Procrastination is a common human experience that we’re all prone to. As children, we put off doing chores and homework even though we might get in trouble. As adults, procrastination can affect us at work, home, in our personal lives and even our health and finances. It can take the form of putting of daily tasks (like washing the dishes) for a short period of time, or putting off bigger tasks (like getting a check-up at the doctor) over a longer period of time.
Even the most hardworking, organized and disciplined people struggle with procrastination because it has very little to do with laziness, poor time management or a lack of discipline. Procrastination is simply an unhealthy coping mechanism used to handle difficult emotions or situations. Identifying the reason for your procrastination is the first step to getting back on track with the things you want to do.
If procrastination is a habitual part of your life or you’ve been procrastinating for an abnormally long time, it can be described as chronic. This is a common issue for people with ADHD and other mental health concerns. Key indicators can be a habit of being late for meetings or missing deadlines. It can also show up as putting things off in multiple areas of your life – at work, at home, in relationships, etc.
When procrastination begins to negatively affect your mental or physical health, your finances or your relationships, you may wish to start working with a therapist. This can help you to uncover the reasons for your procrastination, adjust your mindset and take the first step towards achieving your goals.
Here are four of the most common causes of procrastination.
1. Perfectionism and Procrastination
Perfectionism can show up in different ways. You may be waiting for the “perfect” time to do something, even though there will never be such a time. You may be so desirous of a perfect outcome that you spend excessive amounts of time in the planning phase, but the actual task is being put off. Perfectionists are prone to all or nothing thinking, where something is either perfect or terrible, with no in-between. Quite often, they will procrastinate because they fear they will be unable to meet the unreasonable standards they set for themselves. They won’t be able to do it perfectly, so they avoid doing it at all.
If this feels familiar, remind yourself that done is better than perfect. Embrace the concept of “good enough” and lower your unreasonable standards. It doesn’t need to be perfect. It just needs to be good enough. A slightly flawed completed task is better than one you’ve been putting off because it needs to be flawless.
2. Fear of Failure
Fear of failure is one of the most common causes of procrastination. When we are afraid of a negative outcome, we will naturally try to avoid it. When you put off a task, you are trying to delay the failure that becomes a possibility once the task is complete. By changing your attitude towards failure, you may be able to break the procrastination habit. Remind yourself that every successful person has faced significant setbacks and losses along the way. Failure represents a unique learning opportunity. With the knowledge you gained from a failure, you’ll have a better chance of success next time around.
3. Lack of Resources or Information
Another common reason for procrastination is simply feeling that you are ill-equipped to handle a task. Maybe you don’t have sufficient information or you find the task confusing. When we don’t know how to begin a task, it’s easy to keep putting it off. By gaining clarity, we feel a lot more confident in our ability to perform.
If you’re procrastinating because of a lack of clarity (such as not knowing the process to do something or how to access the tools you need), make it a priority to seek information. For example, many people delay planning for retirement because they think it’s too complicated or expensive. By making just one phone call, you’ll find out that it’s a lot easier than you think. Do your research and ask questions to ensure you have all the information you need to confidently get started.
4. Low Self-Esteem and procrastination
Low self-esteem can lead to procrastination when we doubt our ability to perform. If we believe that we aren’t competent, intelligent or skilled enough to do something, it makes sense that we would avoid that thing. By not facing the task, we don’t have to feel the difficult and unpleasant emotional effects of low self-esteem.
Building healthy self-esteem is a continuous process of changing the way your feel about yourself. An effective way of doing that is by providing yourself with evidence of your worth. By starting and completing a task, you’re showing yourself that you have a lot to be proud of.
Strategies for Reducing Procrastination
It’s normal to procrastinate from time to time. First, ask yourself if you genuinely need a break and if so, give yourself guilt-free permission to relax. Burnout can lead to a lack of motivation or energy and can make it difficult to start or finish tasks. Rest is an important element of productivity, since we need to be well rested to do our best work. If you don’t need to rest, try to devise a strategy to start. Starting is the hardest part and a task begins to feel more manageable once we’ve gotten over that first hurdle.
Taking a small first step is often all that we need to get the momentum going. If you’ve been putting off cleaning your home, try starting with just one corner or one sink. Set a timer for five minutes and pick up as many items as possible. If you feel like stopping after completing your small step, it’s okay to do that. Quite often, we want to continue once we’ve gotten started. If you feel motivated to keep going, go for it!
Working with a therapist is an excellent way to address your procrastination. You’ll have professional guidance as you discover the causes of this habit and how it may be linked to your mental health or past experiences. Using CBT or other techniques, a therapist can also help you to improve your mindset about perfectionism, failure and your views on yourself and your work.
