Is Procrastination Related To ADHD?

Is procrastination related to ADHD

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I was going to write an article about the ADHD brain and procrastinating. But then I thought, “Nah, I need to keep researching and reading, then I’ll be ready.” So I kept researching and reading.

While doing so I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Kim Kensington of do an interview during the Women’s ADHD Palooza. I can only assume that fate brought the palooza into my life as I was writing this post because I was well…procrastinating.

I had been procrastinating about writing about procrastinating because I was trying to avoid what I perceived as an unpleasant task. Not the writing itself, the thinking part. Luckily there are people like Dr. Kensington that are doing it for me.

Thinking is painful, you know?

I bet you didn’t know that Americans lose hundred’s of millions of dollars each year because they do not file their taxes on time. I didn’t know this either, I read about it in an article from the New Yorker. <Here>

I also read that this procrastination thing is not a new phenomenon. The ancient Greeks referred to it as akrasia – doing something against one’s better judgement.

Procrastination against our own better judgment certainly makes sense because we all know that the end result of procrastination is stress, even when you do complete the odious task you have been avoiding.

In the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey discusses the idea that human awareness, the ability to analyze our own thoughts and behaviors, is what sets us apart from other species. He is pretty much hitting the nail on the head from what I can tell. Most of us know when we are procrastinating, right?

Is Procrastination Related to ADHD?


What we don’t realize is that procrastination is a choice. Sort of.

As Mr. Covey explains, “between stimulus (such as a major task) and response (completing the task) there is the freedom to choose.” When we procrastinate, we are in effect, choosing to put off doing something that we think will be unpleasant.

Another major aspect of procrastination is the idea of self-sabotage. Have you ever told yourself that you would fail, and you believed it so intensely that it actually happened? Yeah? That my friend is self-sabotage.

I recently read that we self-sabotage because failure is less scary for us than facing the unknown. <Via> Yikes!

Is procrastination related to ADHD?

Is procrastination related to ADHD?

Umm YES. Or at least our inclination to procrastinate is heightened by our ADHD symptoms.

If like myself you have some executive function issues that cause you to procrastinate or avoid setting priorities or doing sequential tasks or—fill in the blank— these are my ideas for getting started. (based on the sources linked above.)

Put The Responsibility On Yourself

Only you have control over your own actions. If, as Mr. Covey speculates, we make a choice to avoid unpleasant activities then we need to put the onus on ourselves to make a change. As in, commit to it.

Understandably, not all of us have control over our thoughts. Sometimes what is going on in our head is so intense and so tangled it is hard to focus on anything else. Read more about repetitive negative thought patterns in my post about Emotional Management with ADHD.

If you need to, set deadlines for yourself. Put reminders in your calendar and smart phone. Do whatever you need to do to get it done.  A little birdy told me Trello is awesome!

While you are at it, try to figure out why you are procrastinating.

  • What makes this activity so unpleasant that I am avoiding it?
  • What are the consequences if I do not complete this task?
  • Are you prepared to stay awake for 24+ hours if you wait until the last minute?

 During her interview, Dr. Kensington mentioned what she called the “40 second chasm.” She explained that if you can push through the first 40 seconds of any task you will hopefully feel motivated to keep going.  This is the link to her book on Amazon:

40 seconds is totally doable. Much more so than 40 minutes. (You with me?)

Eliminate Ambiguity

I know that when I am given a memo at work, and the memo is sort of rambling and confusing, I have no idea what I am supposed to do with it. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it is pretty demotivating.

Like it or not, I have to go straight to my boss and ask him to clarify exactly what he is asking me to do. I always feel better when the questions swirling around my brain have been answered. In this state I am prepared to get the job done.

  • Can you break down this complicated task into several steps?
  • Is there anyone you can go to for guidance and clarity?
  • Can you pinpoint exactly where you are getting hung-up?

Reward Yourself

Suppose you catch yourself procrastinating about something. I propose you make a choice to walk through some of the questions above. Place the responsibility on yourself to change your pattern of behavior. (Or at least work on it.)

Plan how you will reward yourself when you turn things around, when you are no longer self-sabotaging through procrastination.

The reward could be something obvious like an hour of Pinterest time, or even a pedicure. Whatever works to reinforce these positive changes is fine.

[bctt tweet=”The ultimate reward is knowing you are in control of yourself. You have the tools to do it.” username=”HealthyADHD”]


Do you think having ADHD makes you procrastinate more?


What types of tasks do you procrastinate with?




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  • I’d love to get a closer look at that graphic but I can’t get it to enlarge. 🙂 I like the 40 second chasm idea – getting started really is half the battle a lot of the time!

    • Liz

      Hi Marie! Thanks for stopping by. I am sooo not tech savvy. Let me see if I can enlarge it myself.
      I liked the 40 second chasm too, I actually want to read Dr. Kensington’s whole book!

  • Anouk Esmeé

    I just read this article while procrastinating to write my thesis… haha. But now I’ve read it, especially the part ‘put the responsibility on yourself, no one else can do it for you’, I’m motivated to start again (after procrastinating for 5 hours), cause in the end I’ll have to get it done and no one else is gonna do it… Thanks!

    • Liz

      Hi Anouk –
      Glad the article spoke to you. And thank you for commenting!
      When I wrote that I was hoping it wouldn’t upset anyone. Let me know how your thesis goes!

    • Tawnya Ayim

      Anouk…. I am going though the SAME thing! I took over a month to do one last stupid little step to have my dissertation study approved because I was procrastinating. After some self reflection, I realized that I was putting it off because it was easier (i.e. less painful) to not complete my dissertation this semester because I procrastinated then having my study rejected or not successfully defending the dissertation. With the help/encouragement from a friend and my husband I finally pushed through and I’m pretty sure I’m gonna pull it off! Hang in there….. You got this!!

      • liz lewis

        Thanks for stopping by Tawnya!