Is it possible to procrastinate without meaning to? How ADHD traits can derail productivity for creative entrepreneurs.
Part 2 of a Two-Part Blog
In the first part of this blog we looked at how the ADHD traits of highly variable working memory, and aversion to the routine and mundane, have a part to play in Procrastination for the ADDer. In this second part, we put two more traits under the spotlight, to illuminate whether procrastination is truly deliberate, or simply a natural result of the interplay of symptoms or traits, and therefore incidental to ADHD.
There is an oft quoted proverb which states that “Procrastination is the thief of time”. For those of us with ADD/ADHD, time can indeed disappear before our eyes, but what if the whole concept of time was different for us because we just don’t see it in the same way.
A completely different way of perceiving time:
It is said that neurotypical people divide time into discrete chunks in their heads and can estimate when five minutes has gone by without too much difficulty. Not so with those of us with ADHD traits. One common trait I find in my ADHD clients is overestimating or underestimating the time they will need to accomplish something. Task length can be frequently over or under estimated, leading to missed deadlines or projects which stretch on and on into eternity. These experiences can be unpleasant to ADDers so that they wish to avoid repeating them, the solution being procrastination. One way to approach this is to first spend some time learning about how you estimate time. Try experimenting with how much time it takes to do an activity, and write down the result. Is it more or less than you expected?
Having a broad and vague concept of time passing, leads to lack of precision in setting start times for tasks or projects. How many times have you caught yourself saying “I’ll do it later.”? When might later be exactly? Without a specific start time in mind, it can look to yourself and others as though you may be deliberately procrastinating.
Try setting a specific time of day for something you have been meaning to do for a while, like “10 o’clock on Friday 7th “, rather than “by the end of the week”. Put it in your schedule, and maybe highlight it so it stands out against the crowd. Then back this up with some well-chosen reminders, the kind which will grab your attention. You can have fun experimenting until you find a type of reminder that works for you.
When an ADDer does begin something interesting and engaging however, things can take an unexpected turn into
One way to understand hyperfocus is to think of yourself happily flying along on the Star ship Enterprise, when suddenly it seems you’ve been sucked through a vortex into another dimension, where time has no longer any meaning in the conventional sense of the word. It’s as if the thing you are doing grows to take up all your awareness and leaves none available for noticing what’s going on around you. While you are completely absorbed it feels as though mere minutes have passed, only to find when you eventually surface that many hours have elapsed. You are so intensely interested in what you’re doing that you can literally forget to eat or sleep!
Used intentionally this trait can be an absolute boon to the creative, who can follow ideas or creative processes from start to finish in record time and be highly productive when conditions are right.
Working at night when everything is quiet and the pull from distractions and constant interruptions is at a low, or taking oneself on a retreat for a few days in solitude, has enabled creative artists, writers, and composers through the ages to be fruitful and productive in a way that is much harder and more challenging in busier circumstances.
However, being unable to bring yourself back from hyperfocusing when you need to, which is something that clients often tell me they are having difficulty with, can mean there are many other things which potentially get ignored, forgotten or pushed to one side, and this can have a huge impact on whatever you need to achieve, from paying attention to the people in your life to the day to day running of a business.
What’s the way forward from here for creative procrastinators?
We have seen how at first glance, people with these ADHD traits can seem to be deliberately putting things off, because of how they exhibit challenges in getting things done, yet dig a little deeper and there is a bit more to it than that.
A different way of perceiving time has an impact on the ability to work to routines, develop ideas, accomplish things to deadlines, and set specific times to begin things. Hyperfocusing, an immensely useful ability in the right situation, can also be something that can potentially get in the way, and have a negative impact on vital areas of functioning in life and business.
By separating out and identifying which ADHD traits are behind your procrastination, you will then be better placed to work on one piece at a time, and build up tailor made strategies to help you to do the activities, tasks or projects that have been liable to get delayed as a result.