Ah! The season is upon us! ‘Tis the season for running out to the store on the 24th because it’s the last possible time that you have available to get your Christmas presents! ‘Tis the season for leaving our Christmas tree up because, well, it just takes so much darn work to take it down!!
We are going to explore how your brand of procrastination affects you!
Before jumping in, I would like to make something very clear… Just because you have ADHD and just because you procrastinate it does not mean that you will be affected by all of the points written throughout this article. We are all very different so please be mindful of that while reading 🙂
Sometimes it’s hard to tell what procrastination is like for you so I’ll give you a few examples:
Sometimes we procrastinate due to an emotional reason. Maybe you are procrastinating on buying a gift for someone because they didn’t like the last gift you got them. Maybe the Christmas decorations/ornaments that you have bring about negative emotions.
“We are paralyzed by perfection! People with ADHD generally have a fear of failure due to their past failures.”
We need to have the perfect plan before starting. We are paralyzed by perfection! People with ADHD generally have a fear of failure due to their past failures. Here is an example: we want to get that perfect gift. We have an idea of a gift to get someone yet we don’t get it because we are waiting for that perfect gift idea. We don’t know what the gift is but when we find it, we’ll know! How will we know?! We aren’t sure… In the meantime we are driving ourselves crazy trying to think of that perfect gift to buy. Doesn’t this sound exhausting!!
Those of us with ADHD have poor executive function. (If you have not heard of executive function, please look it up! I am bias to Thomas Brown’s model.)
“Find a way to externalize your executive function! Meaning: what tools & systems can we set up for ourselves to support our executive function?”
Our executive function is responsible for organizing, activating, and prioritizing tasks. Let’s face it, most tasks and projects have multiple steps! This is an executive function nightmare! Not to mention, we become overwhelmed by unseen problems and obstacles.
The project/task feels too big. So we pictures and visualize ourselves failing. Probably a defence mechanism to try and avoid failing (also ties in with fear of failure below). The irony is that by visualizing failure it makes it hard to succeed.
Here’s the trick: Find a way to externalize your executive function! Meaning: what tools & systems can we set up for ourselves to support our executive function? In this case I would recommend breaking down each task into itty bitty steps. When you don’t think you can break the task down anymore, keep on breaking it down! The less thinking and planning that you have to do in the moment, the better off you will be! Write it down! Don’t keep it all in your mind!!
This is something that I do with my clients and it works extremely well! Once we have a plan and we know what we need to do, we have the motivation to start. Then once we have the momentum from starting, look out world – here we come!
The projects/tasks that we have started and have not finished count as our incompletions. Our incompletions can play a large role in our procrastination. This also ties into the emotional component of procrastination. This can look like worrying about what may go wrong before even starting or looking for the problems rather than the possibilities. It could be finding the problems and using them as an excuse to not even begin. We are often thinking “what if…”
We have a hard time starting anything that is not interesting + fun. At the same time we have a hard time stopping anything that is interesting + fun which makes it difficult to transition into other tasks.
“We have a hard time starting anything that is not interesting + fun. At the same time we have a hard time stopping anything that is interesting + fun which makes it difficult to transition into other tasks.”
You know that feeling… when you’re waiting for the perfect time to start. You may tell yourself something like “it doesn’t feel right” or “I don’t feel focused”. Consider the time of day and whether or not you are feeling too tired to concentrate. Do you have a clear picture in mind of what you would like to do? Sometimes we think we know what we want to do: Go and buy a tree. The task seems so clear yet there are many unknowns like “where am I going to buy the tree”, “who am I going to take with me”, “how will I strap the tree to the car”, “how will I get the tree inside the house”. So, on the surface it seems like a very simple task yet we are plagued by all of the accompanied decisions and these decisions make it difficult for us to activate. I need to mention that the complete opposite can also be true. See impulsivity.
We often wait until the last minute to build the adrenaline needed to focus. We can work very well under pressure!
We don’t want to start the project/task because it does not align with our values, talents, strengths, passion (we probably don’t even know that this is why we aren’t starting).
