Any Tips for Overcoming "Anticipatory" Task Avoidance?

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    • #114607

      Hey friends. AS ADHD-ers, I’m sure you are all familiar with your own task-avoidant behaviors. I have been reading about task avoidance and task switching, and I’ve come to realize that “anticipatory” task avoidance is something that I really struggle with. I would like some fellow ADHD-er input on how to overcome these behaviors.

      I have a very specific behavior that I have been plagued with my entire life, but I am somehow just starting to become aware of. I’m going to try to explain this as best as I can.

      Here’s the scenario:
      The whole process of moving has always been one of the most difficult things for me. It generally results in me just throwing literally everything left unpacked into random boxes, because the frustration is just too much and not worth the mental fatigue.

      I’m in the new house, and I have tasks A, B, C, and D that I really want to finish today so that I can finally get back to “normalcy.”
      A. Pack “cold weather” clothes and put them in the attic [tried to do this before moving, but I broke and just threw everything in my closet into boxes]
      B. Unpack boxes of audio equipment for new studio room.
      C. Finish organizing new storage shelves.
      D. Make space on my computer / move files to external hard drive.

      HOWEVER, at some point between 4 and 6PM, someone is coming by to pick up a sofa that they are buying from me. I’ll call this [e]

      If I have an expected interruption at a variable time, like [e], it almost impossible to not only start my tasks, but to also maintain momentum and focus once I have started. I may start just running around in circles: doing parts of the tasks listed only to feel totally drained part-way through, and then starting random mini-tasks like washing dishes, making my bed, etc.

      I’ve always known this about myself (I guess), but I’ve just now realized that this behavior has some underlying reason:

      If I know that at ~some point~ I am going to be interrupted or distracted by [e], the tasks [A,B,C,D] become INCREDIBLY more difficult and draining than they should be. Once [e] is out of the way, I can actually get through A,B,C,D.

      Is this specific type of “avoidance” or “procrastination” familiar to anyone else? Do you think that my brain is unconsciously justifying further procrastination, or do you think that my ADHD brain *refuses* to engage because it knows that it will be interrupted by a distraction at ~some point~. Or, are these two questions really one in the same?

      If you find yourself doing this and have any advice on how you overcome this obstacle, pleaaaase share your wisdom with me. I have come a long way in this game of tug-of-war with my brain, but this is one scenario that my brain seems to be REALLY good at resisting my intentions.

    • #114961

      Hi, I took a few months to pack before I moved house. I think it’s easier if you allocate some time to it and don’t tell yourself you have heaps to do.
      After each task, I’d go to the toilet or drink water.

      I wrote in my notebook how many boxes that are humanly possible to move and fit into the spaces around my house.

      1 box – clothes I wear
      1 box – winter clothes and misc I seldomuse
      1 box – books
      1 haversack – laptop, etc
      1x guitalele
      3 boxes – kitchenware (to be honest, we hardly used most of them)

      I would label the boxes and line them up. Anything that doesn’t fit in goes. Either donate, give away or throw.

      For example,
      A) winter clothes – 30min. I had to pull them out of different parts of my wardrobe, organize them by what I need and don’t.

      B) unpacking – eg 1 hour for audio equipment

      C) organize storage shelves–I’d spend 15 min sketching what goes where before I pack, so when u unpack, this block (stack of books in a bag, labeled shelf1) goes to shelf 1 and the actual moving is easy because I’m just following my plan. My room was much smaller than my old place so I refuse to spend time agonizing how to fit it in.

      D) I struggled with the data move too, because I had so many folders.

      It’s easier if you move the most important ones first before you get distracted by listening to things in your sound library. I spent an hour distracted by my music haha.

      So i just take a look at what I have, then rename folders like 1- school stuff, 2- music. I couldn’t fit my music collection in my external hard disc drive, so I just kept the ones I really liked. Unfortunately I realized I liked only a few songs from some soundtracks so I just kept those.

      If for example you have 10gb of data in your laptop and 15gb of space in your hard drive, just move everything and settle it after the physical move of your stuff.

      E) if someone is going to collect something, maybe try to finish the other tasks before that. I packed everything before the piano guy came to collect my piano, otherwise he can’t move it out of my room. If something else crop up, don’t stress it, if it can be done later, just be honest and tell them what you need to do first.

      If it gets too tiring, take a break.. Sometimes moving takes more time and effort than we think especially when you dig out things you haven’t seen in a while and wonder what to do with it. But the key thing is whether you will use it after moving. I

    • #114974
      iix ADHD iix

      How to beat it? I like to take an approach like this:

      Here’s what I’m doing, here’s how I’m going to do it, here’s what I will do to complete it, and I will have it done by this time. Nothing else will matter to me during that time. If the world is on fire and my dog is dying and there are 20 snipers outside my window scoped in on me, I’m still going to do this set of tasks A to B to C to get this task #1 done in this way and nothing else is going to happen but that.

