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Wasted so much time? 5 Strategies to Reduce Procrastination for ADHDer [2024]

Wasted so much Time?5 Strategies to Reduce Procrastination for ADHDer

I’ll do it in 5 minutes, I’ll do it tonight, I promise I’ll finish it tomorrow” 

Each of us can find an action to delay a particular plan since it has been arranged in advance. 

Should I try to continue or stop for a few hours and then do it? And gradually the thought of “let it go tomorrow” is deeply ingrained in every person in modern society. 

The tendency to put off tasks, despite knowing they need to be completed, can be a significant challenge, especially for people with ADHD due to their difficulties with focus and time management.

So today in this article, we will find out Strategies for Overcoming ADHD Procrastination

What is procrastination in the first place?

Procrastination is a common human habit where we delay starting or completing tasks that need to be done. It’s like knowing you should do something now, but deciding to put it off until later.

Joseph Ferrari, a psychology professor at DePaul University in Chicago, discovered that about 20% of adults are chronic procrastinators. Surprisingly, this percentage is higher than the rates of depression, phobias, panic attacks, and alcoholism.

Interestingly, chronic procrastination doesn’t pick favorites—it affects people regardless of their gender, race, or age. Everyone can find themselves putting things off from time to time!

Why does procrastination happen?

We all find ourselves procrastinating from time to time, and there are a few common reasons why:

    • Feeling Lazy: Sometimes, we just want to procrastinate. It’s as simple as that!
    • Low Energy: Whether it’s physical tiredness or mental fatigue, not having enough energy can make us put off tasks.
    • Unappealing Tasks: If a task is too difficult, boring, or stressful, it can feel overwhelming or anxiety-inducing, leading us to avoid it.
    • Thriving Under Pressure: Some of us believe we do our best work when the deadline is looming, so we wait until the last minute to start.
    • Indecision: When faced with important decisions, the need to weigh different options can make us hesitate and delay making a choice.

Check out this Ted Talk about why procrastination happen: 

Is there a relationship between ADHD and procrastination?

People with ADHD often struggle with time management, which can lead to so much time wasted and ADHD procrastination. Difficulty in setting priorities and reminding task details are common struggles.

Additionally, tasks that require sustained mental effort can seem particularly daunting, leading some to delay or avoid them.

 A 2014 study found that inattention was closely linked to procrastination among individuals with ADHD. So it’s crucial that we explore strategy to avoid wasting time, as time is invaluable in today world

1. Apply a cognitive model called ABCDE

Once you start procrastinating, your brain will lie to you. The following thoughts may appear:

    • Fill your day with less important tasks. 
    • Leaving a task on your “to-do list” for too long, even though you know how important it is. 
    • Start a priority task and then go make coffee and scroll through social media “for a bit.” 
    • Waiting forever to be in the “right mood” or waiting for the “right time” to tackle a task.

At such times you can use the ABCDE cognitive model. This model was created by American psychologist Ellis. This is a useful method that can help you overcome the habit of procrastination.

So how will this model help us overcome the habit of procrastination?

A (aversive or activating): the event arises 

B (believe): your thoughts on that event 

C (consequence): result 

D (disputing): reflecting, self-reflecting on the problem 

E (effect): effective

For example: 

A-a task due next Thursday

B-your way of thinking “wait until next Wednesday and do it”.

C-the result of that thought: “Even though it’s urgent next Wednesday, I have one day to finish it”.

D-question again “why do we have to wait until next Wednesday?”, “What good is waiting until next Wednesday?”, “If we do that, wouldn’t it wasted so much time ?”

Note that thinking about B, not about A, will get you E.

That is: “why delay until Wednesday? Now it only takes 3 hours to complete. So, won’t I feel even more relieved in the next few days?”

Thus, New B was born.

Another example:

Let’s apply the ABCDE model to the example of the two boys making their first presentations, focusing on the boy who struggled with nervousness.

ABCDE Model Example: Two Boys Making Presentations

A – Activating Event:
Both boys are about to make their first presentations in front of a group.

