overcoming ADHD procrastinationLet’s get one thing straight – if there was a world championship for procrastination, I’d have a bag of tricks that I could draw from and take out the title.

Deadline tomorrow morning? Let’s spend four hours watching Archer. Paperwork to be filed? Boy, this desk looks messy! Meeting someone for coffee at 10am, fifteen minutes away? I’ll leave at 10am because I hate the walk.

The ability to turn simple tasks into efforts of biblical proportion is by no means rare to any of us. But here’s the thing… being proud of procrastination is also a crutch used by those who don’t want to get things done.

So if you’re part of this Procrastination Pride Party, please close this window and settle in on the couch for 30 minutes of Family Guy. The rest of us will carry on without you and explore how restrictions can help you get things done – fast.

How Hard Restrictions Can Set You Free

Humans want to be free and ultimately have no restrictions placed on them. The irony is that it’s the restrictions that we work in that take us from procrastination to productivity. The right restrictions will help us to get things done an make things happen. The problem is identifying them and understanding them.

Now, you mightn’t be aware of this but there’s two types of restrictions that can be a part of your life – soft restrictions and hard restrictions.

Soft restrictions are the ones that are easy to ignore (finish this document later today, call someone later) and ultimately can be judoed or manipulated into having entirely different meetings. Hard restrictions, on the other hand, are unavoidable (finishing your work before the battery dies, calling someone at 3pm), and force you into a yes or no outcome. As you’ve already guessed, hard restrictions are the ones that will help you to be the most productive.

Here’s just a few hard restriction techniques you can apply to your own daily life:

  • Charge your laptop over night, and then work somewhere without a power cable. You won’t have time to check email 16 times unless it’s necessary, and Facebook won’t even get a look in.
  • Schedule your days, hour by hour, including meetings and outcomes to be achieved. Hard restrictions on time, back to back, mean that you don’t have flexibility and are forced to perform.
  • Limit your options. If you want to overcome your ADHD with diet, then throw all the crap out of your cupboard and stock it with only healthy options. It’s easier to control your environment than it is to control your behavior.

Steps For A Better Tomorrow: Action Against Distraction

Chances are that you’ve got a To-Do list looming over your head for tomorrow. There’s things to be done, people to speak to and places to go. However there’s also an interconnected world of Facebook, TV, the internet and phon ecalls that you’re going to have to contend with. But as they say, forewarned is forearmed – so let’s do some damage to our procrastinating habits.

  1. On a blank piece of paper, list down the top three things that you must achieve tomorrow across the top. Nothing else – just the things that would make your day worth while if they were all that you got done.
  2. Beneath each one, write down precisely what you need to achieve it.
  3. Again, beneath each one, write down the possible distractions and procrastination enablers you may have to battle with in the process of getting each done.
  4. Finally, write down actions you can take in advance to overcome the procrastination enablers you’ve listed.

By now you should have a page of three columns with detailed insight into what you need to get things done, and what’ll stop you. Now, you have only two more things to do:

  1.  Follow each of the actions that you’ve already outlined in step 4. TV going to distract you? Unplug it. Phone going to interrupt your flow? Turn it off. Take control of every possible distraction you can, and disable it.
  2. Tomorrow, follow the plan you’ve outlined for yourself. Don’t improvise, don’t alter tact – just remain focused on the outcomes you’re working towards, ruthlessly eliminating anything that gets in the way and restricting your distractions.

Every step that you take towards getting things done is a step that you didn’t waste in avoidance techniques. What other actions could you take to be more productive?

About Rob Hanly

Rob Hanly runs ADDucation.com.au, where he writes candidly about cutting the sh*t and getting awesome with ADHD. He was diagnosed with ADHD a year before finishing school, and has been using The S.E.E.D. Approach To Drug Free ADHD since 2008.


  1. Jennifer Koretsky Jennifer Koretsky says:

    I love this article, Rob! And I couldn’t agree more. We ADHDers LIVE outside the box with no boundaries. Sometimes boundaries are the very thing we need to get things done.

  2. Smiles for Archer or just plain getting sucked into TV. I’ve got my bag of tricks that might give you a run for the championship too. Plus I learned from my father who ironically wrote a book on procrastination and made an audio tape for it. Maybe one of these years he’ll apply it to his life. 😛

    Definitely agree on the need for boundaries and it is ironic with how much ADHDers fight against being constrained, once some lines are drawn up and accepted I find myself and others thrive even more. Like finding the rules to an old game set you had no clue how to play.

    The big thing you forgot to mention (probably due to article restraints as I’m sure you know it) as part of your strategy would be the reward/pat on the back for getting things done or how to use hard boundaries around time stealing activities like facebook or TV that we still want and should enjoy with a little structure. One strategy we’re trying to implement is before sitting down to watch TV is to set a timer in another room that will go off and stay going till we get up and turn it off. (Our TV is evil with downloaded shows as it will keep playing the next show in the queue making it easy to spend 6+ hours in front of the TV without even touching the remote)

    • Jennifer Koretsky Jennifer Koretsky says:

      Without touching the remote? How do you fast forward the commercials? 😉

    • Hey Michael,

      Always glad to find another Archer fan!

      Have you considered electric timers for killing the TV, or plugins on the browser? It’s hardline, but when combined with an alarm like you mentioned it’s a perfect hardline approach. It might just keep you out of the DAAANGER ZONE.

  3. Lisa Comingore says:

    I’m so glad I read this article today! In grad school I used to tell myself that the only way to lower my stress level was to get stuff done on my list. Now I know there are some other ways to lower stress, but still…just because I have ADHD doesn’t mean it’s ok to let the to-do list just keep growing and use it as an excuse, right? So yesterday I had a list that was growing at a ridiculous rate and I found myself using that phrase again and it worked! I also had a hard deadline due to a meeting I had to go to later in the afternoon and guess what? Yep…got a whole lot done! I’m learning! Thanks for the awesome article!

  4. i am so excited to find this blog on adhd and that its speaking to me the adult that has adhd, so many times i find blogs that are for moms with children that have adhd which is great that they have that now, but when those kids grow up they’ll find the world ( or at least it seems ) looks at the adhd adult much different. i was on anxiety meds from 10th grade up until i was about 23 and was diagnosed with adhd. it seems like more and more people every day want say they are adhd almost as a joke, but to people that really are it’s a battle all day every day. right now, I’m medicated, but I’ve switched to a diet where i watch my gluten, and starch and hope to be meds free one day. i am looking forward to more of your posts! thanks

  5. Rob, thank you for this article. It helps people see that they can implement structure in a way that is best suited to them. It’s a strength-based approach, which I appreciate.