      *You gotta talk yourself into it like that and that’s just an example of how I was trying to use humor to basically say that you should almost pretend to forget the other tasks and just get in a comfortable area where you can work that you can do only the task you are wanting to do. Do just that task and that task alone.

      Just eat and go the bathroom and stuff beforehand before doing the task and have water with you so you don’t have to walk to another room or get up and get distracted.

    • #115443

      Oh my gosh. Thank you! I totally feel this way too! If I have one “planned” event happening in a day I can hardly do anything else until that thing is over. It doesn’t even have to be an event I am dreading. It is like my brain devotes all its attention to that planned task. For instance, say I had a doctor’s appointment at 3 p.m. My brain would “handle” that appointment by focusing all its energy on it. Then, when I get home I either feel like you said, “finally that is over and I can get something else done” or wiped out from anticipating that small task all day long.

      Similar to you I have known this about myself but hadn’t really thought through it until I read this, so thank you for sharing. Here is what I am thinking:

      1. My brain goes into overdrive trying to not forget the one thing actually externally scheduled in my day.

      2. I may feel that “external” plans involving other people are more concrete or important than my personal plans for the day because I can’t take myself seriously as a task manager.

      3. Maybe it is a simple case of hyper focus that is agitating because you can’t take any action on it when it is time bound. If I were in your situation with the couch, I would spend all morning doing worthless things to get the couch ready to go. I just did this with a bed set I sold. Instead of leaving it in the garage where it was already very accessible, I pulled it to the driveway. I could not stop thinking about that dang bed set until it was picked up and the object of my hyper focus was “completed”.

      4. Being time blind makes every task omnipresent. While I ‘know’ that thing won’t be happening for several hours and won’t take long, my brain cannot disengage because a day is not exactly morning, afternoon, night, but, rather ‘today’.

      5. I also get completely overwhelmed if I have more than 1 of those little plans in my day. If have an appointment on the same day as a game night with friends, my brain gets stuck. Like, oh Thursday I can’t play games because I have an appointment that morning. It is totally illogical.

      6. It’s not even just with appointments, it’s with mindsets too. For instance, when I was pregnant, my brain was constantly telling me that “being pregnant” was all it could handle so the rest of your life had better just freeze until these 9 months are over.

      7. I guess my conclusion is that my brain is constantly overrun with input in cannot filter out. When you tell it to hold on to information, it cannot file the information away for use later, so it keeps it right in the forefront for you until it is over. Also, hyper focus feels good, so my brain is looking for any target to avoid the nebulous uncertainty of confronting anything else that isn’t already structured out for me.

      Wish I could offer advice. Just know I am right there with you. Thank you for talking about it because you really helped me come to some personal realizations.

    • #115553

      OMG – I have this exact same problem! It gets in the way of my work frequently, because most of my work is from at home. But if I have an event during the day, say at 2pm, I just can’t bring myself to do anything before. And while sometimes I can do stuff after, it typically takes me a long time to settle in and get started. The main thing I try to do is schedule everything for either before 11 am or after 5pm. Sometimes if the task is late in the evening I can get in a bit of work before, and if it is early in the morning I have time to recover. I just started taking add meds and I will see if it helps. They are already helping a lot with focus…I’m just hoping that doesn’t change. It is so crazy to have gone my whole life and like you not really knowing all the abnormal things I do can be explained.

    • #122306

      G’day. Only recently found out I had add (at 40) and this is something I’ve always struggled with.
      On the surface I’ll know that it’s unrealistic that I can’t start anything at 10 because I have to pick the kids up at 2 but my brain refuses to accept that fact.
      I think part of it is the subconscious knowledge that once I start something I’ll almost certainly bounce onto at least 3 other things before that task gets finished.
      I’ve taken to consciously telling myself “You’ve got 2 hours, you can get a lot done in two hours” and trying to derail my thought process that way.
      It doesn’t always get the job at hand done, but it does usually help me get started.

    • #137676

      ME TOO !!

      I’m sorry to say that I have no help to offer. This thing you guys are describing is probably the most frustrating and entire-day-ruining aspect of ADHD/anxiety for me. Reading all of your descriptions of the experience feels like you’re inside my own brain explaining something that I have never been able to adequately communicate to others (which can make me feel crazy sometimes!) It has driven me bananas for years. You know when you’re in a car and the driver stops short and the seat belt locks across your chest as your body lurches forward? When I have something scheduled (no matter how tiny), until that thing is done, it’s like my brain is getting whiplash from that seatbelt every time I try to make a move. Sometimes my muscles actually feel physically stuck if it’s a high anxiety kind of day. Anyway, I think the validation I just experienced from you guys has helped me more than anything else. So thanks for that :]

    • #137682

      Yes. I think IIX’s approach is good. I’m going to work on trying that.

      Good luck to you! I know it’s tough. You are not alone!

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