Dealing with procrastination is like navigating a funhouse, full of mirrors, floors that spin, and other obstacles. Living with ADHD isn’t so bad, all things considered. . . that is until I do something that requires focus and/or attention. I’m a time blind girl, living in a world that feeds on time like a ravenous beast. So when I’m on MY time? I want to float peacefully on a tide of doing whatever the hell I want and pretending that time doesn’t exist.
That’s right, I’ve been living in an imaginary world of my own free will and volition. I’d invite you to join me, but it isn’t working. Why, do you ask? Well, 1. IT’S IMAGINARY. 2. Pretending time doesn’t exist routinely will screw you over in the long run. Procrastination is not your friend, so let’s learn to beat it.
Back To Reality
My hippie-dippy, spontaneous way of living is cute and all, until I remember that trite, overused, irritating the hell out of me cliche: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Oh, I HATE that phrase! Because I hate to fail. I ALSO hate to plan. Living with ADHD is a whole case study in what happens when you fail to plan. Learn to plan, or live with procrastination, there is not a lot of gray areas here.
Unfortunately, reality has seeped through the cracks of my imagination and I am learning that the aforementioned crappy phrase is true, like many worn out truisms are.
I have to stop with the procrastination and learn how to plan.
Neurotypicals are having fun, and it isn’t fair
I love to be rebellious and live my life confident in the knowledge that the neurotypical are not enjoying their lives as much as they think they are. Though I know better, I compare myself to the neurotypical often. The thing is, I’m not so confident that they aren’t enjoying themselves hugely. With their ability to focus, self-regulate, and show up places on time, who wants to think they’re actually having fun too? The thought is maddening!
Despite my resentment of neurotypical fun, I’m realizing that making plans, sometimes even (dare I say it?) well in advance (oh, I dared) gives me a chance to enjoy life in a new way. Oh, don’t let the spontaneity fool you: I’m not using my spontaneous time to go on wilderness hikes, or watch stars, or learn basket weaving . . .
I’m sitting on my ass at home hiding away from the exhausting amount of stimulation that’s out there in the real world. Living in the real world with ADHD can sometimes feel like running through the outdoors with no shoes on. You’re unprotected, everything is prodding you all at once, and some of it hurts you. I said all that to say that I require more than the average person’s downtime, as the everyday challenges of life can occasionally flatten me. Being exhausted leads to more tangos with procrastination, and my dance card is full.
If you don’t plan, you’ll miss out or stress out
The problem is, that planning can lead to enjoyable experiences, including those that involve neither Netflix nor chill. If you refuse to get better at planning, you’re going to miss out or stress out. Stress out how? Ummm, let’s cite the vacations you’ve gone on because you weren’t prepared financially, you didn’t pack what you needed, and you had no idea what you wanted to do when you got there. Were you stressed? I sure as hell was.
Living with ADHD is hard enough. Learning to plan isn’t easy, but the amount of joy that learning to plan is going to give you can help make it better. Procrastination is familiar but it comes at the expense of life experiences you could be enjoying.
Planning is painful.
You hate it.
I understand, but we all have to do it, it’s how life works (at least I THINK it works like that. Hmm. . . )
Why You Suck At Planning 101
An overwhelming amount of people living with ADHD suck at planning. Life without a plan is overwhelming. Being overwhelmed leads us to procrastination land. Procrastination leads to more overwhelm. Do you see the problem here?
So . . . welcome to the club! It isn’t the most stimulating pastime in the world, and people living with ADHD crave stimulation. Let’s break down the reasons why you suck at planning.
Lack of executive function is kicking your ass- According to Harvard, “Executive function and self-regulation skills are the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. Just as an air traffic control system at a busy airport safely manages the arrivals and departures of many aircraft on multiple runways, the brain needs this skill set to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses”. (Confession: I was totally going to give you the Wikipedia definition but I’m trying to class the joint up)
Planning requires a little of all of those functions. People living with ADHD? We have crappy executive functioning skills. Lack of executive function turns an easy plan complicated and frustrating. Don’t be discouraged! With practice, you can improve your executive function. . . and no, you cannot practice away your ADHD . . . nice try. Would you really want to get rid of it anyway?
Your instincts won’t help you here– Because we lack the aforementioned executive function, we struggle with having to quantify certain important things, like “how much time do I need to make it through O’hare?” properly. Our instincts, which guide us through many a social faux pas, cannot help us here.
Here’s what can help: take however much time you THINK something will take and add additional time to the task as insurance. Do the same with everything else: how much money, how much clothing. Part of being well prepared is expecting the unexpected. People living with ADHD? We often plan for the best. Our procrastination is often borne by the idea that things will flow smoothly.
Do not go with your gut here guys, it is going to steer you all wrong. And if you’ve ever been to O’hare, you ought to know it takes a lifetime to get through there, anyway. . . but I digress.
Planning is a skill you’ll always have to work on- Because we see people who are not living with ADHD plan things, it looks effortless to us. Remember, those people have normal executive functions, so it actually DOES come naturally to them.
For you, planning is a skill you will have to work at.
We can’t cure our ADHD, but we sure can learn about how to ditch procrastination and learn to plan. Learning to prepare and make plans is a skill. Go read a book, hit my blog or someone else’s, and see how you can become someone who makes plans and keeps them.
How to stop sucking at planning
Create a vision of you executing the plan, and don’t lose it – I know we lose stuff, but don’t lose this: your vision. Picture what you want to accomplish visually, and if you need some help remembering, write your vision down or make a note of it on your phone. Visualization comes in handy when you’re creating a plan, and for people living with ADHD, it can be a big game changer.
Dry runs will help you prepare- Are you planning on going somewhere you’ve never been? If it is nearby, make a trip there so you can get a feel for the commute. If you’re using new software, test it before you use it the first time. Although it can feel like a waste of time, what preparation actually does is let’s you ensure your plan goes . . . well, as planned. If you’ve ever tried planning with ADHD, you know that things rarely go as planned. That’s often because we miss the fine details that a dry run could reveal to us. Bonus? You can do a dry run anytime, so don’t feel constrained by “normal” hours.
Pace yourself to beat hyperfocus- I truly believe that for many of us, our mental blockade with planning and procrastination often can be blamed on hyperfocus. Hyperfocus takes all of your attention and places it on one thing, and you become obsessed with it. That’s because newness is stimulating to the ADHD brain. Our brains crave stimulation above all else. Like a brand new love, you neglect the other parts of your life and work on this new passion tirelessly. Then, as if by magic, your brain no longer finds the passion project stimulating, making it impossible to work on. Pace yourself to ensure that you don’t burn yourself on a stimulation high.
Don’t lose heart: As you see results, you’ll begin to value planning. You may never learn to love planning, but it’s your best strategy for living a slightly more peaceful life. What’s your never fail planning tip? Tell me all about it in the comments!
Until next time,