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“How to Get Started: 5 Ways I Overcame Chronic Procrastination”

Struggling to get started on that overwhelming task or project? Here are some of my favorite tricks – from baiting yourself to looking for an easy way in – to overcome hurdles and combat chronic procrastination.

Group of children photographed from above on various painted tarmac surface at sunset
Credit: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Like the neighborhood bully, that tormenting task taunts you week after week from the top of your to-do list. You want to vanquish it, but you can’t – and you’re not sure why. Advice to “just do it” or break down the task into smaller chunks doesn’t help. The tormentor remains — amassing energy with everything else you’ve put off – until something finally breaks. The cycle of chronic procrastination and overwhelm continues.

If you struggle with initiating tasks, remember to simply “BEGIN” – a handy acronym I use with my ADHD clients to help them get started.

How to Get Started: 5 Steps to Overcome Chronic Procrastination

1. Bait yourself with something enjoyable. Try to connect positive experiences to arduous tasks. Turn on a favorite playlist when you start cleaning your room. Light a scented candle when you sit down to do paperwork. Enjoy a candy treat as you dry the dishes.

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2. Enlist someone to hold you accountable. Tell your friend/spouse/family member when you plan to start your project. Then agree on a check-in time when you will report your progress. Be honest with your accountability partner and notice how it feels to discuss your successes and disappointments. Tap into those feelings the next time you stare down a hard task. Ask yourself, “Do I want to tell them that I was successful or not?”

3. Grab the easy parts of the chore. ADHD brains sometimes struggle to conjure motivation, and nothing quashes motivation like focusing on the most challenging aspects of a task. Before you convince yourself that you’re incapable of doing what’s in front of you, focus on the components of the job you are confident you can do, no matter how small, and start with those items. Lead with what you can do, not what you think you can’t, to chip away at the task and make accomplishing it more manageable.

4. Intend for 10 minutes. Grant yourself just 10 honest minutes to work. Any time spent on the task is better than no time, and 10 minutes may be all you need to overcome the initiation hurdle. Once the timer goes off, you may be so impressed by your accomplishments that you are motivated to continue.

5. Note the streak. Use a tracking system — a streak-tracking app, a chart, or a journal — to record your progress on a task and collect virtual prizes or accolades. Then challenge yourself to keep it going. You may find that keeping track of your streak helps you develop the habit of starting tasks rather than avoiding them.

How to Get Started: Next Steps


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