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“How I Learned to Stop Procrastinating and Get Stuff Done”

“Accomplishing one easy task may provide the motivation and dopamine kick to try another one. Very soon, your baby steps will grow into a giant step forward.”

Is it really possible for someone with ADHD to get stuff done when procrastination stages a psychological and physical coup?

Diagnosed with inattentive ADHD 30 years ago, I thought I knew all the “best practices” and “ADHD tips” for becoming my best self. Then I attended a class offered by ADHD coach Aron Croft on how to get stuff done when you have ADHD and encountered some new, practical information. Here it is, in a nutshell.

Stop Procrastinating in 3 Steps

1. Be Accountable

The value of accountability — telling someone what you intend to do or recruiting a “body double” (someone to stay nearby while you work on a task) — was not a new concept to me. But I did not appreciate that accountability alone is not enough to get stuff done. We need more than the pressure of other people’s expectations to motivate our ADHD brains.

[Free Download: 18 ADHD-Friendly Ways to Get Things Done]

2. Adopt a Practice Mindset

We also need to adopt a practice mindset, wherein we recognize that we are undertaking a new task or skill where we lack experience but are prepared to spend time learning it. In essence, coming to terms with the idea that we need to practice to improve, as does everyone. We do not benefit anyone by comparing ourselves to people who have done the same task their entire lives. They are experts; we are novices, and that is OK.

We can’t expect to excel immediately at a new skill we just started practicing. Give yourself leeway. Withhold judgment. If you feel discouraged, use these mantras: “This is hard, but I am committed to getting it done” (Remember, accountability?), or “I am practicing a new skill. I can’t expect to be good at it on the first try or even the first several tries, but I will stick with it until it becomes a habit.”

3. Take Baby Steps

To learn a new skill, we must stop procrastinating and start with easy-to-do baby steps. Only take a second step after conquering your first step. For example, a piano teacher wouldn’t expect new students to tackle an entire song immediately. New pianists learn the key names and locations first. Then they practice scales, learning how to depress the keys and transition smoothly from one key to another. This builds muscle memory in their fingers and hands, and so on.

Taking baby steps may feel tedious, but perceiving a task as boring is not an excuse for skipping steps. Once, making egg rolls, I was too impatient to fry up one at a time. Instead, I had three pans simultaneously sizzling with oil. While it made frying egg rolls more exciting, it was totally unmanageable. I burnt several egg rolls; my time and effort went for naught. If I had only taken baby steps….

[Quiz: How Seriously Do You Procrastinate?]

Think of a tiny thing you can do that will make a big difference in your life. For me, it’s putting my credit card back in its “home” in my wallet and placing my keys in my purse. For a friend, it’s getting dressed right away each morning. Accomplishing one easy task may provide the motivation and dopamine kick you need to try another one. Very soon, your baby steps will grow into a giant step forward.

Do you remember playing “Mother, May I?” when you were a child and asking, “Mother, may I take one giant step forward?” Mother would reply, “No, but you may take one baby step forward.”

Remember that game as you start on your journey to get stuff done — one baby step forward at a time.

Stop Procrastinating with ADHD: Next Steps:

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