Procrastivity and what it means for us with ADHD

Procrastivity! It’s the idea that we procrastinate by doing something else that is productive, like tasks around the house.
Example: doing laundry when the high priority is writing your paper due tomorrow.

I first heard this term while listening to the talk from J. Russell Ramsay in the ADHD Women’s Palooza.

Here are some of my takeaways from the talk on procrastivity:

  • Procrastivity allows us to get the dopamine from finishing a task, we feel like “I’m getting something done”.
  • The interesting thing about procrastivity is that the task that we are now doing (like laundry) was something that we were procrastinating on before. So: what is it about the procrastivity task (the laundry) that now makes it easier to do?
  • Procrastivity tasks tend to be more manual, physical and hands-on.
  • We underestimate the positive feelings of getting things done
    • We ignore our successes (as my clients already know, I encourage everyone to have a success journal! These can remind us of our accomplishments which we can use as motivation to start & finish our future tasks).
    • We also do this because in general we are conditioned to believe that we will fail; unfortunately we have a lot of past failure and others telling us that we are not living up to our potential. **The success journal can be our light at the end of the tunnel reminding (and proving to) us that we can do it!

Let’s use a table to highlight the differences:

Procrastinating on (writing paper due tomorrow):Procrastivity (doing laundry):
Broad, vague & non-specificManual, physical, hands-on
Uncertainty More actionable/doable
High cognitive demandLower cognitive load
Steps are unclearIdentifiable sequence of steps
– Grab laundry
– Throw laundry in machine
– Put soap in machine
– Press start
Unclear endpoint
(which makes it hard to
get engaged)
Clear & achievable outcome
– Clear sense of making progress
-Clear endpoint (this is why I like focusmate so much!!
See below

How I have noticed procrastivity pop up in my life:

Since hearing the term I realized just how much I procrastinate by doing tasks!! For example, this afternoon I wanted to do some work for my group coaching (that launched yesterday!) and since I cannot make a decision on how exactly I want to present the work.. I am finding myself stuck and procrastinating!

I am procrastinating by:
– Doing the laundry
– Tidying up the kitchen
– Writing this blog post
– I foresee myself making my Instagram posts for the week

The interesting part is that I almost want to knock out the things that I do know how to do and can race through. That way I can just sit with the momentum of having accomplished tasks PLUS all of my attention can now focus on making the decision because I knocked all the other “to-do’s” out of the way.

I have been thinking and saying this a lot lately but my nemesis is decisions. Decisions are really what kills my momentum and pulls me down.

Here are a few tips to beat the procrastination & also skip the procrastivity:

  1. I like to use focusmate! If I take a step back and analyze the days where I am the most productive, those are the days when I use focusmate! So what is focusmate? It’s an online tool where you match with someone and for 50 minutes you focus on one task. The reason why it works so well is because the other person is on the other end “watching you” (not really .. but they are there and you know that they are there!). There is the accountability that you have to the other person to complete your task! Also, you choose one task to work on for 50 minutes and it works wonders! The website can tell you more!
  2. Ask yourself: “What is the most actionable step that I can take?” –> We have learnt from the table above that we like action (that’s what we base our procrastivity on). So, when we find that we are procrastinating, take a look at the task you are procrastinating on and find the actions in the task. Example: if you are trying to write a paper, the action could be to open the word document and save it on your computer. (I used to make a template of the points that I needed to hit in my essay as per my teachers instructions). The action usually gets the ball rolling and builds up some momentum so you can dive into your task!
  3. Make yourself a menu of steps!
    • Mail a letter:
      • Write the letter
      • Find an envelope
      • Write the address on the envelope (maybe you need to find the address)
      • Find a stamp (maybe you need to buy it)
      • (put the stamp on the envelope)
      • Put the letter in a place where you’ll remember to mail it
      • Mail the letter (put it in the mailbox or bring to post office)
    • It seems silly to write the menu of steps just to mail a letter but once you do it, you can see there really are a lot of steps!! Hello, executive functions!
  4. Be careful and set yourself some end points! An end point can be in terms of time or task.
    • Task: I will move onto something else once I finish ________ in my project.
    • Time: I will set a timer for _____ min and once the timer goes off, I will move onto something else
    • The reason why it’s so important to set yourself an end point is because we have the wondrous gift of hyperfocus! If we aren’t careful, we can fall into the hyperfocus hole and give ourselves a hyperfocus hangover!
      • Don’t sacrifice your self-care and well-being just to finish a project.

Sometimes it’s hard to see how we may be getting in our own way. If you are continuously avoiding tasks and want to start knocking projects out of the park, consider working with me as your coach! I offer free “get to know you sessions” so that you can get an idea of what coaching is like!

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