Why do we procrastinate?
It’s human nature to put off tackling hard things for instead doing pleasurable, fun or easier things right now. Procrastination is basically an emotional regulation difficulty. Our prefrontal cortex is not in charge. Particularly if you have ADHD, you have trouble estimating how long things take. A safe bet is that you underestimate by 2-3 x how long it takes to do something. Time management experts recommend that you time yourself on various tasks for a week. You’ll be very surprised how long things take you vs. how long you thought they took you! Compounding this, people with ADHD often have time blindness, which means when they are having fun or are distracted, they simply forget to look at their watch and keep track of their time.
Think about past bad experiences with procrastination.
One strategy that can help you battle procrastination is to reflect back on times when procrastination bit you on the backside. For example, in college, I can’t count the number of times I literally ran into a class carrying a paper due with the ink still drying. This was very stressful, but looking back, I see that I used the adrenaline rush of being last minute to spur me into productivity. Once, however, the printer broke down in the middle of my print job. After frantically searching on campus for a functioning printer, I showed up to class 45 minutes late. The professor marked my paper as a late submission. Think of times procrastination has ended up harming you—your grades, your credibility, your relationships, your mental health, and your physical health. It’s often a painful walk down memory lane, but it can certainly help you remember that it hurts you in the end.
Know your energy
Some people are most productive first thing in the morning, others late at night. Know your internal clock and respect it. Do not schedule hard things at the time when you have your daily energy dip. For me, I’m most energized, focused, and productive from 10:00-4:00. I don’t meet with clients outside this window, nor do research or writing.
Discover where you study best
For some people, this is their room. However, make sure you stay out of your bed! For others, they love the background noise in a coffee shop or the complete silence of the library.
Study right after exercising
One great strategy is to dive straight into studying after 20 minutes of moderate or intense cardiovascular activity. You’ll have sharper focus, mental energy, and productivity for several hours after exercising.
Crank the Music
Compile a playlist of music that motivates you to start. I have a 10 minute “galvanize me into action playlist.” Once I’m started and focused, I switch to my “quiet focus” playlist of classical music.
Use Smell to Get in the Mood
Research shows that certain fragrances make us more energized and focused. In particular, these several varieties are known to help students concentrate and memorize: eucalyptus, peppermint, cedarwood, lemongrass, or cinnamon. Light up a candle or spray a mist of one of these essential oils.