Adult Blogs

“How I Learned to Stop Procrastinating — and Start Getting Things Done”

“Sometimes our procrastination takes the form of magical thinking, where we imagine that we did a task we hadn’t. I’m often surprised when I notice the unmade bed in my bedroom. ‘Strange,’ I’ll think. ‘I thought I made it this morning!’”

procrastination, trouble getting started
Working Time Management Concept. Man Drinking Coffee Break. Sandglass Running Clock Cash Money Symbol Vector Illustration. Employee Efficiency Worker Productivity Optimization. Procrastination Delay

This past winter, I returned home exhausted after a full day of cross-country skiing and muttered one of the most damaging phrases in my vocabulary: “I’ll do it later.”

I typically store my ski boots and ski clothing in the basement. But I was so tired and worn out that the last thing I wanted to do was trek down the basement stairs to stow away my gear.

Then I caught myself. Whenever possible, as much as I dislike a task, I do it now, not later, even if it means forcing myself to do the dreaded task.

How often do we procrastinate and say, “I’ll do it later,” when we really have time to do it now?

Why It’s Hard to Stop Procrastinating

Many people with ADHD don’t know how to stop procrastinating. We find it challenging to complete numerous mundane and monotonous tasks, such as folding laundry, matching socks, paying bills, filing papers, opening mail, and so on. It’s easy to convince ourselves to tackle them at another time.

[Self-Test: How Seriously Do You Procrastinate?]

We may say, “I’ll do it later,” when we don’t want to do something at that moment — but we don’t want to do it later, either. We just don’t want to do it! We wish the task would mysteriously and magically go away. Sometimes we even convince ourselves that a task has gone away.

Stop Procrastinating with Magical Thinking

Sometimes our procrastination takes the form of magical thinking, where we imagine that we did a task we hadn’t. I’m often surprised when I notice the unmade bed in my bedroom. “That’s strange,” I’ll think. “I thought I made it this morning!”

Other times I leave a task for later, return, and the task is still waiting for me. I am surprised it wasn’t automagically done!

After living with ADHD for 78 years, I’ve learned that if I need to get things done — like cleaning the kitchen — I was the one who needed to do it. I couldn’t magically summon a housekeeping robot to rescue me. Procrastinating can make a simple chore more complicated and harder to finish because a part got lost, instructions were misplaced, paint drippings dried, damp laundry got smelly, or weeds overwhelmed the yard…

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

Then I wonder why I didn’t just do the task when it first needed to be completed.

Change the Two-Minute Rule

In the book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, author David Allen describes a “two-minute rule” that says this: If an action takes less than two minutes, do it now. For people with ADHD, this “two-minute rule” should be modified to a “five-minute rule” to save us untold time and frustration because it will take us much longer to re-engage in a task we didn’t complete the first time.

In other words, don’t “do it later.” Get it done now!

How to Stop Procrastinating with ADHD: Next Steps

Thank you for reading ADDitude. To support our mission of providing ADHD education and support, please consider subscribing. Your readership and support help make our content and outreach possible. Thank you.