Simple illustration of a pink-haired character looking downcast with arms folded, above bold text 'ADHD Procrastination' by @the_mini_ADHD_coach.

Why Do People with ADHD Procrastinate More?

People with ADHD often struggle with procrastination due to difficulties in regulating attention, managing time, and dealing with overwhelming tasks. This is a result of the unique challenges posed by ADHD, including impulsivity, disorganization, and problems with executive function. Understanding these underlying factors can help in developing strategies to mitigate procrastination and improve productivity.

Published on
Updated on
estimated reading time

Written by

Alice Gendron

Founder of The Mini ADHD Coach

Reviewed by

In this Article

Reviewed by

A word form our expert

Procrastination: A Hidden Symptom of ADHD?

Have you ever wondered why delaying tasks feels almost unavoidable, despite your best efforts? No matter how much you know you need to get started on that task, it’s as if there’s a mental barrier making it simply impossible - that is, until right before the deadline

In this article, we'll discuss:

  • The intricate link between ADHD and procrastination.
  • Misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding ADHD and laziness.
  • The impact of chronic procrastination on personal well-being and relationships.
  • Strategies for managing procrastination in adults with ADHD.
  • The role of professional help in overcoming procrastination related to ADHD.

Let’s discover how understanding ADHD can transform procrastination from a daunting barrier into a manageable challenge. 💪

The ADHD-Procrastination Connection

One of the more frustrating ADHD experiences is procrastination where important tasks get avoided in favor of anything except the thing we need to actually do. 

I’ve called myself a procrastinator, long before I ever knew I had ADHD. In fact, during my school years, I took the Latin etymology of procrastinat meaning ‘deferred until the morning’ quite literally. I would get to school early to do my homework on the date it was due, sometimes just an hour before. Even if I’d had over a week to do it. 📚

While not an official ADHD symptom, procrastination is tied to inattention symptoms, making it common in those with inattentive-type ADHD and combined-type ADHD.

It doesn’t help that those of us with ADHD also struggle with time management, and have a faulty perception of time that we call ‘time blindness’. It’s why you may find yourself convinced there’s enough time to finish a task or leave the house on time, but somehow always manage to be late.

This is due to poor executive functioning skills, or executive dysfunction. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can cause certain areas of the brain to develop more slowly, like the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for our executive functions. 🧠

Executive function is involved in the brain's capability to control and regulate one's behavior. It plays a huge role in your ability to execute tasks, make decisions, plan, pay attention to details, initiate tasks, and monitor progress while doing a specific job. 📅

Insights from clinical psychology reveal a clear link between ADHD and challenges with the brain's executive functions. Research shows that having ADHD can disrupt our ability to effectively manage tasks that require executive control.

It means, that with ADHD, we might struggle with self-control and have difficulty channeling our energy into tasks that should be our priority, like paying bills, maintaining schedules, planning 📝, and organization, particularly if time-bound tasks.

The Myth of Procrastination, Debunked

If you’re someone with ADHD who procrastinates, you’ve probably been called lazy, or asked ‘why can’t you just do it?’. 

Yet, when we’re asked this, it’s difficult to explain that it isn’t laziness or being idle. It doesn’t even feel like a choice. With motivation so low, it can feel near-impossible. 

Even if you overcome that initial procrastination, other ADHD symptoms can stop you from finishing that challenging task, like trouble maintaining your focus or being easily distracted by things like social media or games. Any self-control you start with can quickly vanish. 

It’s not that people with ADHD never experience laziness, but the procrastination linked to ADHD is a genuine impairment, not a choice.

You Asked Us…

What is ADHD procrastination paralysis?

ADHD procrastination paralysis occurs when people with ADHD struggle to start or complete tasks due to overwhelming choices, fear of failure, or low energy. It's a common symptom that impedes daily functioning.

The Real Impact of Chronic Procrastination

Chronic procrastination is more than just a quirk - it can significantly affect major areas of your life, including home, work, school, and personal relationships.

