Procrastination is the tendency to delay and avoid a task that needs to be completed in a timely manner. Everyone procrastinates and it is a normal phenomena, when faced with a task we don’t want to do, many of us will bargain with and put it off until a later date, setting it aside to complete when we feel less overwhelmed with all our responsibilities or when we feel we have the energy to take on the task.
However problems may occur if you find you are putting off tasks again and again, and never getting them to ‘’later’’. This appears to be a common theme in people with ADHD for a variety of reasons. This article discusses why people with ADHD may procrastinate and the impact it can have on their day to day life.
The Relationship between ADHD and Procrastination
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that leads to symptoms of inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. The condition is often diagnosed during childhood, however it is not uncommon for children to go undiagnosed and consequently untreated and continue to suffer with the consequences of poor attention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity. Procrastination is the desire to engage in other activities and acting against your better judgment. It is when you do one thing when you know you should be doing something else, it is a lack of self-control, which prevents you from following through on what you set out to do.
Behavioural psychology research reveals a phenomenon called “time inconsistency”, which refers to the tendency of the human brain to value immediate rewards more highly than future rewards, immediate gratification rather than delayed gratification. Procrastination can be linked to impulsivity and inattention. Impulsivity leads to acting without thinking, and leads to impatience and wanting to do something immediately.
Executive function plays a key role that contributes to procrastination. Executive function is a set of skills that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember and juggle multiple tasks. The prefrontal cortex, or the rational thinking brain, is the key structure responsible for performing executive functions. For people with ADHD, the prefrontal cortex is unregulated, leading to poor decision making, poor problem solving and short term planning.
Factors Contributing to Procrastination in those with ADHD
There are a number of factors that lead to procrastination including disorganisation, getting distracted, forgetfulness, difficulty prioritising and poor time management. In addition, procrastination can result from experiencing frustration or dread on certain tasks, which you may begin to avoid such tasks to avoid the negative feelings.
You may decide to start a particular task and quickly becoming distracted by something else and so the original task become further delayed. Sustaining attention on a particular task can be troublesome in ADHD as the mind can begin to easily wonder or you may become distracted by your external environment. It can be difficult to stay alert and motivated particularly when the task is uninteresting or challenging.
Individuals with ADHD are stuck in the present with immediate gratification and have difficulty in thinking about future goals and rewards. The further away a potential reward, the less those with ADHD are motivated by it, and its not that they don’t understand it is good for them to act sooner rather than later, but they just have trouble motivating themselves for the delayed reward.