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4 Reasons People With ADHD Procrastinate

“Not a moment too soon” could the ADHDer’s motto. It’s not uncommon for people with ADHD to find themselves repeatedly putting things off until the last minute.

To-Do List
To do: fill out my to do list

This behavior can be hard for people with ADHD, much less others, to understand. It creates so much unnecessary stress – why not just act in a timely manner and make life easier?

Now I’m going to answer my own rhetorical question. Here are some of the reasons people with ADHD procrastinate:

  • Trouble delaying gratification: Not procrastinating means delaying gratification. Putting on hold the things that would be most interesting to do right now, and looking ahead to realize that you’ll be happy in the future if you get some work (or whatever you’re procrastinating on) done in advance. But people with ADHD tend to have brains that are hungry for rewards, and they tend to prioritize immediate, short-term rewards over delayed, long-term rewards – which can lead them to do whatever seems most interesting now and put on the back burner tasks that aren’t urgently pressing.
  • Using stress to concentrate: When you leave a task until the last possible minute, you get a small rush, a feeling that you have no choice but to get things done ASAP. People with ADHD sometimes rely on this feeling to get their brains fired up and to mobilize cognitive resources like attention. The pressure can help them focus in situations where their concentration would normally wander.
  • Lack of prioritizing and planning: This relates to trouble delaying gratification, and to the executive functioning deficits that come with ADHD. People with ADHD tend to be caught up in the present moment and in their immediate impulses, which means they tend not to be so great at deliberately creating plans in advance and figuring out what they should be prioritizing. So projects that should have been priorities sooner can get left at the wayside until panic sets in.
  • Forgetting: There’s one more simple reason people with ADHD don’t start tasks on time. Sometimes they just forget. Oops. Inattention, poor organization skills and lack of planning can all lead ADHDers to slip into a state of blissful unawareness about deadlines that are bearing down.

As you can see, there are multiple reasons ADHD and procrastination are a match that was meant to be. And I’m sure there are plenty I left out – share why you procrastinate below!

Image: Flickr/Mufidah Kassalias

4 Reasons People With ADHD Procrastinate

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. (2017). 4 Reasons People With ADHD Procrastinate. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 24, 2019, from


Last updated: 31 Mar 2017
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