Freelancing with ADHDAugust 3, 2022
We all know the feeling: There is a long list of things you “should” be doing – write content, market your small business, or finally clean up those messy collections of stuff in your home, but there never seems to be enough time. As the list of postponed to-do’s keeps growing, it is difficult to know where to start. Sometimes it even seems easier to accept another urgent project instead.
If procrastination has been a challenge for you for a while, you’ve likely heard countless lectures about managing your time and daydreaming. You’ve read advice about getting up earlier, eating frogs, and entering tasks into apps – but you’re still struggling to finish the things you really want to do.
That’s because procrastination is not about time, it is about managing your emotions and your thoughts about specific tasks. The approaches we find to handle complex tasks are driven by our inner dialog. If you live in a doom loop of half-finished projects and great ideas that tend to fizzle out, here are three starting points for changing this unproductive dialog to create a more positive perspective:
- Having what it takes: Procrastination can be rooted in the sense that more preparation is required before you can get started on the actual task at hand. I often hear from my clients that they need to do more research or acquire more skills/another qualification before they can compete on a level playing field. The best way to break out of this endless holding pattern is to look at the resources you have at your disposal now. Shifting from “I am not [x] enough” to “I have all the tools I need to…” offers an opportunity to find a useful first action step. That first step is frequently all it takes to finally get going.
- Needing specific circumstances: When we’re not sure how to start a complex task, it’s easy to convince ourselves that it would be best to wait for a time when we can fully focus. Of course it would be nice to concentrate on a single task, but given the volume of daily distractions, how likely is that to happen? Instead of fretting how long it will take to do the whole thing, pick a 10-minute aspect of a project. For example, creating three bullet points for a blog post or putting away three items in a clutter pile not only reduces stress, but also reveals a path for moving forward.
- Feeling confident: Complex tasks with many steps can invite unpleasant comparisons. The worry that other people would do a better job can lead to painful paralysis. Suddenly, the daunting project is not worth attempting because there is no way to make it come out right. To move out of scathing negative self-talk, remind yourself of other skills you acquired – most likely it took more than one attempt before you mastered them. Define what the project at hand can teach you, and why it will be useful for you.
People who tend to get lost in procrastination – the gap between intention and action – often benefit from discussing their next steps and following up on their accomplishments. That’s where coaching comes in: a focused conversation on goals and actions without judgment and blame.