Motivated to Procrastinate

March 30, 2010 Douglas Cootey

Do you have a difficult time getting things started? Find yourself highly motivated to find something else to do? Are you even aware when you do it? Today we're going to discuss chronic procrastination—one of the hallmarks of adult ADHD.

The number three symptom in Hallowell and Ratey's Diagnostic Criteria for Attention Deficit Disorder in Adults is procrastination.

3. Chronic procrastination or trouble getting started.

Adults with ADHD associate so much anxiety with beginning a task, due to their fears that they won't do it right, that they put it off, and off, which, of course, only adds to the anxiety around the task.

Do you agree with that? I don't entirely.

How I Experience Procrastination

(cc) Douglas CooteyProcrastination, for me, is like a closed door with a pile of old diapers locked away behind it. The closer I get to the door to open and get working, the more I smell the diapers and run off to play behind sweeter doors. Usually these other doors have blinking lights, free WiFi, hours of distraction, and smell like licorice toffee, but that's just me. Perhaps your doors of distraction have other scents and slightly less WiFi.

There is a fair amount of anxiety induced in my mind when contemplating doing a boring task. My mind squirms and wriggles like a worm avoiding the hook. Here is where those without ADHD pipe up and say "But EVERYBODY feels that way when they have to do boring work, typically around 9am every weekday." I won't disagree with them.

However, what Hallowell and Ratey's description of procrastination fails to address for me is the mental discomfort and near-involuntary escape the ADHD mind makes when confronting an unpleasant task. All procrastination is not born of performance anxiety. Mine is generally born of boredom anxiety.

There is a pile on top of my extra fridge. It has been there for months. The fridge is short, so every time I enter the kitchen I see the pile quite clearly and think "Oh! I need to take care of that." Then I grab a bite to eat and return to my computer. Everyday. When prioritizing my daily ToDos, that stupid pile just never manages to earn a high priority for me. I put it off because it will take time, because its complicated and messy, and because it bores me.

Performance Anxiety Can Lead to Procrastination in ADHD Adults

To be fair to Hallowell and Ratey, I do have procrastination born of performance anxiety. I feel that anxiety every time I'm supposed to film a vlog for I will tell myself, "I need to shoot a new vlog for ADDaboy!", and then I'll think "But I look like a fat, splotchy git on a stick. With sprinkles." I might also think, "My teeth! Oh, you tiny slivers of spite rudely spaced to mock me!" I might even think "I'm so awkward on camera, I'm going to put people in therapy with sympathy pains."

Alright. I'm not really that bad, but I do have performance anxiety. I worry that I won't express myself on camera as well as I can on paper. And so I put it off until I feel just right.

Truthfully, everyday folks will have trouble getting unpleasant tasks started. We all procrastinate that which we don't want to do. What sets the ADHD person apart is the chronic nature of the procrastination, and, in my opinion, the fact that most ADHD people experience severe distraction when facing these tasks. The harder the task, the more distractions have sway. The ADHD person may not even realize that they have switched tasks.

To combat this, I utilize ToDo lists and incentives. Motivation is key for everyone to undergo things they'd rather avoid. ADHD people just need to build in more structure to keep them on task. As for that pile of mine, I'm going to mark it high priority, dangit! First thing tomorrow…

What about you? What "motivates" you to procrastinate? Fear of failure? Fear of boredom? Or does something else instantaneously steer you away from what you should be working on?

APA Reference
Cootey, D. (2010, March 30). Motivated to Procrastinate, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Author: Douglas Cootey

August, 15 2019 at 10:30 am

OK, so I get that I am supposed to believe a diagnosis of ADHD. If that is the case, what is the treatment?

Lisa Constable
April, 15 2010 at 1:58 pm

Procrastination?! Huge effect from distractibility! Visual, by things not being in thier place or it just snatches my attention. That's when impulsivity steps into the picture. More procrastination ... Mental, by having a lot to do. I've learned to utilize lists to quiet my racing thoughts. And for big projects I may have to work away from home to get away from the visual distractions. After a diagnosis of adult ADHD in my early 40's, and finally finding the right med....I felt like I had been unleashed into life without the ping-pong game! Projects, simply not interrupting durring conversations, doing a couple chores "and" staying on-task, etc...! The years I felt I had lost to spinning my wheels....I regained a bit by going back to school.
It made me a better parent to my identical twin boys who have ADHD, depression & anxiety (like thier Mom). With one having the added challenge of Opposisional Defience Disorder(from his Dad, also an adult with ADHD). They are 18, graduating from High School and headed for college! So far... no drinking or drugs or crime - I can't believe we made it! Thanks to research & information that was available, I was able to help my boys to succeed. Then, "What about ME & what about my husband?" He wasn't being rude to me all these years!!! He had ADHD & ODD! Good luck to all adults who CAN still get a handle on thier lives!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Douglas Cootey
April, 15 2010 at 2:19 pm

What a wonderful comment! Thanks for sharing it. I find my family doesn’t truly understand ADHD, and constantly mistakes its symptoms for rudeness. They take my flaws personally. I’m glad you folks were able to work things out. Good luck going forward.

April, 2 2010 at 7:36 am

Hi Douglas. I'am dealing with depression, as a matter of fact my Psych told me it is really a disthimia. The thing is I also have some ADD symptoms.
Can you tell me something or provide me with some information adresses about depression and ADD. I'll apreciate it.

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