B – Beliefs:

      • First Boy: Believes, “I am not capable and not good enough.”
      • Second Boy: Believes, “I am capable and good.”

C – Consequences:

      • First Boy: Feels nervous, goes blank, and his presentation does not go well.
      • Second Boy: Feels confident and delivers an effective presentation.

Applying D & E to the First Boy:

D – Disputation of Irrational Beliefs:
The first boy can challenge his belief by reflecting on his preparation and any past successes in similar situations (even if they are small). He might ask himself:

      • “Have I ever succeeded in a challenging situation before? Yes right?”
      • “What evidence do I have that I am not capable?”
      • “Could my nervousness be just a natural reaction to trying something new rather than a sign of incapability?”

E – Effective New Belief:
After disputing his irrational belief, the first boy can develop a new, more rational and supportive belief:

      • “I am well-prepared and capable of handling this presentation. Everyone feels nervous about new challenges, but that doesn’t mean they are not good enough.”

Outcome with the New Belief:

With this new belief, the first boy can approach the presentation with increased confidence. His preparation and the belief that he is capable will help him manage his nervousness better and potentially lead to a more successful presentation.

This change in belief and attitude might not eliminate all anxiety but can significantly improve his performance and how he handles similar situations in the future.

How to remember to do the ABCDE?

To remember to apply the ABCDE model when combating procrastination, you can use some effective reminder strategies. Setting up specific cues will help you remember to apply this model whenever necessary. Here are some suggestions:

    • Use your mobile phone: You can set reminders on your phone.  
      • For example, use the calendar app or reminders to set notifications reminding you to check and apply the ABCDE model when you. About to do any task based on schedule, this is the time where procrastination usually emerges. Or you can even set your home screen image with the “ABCDE model” text.
    • Use sticky notes: Write down the steps of the ABCDE model and stick them in places you frequently look at. 
      • For example, you can stick it on your computer screen, inside your notebook, or on the refrigerator. Each time you see these notes, you will be reminded to apply the model to efficiently tackle your tasks.
    • Create a conducive environment: Arrange your workspace in a way that encourages the use of the ABCDE model.
      • For example, you could set up a wall chart with the steps of the model clearly written, or establish a work corner with materials related to the ABCDE model for easy reference when needed.

Using these reminder strategies will help you remember to apply the ABCDE model. Once you get used to it you will find combating procrastination becomes easier and more natural.

2. Take the first easiest step

Taking action is the most effective way to overcome procrastination and avoid wasting so much time

Starting something new can sometimes feel like standing at the bottom of a huge mountain. It looks really big and you might not be sure how to get to the top. So this is where you will procrastinate.

But imagine if you found a path that had small, easy steps leading all the way up. Each step isn’t too hard to climb, and before you know it, you’ll reach the peak. That’s how you can tackle any big task—by breaking it down into smaller, manageable parts. 

For example, let’s say you have to do a big school project on the solar system. Instead of worrying about the whole project at once, start with one small task. Maybe that’s just picking which planet you want to focus on first. Once you’ve chosen, you could start by finding three cool facts about that planet.

It’s like playing a video game where you complete one level at a time, and each level you beat makes you more confident to tackle the next.

Or, think about cleaning your room. It might look like a tornado hit it, but what if you start just by picking up all the clothes on the floor? That’s one level completed! Next, you could organize your desk, and then maybe tackle those books and magazines. Breaking it up into sections makes the job less overwhelming and more like a series of quick tasks.

This method works because every small step you finish makes you feel good—it’s a real achievement!

Remember, it’s okay if everything isn’t perfect right away. Every mistake is a chance to learn something new, just like when you’re learning to play a new sport or video game. The more you practice, the better you get. 

Ok, so how can you break down a task to a smaller one?

Check out this post on ADHD task initiation

Bonus point, if you’re stuck, asking for help is a smart move. Sometimes a friend, a sibling, or a parent can give you a tip or help you see things in a new way, just like a teammate passing you the ball in soccer.

