ADHD, Impulsiveness, and Procrastination: Musings on This Motivation Problem


Today KMOV (or CBS) had a piece on procrastination, and the woman interviewed (whose name I did not catch) talked about how chronic procrastination tended to be linked to people with impulsivity problems.  My mind instantly went to ADD/ADHD because impulsiveness is one of its hallmarks.

Craig Surman, Tim Bilkey, and Karen Weintraub’s book on ADD/ADHD, FAST MINDS, categorizes procrastination under motivation challenges.  This makes me wonder: if procrastination falls under the motivation umbrella, how do you treat it?  Is it a case of working on one motivation problem area at a time (work on procrastination for a while; work on completing projects another day)?  Or is it more like what I saw on a Dr. Oz show: you can’t target one body area for weight loss because the loss happens everywhere?

As someone with ADD traits, and more importantly as someone who has tried to change said traits, I believe different motivation problems have different treatments (just like you do different exercises for different parts of the body).  However, I suspect it’s all tied in together too.  In other words, if I try to treat only procrastination issues and not the getting-started issues or keeping-with-it issues, I might have some short-term success but not medium-term success.

I use the word medium-term because long-term is usually difficult for me to conceive in the same way it’s difficult for me to do geometry now that I’ve been out of math classes for over a decade.  Very few things have managed to be long-term changes, and those mostly were things that changed me, such as giving up soda after about 30 years drinking almost only it. And yet, paradoxically, those long-term successes came about from strong motivation (or intense fear or anger masquerading as that more noble drive).

So maybe it’s not that motivation is a problem for us ADD-traited people, but that it’s like my current beverage consumption behavior: Water (99% of my liquid diet) or not water (1%).  On or off.  1 or 0. Black or white.  Maybe it’s a case that we ADD-traited folk have very little shades of grey concerning motivation, and what little we do have is quickly used up or better geared toward short-term areas.