executive functions. The ability to initiate, plan and execute their actions gets overwhelmingly difficult with ADHD. This is because procrastination is not only a matter of poor time management but is a psychological process resulting from multiple factors. These challenges make it challenging for individuals with ADHD to get started on tasks, maintain focus or manage impulses.

Research conducted by Russell Barkley, a renowned psychologist and expert in ADHD, shows that procrastination has a long-lasting impact on an individual's productivity and self-esteem. For individuals with ADHD, the effects of procrastination are particularly profound. The consequences can be severe as it leads to a depletion of energy levels and lowers one's motivation to complete even the smallest of tasks. Failure to complete tasks due to procrastination can also lead to a compounding effect where the pile-on of unfinished tasks results in feelings of overwhelm, frustration, and setbacks in future projects.

Those with ADHD are more prone to procrastination due to their highly distractible nature. With social media, smartphones, and constant notifications, they are more likely to lose track of time and become sidetracked. The pressure to "catch up" on work can lead them to rush through tasks, causing further mistakes and unfinished work. These negative consequences cement their biases that lead to further procrastination due to the internalisation of failure.

The good news is that by understanding their actions that result in procrastination, individuals with ADHD can break the negative cycle. Here are a couple of strategies that individuals with ADHD can employ to help alleviate their procrastination:

  • Creating a high-value task list and breaking up larger projects into smaller, more manageable tasks.

  • Setting specific deadlines with reminders to increase time-management and accountability.

  • Learning how to identify and recognise the signs of procrastination.

  • Seeking support from professionals, family and friends who understand the effects of ADHD.

Procrastination can have a profound impact on those with ADHD, leading to low self-esteem, a decrease in productivity and feelings of overwhelm. However, with the right strategies, individuals with ADHD can overcome procrastination and take control of their lives. Although it is not easy, learning to break out of negative tendencies can lead to increased motivation, self-esteem and improve productivity levels. By taking small steps, such as creating high-value task lists, setting specific deadlines and seeking support from professionals, individuals with ADHD can learn to manage and overcome the effects of procrastination and continue moving in the right direction, one step at a time. References:

Barkley, R. (2010). Taking charge of Adult ADHD. Guilford Press.

Smith, J., & Tyler, I. (2011). Overcoming procrastination: a cognitive-behavioral treatment program, workbook. Oxford University Press.

Solanto, M. V. (2011). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for Adult ADHD: Targeting executive dysfunction. Guilford Press.

Tuckman, A. (2009). More attention, less deficit: success strategies for Adults with ADHD. Specialty Press.

Zylowska, L. (2012). The mindfulness prescription for Adult ADHD: An 8-step program for strengthening attention, managing emotions, and achieving your goals. Trumpeter.

Book an appointment with one of our experienced mental health professionals who understand the unique challenges of ADHD.

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