While it's clear how it affects work and school tasks, especially with looming deadlines that can hinder academic or professional performance, the ripple effects extend far beyond.

Often, you’ll have tasks where people are counting on you to do something. Maybe you’re in charge of booking that family holiday, but put it off and the prices go up and everyone has to pay more. Or a friend asks you to do something, but when you visibly put it off, they assume you don’t care enough, and feel hurt. 

Not only can everyday procrastination affect your relationships with loved ones, but it can also impact your relationship with yourself. 😞

When you keep procrastinating, it damages your ability to trust yourself - you no longer feel able to rely on yourself to follow through on what you say you will do. This can often spiral into negative self-talk and lower your self-esteem

The Cycle of Stress

Always leaving everything until the last minute is stressful. And that’s an understatement. 

Since it’s not simply a choice to forget about the deadline, the existence of the deadline is often constantly on our minds until we do it. Sometimes I spend more time and energy worrying about meeting the deadline, mentally planning, or preparing for failure when it would be far less exhausting to just do the thing. 🤦

This can mean the time between deadlines is a constant period of stress. 🥵   

When the procrastination stops, and you finally have the motivation to do the task, the rush that’s now necessary is just as stressful and intense.

It’s simply not sustainable to cram all your important tasks into two or three hours (or however long it takes) before the deadline. This can lead to exhaustion and, over time, burnout.

You Asked Us…

What is the avoidance cycle of ADHD?

The avoidance cycle of ADHD involves delaying tasks due to anxiety or fear, leading to increased stress and guilt. This cycle is often reinforced by negative emotions and can exacerbate other symptoms of ADHD.

Visualize your ADHD traits!

Take our fun online quiz to visualize your ADHD traits and learn more about your brain!


Strategies for Overcoming Procrastination

If you have ADHD, learning to manage chronic procrastination so you can complete everyday tasks requires more than just willpower.  

While traditional productivity methods don’t always work for the ADHD brain, it’s worth experimenting with a few. You may also find that something works for a few days or weeks, then stops working. That’s pretty normal, you just need to keep changing to fuel your brain’s need for novelty. For example, I switch between a few different organization methods once every few months. They all work well, but I can get bored of one and stop using it properly - so I just switch to another system that works just as well.

Here are several practical strategies:

  • Time Blocking: Divide your day into blocks of time dedicated to specific tasks, or broader types of tasks. This method helps you visualize the day's structure and reduces the overwhelm by breaking tasks into manageable segments. Make sure to add plenty of breathing room around each block.

  • The Pomodoro Technique: Work in short bursts of 25 minutes followed by a 5-minute break. This can help maintain focus when you need to pay attention for longer periods. It doesn’t have to be 25 minutes - pay attention to how long it takes you to get distracted. 🍅

  • Prioritization Methods: Sometimes not knowing what to start with can paralyze and overwhelm us. Use tools like the Eisenhower Matrix to sort tasks by urgency and importance. This helps in distinguishing between what needs immediate attention and what can wait.

  • Break Down Tasks: If a task takes more than one step to complete, it’s more of a project with multiple tasks. List out everything you need to complete it. While it may seem like it’s making your list longer, you’ll find the clarity is worth it, and many of these tasks will take less than 5 minutes. 

Apps and Tools

In an era where technology touches almost every aspect of our lives, several apps and digital tools can be particularly beneficial for people with ADHD:

  • Task Management Apps: Apps like Notion, Trello, Asana, or Todoist allow users to organize tasks into projects, set deadlines, and get reminders. These features are crucial for staying on top of tasks and deadlines. ✅

  • Focus Apps: Tools like Forest or Focus@Will use gamification or music specifically designed to enhance concentration, helping to stay on task without getting distracted by the phone or other digital interruptions.

  • Time Tracking Apps: Apps like RescueTime or Toggl track how time is spent on the computer or smartphone, providing insights into patterns of procrastination or distraction.

