ADHD procrastination


The following is my own experience and is not professional psychiatric advice.

ADHD procrastination is a cycle of anxious, frustrating, hugely effortful attempts and failures to begin and finish work that is important to me.[1] By contrast, common procrastination means seeing the task, and choosing to do something else, typically enjoying whatever that alternative is.

For example, common procrastination might be me playing videogames instead of doing chores, thoroughly enjoying the videogames as I play. Not a single thought is given to the chores while I play the videogames.

By contrast, in ADHD procrastination I may possibly choose play videogames too, but will be thinking about the task while playing. Additionally, if I choose to do the task, I will sit at the computer, programs open, everything ready to work, but nothing is done. Entire days will be lost like this. As guilt grows, I will reject invitations to spend time with others, because I know I should do this task. I will even get angry at people inviting me to do fun things - an example of emotional dysregulation discussed later. I am not avoiding the task in the classic sense - I am expending immense mental effort trying to set myself up to do and succeed at the task. One may believe me to be incompetent, but in truth I have the skills needed to perform the task. I want to do the task, I understand the Importance of the task, I have the tools for the task, but cannot do it. I have executive dysfunction. This is ADHD procrastination.

For me, what makes this especially elusive to solve is that my executive function does work sometimes. This is where advice from neurotypical people does not help, as having intermittent or broken executive function as an adult is outside their experience. They gained executive function as they aged, so they see broken executive function as a symptom of a child who should grow up.

Additionally, when others ask me about my progress, I’d have to admit I didn’t get much done or worse, lie. This is ADHD masking.

Mistakes and failures trying to solve ADHD procrastination

Scrum. I have generally found scrum or stand-up meetings to be so ineffective, that they are wastes of everyone's time.

Guilt trip. It is highly unproductive for people around you, or yourself, to guilt trip you over how little you have achieved.

Known methods to solve ADHD procrastination

The most important starting point is to realise I am in ADHD procrastination and not common procrastination. Thus it is a problem of executive dysfunction rather than fear or laziness.

Next, the most consistently reliable method of creating executive function involves some kind of social accountability. Coworking or pair programming seem to be the way.

If no one is available, such as on weekends, I use an outlining app to dump as many thoughts about the task as possible. This often means some repetitive thoughts that I will write more than once. These are likely the more important tasks that I can choose to do now - my next action.

  1. The difference between lazy procrastination and ADHD procrastination
    Unknown ‧ 2019 March 25 ‧ Reddit ↩︎