So, next time you’re faced with a big task, think of it as a game or a puzzle. Break it down into levels or pieces, tackle each one at a time, and celebrate your progress. You’ll be at the top of that mountain before you know it!

Additionally, poor organization can lead to procrastination. Make a to-do list and create an effective schedule. These tools help you organize your tasks by priority and deadline.

3. Change procrastination habits

If procrastination is a habit deeply ingrained in our behavior, it’s challenging to overcome quickly. As with any habit, breaking it doesn’t happen overnight. It requires consistent effort and a strategic approach.

To effectively tackle procrastination, it’s essential to understand that habits are formed and sustained by repeated practice. To break the cycle, you must actively avoid the triggers and routines that lead to procrastination. Here are some practical steps to help you along this journey:

    • Minimize Distractions: Small things like checking your phone or snacking can significantly divert your attention. Create an environment that minimizes these temptations, perhaps by keeping your phone out of reach during work hours or having specific times allocated for breaks.
    • Practice Self-Forgiveness: Don’t be too hard on yourself for past procrastination. Forgiving yourself can reset your mood and increase your motivation to change. Remember, every moment is a new opportunity to start afresh.
    • Use Psychological Tools: Techniques like meditation can be incredibly effective. Taking just five minutes to meditate can calm your mind and reduce the urge to engage in distracting thoughts. This practice helps develop patience and perseverance, crucial traits for overcoming procrastination.

For a deeper dive into changing habits, consider exploring resources like the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. This book offers insightful strategies on how small changes can lead to remarkable results, emphasizing the importance of tiny improvements and how they can compound over time.

By understanding the nature of habits and applying these steps, you can increase your chances of breaking out of these time-wasting procrastination loops.

4. Reward yourself

Why Self-Rewarding is Beneficial

When you reward yourself after each achievement, whether big or small, you not only create motivation but also reinforce your belief in your abilities.

Studies have shown that receiving rewards causes the brain to release dopamine, a chemical that induces feelings of happiness and promotes positive behavior. This not only makes us feel satisfied with what we have achieved but also makes us more excited about the next goals.

How to Reward Yourself Without Losing Focus
    • Set Clear Goals: Before you start, identify a specific goal you want to achieve. This will help motivate you to work towards the reward.
    • Choose Appropriate Rewards: The reward should be proportional to the difficulty of the task. For example, if you complete a major project, you might reward yourself with a delicious meal or a relaxing afternoon at the spa. For smaller tasks, a cup of milk tea or a slice of cake is sufficient.
    • Timing of Rewards: Place the reward right after you achieve the goal. This will help strengthen the link between behavior and reward, making it more effective in building good habits.
    • Avoid Distracting Rewards: Choose rewards that do not distract you from your long-term goals. For example, if you know that social media is a source of distraction, do not use browsing time as a reward.

Example:

Imagine you have a big science project due. Instead of just thinking, “I need to work on my project,” break it down into smaller parts.

    • Your goal for today might be to gather all the materials you need. Tomorrow, you could aim to write the introduction. By setting specific, manageable goals, you won’t feel overwhelmed, and you’ll know exactly what you need to do each day.
    • Choose Appropriate Rewards: Rewards should match the effort you put in. If you finish your homework for the day, maybe you reward yourself with 30 minutes of video game time. But if you get an A on a big test or finish a tough project, you might celebrate with something special, like a trip to your favorite ice cream shop.
    • Timing of Rewards: It’s best to enjoy your reward after you complete your goal. This way, the reward feels like a prize for your hard work. If you play video games before doing your homework, it might be harder to start studying because you’ve already had your fun.
    • Avoid Distracting Rewards: Choose rewards that won’t keep you from your next task. For instance, if you know you have more homework to do, maybe don’t start a new video game that will take hours to play. Instead, choose something like a quick walk outside or a snack, so you can get back to work refreshed.

 

By doing this, self-rewarding becomes a useful tool, helping you progress each day and perform tasks effectively. Remember, every effort you make is valuable and deserves recognition.