  • Mind Mapping Tools: Software like Milanote, Figma, and MindMeister offers a visual way to organize thoughts and ideas, which can be particularly helpful for ADHD individuals who may think in non-linear ways. 

By implementing these strategies, you can create a more structured approach to managing tasks and time, crucial for overcoming procrastination in ADHD.  😎

Just like my other organizational systems, I often rotate between different apps every few months. Each one functions effectively, but after a while, I might start to find one monotonous and not use it as diligently - so I switch to another app that's equally efficient. These tools not only help in organizing and prioritizing work but also provide the necessary nudges toward completing tasks on time.

Seeking Professional Guidance

Mental health is as important as your physical health. If you’re in constant fear of missing deadlines, procrastination can start to negatively affect all areas of your life.

You might want to visit a mental health professional and ask for help to manage your condition. 👩‍⚕️ 

Counseling psychology might help you get back on track, from having low self-esteem to improving your overall well-being. 

Adult ADHD coaching is also an effective way of learning how to manage your condition and achieve better results. Aside from these approaches, treatment and management of the root cause of your procrastination should also be considered. 

If you haven't had an official ADHD diagnosis, we recommend you take that step. Once you’re diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) you can gain a better understanding of your condition. 💪 The more you know about your ADHD-related facts and symptoms, the more you'll have a deeper understanding of your situation, and the more you'll learn about how to manage your symptoms, including procrastination. 😘

You Asked Us…

How do you overcome ADHD task avoidance?

To overcome ADHD task avoidance, break tasks into smaller steps, use timers to create work intervals, and minimize distractions. Consistent routines and ADHD treatment strategies can also significantly help in managing task avoidance.

Key Takeaways

  • Procrastination is a common challenge for those with ADHD, not due to laziness but as a part of executive dysfunction which makes task initiation and time management particularly difficult.
  • Procrastination in ADHD stems from neurodevelopmental differences, not a lack of motivation or effort.
  • Chronic procrastination can significantly affect various aspects of life, including work, education, and personal relationships, often leading to stress and lowered self-esteem.
  • There are plenty of techniques, tools, and apps to help with procrastination, such as breaking down tasks, focus apps, and project management tools.
  • Recognizing when it's time to seek professional help is crucial. Therapy and ADHD coaching can provide tailored strategies to manage procrastination effectively.

Procrastination isn’t just a minor inconvenience or quirk - it’s a real challenge those of us with ADHD may face daily and must learn to manage. Thankfully, there are plenty of strategies and techniques that can help, if you’re willing to experiment and find what works for you. 🧪

Don't let procrastination define your capabilities - empower yourself with knowledge and the right tools to reclaim your productivity and wellbeing.

What’s Next?

Interested in understanding more about procrastination, time, and learning with ADHD? If so, check out these related articles. 👇

Navigating Learning Challenges in Children with ADHD

Tackling Insomnia and Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

ADHD Time: How It Affects Perception and Management

Start your ADHD diagnosis journey!

Visualize and assess 25 ADHD traits and understand how they affect your life.

Learn more

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is procrastination a symptom of ADHD?

Procrastination is not an official ADHD symptom, but experts say many people with ADHD experience it.

Does ADHD medication help with procrastination?

Yes, ADHD medication can help with procrastination by improving focus and impulse control, which are often underlying causes of procrastination in individuals with ADHD. However, medication is most effective when combined with behavioral strategies and should be discussed with a healthcare provider.

How do you deal with procrastination in ADHD?

Dealing with procrastination in ADHD involves a combination of strategies such as breaking tasks into smaller, manageable steps, using time management techniques like the Pomodoro Technique, and possibly incorporating technology tools that assist in focus and task organization. Additionally, seeking guidance from a professional who understands ADHD can provide tailored strategies that are effective in managing procrastination.

Share this article on Social Media

Help us raise awareness around ADHD, let's spread ADHD love and support to all that need it.

If you liked this article you are going to like these ones:

Check out more content about similar topics: