We all procrastinate to varying degrees however in ADHD this can become a huge barrier to career development as well as psychological health and wellbeing1.
Although procrastination is not acknowledged as an ADHD symptom, from our experiences as executive function coaches we have found it to be a big part of the ADHD experience. Difficulties with procrastination (i.e. getting started) are strongly related to difficulties with one of our executive function skills task initiation which is the ability to start tasks2. From research we know that chronic procrastination, or in other words significant difficulties with task initiation, can interfere with nearly all aspects of daily life3. This can often lead to lost career advancement and opportunities4, emotional turmoil (feelings of guilt, shame, frustration and being overwhelmed) and difficulty in relationships5.
Working on your task initiation and other executive function skills can be extremely challenging as it can be difficult to know where to start, to sustain focus or thought for long enough and then actually get started!
What are executive functions?
Executive functions are a family of three core skills: inhibitory control, working memory and cognitive flexibility. These three core executive functions work together in different ways resulting in a 11 high-order skills called executive function skills (e.g. task initiation, time-management, organisation)6.
We all have our executive function strengths and challenges, take our free executive function questionnaire (usually £10pp) which will send you a bespoke report with what you can work and how! If you would like to find out more about executive functions, we have also developed a free online course Executive Functions: An Introduction. Click here to find out more about our course and sign up for free!
Would you like to see more resources like this? Then join our Executive Function Support Group for Adults here.
Why is procrastination common in ADHD?
We know from research that ADHD is associated with weaker function and structure in the prefrontal cortex7. The prefrontal cortex is an area of the brain that plays a vital role in regulating our attention, emotion, goal-directed behaviour, and is where all 11 of our executive function skills reside8.
Due to these differences in the structure of the brain, there are difficulties with regulation of the prefrontal cortex in ADHD7. Now, this means that reactions (verbal or non-verbal) will occur to whatever is in focus at that precise moment. This could be compared to a crossroad. The crossroad is where all of our behaviour, emotions and attention run through before being acted on. For people with ADHD there may not be any traffic lights at their crossroad which would otherwise regulate those processes. This can mean that individuals with ADHD may act impulsively, find it difficult to sustain focus or remember things and get started on tasks. The result of this is procrastination and can explain why people with ADHD especially struggle with this.
We know that ADHD changes how the brain develops from a young age, but for many people, ADHD will persist into adulthood9.
What’s the good news?
The good news is that there is so much support available for children and adults with ADHD. Connections in Mind offer online events, free resources and courses, 1:2:1 and group coaching support and have developed a large online community to support adults and parents of children with executive function challenges. Please take the time to find out about the support we offer below.
Join our positive online communities
Become a member of our Executive Function Support Group for Parents and Executive Function Support Group for Adults. You will benefit from free printable executive function resources and be the first to know about our webinars, blogs and interviews with experts in psychology and psychiatry.
Bespoke coaching support
At Connections in Mind, we are a team of dedicated and caring executive function coaching experts. Our coaches combine their skills acquired through experience and education to create bespoke coaching programmes tailored to individual client needs. Our client-led approach to coaching means that you will be provided with the support and strategies you need to improve specific self-regulatory and executive functions skills so that you can reach your personal and professional goals.
What is executive function coaching?
Executive function coaching is a client/student-led approach to behaviour change. It helps individuals to develop self awareness and to form new habits, enhancing their lives and helping them become more successful at mastering the skills they need to flourish.
Book a free 30 minute Insight Session
Making successful changes for yourself, or even your child, can easily start by booking a free 30 minute Insight Session with our Client Services team. Sarah and Philli will help you find out more about the coaching process and to discuss your needs, strengths and challenges more specifically. To ensure we match you with the perfect coach you will be able to schedule free 15 minute taster sessions with 3 coaches of your choice.
By Rebecca Tyler, Connections in Mind
1Sirois, F. M. (2016). Procrastination, stress, and chronic health conditions: A temporal perspective. Procrastination, Health and Wellbeing, 67-92.
2Bolden, J., & Fillaur, J. P. (2019). Tomorrow is the busiest day of the month. Executive functions mediate the relationship between procrastination and attention problems. Journal of American College Health. 10.1080/07448481.2019.
3Klingsleck, K. B. (2013). Procrastination: When good things don’t come to those who wait. European Psychologist, 18, 24-34.
4Nguyen, B., Steel, P., & Ferrari, J. R. (2013). Procrastination’s impact in the workplace and the workplace’s impact on procrastination. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 24 (4), 387-399.
5Nicolson, L., & Schraff, L. F. V. (2007). The effects of procrastination and self-awareness of emotional responses. Psi Chi Journal of Psychological Research, 12 (4), 130-145.
6Diamond, A. (2013). Executive Functions. Annual Review of Psychology, 64, 135-168.
7Emond, V., Joyal, C., Poissant, H. (2009). Structural and functional neuroanatomy of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. L’Encephale, 35 (2), 107-114.
8Arnsten, A. F. T., & Bao-Ming, L. (2005). Neurobiology of executive functions: Catecholamine influences on prefrontal cortical functions. Biological Psychiatry, 57 (11), 1377-1384.
9Sibley, M. H. et al. (2016). Defining ADHD symptom persistence in adulthood: optimizing sensitivity and specificity. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 58 (6), 655-662.