Part 2: Procrastination: How ADHD traits can derail productivity for creative entrepreneurs

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. 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

Hyperfocus:

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 hyper focusing 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.

Anna Schlapp B.A., AACC, ACC, is a certified coach with the ADD Coach Academy and the International Coach Federation. Specialising in ADHD and Creativity, Anna helps talented people like you find ways of being more creatively productive and productively creative.

Get in touch to schedule your complimentary coaching session with Coach Anna.

 

 

 

 

Procrastination : How ADHD Traits Can Derail Productivity for Creative Entrepreneurs

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Procrastination Isn’t Always Intentional: How ADHD Traits Can Derail Productivity For Creative Entrepreneurs.  Part One of a Two Part Blog

Procrastination most likely affects us all at one time or another. My recent search of Amazon yielded over 3000 results for books on the subject. Someone must be reading them! This behaviour of putting things off until a future unspecified time, commonly known as ”procrastination”, probably doesn’t occur on a daily, hourly, or even minute by minute basis for most of us, and it can be particularly poignant for those of us with ADD/ADHD when it does.

Procrastination can be perceived as intentional, i.e. you are aware of putting something off, and unintentional, i.e. it just happens because of the interplay between other factors.

So, what is it about ADD/ADHD that makes the creative entrepreneurs among us with this condition so exceptionally good at procrastinating? Beneath the surface, things are not always what they may seem…

There are quite a few factors that come into play. Here are just a couple.

Working memory:  

Imagine a brain that’s as full of creative ideas as a pan of popcorn with no lid on. Ideas are continually popping into existence, but because the pan has no lid on many of them are escaping.

Then see yourself trying to catch hold of those ideas before they can slip off, because they are great ideas! One minute there you are holding in your mind a fantastic concept for how your whole business could be run more efficiently, and the next minute it has skittered off down a side alley never to be seen again! Have that happen several times a day for years and years of your life and how would you be feeling? How can you start something brilliant that you cannot reliably get a hold of a lot of the time? Devastating!

Or imagine your brain is like a computer that intermittently keeps losing its internet connection. You try going to a website to look something up, you know the information is there, but you cannot reliably access it when you need it. How frustrating is that!

Even if you can recall or keep hold of your ideas, this next trait makes it hard to work on them;

An aversion towards routine:

Suppose you have an inexplicable dread of doing the same things in the same way every day. What would it be like to hate routine? How many things would get put off as a result? ADDers often have a dislike of routine and can even have an aversion to the very word “routine”. Maybe it’s something to do with the need for novelty and stimulation and the fact that things that become boring are painful to the person with ADHD; repeating the same things over and over can literally feel excruciating.

Many of my clients are highly talented in their creative field, yet the thought of e.g. sending regular emails out to their list of potential buyers fills them with inertia. For the creative entrepreneur this can be problematic in that in any business there are a number of routine responsibilities, such as keeping on top of finances, or regular marketing activities, which help the business run smoothly.

If left uncompleted, things begin to pile up, adding psychic stress to the already complex mix of other ADD/ADHD traits. Things like paying bills or submitting tax returns can carry an unpleasant financial penalty if they are not done. The uneasy feeling of potential punishments hanging in the air means the ADD/ ADHD brain is that much more likely to succumb to overwhelm, and grind to a full stop. Procrastination reigns.

The brain saves energy when habits or routines are repeated and they become automatic. The person acquiring these habits will find they are able to complete them faster and easier as time goes on. Yet ADDers often find these tasks so gruelling that they never repeat them the same way for long enough for this to happen. Something usually comes along to knock them off trajectory, something more interesting, and I don’t think to date I have met a person with ADD/ADHD who didn’t have many interests and enthusiasms, past and present.

So, what’s the solution? :  Well, for a start, it can be helpful simply to understand that if something more interesting presents itself at a time that needs to be devoted to something perceived as boring, then the interesting thing will be the one that gets the attention.

Knowing that many routine tasks can get put off by default, can be a guide to where you can direct your energies in building strategies to address these tendencies. For some tips see my blog on How to Tackle the Boring Stuff here

For some this can mean finding ways to capture ideas quickly before they disappear into the Abyss of Forgotten Memories, while for others it might mean strategies to make the Boring become more Interesting.                                                                     

However it occurs, the reality is that putting things off can have dire effects on productivity, and for creative entrepreneurs, every minute counts. Delaying action for whatever reason, is liable to short-circuit your profit margins and your self-esteem if left unchecked.

