Ulysses, ADHD and Procrastination

Everyone procrastinates. Everyone. Sometimes there are good reasons to – it allows your subconscious to solve a problem, for example. Sometimes the reasons aren’t so good – it’s not so fun to pay your bills or clean the kitchen. And sometimes procrastinating about something is sending you a message – you really don’t need to hand decorate Christmas cookies for all your neighbors even though that is a nice idea.

Back in October, the New Yorker published a review of a new book “The Thief of Time,” a $65 collection of essays on procrastination. The article, not the book, is 3,500+ words. (That’s 5 single spaced pages in 10 point type!) So instead of sending you over there to read it, we pulled out the best ideas in the article that are worth exploring.

What do people with ADHD need to know about procrastination?

  1. Procrastination is an act of doing something against one’s own better judgment. Just like Kelsey was talking about in last week’s post, Mastering Your Self Control, you know that putting something off will often end up hurting you, but you do it anyway. That’s because the thing we are doing right now (like internet surfing or updating Facebook) is more appealing than the long-term goal that you know is important (ex. researching your term paper or paying your bills.)
  2. Part of the explanation for procrastination lies in our relationship to time.
    –We underestimate how long things will take to complete.
    –We don’t build in contingency time for unforeseen problems.
    –And an added comment for folks with ADHD not covered in the article, we have trouble tracking the passage of time.
  3. Many people who procrastinate are “self-handicappers.” They fear success so they make it impossible to succeed. Frequently people who procrastinate spend excessive time on planning, and are never able to move to implementation and execution.
  4. People who procrastinate often make goals that are too large or open ended so they have trouble seeing how to take smaller, manageable steps toward their goals.

The best part of the article was the recommendations about how to move past procrastination. Instead of thinking about procrastination as something you can overcome by trying harder, you should rely on external tools to help you succeed at your goals. The example the author gave was Ulysses tying himself to the mast so he could sail past the Sirens without crashing his ship on the rocks. The rope was the external tool. Listening to the Sirens without peril was the goal. At Edge we call the external tool a coach.

Think of your ADHD coach as Ulysses’ mast and rope

A coach can give you external accountability so you can stay on track. They might not tie you to the mast, but they will send you email checking in to be sure you are taking small steps each day toward your larger goal. A coach is different from your parents or partner nagging you. Ulysses crew didn’t force him to be tied to the mast – he asked them to do it.

By the way, ADHD Coaching is proven to work at reducing procrastination. Check out this article for more information.

So next time you are putting yourself down or apologizing for procrastinating and letting yourself or someone else down, consider getting an Edge ADHD coach. Trying harder next time won’t fix the problem, but putting in place the external controls and support of an ADHD coach can!

Learn About Edge Executive Function Coaching


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