If you’ve been scrolling through TikTok within the last few weeks, you may have noticed the sudden increase in content creators talking about ADHD. The conversation around neurodiversity has spilled over onto other social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter, too. Many people with ADHD are speaking up about their experiences, in an effort to spread information and normalize the disorder.
Public awareness of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder has seen a huge increase in recent years. These days, it’s common knowledge that ADHD doesn’t only affect children. There’s plenty of research into adult ADHD and how it affects everything from finances to relationships. It’s no surprise that the millennial and Gen Z populations are speaking up about it on social media.
Videos with the #adhd hashtag on TikTok have received over 2 billion views, with others like #adhdsquad and #adhdcheck receiving hundreds of millions of views. Popular themes for videos include “things I didn’t know were ADHD related” “a day in my life with ADHD” and “tips for managing ADHD.” A scroll through the comments will reveal thousands of people saying “this is so relatable!” and “omg do I have ADHD too?”
Maybe you’ve heard your friends talking about ADHD recently. Maybe you’ve wondered if you may have it, too. Why has there been such an increase in these conversations? How can you get help if you suspect you may have ADHD?
Why the Sudden Increase?
You may be wondering why everyone is talking about ADHD all of a sudden. A good guess is that the pandemic has something to do with it. Over the past year, we have all experienced significant shifts in our daily routines and structures. This lack of structure raises especially difficult challenges for neurodivergent people. While it may have been easier to manage the disorder pre-pandemic, many people with ADHD are finding it difficult or impossible to meet their obligations right now.
The pandemic represents a moment of reckoning for many people. These unprecedented challenges may cause you to realize things about yourself that were not so obvious before.
It’s not just ADHD. Content creators are speaking up about everything from borderline personality disorder to bipolar disorder. It can be tempting to self-diagnose when you identify with a blog post or video about mental illness. You may be wondering what to do if you suspect that you may have ADHD, bipolar disorder or another mental illness.
The Danger of Self-Diagnosis
Self-diagnosis can sometimes be an important step in getting the help you need. For many people, self-diagnosis prompts a visit to a professional who can make an official diagnosis. It’s very common to visit a mental health professional because you already have a suspicion about a particular disorder. You can then visit a psychologist to discuss your suspicions so you can get a professional opinion.
In all of this, it’s important to remember that a “self-diagnosis” is merely a suspicion. A true diagnosis can only be made by a trained and qualified professional.
Self-diagnosis is dangerous when you do not confirm your suspicions with a professional. If you believe that you have a particular diagnosis, you may be tempted to self-treat with over-the-counter medication, a change in diet or some other behavior. Doing this without a doctor’s recommendation can have serious consequences. Self-diagnosis can also wreak havoc on your mental health by increasing your anxiety. It’s easy to get lost in the Internet rabbit hole, leading to information overload or a feeling of doom.
There is also the risk of confirmation bias. You may already be so convinced that you have a particular disorder, so you start to identify with every symptom you see. A professional is able to be much more objective and nuanced when making an assessment.
Getting an official diagnosis is the only way to access an effective, proven treatment plan for ADHD or any other disorder.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for ADHD
The most common treatment plan for ADHD is a combination of medication and talk therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is especially effective in adults with ADHD. Many people with the disorder face frustrating setbacks at work, with their finances and life in general. Unmanaged ADHD can manifest in missed deadlines, chronic procrastination, late payments and an untidy home. Over time, people with ADHD can start to see themselves as lazy, unproductive or slow. This could not be further from the truth. People with ADHD have unique challenges not faced by neurotypical people. When equipped with the necessary knowledge and tools, they can thrive in any environment.
Because of these setbacks and frustrations, adults with ADHD are often self-critical and pessimistic. Negative thought patterns, cognitive distortions and low self-esteem are extremely common. People with ADHD often experience feelings of failure or like they “never get anything right.” These demoralizing thoughts can prevent you from being happy and reaching your true potential. In this way, ADHD and depression are often comorbid, meaning you experience both at the same time.
Medication will treat the neurological aspects of ADHD. Talk therapy helps you to manage the difficult thoughts and emotions that come along with ADHD. You will learn how to challenge these negative thought patterns, many of which may have been with you since childhood.
CBT also provides practical skills and strategies for managing ADHD. You may notice improvement in daily challenges like time management and procrastination. During a session of CBT, you may be asked to consider the thoughts and emotions you have around a certain task. Maybe you will realize that you are procrastinating because of a cognitive distortion. For example, with “all or nothing thinking” it’s easy to believe that you can either be perfect or a failure and there is no in-between. You delay starting a task because you fear you will not be able to do it perfectly. Getting to the root of your procrastination is a crucial step in overcoming it.
If you suspect you may have ADHD or any other mental disorder, contact us for a free consultation. Our client services assistant will schedule your first therapy appointment. You’ll be well on your way to an official diagnosis and a treatment plan that best meets your needs.