Power Through Procrastination

Worth Living Ambassador Niko Colletti

Hey there! I’m Niko, 20 years old, of Southern Ontario.  I’m on a journey to find myself and discover what truly makes me happy, while continuing to learn how to function in this complicated world around me.  I was diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism as well as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at a very young age, and it’s been a long haul living with a brain wired so differently.  I intend to continue bettering myself while sharing my experiences with those who are feeling overwhelmed in their struggles, showing that with enough determination and patience, you will persevere no matter what demons share your company.

We all have that feeling of defeat from time to time like we’ve taken a few steps back rather than forward.  This has been me the last few weeks.  I just haven’t seemed to be able to use my time at all.  Even if what I have on my to-do list is something I actually want to do, I just seem to lack any willpower to do anything.  It really sucks because I’ve just been too distracted and unable to use my time properly.  Soon as I get home from work, everything I’ve wanted to accomplish the rest of my day falls victim to what I like to call “brake failure;” my inability to put down something to do something else.  If you struggle with ADHD, you’ll know exactly what this can do to even the most structured day.

What I’m going to do today is share some insight on why we can waste time so easily, and some strategies I’m working on to overcome the couch-lock we can get from time to time. This is going to be highly geared towards ADHDers, but feel free to read this even if you’re not one, because these strategies are still useful!

First and most importantly, MAKE A LIST.  I can’t count how many times my procrastination/overwhelm/anxiety was caused simply by not knowing exactly what I was trying to do.  Note what is most important, and roughly how long you think each item should take you to complete.  Also, don’t fill up the page with everything you can think of that has to be done, just pick the most important ones.  Your time is valuable, and it’s easy for us to overestimate how much we can stretch it in a day.  When making this list, ensure the first task is simple, and is easy to start.  If it’s too daunting, it’ll be easier to procrastinate.  You also need to put any boring/arduous tasks in between ones that are enjoyable for you, to keep you motivated.  Since an ADHDer has trouble with dopamine, it won’t feel rewarding to get something done as much if it isn’t fun or challenging, so try to make it feel like a game as much as possible.

Tape the list to your bedroom door so you won’t lose it or forget about it.  I suggest doing everything in the previous paragraph the night before, so it will essentially be everything you want to do tomorrow.  Write what time you would like to start this list at the top, as the feeling of a deadline is stimulating to our brains. This will give you the feeling of a fresh start, and motivate you to get to bed at a decent hour, which you and I know is not easy with ADHD!  Get some sleep, as you’ll need to start your day well rested and energized to ensure you don’t run out of steam.  Momentum is key!

The next step, get up RIGHT AWAY.  Don’t wait, get up as soon as your alarm goes up, or you’re awake enough to roll out of bed.  If you take medication for your ADHD, leave it by your bed so you can take it soon as you wake up.  That way, if you do fall back asleep, it’ll kick in and get you up and at ‘em ASAP.  You know as well as I that every minute is precious when you are so easily distracted, so make sure you are always moving to prevent being thrown off schedule.

At this point, I’d suggest a good breakfast, and coffee if you drink it.  This will ensure you are full of energy and focused on what needs to be done.  Once you’re done, exercise, as that’ll get you moving.  As I mentioned in my previous blog post, exercise is key to getting the most out of your brain!  A day of focus and attention requires a focused and attentive mind and a body that is exercised should really help slow down your endless stream of thoughts enough to let you focus.  Cardio is the most effective for this, so even if you can’t make it to a gym or don’t have the strength for weights, a good jog or run should do you a world of good.

Now, tackle that list!  If you did this properly, you should be excited to begin, and that first task should be completed in no time!  Set a timer for the same estimated time on your list, and when the timer runs out, wrap it up, and DO NOT CONTINUE!  This prevents hyper focus from throwing us off schedule.  Make sure to remember to take snack breaks in between each task.  Snacking helps keep our minds busy enough to avoid becoming open to distractions and will help encourage us to eat more when we’d normally forget. If you haven’t completed a task in time, thats okay. Instead of crossing it off, put a star next to it, and get back to it once you have gone through your whole list.  When you do get back to it, set a stopwatch this time.  Add this to the time you already spent, and voila, you now ACTUALLY know how long that task will take you!  The more you do this, the easier it’ll be to plan your day because you’ll be able to accurately estimate how much time something will take and who knows, maybe you’ll actually be able to get it done in one go next time!

The key to preventing derailment is to avoid anything that could hold your attention hostage, like a cell phone, the internet, or anything that you already spend lots of time on every day.  To reward yourself for staying on track, feel free to hyper focus on something off your list once the list is COMPLETE.  These things will be excruciatingly difficult to break away from and will likely eat up your day before you even remember to check the time.  You will also prevent yourself from using that break time to exercise self care like eating.

Remember that while you are working on a list, anything that is on the list takes priority over all but dire emergency.  The reason you did this in the first place is to complete what is important and needs to be done, so you can hyper focus on whatever you like later, without having that anxiety of knowing you are procrastinating.  Once your list is done for the day, go nuts!  Make it a point to watch your youtube subscriptions or play a couple rounds of online multiplayer in your favourite game.  Just remember not to stay up too late. If your brakes tend to fail here, feel free to outsource your willpower, which I’ll explain how to do in a future entry.

Thats all the advice I have on this topic for right now. Set firm boundaries, but please don’t be hard on yourself if you fail at this because developing discipline like this takes time and can still fail you at times because thats just how your brain works.  You’re not alone, I experienced some of the worst brake failure yet trying to start writing this.  It took me 3 weeks to start something that ended up taking me 2 hours!  Just don’t give up!  Remember, resilience and snacks!!  Take care. 🙂

“You must face annihilation over and over again to find our what is indestructible in yourself.”
~ Pema Chodron

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