“Take the First Sloppy Step”
Do you find yourself always putting tasks off until the last minute? Stop letting procrastination cause unnecessary stress, and learn why avoiding negative talk, taking things one step at a time, and simply beginning can help.
Reviewed on January 9, 2019
If you have ADHD, you’ve probably noticed that you procrastinate more than others. Such behavior can cause problems in personal relationships and those at the workplace. When we fail to complete tasks on time, others see it as a sign of disrespect, incompetence, or laziness.
Because ADHD procrastination is essentially a mind-set, cognitive-behavior techniques can help even chronic procrastinators break the habit. If you’ve been putting something off for days (or months), try the following ADHD time-management tips.
1. Do Something Fun First
Many people with ADHD find it helpful to do something they love first as a way to get in the mood to do less enjoyable tasks.
Any stimulating activity you enjoy will do the trick. Some people with ADHD play basketball or computer games. Others dance or take a bubble bath. Set a timer for 20 minutes to make sure you don’t get so absorbed in the fun activity that you forget to do the necessary one.
2. Create the Right Work Environment
People who have ADHD often are most productive in unconventional surroundings. Instead of wearing earplugs to ensure silence, you may find that you get more done when listening to loud music.
If you work best under pressure, but still turn in projects late or exhaust yourself by pulling all-nighters, set your own deadline for completing portions of the project. This way, you can still work under pressure to finish each portion “on time.”
Do it: If you’re taking ADHD medication, it’s generally best to schedule difficult tasks for times when your symptoms are fully covered.
3. Don’t Beat Yourself Up
What we silently say to ourselves about doing the task at hand has a strong impact on how (or whether) we do it. Avoid negative self-talk, and send yourself positive, realistic messages.
Instead of saying, “This will take forever, and it’s so late already…” substitute “I might not be able to finish this today, but I can do the first two steps within the next 30 minutes.”
The messages you send yourself when you complete a task can be powerful deterrents to future procrastination. They can also diminish the guilt that procrastinators often feel about having missed appointments in the past or having turned in work that doesn’t measure up to their ability.
4. Just Do It
Just starting a task – even if it’s begun poorly – makes it easier to follow through. Next time you find yourself avoiding something, take a “first sloppy step.”
If you need to write something, for example, start by typing random letters on the page. It is gibberish, but at least you will no longer be looking at a blank page.
5. Take One Step at a Time
Break large tasks into pieces. The smaller steps aren’t as intimidating and facilitate getting started. If a project can’t be completed piecemeal over several days, keep up your momentum by focusing only on the next doable step. Write this step on a sticky note and post it within your line of sight.
Put on your blinders and focus on this one step rather than on the task as a whole. When that’s done, move on to the next step in the same manner. Before you know it, you’ll be done.
Try it: If you need external pressure to stick to a task, enlist a body double – someone who will sit with you quietly while you’re working on a boring chore.