My Struggles with Procrastination




procrastination image

Richard Webster, the author of this article, is the coordinator for CHADD of Northern California.

“The action of delaying or postponing something.”  Well sure, that is a neat academic definition.  It doesn’t capture the associated bewilderment and anguish.

After decades of applying all manner of logical remedies to the emotion based problem of procrastination, such as getting a better day planner, setting countless alarms and engaging accountability partners I’ve found that these strategies have had almost no impact on my propensity to procrastinate.

They’re all perfectly logical solutions which I’m sure work well for a neuro-typical brain.  They are all logical solutions which I’m sure those around us feel good about suggesting.  They are all logical solutions which, when they fail, leave us feeling demoralized and depressed.  Yes, often clinically depressed.  The medical community adds fuel to this downward spiral with their lexicon of deficits and disorders.  We add to it with our abusively sickening and self fulfilling self talk.  

Sometimes depression is simply a natural outcome of what Zig Ziglar identified as “stinkin thinkin.”

Addicted to Distraction

The activities I engage in instead of doing the important things seem akin to a narcotic.  Hallowell writes “Driven to Distraction.”  I feel addicted to distraction.  Just these past few days I’ve engaged in deeply intense distractions to avoid the anxiety of sitting down to write this blog post.  Some of my distractions are borderline dangerous.  Seems, intensity is required to numb the mind from the negative feelings surrounding procrastination.  Russell Barkley, whose ADHD twin brother died in an auto accident, says unremediated ADHD reduces life expectancy by more than a decade.  Twenty five years for those with the deepest ADHD issues.  Russell Barkley isn’t prone to hyperbole.

So what works, you ask?  What has worked for me?  While I’m tempted to say “nothing” I realize that one thing has worked very well.  And, thinking on it, as soon as I’m done with this blog post, I’m going to invest an hour re-implementing it.

Managing my inbox!  I know the categories of things I struggle with.  I know the tasks and projects I fail at.  I know what they are before they ever get on my plate.  I know when I’m agreeing to them.  I know when I write them on my calendar.  And, I certainly know when I’m berating myself once again for failing to take action.  And, most of all, I know when the people counting on me are once again … let down and disappointed.

Explaining ADHD

ADHD is a neurological brain function difference.  Certainly, being better organized, being more proactive, being more present are all great strategies. These things work wonders.  But we procrastinate on things even when they’re on the calendar.  Even when we have time for them.  Even when they’re supremely important.  Nothing has ever worked better for me than pausing, taking a moment to reflect and then consciously deciding whether to say “yes” or “no” to a request, project or task.  Do I have the time?  Am I interested? Am I passionate about the task?  Is there a better way?  Has this item been problematic for me before?  

I don’t know about you but I’m going to invest some time … right now … to clearing out and prioritizing my “inbox.”  Why is the task there?  Why do I want to do it?  Does it have to be done?  Does it have to be done by me?  Is now the best time?  I’m going to recommit to being conscious and forward thinking when evaluating whether the next thing gets on my plate.  

Your thoughts?

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5 Responses to My Struggles with Procrastination

  1. Raphaël Rousseau says:

    Hi Richard,

    thanks for your thoughts on procrastination, something I have been struggling with, as well, and start to understand better with my recent diagnosis of ADD at the “advanced” age of 53 (following diagnosis in my kids, a common situation for diagnosis of adult AD(H)D).

    I came to realize that procrastination, at least with me, is two things: my brain not being fired up by the task at hand (but who can be fired up by filling IRS forms, to just give this example?); but also, and possibly more often, by the fear of failure, “not good enough”, “mediocre”… And when I work on reassuring myself that the outcome of my efforts will be good if not excellent, then I get things done in a more organized, timely way. No app, no calendar, no reward, just good ol’ awareness.

    My own two cents on the issue.

  2. John Victor Arruda says:

    Hi there, it’s my first time on this website, but I’m glad to know there is a support group here in SF. I’m not diagnosed yet, well… I’ve been in a hard spot these last couple days? Months? Hell, maybe years… since I came to get a better life. Well, in debt, depressed, couldn’t care less if I was going to wake up tomorrow or not… sincerely, I still dont..don’t… when I close my eyes still… I can only sleep after smoking weed… yeah, i became quite the stoner I despised once. Without it, my maybe wouldn’t let me sleep. Well, but I’m hanging I guess, working one job, about to get another one and work 80.hr a week, pay my debt, my new patient appointment will be 13 July now, I’ll tell Jim I really need the medication to focus on work, cuz I need to fix my life, and go home spend some time with my family and friends. Wish me luck I guess

    • Rick says:

      Yes, and I host that one. It’s on Zoom, although the group’s geographic roots are both in SF and WC. It’s all delivered by Zoom now of course. Perhaps more germane to your current stressors, I also host the “Money Matters” group over at ADDA. ADD.org. As with us here at CHADD, they have a membership fee but it’s quite low compared to the value they provide to the community. Self medicating (weed, for example) is a path many take. However, self medicating is generally counter productive and sometimes very harmful. Frankly, I’d say anything that slows the path to legitimately proven methods of treatment is counter productive. I certainly don’t want to minimize or be dismissive of what you’re going through. That said, I’ve been there. Sooooooo been there. Find your tribe (ADD.org, CHADDnorcal.org, RenaFi.com), engage with others, seek out your inner strength, find purpose … and dig your way out. Find your reasons … find your tribe. You’re not alone. Rick

  3. Sachiko Okano says:

    Thank you for this article!! Everything you said is exactly my life long struggle. I am now 52, and was diagnosed when I was 40. I have been taking workshops, attend annual ADHD conferences, read articles but nothing has worked for my procrastination. I am still leaving things I have to do on the side and doing things I don’t have to right now. No one knows how my room has no room to walk without stepping on something because I present well outside. I know where to start, how to start and how to get them in order but I can’t bring myself to do it. I am organized and prompt when I have an audience. But at home, I don’t have an audience. I know I’m not the only one struggling with ADHD traits but somehow I forget and start to feel bad about myself. No matter how much I understand intellectually, I have not really “gotten it” emotionally. So, it’s always nice to feel validated and not alone. Thank you again for your article.

    • CHADDNorCal Staff says:

      We appreciate your honesty and your feedback. It’s helpful to others to see your response. Thanks for reaching out.

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