ADHD and Procrastination

Dr. Hallowell:

I don’t know why it is more severe in ADHD but it certainly is.  People with ADD, I think their minds get so crowded with things to do that the important things they simply don’t think of. 

So I’m not so sure it’s that they are actually procrastinating, as they just don’t get around to doing the important things because they’re so quickly taken off task.

I’m not sure it’s the typical procrastination, you put it off because you don’t want to do it.  My favourite line about that, Ernest Hemingway was asked “How do you write a novel?” He said “Well the first thing you do is clean out the refrigerator.” In other words you’ll find any excuse not to do it.

So there’s some of that at work, but I think that’s with everybody. I think with ADD folks it’s more that they forget what’s most important because they’re so easily enchanted by something trivial.

I’m not so sure that it’s the classic procrastination, although that’s at work in all of us, but I think in the ADD person their mind is just so full of possibilities that they easily forget what’s the thing that they’re really supposed to do

Prioritizing & Getting Things Done

I mean one of the challenges of modern life; I mean in a way modern life has turned everybody into having ADD. You know? You look like you have it whether you have it or not. One of the challenges is to prioritize.

The great thing about modern life is you can do so much.  The curse of modern life is you can do so much. 

So now more than ever-in human existence, it’s never been like this before, we’ve never ever, ever, seen an era like what we’re living in today.

Now it becomes fundamentally important that you know what matters most. 

One of my laws of modern life is if you don’t take your time, it will be taken from you.  So if you don’t decide what matters most, someone else will decide for you. 

The world is artful at seducing you to go down blind alleys, or to do someone else’s bidding. So by the end of the day you say ‘gee I didn’t do what I really wanted to do’ and honestly you have no one to blame but yourself because you didn’t make clear to yourself what mattered most. 

So you’re very easily taken off track

Stop ADHD Procrastination

The key to deciding what matters most is to have a method to deciding what matters most.  Now maybe it’s prayer, maybe it’s talking to your dog. Usually it’s interacting with some entity, a spouse, a therapist, a boss, a colleague, a coach, perhaps God, perhaps your dog, you know?

Perhaps a garden, but usually it is in some kind of connection, some kind of dialogue, because the ADD person is notoriously unable to do it alone. 

You get the Chinese menu syndrome; there are so many things.  Well I want to do this, but I want to do that, but I also want to do this, oh and this is very interesting, oh that’s very exciting, well how could I say no to this, and this committee is great, and that project is wonderful, and this book is excellent, and that job is great, and this social engagement is.

I have ADD myself, we ADD’ers are notoriously enthusiastic about everything and so as a result we sabotage ourselves with our own enthusiasm.

Develop a Roadmap

It’s best to have somebody that you talk these things over with, somebody who can hold your feet to the fire a little bit and say, wait a minute Ned you can’t do 12 things in the next one hour, or at least you can’t do them well.  So you really had better just work on your book between now and lunch, and then see patients between lunch and 5:00 o’clock, and then have fun with your wife and kids between five o’clock and 10 o’clock, and then ten o’clock think about getting into bed and maybe going to sleep, and that kind of dialog allows you to kind of set out a road map.

We need road maps.  People with ADD need road maps because otherwise we just branch out, we vector.  We’re like you know a crystal, we just ramify in seconds, and suddenly we’re going hither and yon, everywhere and nowhere.

That’s why I say ADD is a gift and a curse, and if you can marshal that power then you’ll get somewhere, and that’s usually best done and in some kind of dialogue and then once you get it going you don’t have to do this every day

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