In Part 2 I’ll be putting some more ADD/ADHD traits under the spotlight and considering how they also can contribute to the complex phenomenon we know as Procrastination.

Anna Schlapp B.A., AACC, ACC, is a certified coach with the ADD Coach Academy and the International Coach Federation. Specialising in ADHD and Creativity, Anna helps talented people like you find ways of being more creatively productive and productively creative.

Get in touch to schedule your complimentary coaching session with Coach Anna.

 

 

Five Supercharged Strategies for ADDers to Tackle the Boring

Five Supercharged Strategies for ADDers to Tackle the Boring Stuff

The ADD/ADHD brain works well with Interesting and hates Boring. Yet we all have those mundane tasks that need to be done on a regular basis, just to keep things ticking smoothly along, and without which, sooner or later, chaos will undoubtedly rear its dishevelled head.

Try these 5 tips:

  1. ADD SOME NOVELTY. Make a boring task more interesting by using novelty, which is highly attractive for people in general, and especially for those of us with ADD/ADHD. Find out some new facts about the thing you are avoiding doing because you find it boring.

For instance, some people have used their love of Nature and the environment to research more natural ways to complete household tasks.

Let’s say you need to clean your kitchen. Take a few minutes to research unusual substances you could use, like vinegar for your counter tops, bicarbonate of soda in your washing machine, or lemon juice to clean and refresh your microwave oven, instead of harsh chemicals that can harm you and the environment. Challenge yourself to see what interesting new facts you can come up with about the tasks you love to hate.

  1. PAIR A BORING ACTIVITY WITH SOMETHING YOU FIND INTERESTING. This works well for fairly physical tasks like preparation, cleaning, clearing up or tidying away; all of which are activities many ADDers find difficulty with summoning up enough interest in to do them at all.

Try putting on some music or listening to a podcast to keep your brain interested and stimulated while you clean your brushes, put papers away, tidy up the files on your computer or in your office, or while you gather your materials together for your next project.

  1. MAKE IT A RITUAL. People have been making up rituals since forever, and guess why they are so popular? Because they work. You get right into it, in some way that appeals to you; become so enthusiastic about doing it that you miss it if it’s not there. Use as many senses to do this as you can think of, smells, tastes, touch, sight, sounds, movement – all of these are stalwarts of ritual. Light a scented candle, say a meaningful and inspirational phrase to yourself, have a special song or piece of music as a part of it, stand up and turn around 3 times, give yourself a hug of appreciation, feel the energy of the universe surround you – whatever it takes for you to get in the zone.

Then use your personal ritual as the springboard you need to begin the THING, yes, that thing you were not doing until recently. Try it – you may just amaze yourself!

  1. MAKE IT FUN There are so many ways to have fun – so why do we not think of them as ways to help get boring stuff done?
  • Do it with a friend
  • Do it to music
  • Think of it as doing something for someone you care about
  • Make it into a game
  • Laugh
  • Dance
  • Sing!
  1. RACE YOURSELF This is great for those types of chores where no sooner have you completed them than they just build up again and are never at an end. Like “painting the Forth Bridge”, a phrase that has passed into common parlance; washing up, laundry, dusting, hoovering, tidying, cleaning, replying to emails or deleting them, are all interminable tasks that many ADDers would therefore rather not contemplate, let alone do. One solution is to make it more exciting by having a race with yourself (or a buddy/pal if possible).

 Those of us with ADHD do really well at focusing in the short term, particularly if we can see when the ending will be, i.e. soon!

Most people find that 5 -10 minutes feels like an acceptable amount of time for them to try doing most things; any longer and those negative connotations spurred on by an active imagination could just scupper any attempt. So, don’t give them a chance – even if you put a timer on for 2 minutes and see how much you can achieve in that time, it’s 2 minutes more than nothing, after all!

Anna Schlapp B.A., AACC, ACC, is a certified coach with the ADD Coach Academy and the International Coach Federation. Specialising in ADHD and Creativity, Anna helps talented people like you find ways of being more creatively productive and productively creative.

Get in touch to schedule your complimentary coaching session with Coach Anna.