Procrastivity is part procrastination and part activity. We all know that procrastination is not a good thing. It means putting off things that you know you really should be doing. However, procrastivity is when you “put off” (procrastinate) on what you REALLY should be doing in favor of another activity that also needs to be done but is less brain taxing. Sure, the (less important) task needs to be done and you want to feel some sense of accomplishment – but, should it be the priority? Probably not. You will feel the cost of it later when the real priority is due. For example, doing laundry instead of the taxes.
Do you procrastinate, because….
• You don’t understand what you need to do?
• It is a boring task?
• It is too hard or complex?
• It takes “too much time” or you just don’t know how long it will take?
• It has too many steps?
So instead, Russell Ramsey, Ph.D., notes in his article in Psychology Today, that when you surrender to procrastivity, it may be because the activity is maybe more hands-on, or has a routine to it that you don’t really need to think about. It is often an activity where you can see the progress and know what the end point looks like. For example, you know when the laundry is done but not necessarily how long it will take for the taxes to be done (which usually feels like forever!).
What can help?
It is important that at some time you complete the task that you have been procrastinating on. If you have ADHD it might be when the deadline gets closer and you use that adrenaline/anxiety push to get you through it. But what does that cost you? Stressing yourself out to get something accomplished can have all kinds of serious effects – think stress, high blood pressure, fatigue, lack of sleep, weight gain (from feeding that cortisol monster) etc. That’s a high price! So, what can you do instead?
First of all, be careful what you put on that “to do” list. Make sure that you are listing tasks and not projects. A project is anything with multiple steps. That’s why kids can never “clean their room” because it is really a number of separate things to do and not just one thing. Keep that in mind when you want to write “do taxes” when you really mean, collect documents for taxes. Sure, it might make your list look longer but I would encourage you to only put down 3-5 tasks for the day. The rest of the list can “live” somewhere else and you can pick from it each day but don’t overwhelm yourself by listing everything you wish you could do today.
Ramsey also suggests making the task more manual or action oriented to get started. It may be collecting what you need to start the task and putting them where you will be working. Then decide what the next step should be. Once you get the task rolling you might see that it is not as bad as you thought and you’ll keep working. Be careful though, make sure you know the minimal amount of time you are willing to commit to the task. Then if you go over – hurray! If you don’t – at least you did what you promised yourself. Take pleasure in that.
If you are suffering from overwhelm and feel that you will get to the task after you do “x” or “y”, or when you feel better – I have to tell you it doesn’t work that way. You can’t wait until you feel better or get “x” done – so you should just set a day and time where you will commit to working on it. Then keep that promise.
Getting started or task initiation is one of the executive function skills that those with ADHD find the most challenging. Often the first thing that happens is that the “planning monster” takes over. Creating a long, but beautiful to do list doesn’t help you get to the action piece. It may in fact overwhelm and paralyze you. Breaking it down into its smallest steps and lowering your expectations to completing 3-5 tasks rather than 25 will help you build that action muscle. You might also discover that the feeling of accomplishment helps you complete more.