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How to stop procrastinating even if you have ADHD. A man is at a crossroads with one sign pointing to "now" and another sign pointing to "later"


How to Finally Stop Procrastinating (even if you have ADHD)

How many times have been faced with a complex priority task, such as filing taxes, and instead opted for a less critical, easier task, like mowing the lawn?

You may feel productive after mowing the lawn because you accomplished something, but it wasn't the thing that really needed to be done.

Why do we do this? "Procrastivity"- a combination of "procrastinate" and "activity", is a term that describes a common phenomenon for adults with ADHD who are always busy but never seem to make big progress on their important goals.

Getting motivated and prioritizing tasks is often more difficult for people with ADHD compared to their neurotypical peers, but with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques and certain supplements, adults with ADHD can stop procrastinating and accomplish their big goals!

Procrastivity and the ADHD Brain

Why do adults with ADHD tend to choose the small, unimportant tasks over the more critical, complex ones?

1. Manual focus: Usually the lower-priority task is physical and less cognitively demanding than the higher-priority task. Putting the leash on the dog and taking the dog for a walk is less cognitively challenging than preparing taxes. 

2. Familiar steps: People are more likely to tackle tasks with clear steps, like doing the laundry or dishes, which can be done on auto-pilot, rather than something nebulous like writing a research paper.

3. Time frame: Procrastivity tasks often have a more definite time frame. Cleaning off your desk might take 10 minutes, but it's unclear how long it may take to prepare for a work presentation.

4. Task progress: Procrastivity tasks often have a clear measure of a beginning, middle and end. Walking the dog starts with getting out the leash and poo bags, putting the leash on your dog, doing for a walk, and coming back home. But a task like aimlessly applying for jobs doesn't have as clear progress points.

5. Dopamine: ADHD brains operate on a dopamine defecit, so those with ADHD often seek stimulating and dopamine-producing activities. Writing a blog for work (like I'm doing right now) is a low dopamine activity compared to doing a workout (which I'm more tempted to do right now!)

4 ways to stop procrastinating with ADHD

1. Set clear steps

If you've got a large, complex, overwhelming task, try breaking it down into small, manageable steps. If you need help with this, try using ChatGPT! For example, I asked ChatGPT to help me break down writing a blog into clear steps, and here's a snippet of what I got:

1. Choose a Topic and Research: Select a relevant and engaging topic. Conduct thorough research to gather all necessary information and insights. 2. Create an Outline: List and organize the main points and subpoints. Plan the structure of your introduction, body, and conclusion. 3. Write the Blog Post: Write a compelling introduction with a hook and thesis statement. Follow your outline to write a clear and concise body, using headings, subheadings, and visual elements. Summarize the main points and include a call-to-action in the conclusion.

2. Make it time-bound

Rather than leaving it open-ended, choose a time you will work until, and then stop. Or, use a Pomodoro timer to work in time blocked chunks with breaks, so there is a definite start and end.

3. Lower the bar on progress

If the task seems too daunting in terms of how much time or effort it will take to complete, we're more likely to procrastinate! Lower the bar with what you consider progress. So with the blog example above, rather than trying to complete ALL the steps in one day, you might break out each step into a different day. That way, you're making progress every day and feeling accomplished.

4. Boost dopamine levels naturally

As mentioned before, some studies have shown a link between low dopamine levels and ADHD. Dopamine is our neurotransmitter that helps us feel motivated to accomplish tasks. You can boost dopamine levels naturally by:

  • Playing music (especially lo-fi music for focus)
  • Exercise
  • Getting sunlight
  • Taking supplements with amino acids and vitamins like L-tyrosine, vitamin B6, and others that support dopamine production

In Closing

You're more likely to procrastinate and struggle with prioritizing tasks if you have ADHD, but there are many helpful ways to cope! Setting clear steps, making it time-bound, lowering the bar on progress, and boosting dopamine levels naturally can all help you fly through your to-do's.