ADHD Task Initiation

Overcoming ADHD Task Initiation Struggles

Some people with ADHD may find it difficult to get started on tasks and activities, no matter how important they are. Is it just laziness? Here’s what you need to know about ADHD and Task Initiation.

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Are We Lazy to Start Doing Tasks?

Did you know that it took me almost two months to start doing the illustration for this topic to be posted on the Instagram account of The Mini ADHD Coach? 😨 Add another three months of waiting for the right motivation to write about this specific ADHD trait. Now that I remember, I can conclude that we seem to have trouble sustaining our interests and finishing our tasks. But why does starting something new give us such difficulties? 🤔

Doing something for the first time can be a struggle for many people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder 😞. They may have been having difficulties initiating one task at a time because they may either have a disorganized schedule or too many distractions that can quickly pull their focus away. Getting started with other tasks can also be hard for us, especially when we aren't interested in doing them in the first place.

ADHD Task Initiation

Every ADHD struggle that we experience related to our urge to do tasks may boil down to our ability to handle our executive functions. Executive function is an umbrella term for the cognitive processes 🧠 that help us plan, remember, pay attention, and control our behavior. This can also involve self-monitoring, an essential skill to have when it comes to finishing tasks on time.

However, why do we postpone tasks until we are pressed with a deadline? 📅 Do we tend to start slow, or is there something behind our struggle to initiate tasks promptly?

Task Initiation and ADHD

We might already have a slight idea about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. For those who don’t have any, ADHD is a neurodivergent disorder that affects our ability to stay focused, control impulses, and maintain attention 👌. Sometimes, ADHD can also give us poor working memory, affecting our daily functioning. It can also impact our ability to plan and prioritize tasks - including the lack of motivation to initiate doing them.

What is Task Initiation?

Task initiation is our first step in doing specific tasks. These are the things that we need to do to propel ourselves in continuously being productive and, if we're lucky, be able to finish them as well 👍. However, an ADHD brain can sometimes be tricky to understand.

When it comes to task initiation, we tend to feel the overpowering need to push things off until the last minute due to our inability to focus and organize our thoughts for that specific activity 😅. This can be pretty challenging for us as we cannot commit ourselves even with the limited tasks. There's also a bigger chance for us to procrastinate, even if we don't have anything important to do at the moment.

Why Do We Struggle in Task Initiation?

There may be several reasons why many individuals with ADHD find it hard to start doing anything. Though neurotypical people may experience these kinds of struggles, some adults with ADHD continuously face the consequences of “failing” task initiation, even if they know that their strategies regarding starting a task are sometimes inefficient 😢.

ADHD Task Initiation: Ability to Start a Task

They say the most challenging part of anything is having the urge to start doing them. This may be the critical part of a task, as it can determine the pace, mood, and even project outcome. Sometimes, there are a few good reasons for some adults with ADHD who feel they need to set aside an activity. But, there are also moments when we don't want to do something due to our mental fatigue or feeling overwhelmed with too many tasks 😭.

Boring Tasks Goes Last

One common way of determining if a task should be done first is our level of interest in doing them. Without our keen interest and focus on something, our strategy to fully devote our time and attention cannot be sustained even if we have enough energy 🔋. There's also a bigger chance of getting distracted when we aren't motivated to do things.

Starting tasks with little to no interest in doing them may be a massive factor for us not getting into the business of task initiation. Therefore, if we have plenty of tasks, completing the boring and uninteresting stuff should be last, even if there'll be consequences for putting it off.

Need Extra Effort? Nope!

Completing arduous tasks that demand too much attention, energy and focus can be tricky for an adult with ADHD. These tasks sometimes make us feel too overwhelmed, and as much as we can delay them, we'll do anything to create a reason not to accomplish them 😥.

Many adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder will try to avoid doing a task requiring extra effort. Those activities that we think will only give us too many struggles are hard to start and complete. Even though finishing them may provide beneficial outcomes or a reward, our urgency to start doing them cannot be matched 🪫.

Activities with Less Stress, Please

Since we are usually dealing with a lot, some people with ADHD tend to hold off stressful tasks on their priority list📝. We look for activities we can quickly check off on our to-do list and have fun doing them since it is one of the ways to keep us going and complete our tasks, too. Those we find stressful may get stuck at the bottom of the list.

ADHD Task Initiation:Hard to start a task when it is Boring, Challenging, or Stressful

We all seem to have enough difficulties in our lives. Sometimes, we think that our already-struggling brain cannot handle stress further. We might sense that starting off tasks that can only produce complex difficulties can cause anxiety 😨 or even make it harder for us to start something else.

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The Consequences of Putting Off Tasks

Putting off an activity doesn't just affect our mental health but some of our goals as well. We might forget these activities and risk the consequences of not doing what is expected, like missing deadlines or failing to complete tasks with high priority 📅. Sometimes, when we try to create an extension for these crucial tasks, it can lead to having an ADHD tax.

An example of the recent ADHD tax I paid was my procrastination in meeting my clients. I was having a hard time that day, and the situation was going against me (that's how I would like to think) So, I planned my day, but it suddenly rained 🌧️. My energy was down because I felt that I should have prepared for this kind of weather or done something else that would make me ready. I should have grabbed any rain gear, gotten off, and just went on with my day.

ADHD Task Initiation: Serious Consequences

But what I did was wait a bit more for the rain to stop. I started to watch the television 📺 and became so engaged that I forgot the whole thing I was supposed to attend. My easily distracted ADHD trait and executive dysfunction made me miss my meeting. I missed the chance to see the importance of finishing massive projects that time, and I wonder even more if I can make it up for the next time.

The fear and anxiety inside my head were a bit intense. I thought that I'd lose the chance to smoothen things next time. Lucky for me, the clients I met with were very understanding 🤗. What would happen to me if they were different people?

From Task Initiation to Task Completion

Since we often have difficulties getting started with our tasks, completing them may be challenging. When we are overwhelmed with what we're supposed to do, we'll most likely choose to have a break and not worry about them until needed. But for me, this may not be the right approach.

ADHD Task Initiation: A few tips

Here are some of the key factors to remember during task initiation and improving your executive function skills:

  • In doing big projects, break down tasks into more minor, manageable activities so that getting started won't be a huge hindrance.
  • Making a to-do list 📝can also help people with ADHD to remember every task that needs to be done. In the same way, when we write these tasks, the brain tends to commit and process better.
  • Setting up a timer or using the Pomodoro technique.  ⏲️ Taking a break is a necessary part of accomplishing projects. However, it can be hard again to start when you take too many breaks often. This technique can reduce distractions as it utilizes timeboxing, and it separates someone's professional agenda from his personal life.

Having a body double or a friend 🧑‍that can help you with your agenda keeps you accountable and can help you finish things faster. Having them around may give better support and reminder to complete a task.

ADHD and Task Initiation: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is Task Initiation?

Task Initiation simply refers to our ability to get started on a task. It may involve several things, like our interest in the activity or our energy level.

Do people with ADHD have difficulties in Task Initiation?‍

Some people with ADHD do have problems initiating tasks. However, note that anyone can have problems with it, too. It’s just that when you have ADHD, your symptoms may get in the way of getting things started. For instance, being easily distracted can make you put important things off. 

What helps with Task Initiation?

A lot of things can help with getting activities started. Breaking goals into smaller tasks is one, so that they wouldn’t be overwhelming. Setting a schedule or deadline for yourself may also work, with the help of timers or an accountability buddy. 

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