by Dr. Thor Bergersen
This is my first attempt at blogging, and I’m pretty excited about it. We have a new website as well, and we’re hoping to interact more with those of you who take the time to look over the site. My intention is to answer questions that are asked of me, either by email, form submission or in person on a daily or weekly basis, and to write about subjects of interest to the ADHD community.
Probably the most common problem resulting from ADHD is procrastination. Although this is just one word, it implies a lot of meaning. First and foremost, it means having great difficulty starting tasks or projects. This, of course, implies the knowledge that something needs to be done, which leads to an uneasy coexistence of contradictory mental states, something psychologists like to refer to as cognitive dissonance. Basically, knowing that you have to do something while you are simultaneously putting it off until later causes anxiety and stress. This behavior might be perceived of as lazy, but procrastinating is certainly not pleasant for the procrastinator.
Many times, putting things off for a long time leads to complete avoidance because it’s just too anxiety provoking to revisit the task. The emotions guilt and shame often come into play here, because others who were counting on you to get the job done may be disappointed or confused by your lack of follow through. Projects that once seemed manageable may seem insurmountable, so it’s easier just to forget about them.
It’s very common to put off simple, easily completed items like returning a phone call or email, paying a bill, or scheduling an appointment. When enough time has passed, that little task can grow and seem more important simply because it’s been on the to do list for so long. It can be plain embarrassing to call a person back when what they wanted to ask you about has already come and gone.
The key to conquering procrastination is easier said than done. In the words of the Nike slogan, “Just Do It.” Take the choice out of your day. It is not for you to decide whether or not to initiate and complete something on your list. If it is on the list, it gets done. They way to work this habit into your life is to slowly add structure to your day to day. Start exercising at the same time on the same days. Wake up and go to bed at the same times. Eat at the same times. The more you add structure and eliminate “in the moment” choices, the more efficient you’ll be.