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3 Ways Procrastination is My Best Motivator

Woman with ADHD holding a clock in both hands for guidance
Getty Images / tolgart

Every month I have a deadline. Likewise, every month I say I'll start writing at the beginning of the month. My goal is to get projects checked off early so I can blissfully careen toward my deadline, feeling like, for once, I was on top of things.

And at the end of every month... well. I get everything done, but it's more of a flurry of writing where I crank out 20,000+ words in days, not weeks. 

This month has been more of a rush than usual. I wrapped up my last work cycle and went to Orlando five days later. I waltzed back home with 10 days to spare before a three-day trip to Philadelphia. 

This is all while needing to get at least 11,500 words done in 10 days. Then I took three days off, filling my time with TV series and playing games on my phone. Thanks, procrastination.

It's cool, though. 

As someone with Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), procrastination can be an unexpected motivator. People with ADHD are prone to procrastination, so we're racing to hit deadlines until the last minute. That extra pressure can be motivating. Fortunately, as a freelancer, I've only had to ask for an extension once or twice.

And one of those times was more because I sliced my finger open. I spent five hours in the emergency room getting stitches!

ADHD wires me to thrive under stress. Even though life would probably be better if I didn't procrastinate so much. 

But, like ADHD, procrastination is a part of me. Here are three reasons why procrastination is my best motivator.

1. I have to think fast to make schedule changes under pressure

The deadline pressure looming over me means I have to get things done. Sadly, self-imposed deadlines have never worked for me. I can't decide to get everything done by the 15th instead of the 30th and follow through on that. It is what it is.

When I'm under pressure, it forces me to adapt and get things done. For example, last night, I knew that I had a busy day ahead of me. I got into bed as my Fitbit told me to wind down at 12:15 a.m. — a reminder I usually ignore.

Per my Fitbit, I fell asleep at 12:26 (which seems fast!) and woke up at 8:31. I told myself I'd be at my laptop by 9:30 this morning. It helps that my "commute" meant that I was out of bed at 9:28 and at my computer at 9:31. I may not be the best at keeping a morning routine, but according to my productivity tracker Qbserve, I started working around 9:50 a.m.

2. Hyperfocus quells the distractions

"Attention deficit" is right there in the full name of ADHD. For me, though, procrastinating means I'm more likely to channel the paradoxical ADHD symptom of hyperfocus.

Sometimes, hyperfocus entirely non-productive. I can spend far too many hours listening to podcasts while playing games.

But other times, amid a flurry of needing to get things done due to procrastination, hyperfocus is my best friend. When sailing toward a deadline, it can be difficult to stop working, especially on projects I'm interested in.

If people with ADHD can learn to hyperfocus on what's important, we can invest our time where it matters.

So, hyperfocus can be a double-edged sword. But developing strategies to interrupt hyperfocus can be ideal. For instance, Qbserve makes a "doom" noise through my speakers when I've spent more than two hours on distracting activities.

I use software, calendar reminders, or enlisting actual people to help interrupt my hyperfocus. All these things can ensure your focus is where it needs to be, effectively "training" this ADHD trait.

3. Procrastination can boost creativity

Procrastination may not help in every workplace or employment scenario, but it sure helps me. Many entrepreneurs and modern-day thinkers are procrastinators. So, it can't be all bad — especially if you're creative.

We're also less likely to forget about tasks in progress than ones we still need to start. This phenomenon, known as the "Zeigarnik effect," was first noticed in 1927 and published in 1938. To me, the implications of this research may be relevant from the standpoint of ADHD.

Procrastinating lets me leave the task at hand "hanging in the balance of my mind," so to speak. As my thoughts on the task percolate, I'm subconsciously spending more time thinking about how to effectively approach the work. Procrastinating may lead to more creative and successful outcomes when wrapping up a task you've started.

In a 2010 study about rumination and how it affects creativity, researchers noted that "reflective rumination" increased creativity scores, while indecision increased rumination. Again, the full circle of these findings lends well to the inner workings of the ADHD mind. Since we can be creative over-thinkers and procrastinators, people with ADHD may reap the creative benefits of procrastination.

So, it's not all in my head: Some research also says procrastination can be our best motivator. As long as it's implemented correctly — and with some degree of purpose.

The takeaway: Using procrastination to your advantage

The key to managing procrastination is figuring out how — and if — it can motivate you. Take time to reflect if you are more or less productive due to procrastination.

If procrastination prevents you from hitting deadlines and you aren't getting necessary tasks done, strategize how to use it to your benefit. Or, see if you need to implement organizational tools to make work more manageable. Use a planner, break tasks down, or find a coach (formal or informal) to help you stay on track.

You may find that the "crunch time" before a deadline is helpful, motivating, and doesn't stress you out. If this is the case, it's OK to embrace this part of you — and get things done.

The information presented is solely for educational purposes, not as specific advice for the evaluation, management, or treatment of any condition.

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The individual(s) who have written and created the content in and

whose images appear in this article have been paid by Teva Pharmaceuticals for their contributions. This content represents the opinions of the contributor and does not necessarily reflect those of Teva Pharmaceuticals. Similarly, Teva Pharmaceuticals does not review, control, influence or endorse any content related to the contributor's websites or social media networks. This content is intended for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered medical advice or recommendations. Consult a qualified medical professional for diagnosis and before beginning or changing any treatment regimen. 

NPS-ALL-NP-01017 JUNE 2023

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