5. Self- disciplined

Adults with ADHD often face criticism for lacking discipline, which can be disheartening. It’s crucial to understand that struggles with discipline in ADHD are not about laziness or lack of motivation; they’re tied to the neurological makeup of the brain. ADHD is a biological condition, not a character flaw.

Having ADHD doesn’t mean you can’t adopt disciplined behaviors. You just need to find the right strategies and treatments to manage it effectively.

How to get discipline as ADHDer

Gaining discipline as an individual with ADHD involves understanding and working with your unique brain function rather than against it. Here are some tailored strategies that can help foster discipline:

    • Structured Routines:

Create a daily routine that accommodates your ADHD. This might include setting specific times for waking up, working, taking breaks, and leisure activities. Consistency helps build habits that can make discipline feel more natural over time.

    • Use Tools and Technology

Leverage technology to stay organized and on track. Apps that focus on task management, reminders, and timers can be particularly helpful. For example, using a digital planner that sends notifications for upcoming tasks can help you manage your time and priorities better.

    • Break Tasks into Smaller Steps

Large tasks can be overwhelming and may trigger procrastination. Break tasks into smaller, manageable steps and focus on completing one segment at a time. This approach can reduce anxiety and make the process more manageable, helping you stay disciplined throughout the task.

    • Set Clear Goals

Define what discipline looks like for you in specific, measurable terms. Set both short-term and long-term goals, and review them regularly to track your progress. This clarity can motivate you and provide a roadmap to follow, making discipline a more concrete concept.

    • Mindfulness and Meditation

Practicing mindfulness can improve your ability to concentrate and stay present in the moment. Meditation can also reduce impulsivity—a common challenge for those with ADHD. Regular practice can help you develop greater self-control and discipline.

    • Seek Professional Guidance

Working with a therapist or coach who specializes in ADHD can provide you with personalized strategies to improve discipline. They can help you understand your unique challenges and strengths, offering support and accountability as you work towards your goals.

    • Positive Reinforcement

Reward yourself for small victories. Positive reinforcement can boost your morale and motivation, making disciplined behavior more appealing. Set up a reward system that encourages you to meet your daily or weekly goals.

    • Physical Activity

Regular exercise can significantly improve concentration, mood, and energy levels, all of which are beneficial for maintaining discipline. Activities like yoga, running, or team sports can also help reduce stress and improve overall cognitive function.

Modify your surroundings to support your efforts in becoming more disciplined. This could mean organizing your workspace to reduce clutter, using noise-canceling headphones to block out distractions, or setting up a dedicated quiet area for deep focus work.

By implementing these strategies, adults with ADHD can develop more disciplined habits, making it easier to navigate the challenges associated with ADHD. Remember, discipline is a skill that can be learned and improved over time, even with ADHD.

6. If you want to be successful, "throw your backpack over the wall"

In life you will encounter many walls, when you choose to throw your backpack away that means you have cut off all retreats for yourself.

 For example: Quitting a job to start a startup: When you decide to leave a stable job to pursue your dream of starting a business, you are really doing something very brave. 

This is an important step because you are putting all your faith and energy into an idea that you are passionate about. By doing this, you not only show yourself and everyone else that you are serious about your project, but also create a “no turning back” situation to push yourself to work harder than ever.

 With no old job to fall back on, you will focus all your efforts on making your startup grow, overcoming all challenges, and seizing every opportunity. This not only helps you develop skills and knowledge but also opens new doors for your career and life.

The difference lies in whether you dare to throw the backpack over that wall or not.

I know this method is quite extreme, but if you are willing to do it, you can create a big nudge to overcome that procrastination valley.

CONCLUSION

Procrastination, especially for those with ADHD, can be a huge barrier to productivity and time management. However, we can overcome it with the strategies outlined in this article

Remember, overcoming procrastination is a gradual process that requires persistence and self-awareness. With a commitment to change, you can reduce the time lost to procrastination and make meaningful progress both personally and professionally.

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