The Relationship Between Procrastination and ADHD
Laura McNiven once wrote “You can’t treat ADHD through the lens of shame and blame”. I think that’s a really profound statement to remember, especially as you read this blog.
One more thing I want to share with you is what I learned from my mother when I was growing up. If something is hard, you need to admit it to yourself. If you don’t, you are not giving it the respect that due.
So, let’s take these concepts and move it into procrastination.
Stop ADHD Procrastination
In my work as a coach, I have found that ambiguity and boredom are the root of most issues where you procrastinate.
When you’re not doing something, ask my mother’s question, “What is hard about this?”. The answer may not be straightforward, and it can take a little digging to get to it. I have a story to show how this often plays out, and how to uncover something that is hard for you, but doesn’t appear to be because ADHD, shame and blame can cloud the issue.
Years ago, I had a gentleman contact me for coaching. At the top of his procrastination list was calling his relatives to tell them about his daughter’s upcoming dance recital. I asked him, “Well what’s so hard about doing that?”. He said “No, it’s not hard, it’s easy”. An argument ensued at this point, because he couldn’t see how he was making this a difficult task.
What seemed like it should be easy, was somehow difficult. I said “Listen, it’s at the top of your procrastination list. You’re paying me money right now in order to coach you through this, and if you’re not going to admit that it’s hard I’m not gonna be able to help you.” Finally he acquiesced.
I asked him again, what is it that’s difficult, and he began to really think about it. He began to realize that in the past, what he typically does is call a relative to invite them with the minimum information. “There’s a dance recital in two weeks.” At that point, the person he’s inviting has lots of questions. Where is it? Where do we park? What do we bring? He does not have any answers to these questions. Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere.
Shame and Blame
At this point, my client has to go back to his wife to get all of this information. This is when he feels shame and that he’s to blame. He’s got ADHD, and he’s been tasked to do things like this before. In the past, when he’s gone back with questions, the response he’s gotten is, “You can’t do this one thing?” So now there’s a little bit of an emotional attack, and there’s a little bit of anxiety associated with going back to his wife and asking her for the answers to these questions.
Once we acknowledge that he has a fear of what happens when he’s asked for answers he doesn’t have, that’s what is hard about making the phone calls. He doesn’t have all the information, and feels ashamed and blamed because he will have to go back to his wife. Now we can come up with solutions that will remove the difficulty from the task.
Why Can’t I Do This – What is Making it So Hard?
Simply asking yourself “What is hard?” is one of the most amazing diagnostic tools I found to help uncover what’s really causing procrastination. If you don’t get to the heart of it, you can put all the post-its up, and you can use all of the incentives you want but you’re still not getting to the root of the problem, and you won’t take action.
I shared this story because I want you to see why you can’t treat ADHD through the lens of shame and blame. Beating yourself up doesn’t do any good. The issue is you’ve got to get to the heart of when you’re procrastinating is why you’re procrastinating.
Use the simple tool of just asking yourself what is making this task so hard that I’m not doing it. Focus in on that as a discovery tool and you might be surprised by what you unearth. Once you find out what the underlying perceived difficulty is, then you can actually problem-solve around it.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tip. Are you procrastinating? What’s making what you need to do so hard? Please share your story about using this simple tool in the comments below.
About ADHD and attention coach Jeff Copper
Jeff Copper, MBA, PCC, PCAC, is an ADHD coach and an expert on attention issues. He is the manager and founder of DIG Coaching Practice LLC (https://www.digcoaching.com/), as well as host and founder of Attention Talk Radio (https://www.attentiontalkradio.com/) and Attention Talk Video (https://www.attentiontalkvideo.com/). He coaches individuals with ADD/ADHD symptoms who are seeking success both personally and in business by helping them realize their potential.