Devil Thy Name is Procrastination: Seven Tips for Getting Stuff Done


Did you procrastinate paying bills and get hit with late fees and bank charges?  Did you put off getting the oil changed and now the repair bill is thousands of dollars because the engine is blown? Did you wait until the last minute the report was due to write it and miss the deadline and now the opportunity for career advancement  is blown and you might lose your job? The root of all these terrible events is not bad luck it is procrastination.

Procrastination is a way of life for many individuals with ADD/ADHD. Overwhelmed by details and the noise in our heads, distracted by every little thing, and haunted by memories of impulsive decisions, we often put off doing what we need to do, and wind up forced into last minute decision making, bad choices, and the negative fall out.

Let me be clear, there is a difference between procrastination and forgetting to do things because you lose track of deadlines and details. I talk here , and here about using planners and timers for time management. I am talking about knowing that you have to do something that must be done and putting it off. Missing deadlines, appointments, not doing what you said or promised to do, damages your career, relationships with family and friends and can have catastrophic financial effects. Trust is built on keeping promises and commitments, repetitively missing commitments, and failing to complete tasks destroys trust.

Some people think that they work better under the pressure of a deadline. Research does not support this,  and others judge procrastinators, labeling them as lazy. Most often people who chronically procrastinate are most often overwhelmed, are fearful of making a bad decision, and are paralyzed with fear. There are also chronic procrastinators that are perfectionists who rework a project to death and never finish it, leaving others to think that they are incompetent and lazy. If any of the above situations resonate with you, try these seven tips for over coming procrastination.

  1. Time yourself doing tasks. Many individuals with ADD/ADHD have a distorted sense of time, making them afraid to start a task because they believe it will take too long. Knowing how long a task actually takes to complete enables you to make good use of your time.
  1. Make yourself accountable. Make a schedule and set up reminders on your phone. Enlist friends/family to make yourself accountable. Accountability partners should not nag, but check in regularly.
  1. Shut down your social networks. Have specific times and limit the amount of time you check into your social networks. It is estimated that most people spend two hours per day on social media. Two hours could translate into more than enough time to accomplish tasks you have been putting off because of lack of time.
  1. Make a list of every single thing you need to do and with deadlines. Don’t judge the items just list them. Take your time doing it and really do a brain dump. Getting things out of your head will help you to not feel so overwhelmed. Next to each thing write down the time you think it will take to do it, be realistic (see step one). Now decide which things really do need to be done, and which can be dropped from the list. Using the deadlines, schedule one task each day to complete. Do the task. Do not over schedule yourself! If you get the task accomplished and want to add another task, add it, but do not try and catch up in a day.
  1. Stop taking on/starting new projects/volunteer work/ extra activates until you compete all your other projects. It always feels good to start a project but finishing feels so much better. Practice saying “I would love to help, but I have too many unfinished projects right now.” Your mileage may vary with this one at your place of employment.
  1. Schedule one hour a day for completing tasks that you hate doing, and just do them. Set a timer and really work for the one hour. Reward yourself when you are done.
  1. Begin. Even if you don’t feel like, even if you are unsure, even if you are afraid of making a mistake, just begin.

Procrastination has such negative effects, do not let it continue to derail your life.  For more about how to get things done in your life and creating a time management plan that is personalized, I recommend this book: Time Management from the Inside Out by Julia Morgenstern

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I hope these tips help and as always do the best you can and be kind to yourself.