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Child Development

Is Procrastination A Sign Of ADHD? Answered Here...

February 20, 2023
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    While most of us face everyday procrastination from time to time, those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) tend to struggle with it more than others. Often, this is unintentional, and it could be linked to symptoms of ADHD. So, is there a link between ADHD and procrastination? Furthermore, what can you do if your child with ADHD struggles with chronic procrastination?

    In this article, we'll talk about how ADHD and procrastination are connected, different forms of procrastination, and what procrastination can look like. Then, we'll discuss tips to help your child combat procrastination.

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    The Connection Between ADHD and Procrastination

    Procrastination can be more intense for people with ADHD. With ADHD, procrastination might be something that occurs over and over again. It might even make for a vicious cycle that causes more procrastination. Why is that the case? 

    Differences in executive functioning seen in people with ADHD can lead to decisional procrastination, academic procrastination, and virtually any other form of everyday procrastination. Sometimes, it'll be a direct symptom of ADHD that impacts procrastination. Inattention symptoms such as being easily distracted can interfere with a person's ability to start or finish items on their to-do list, of course. 

    Other symptoms, like making careless mistakes, might lead to low self-esteem or chronic feelings of failure in those with an ADHD diagnosis, which can lead people with ADHD to avoid tasks due to fear of negative emotions. This is an example of procrastination as an avoidance behavior.

    For kids who have trouble with authority figures or being told what to do, which is seen in some people with ADHD, but not all, this could be another challenge. As you can see, this is very different from worry or perfectionism. That is why it's important to face these matters on an individual basis and remember that no two people with adhd are exactly alike.

    Learning about the different forms of procrastination might help you understand what's going on with your child.

    Types of Procrastination 

    People procrastinate for various reasons. If you understand why you or your child procrastinates, it's more likely that you'll be able to properly address the problem. It's often said that there are six main types of procrastinators. Types of procrastination include:


    It may seem counterintuitive, but it is actually very common to procrastinate out of perfectionism. If your child takes things very seriously and holds themselves to a high standard, they may feel exhausted, start to dread certain tasks, and avoid those tasks in turn. This can be a presentation of anxiety and should be addressed with your child’s provider. 


    Dreamers may recoil from tasks they deem tedious or difficult. Those who engage in this type of procrastination might struggle to see the bigger picture, failing to understand that they must complete potentially unfavorable tasks required to reach a larger goal.


    Often, those with adult ADHD self-report being motivated by close deadlines, and the same can be true for kids. If your child puts things off and seems to thrive on the stress or tension that comes from writing an essay at the very last second, this could be what's going on.


    There are a couple of ways that a "defier" can present in terms of procrastination. Again, some kids procrastinate to defy authority or demands from others. That said, other "defiers" avoid tasks because they don't want to ask for help. If tasks feel overwhelming or a child is frustrated over not being able to do it right, they might feel too ashamed to ask for assistance and choose to put it off or stop dealing with it entirely instead.


    Does your child take too much on, leaving them stretched too thin to fully engage in every commitment? If so, they could be an over-doer. In many cases, people with ADHD have trouble with forgetfulness and identifying how long certain tasks will take, leaving them with packed schedules.


    Some people procrastinate due to a lack of confidence in their skills. If your child avoids making choices or gets stuck and doesn't try out of fear, it could be that this is their procrastination type.

    What Procrastination Can Look Like

    From the outside looking in, procrastination can and often does make it appear as though someone isn't trying. In reality, there's usually something going on underneath the surface. The types of procrastination listed above illustrate the underlying thought processes that both children and adults may experience. If you put yourself in their shoes, you might find that procrastination suddenly makes sense. Procrastination can look like missing deadlines, lack of self-control, negative feelings about oneself, low grades, and nervousness or anxiety surrounding tasks. In adulthood, people with ADHD may notice serious problems, like procrastination that affects personal relationships or work. Teaching kids how to overcome procrastination early on can help them avoid the negative impact of chronic procrastination.

    Ways To Overcome Procrastination

    With it in mind that people with ADHD are sometimes prone to face challenges that are beyond normal procrastination, what can you do? There are ways to help even those with the most chronic procrastination problems. Try these tips to help your child tackle ADHD-related procrastination.

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    Break up large tasks

    One of the best ways to overcome procrastination is to break big projects or tasks down into smaller steps. If your child has an overwhelming or challenging task, turning it into multiple tasks and taking it one step at a time can make a world of difference. For example, if the ultimate goal is to clean their room, you might instruct them to start with one specific task, like putting all of the toys on the floor in a basket. It's easier to hold attention to smaller, faster tasks.

    Use lists or charts

    Lists and other external tools can be incredibly beneficial for people with ADHD. Keeping a list can be helpful for a number of reasons. First, if it is a checklist, which is highly recommended, your child can cross off each task upon completion, which can be rewarding. Second, since challenges with working memory are prevalent among those with an ADHD diagnosis, lists and charts can help people with ADHD fill in the blanks.

    Set timers

    Timers are another external tool that can help your child focus and simultaneously break through ADHD procrastination. Your phone may have a built-in timer app, or you might download one from the app store with special features. There are timer apps for kids, including some with specific ADHD-friendly features.

    Have deadlines

    Many people find that deadlines are vital for time management and structure. It's ideal not to cut too close to deadlines, but organizing tasks so that they are paced well can help. Implement deadlines for everyday tasks as well as those with established due dates, like homework, and keep them organized with a calendar, checklist, or app.

    Have rewards

    External rewards are an excellent motivator for children with ADHD. Create a reward system for your child using sticker charts, token systems, or reasonable rewards administered one at a time for certain tasks.

    Examples of rewards for kids can include but aren't limited to small toys or objects, fun outings or experiences, and verbal praise.

    Address underlying thought processes

    Understanding why your child is procrastinating can be beneficial. For example, if your child experiences high levels of perfectionism or worry and feels anxiety related to tasks, it may be helpful to gently remind your child that things don't need to be perfect. If the task at hand is a school assignment, you may remind them that they're in school to learn and that they only have to do their best. Asking for help and problem-solving are necessary life skills, so encourage kids to do so and let them know that it's normal to need extra support at times. Praise them for learning and working hard rather than the outcome (e.g., good grades). If their worry or need to do things perfectly is so intense that it is impacting their ability to function at school or at home, seeing a therapist regularly to learn coping mechanisms and how to respond to stressful situations can be helpful. 

    Seek help for ADHD symptoms

    Sometimes, enlisting others for extra support is necessary. Consider what your child has or hasn't tried and what might be helpful for their unique situation. Stimulant medications and other medications used to treat ADHD symptoms can help people with ADHD navigate symptoms that affect productivity.

    Many people with ADHD benefit from working with a mental health professional for talk therapy alongside or independent of other treatments. It is usually recommended that people with ADHD use a combination of therapy and medication.

    Other forms of support can be helpful, too. Occupational therapy can help those with an ADHD diagnosis gain skills to help them with daily tasks. Similarly, tutoring might be particularly valuable for academic procrastination in kids who find certain subjects difficult.


    Procrastination is a common battle. For those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), procrastination can be stronger and may affect a person's life more intensely at times. Personal relationships, academic performance, and other parts of life can all be affected by ADHD procrastination. However, both children and adults can learn to manage it more effectively. External tools, time management strategies, rewards, and proper ADHD treatment can all make a difference. Talk with healthcare professionals your child works with if you believe adjustments to their treatment plan or evaluation for underlying anxiety may be necessary.


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.