Those of us with ADHD are great thinkers. We think and think and think and come up with this whopping amazing idea. There are so many pieces and components to this idea that it may just take us years before our idea can come to fruition. We then think some more and think up all the way this amazing idea will not work out. We don’t make a plan and act on it.
Sometimes we just need to start and let all the pieces fall into place as we go.
** Be careful of this because we also have a tendency to fall into a rabbit hole and hyperfocus on our projects.
It may be time to think about working with an ADHD coach if you cannot find the balance between overthinking and just getting started. This is incredibly tough to do and comes with practice and awareness!
The complete opposite is also true. See impulsivity.
Fear of failure
The fear of failing at the task or goal before even starting. This ties into perfectionism.
Big picture thinkers
Wants to see the whole picture before starting. Then once the whole picture is captured, the inability to break the picture down into manageable pieces. This ties into the executive function component in overwhelm.
Inaccurately judges the amount of time a task/project will take. Thinking there is more time than there actually is.
Takes on too much and cannot prioritize tasks. Has zero or little boundaries resulting in taking on other peoples work. Has a very hard time saying “no”. Does others work and tasks before their own.
We have an idea and we launch into that idea without a second thought.
Here is an example: we decide that we want to buy a Christmas tree yet we don’t take a second to pause and decide where it is going to go in our house. Next thing we know, we have bought a tree that won’t fit in our living room and we had to convince the other guy buying a tree to drive 15 minutes out of his way to drop our tree off at our home because we don’t have a car! Sometimes taking a pause to stop and plan can be very beneficial!!
“As you may have realized, a lot of these procrastination obstacles are often seen simultaneously and they tend to affect each other.”
Before we jump into all the areas that you may be procrastinating in this holiday season, let’s take a second and gain some perspective…
What do you look forward to in the holiday season?
What is important for you?
Let me answer to give you an idea of how to battle the holiday season procrastination… For me, the holiday season is about spending time with my friends and family. It’s about being present (no, not presents) in the moment and enjoying their company! We have a tradition where we play cards (we play euchre). I enjoy watching Christmas Movies with my boyfriend. I found that the holidays last year were super busy so I made a purpose to plan a night before the holidays where we spend time as a family decorating the tree and making christmas cards. This is a situation where I took matters into my own hands because I wanted to spend time with everyone without the stress of the holidays!
Now that you have a hint at the reasons why you may be procrastinating, here are some of the areas that you may be procrastinating in:
Writing christmas cards
Hanging up outdoor lights
Indoor christmas tree
Indoor holiday decorations
The whole trick to understanding your brand of procrastination is to figure out what is getting in your way. What are you procrastinating on?
Start with one thing
Here is a fun analogy that I found while re-reading my school notes… Before you start a puzzle, do you know how all the pieces will fit together? It’s the same with life. You will never know how the puzzle of life will turn out so it’s a good idea to just start!
Take micro steps
“Break down your projects or goals! The micro steps will feel like huge accomplishments.”
This is going to sound a lot like my tip in the overwhelm category but I’m going to say it again because it is very important. Break down your projects or goals! The micro steps will feel like huge accomplishments – even if it’s just something like bringing the Christmas tree decoration boxes upstairs. You can do this!! I believe in you!
Make the task/project measurable
How will you know when you have succeeded?
What is success to you?
Create a structure/routine to pull you forward!
Example: every Saturday in November you write Christmas cards.
Create a budget
Urgh… that word! The budget. The first time I say that dreaded word with my clients I can see the cringe. Let’s face it.. Thanks to our impulsivity and poor self-regulation, maintaining a budget is incredibly hard! Here’s the thing… If the thought of a budget makes you cringe and it isn’t something that you’ve been able to maintain, you are probably budgeting wrong or you have not set up supports for maintaining your budget! Comment below if this is resonating with you… I feel another post coming! In the meantime, here’s an app that may help.
Ask yourself: “Who can help me?”
I have given you a lot to think about so please remember that you are not alone in this! 😊 Happy holidays everyone!!