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3 Steps to Mindfully Work with ADHD and Procrastination

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

cartoon figure on couch and phoneProcrastination is a problem that many of us deal with. Waiting to the last minute often increases our stress levels and at times can get others pretty irritated with us. All too often, it can affect our lives at work and at home. While ADHD can have its upsides, people who struggle with ADHD often particularly have an issue with procrastination and here are a few tried and true tricks to start changing this habit.

  1. Change your relationship to automatic negative thoughts (ANTS) - These come up for many of us, but for people who have ADHD, it's easy for the mind to bring up thoughts such as, "I'll never get this right," "What's wrong with me," or "I'm just so lazy." It's very important to really understand that thoughts are not facts; they are just events that pop up on the mind and are often mood dependent. In other words, if the event was the same and you were feeling really well, you may have different thoughts such as "wow, I can really accomplish a lot last minute."

    Sometimes it helps not to get too wrapped up in the thinking or self-judgments and just name it. Say to yourself "thinking is happening" and then just redirect your attention to what is most important in the moment.

  2. Break it up into tasks - Sometimes the reason we avoid starting a task is because deep down it seems overwhelming. Break the task down into small chunks and see what seems manageable for 20 or 30 minutes at a time. Set some deadlines for completing these smaller chunks.

  3. Give yourself permission for imperfection - Perfectionism or the thought that something has to be done perfect or not at all can be immobilizing and is a mind trap. It's perfectly ok to just get started even if the first run isn't optimal. With that first run you'll get the wheels turning and it can often create motivation to continue.

Know that throughout this process your mind is bound to wander off task. That is expected, the difference here is to apply step one and notice your judgments, let them be, and gently redirect your attention to the task at hand.

In other words, practice bringing some mindfulness to working with procrastination and ADHD.