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4 Ways of Being Unproductive With ADHD

People with ADHD are connoisseurs of unproductivity.

UnproductiveMost people might think being unproductive is being unproductive, end of story. Not people with ADHD. We know there are many subtly different ways of being unproductive. Many flavors of unproductivity if you will.

Some common ways of being unproductive are:

  • Never getting around to certain tasks: One way to be unproductive is to add tasks to your list of “things that I’m going to do one of these days but that aren’t immediately pressing so I never actually end up doing them.” It’s amazing how it’s possible to go months or even years without getting around to the things on this list.
  • Starting tasks but not finishing them: This one gets mentioned a lot in association with ADHD. People with ADHD can lose their focus partway through things, causing them to not make it to the end. Because many ADHDers find the initial idea and the early stages of projects the most exciting part, this kind of unproductivity can also take the form of losing interest and motivation after starting a new project.
  • Overscheduling: People with ADHD sometimes struggle to figure out how long tasks will take – especially because things often end up taking longer than they “should” when you have ADHD. On top of that, ADHDers struggle more generally with executive skills like planning and organization. Another type of unproductivity, then, is scheduling in more things than you can actually do, leading to unfinished work.
  • Procrastination: This is an obvious way people with ADHD are unproductive, but it’s a little tricky because paradoxically, procrastination can also be a productivity strategy for people with ADHD. Many people with ADHD find it easier to get their brains fired up under the pressure of a deadline. So the trick is to find the right balance to make sure procrastination doesn’t tip over from a productivity into an unproductivity strategy: sure, do your work right before the deadline if that’s what you like, just don’t do it so close to the deadline that you can’t do it well!

Now, this might seem like the most unhelpful ADHD blog post ever – it’s basically a how-to on being unproductive.

But if you know what kinds of situations interfere with your productivity, you’re in a better position to alter the course of things. Each unproductivity strategy can be countered with a corresponding productivity strategy.

For example, you can actually write down the list of things you’ve been meaning to do but never seem to get around to, then set aside a specific time you’re going to dedicate only to doing things off this list. You can find things like listening to music that help you keep your motivation up as you go through tasks. You can schedule in more time than you think you need to make sure you don’t end up overscheduling. And so on.

If you’re an unproductivity connoisseur, you might think you have a useless area of expertise. Not necessarily, though. Through a little trial and error, you can turn your detailed knowledge of unproductivity into a blueprint for being productive of all things.

What are some of your favorite ways of being unproductive?

Image: Johnson

4 Ways of Being Unproductive With ADHD

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on education, learning disabilities and technology. He received his B.A. in 2014 and was diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of his college studies. Neil also works for a music education non-profit and hopes to help create an education system that can better serve students with ADHD.

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2016). 4 Ways of Being Unproductive With ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 5, 2020, from


Last updated: 31 Aug 2016
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