by Liz Ahmann, ScD, RN, ACC AD/HD and Wellness Coach
Always doing things at the last possible moment? You are not alone! Many people with AD/HD have trouble getting started on tasks — whether homework, chores, or job responsibilities.
If trouble getting started on things is stressing you, some practical strategies for getting started on tasks can be very beneficial. (Note: For some people, discussing the issue with their doctor can also lead to a helpful medication adjustment.)
Try these steps to get a long-avoided task off of your to-do list. Choose a task that you’ve had difficulty getting started on. (Don’t pick the most difficult task on your list!)
1. Evaluate it – Maybe you’re avoiding the task because someone else thinks you should do it. Ask yourself if the task is something you really value. Avoidance is sometimes due to resisting tasks that others think we should do.
2. Imagine it – Visualizing yourself doing a task makes it more real and is a way of practicing the task as a first step.
3. Chunk it! Break your task down into small, concrete steps.
4. Make it a specific action item – instead of “work on garage clean-up” – divide it up into tasks such as “gather items to take to the landfill”
5. Schedule it – Tasks that are scheduled at a specific time are more likely to get done.
6. Remind yourself – put the task on your day-planner; set up post-it note reminders; setup a reminder you can’t ignore, such as a large container by the garage door in which you plan to collect items for the landfill.
7. Be accountable to someone – you’re more likely to complete a task you’ve been avoiding if you tell someone else you’re going to do it and then report to them when it’s done.
8. Problem-solve if you keep avoiding – If you’ve done all of the above and you’re still not getting started, look for what’s getting in your way. Maybe you’ve scheduled it for the wrong time of day. Maybe the “chunk” is too large.
9. Get support – we’re more likely to do an activity we’ve been avoiding if we have company while we do it
10. Reward yourself! Schedule a specific reward after each small chunk that is successfully completed – for example, watching your favorite TV show.
Be patient with yourself. And get the support you need to succeed. Consider working with an ADD coach as you begin to tackle your procrastination habit.