Updated: Feb 25, 2020
Are you one of many who avoid completing tasks?
Consider a task (or two) you've avoided over the past week?...Come on, be honest, why else are you reading this?
Does your ADHD or executive functioning deficits get in the way? Well you are not alone!
I avoided writing my first blog post like the Black Plague. It was my first one so I would write an idea down, come back to it, search different ways to write a blog, get frustrated and then stop. Major task avoidance was showing up here!
When I realized the approximate length of time my first blog should take me to write, reminded myself that it was possible, and most importantly that readers wanted to hear this, I wrote my very first blog post!
SO…here it goes!
WHAT are common tasks that adults with ADHD avoid?
Folding and putting away their laundry
Unloading the dishes from the dishwasher
Making their bed
Unpacking their suitcases
Organizing their wallets
WHY do adults with ADHD avoid tasks?
According to an article published by Dr. Anthony L. Rostain, there are four behavioral patterns which adults with ADHD use for avoidance:
1) Anticipatory avoidance is the form of avoidance where a person magnifies the difficulty of a pending task and doubts about being able to complete it; this results in rationalizations to justify procrastination. This type of avoidance will defer short-term stress, but often creates a self-fulfilling prophecy because the task looms and may seem overwhelming when facing a deadline.
2) Brinkmanship is waiting until the last moment (eg, the night before) to complete a task, often when facing an impending deadline. The short-term gain with brinkmanship is that the stress created by achieving a deadline can be focusing, however, this leaves little room for error and the work product may be unsatisfactory.
3) Pseudo-efficiency…have a big project coming up? How many times have you completed every other task but that? Pseudo-efficiency is when a person completes several low-priority, manageable tasks (eg, checking e-mail) but avoids high-priority tasks (eg, a project for work). When a person does this, they feel a sense of productivity by reducing the items on the to-do list but defers a more difficult project.
4) Juggling…exactly as it sounds...you are working on every task around you and they are all up in the air. You are taking on new, exciting projects and feeling busy but not completing projects that you have already started. It is much easier to start a new project than one that is ongoing.
Adults with ADHD commonly also have five core beliefs; self-mistrust, failure, inadequacy, incompetence, and instability. These beliefs can become a self-fulfilling prophecy and can lower one's self-esteem.
WHAT are ways to tackle tasks you have been avoiding?
1) Time Yourself
Have you ever thought about how long it ACTUALLY takes you to complete the task? What if the amount of time you THINK about completing the task takes MORE TIME and is more daunting than ACTUALLY completing it?
In a brief survey I conducted, adults recorded the amount of time it takes them to complete each task listed.
**See answers below**:
·Unpacking a suitcase
On average respondents took 10 MINUTES to complete this task. What also occurred to respondents was that if they did not unpack their suitcases immediately it could take them up to a week to do.
·Putting away laundry
This task took a little under 10 minutes. Some respondents even shared that sometimes their laundry sits in the basket until they wear almost everything from it. Think about this…under 10 minutes to put away your laundry! What is standing in your way of doing this? Do you have the space to put it away? Are your drawers and closets cluttered? Maybe you should think about starting there? Then realize how short of a task this ACTUALLY is.
·Unloading the dishwasher
Unloading the dishwasher took respondents on average under 6 minutes. How amazing does it feel to be able to put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher because you put away your clean dishes? How much anxiety do you experience in seeing your dirty dishes pile up in the sink? 6 MINUTES to unload the dishes.
·Cleaning the bedroom
I'm not going to lie here…many people do not do this! Respondents who actually do this averaged less than 15 minutes. Most people were stumped on how long it took them or rely on someone else to do this (eg, cleaning person).
·Organizing a wallet
For people who use cash in modern society, on average it takes them 1 to 2 minutes a day. Not bad!
Responses here varied from “I don’t,” to "20 minutes," "45 minutes" and "1 hour." What makes me like to work out is realizing it does not have to be long. I got back into the habit of working out from going to a 45-minute class at the gym. In and OUT! Oh, and the fitness instructor sent me a text to hold me accountable to go to the gym! How great is that?
Is this passé? The funniest response I received in the survey was “prefer potassium.” It appears that most people do not iron anymore. They send their laundry to the cleaners, use a steamer or just don’t do it!
·Keeping track of finances
I received responses on average about 30 minutes a week. I also had several respondents say that they work on keeping track of their finances approximately 5 minutes a day. Some of my clients use the app Mint instead to keep track.
Other tasks that people included that they avoid were getting a carwash, downsizing their closets, and getting gas (waiting until the last drop).
2) Stay Accountable
...Use a Coach, a Friend or Family Member.
There is something very powerful in your word! Say you are going to do something. Share your goal with a coach, a friend or family member.
Identify how you will stay accountable towards this goal.
According to the book Co-Active Coaching, Third Edition, written by Kimsey-House, Sandahl, and Whitworth, Accountability is…
Knowing WHAT you are going to do.
Knowing WHEN you will have it done.
Knowing HOW you will know you did it.
3) Ask yourself, “Is it IMPORTANT for me to do it MYSELF?”
Determine what you want to accomplish and what the payoffs are in completing each task. Would it be better for you to delegate or complete it yourself?
How important is it for you to be the one vacuuming? Would a Roomba or another vacuum robot lessen your anxiety? (On Amazon there is a Robot Cleaner for $99.)
Can you afford hiring a housekeeper to complete some of your household tasks? Is it worth it to you? (Prices may vary.)
How about using Mint for your finances rather than recording them yourself? (Mint is free.) It is a downloadable app from your phone. You can link this to your credit card.
What about electronic bill pay? Have you been avoiding using this, but late on your bills? (Also free.)
Ironing…well again, if you actually are interested in doing this, it appears the task of getting out an ironing board is daunting for many. If you were to get a professional steamer such as the Conair ExtremeSteam Professional Upright Fabric Steamer, you can turn this baby on and be ready to go in a matter of seconds! (Cost is $83 on Amazon.) Sending your clothes to the cleaners for them to iron…I found this to be pretty expensive myself.
An alternative to exercising is performing the tasks above that you have been avoiding! All are forms of physical activity! Sounds like a WIN-WIN!
My goal in writing this post was for the reader to understand that you are NOT alone!
Adults with ADHD have REAL behavioral patterns of avoidance. However, this does not mean that it has to control you!
In summary, there are ways to conquer your task-avoidance…
In timing yourself, you can begin realizing that you are spending more time thinking about not doing the task then ACTUALLY doing it!
Delegating your task to technology or paying another person to do it, may make you feel much better and have a greater payoff.
Think of a task you’ve avoided in the past and how you felt after you actually conquered it. Stay accountable to a coach, friend or family member.
Oh and by the way, it took me approximately 4 hours to write my first post! Much less time than I thought about writing the post (which has been daunting me for the past two weeks). Anticipatory avoidance and pseudo-efficiency patterns definitely showed up for me here, but the bottom-line is, I completed this and I will be writing another one soon. You have my word!