Rick Webster is the Founder and CEO of Rena-Fi, a financial literacy education company dedicated to creating ADHD-friendly resources and support systems.
My Struggles with Procrastination
“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.”
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.
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.