Last updated: November 27th, 2019
People with ADHD are pretty skilled at avoiding the tasks they know they should be doing.
If you have ADHD, then you’ve probably been shamed for the vast majority of your life, because you’ve avoided things like doing chores, submitting your work on time, paying your credit card bills, and more.
But, what if your habit of avoiding important tasks isn’t even your fault?
There’s a good chance that your ADHD strongly contributes to your habitual task avoidance.
This article helps you understand your task-avoiding behavior, and lays out some life-changing solutions that you can use to:
> Accomplish important tasks that you’ve been putting off for weeks, months, or even years
> Rid yourself of long-term stress, anxiety and worry
> Feel more productive, clear-headed, and organized
Why do people with ADHD love avoidance so much?
ADHD and avoidance go hand-in-hand.
But, this isn’t exactly your fault.
Avoidance is a form of coping that helps you deal with stress in the short-term.
In the case of ADHD, you have an impaired executive function, and your brain might not respond very well to things like planning, problem-solving, self-motivation, self-control, and more.
So, there’s a good chance that your ADHD brain interprets normal, everyday activities as “stressors”.
You know, things like paying the bills on time, doing housework, and completing assignments before a deadline. These types of tasks seem completely normal to most people. But, because people with ADHD have unique brain differences, we just don’t interpret ordinary tasks like most people do.
We naturally want to run away from mentally-taxing tasks, and avoid them for as long as possible.
The worst part about avoidance is that most ordinary people (like your boss) don’t realize that people with ADHD are wired for avoidance.
So, most people just assume that you’re being lazy when they see you avoiding ordinary tasks.
This is a big part of the reason why so many people with ADHD are overwhelmed with shame, guilt, and emotional trauma.
You’re probably so used to being attacked from all angles (by managers, colleagues, peers, and even yourself via negative self-talk) – to where you just feel like running away from everything at times.
But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can only run away for so long.
Life isn’t fair. And avoidance isn’t your fault. It never was your fault. But, this doesn’t mean that avoidance is a good thing, either.
You still have to make a solid effort to eliminate patterns of avoidance from your life, so that you can begin to confront your challenges head on, and stop living in a constant state of fear and anxiety.
The 4 patterns of avoidance in people with ADHD
Do any of these 4 patterns of avoidance seem familiar to you?
Pattern of avoidance #1. Anticipatory avoidance
Anticipatory avoidance means that you amplify the difficulty of an upcoming task, and have doubts about being able to complete the task. This results in you rationalizing and justifying your procrastination.
This defers stress in the short-term. But, it also creates a self-fulfilling prophecy that makes the task seem overwhelming as the deadline approaches.
In many cases, anticipatory avoidance actually prevents you from starting on tasks for very long periods of time. Sometimes, you’ll never start on your tasks because of anticipatory avoidance.
Pattern of avoidance #2. Brinkmanship
Brinkmanship means that you wait until the last minute before submitting work or completing tasks. The most obvious example of this would be starting on your assignments just hours before they’re due (like in the case of turning in homework).
Some people with ADHD actually feel like brinkmanship helps them focus, because you might feel extremely motivated to accomplish a task when you know that your deadline is approaching.
However, the stress and pressure that comes with brinkmanship is rarely ever worth it. There’s very little room for error when you’re under intense pressure to perform. Brinkmanship also tends to promote average quality work, because you’ll rarely have enough time to do your best work.
Pattern of avoidance #3. Pseudo efficiency
Pseudo efficiency is the act of completing several easy, low-priority tasks, in order to avoid high-priority tasks. A good example of pseudo efficiency would be compulsively checking your e-mail and social media accounts instead of working on a major assignment for your job.
Pseudo efficiency makes you feel productive, because you’re technically completing some tasks. But, this is actually a false sense of productivity, because you intrinsically know that you should be working on more important tasks.
Pattern of avoidance #4. Juggling
Juggling is when you take on multiple projects at the same time, before you’ve actually completed any single project on its own.
Jugging is extremely popular in people with ADHD, because starting on new tasks gives you an initial dopamine rush that makes you feel great. Starting something new almost always feels exciting and motivating.
But, people inevitably become overwhelmed with taking on so many projects at the same time. And, this typically leaves you with several incomplete, mediocre projects that never actually get completed.
Summary of the 4 patterns of avoidance in people with ADHD
Here’s a quick summary of the 4 patterns of avoidance in people with ADHD:
> Anticipatory avoidance is the form of avoidance that almost everyone with ADHD struggles with. This usually occurs when you’re sitting at your desk, ready to take care of your work, but you just can’t get yourself to actually start on your task. Instead of starting on your task, you might browse some of your favorite websites, and go down a deep rabbit hole of procrastination that leads you nowhere.
> Brinkmanship is surprisingly common, because many people with ADHD feel like they perform well under pressure. But, the truth is that brinkmanship is just another form of avoidance. This is also commonly referred to as “waiting until the last minute” to get something done. However, the good news is that brinkmanship can easily dissipate once you find a career or hobby that genuinely fulfills you (since you’ll no longer feel the need to procrastinate as much).
> Psuedo efficiency is a huge problem for people with ADHD because of widespread smartphone usage, social media addiction, compulsive e-mail checking, and so many other “micro tasks” that are easily accessible 24/7. People with ADHD love to multi-task, and this is a big problem. In reality, single-tasking is what gets you the best results with ADHD.
> Juggling is a stealthy killer, because it makes you feel like you’re a productive, multi-tasking powerhouse. But, you’re really just wasting your time and energy working on multiple mediocre projects at the same time. Instead of juggling multiple projects, you should focus on completing just one or two projects at a time.
If you have ADHD, there’s a good chance that you deal with all four of these patterns of avoidance in one way or another.
Important tasks that people with ADHD frequently avoid
People with ADHD frequently avoid some of life’s most important tasks that need to get done.
For example, people with ADHD often avoid:
- Paying credit card bills on time
- Preparing taxes
- Submitting work
- Calling friends, family members, co-workers, and other important people in your life
- Going to the gym
- Doing chores
- Eating healthy foods
- Visiting the dentist or doctor
If you could accomplish all of these tasks in a timely fashion, then you probably wouldn’t have very many real problems in your life.
But, because people with ADHD are naturally wired for avoidance, you may need to dedicate significant effort towards completing ordinary tasks like these.
As I mentioned earlier in this article, life isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that you should have to dedicate extra time towards completing tasks that come easy to other people.
But, this is just how life works. You live in a society that requires you to function regardless of your disadvantages.
Luckily, there are a number of tactics that you can use to accomplish tasks even with ADHD (don’t worry – you’ll find out how to accomplish tasks with ADHD further down in this article).
Activities that contribute to avoidance (these activities probably aren’t helping you)
There are thousands of activities that contribute to your avoidance.
You have to become conscious of the activities that contribute to avoidance, so that you can be fully aware of the activities that you probably need to stop doing.
Here are some of the most common activities that you probably need to stop (these activities typically aren’t helping you):
- Compulsively checking your e-mail
- Negative self-talk
- Waiting for “the perfect time” to start on a task
- Excessive research
- Thinking too much (getting stuck in your head)
- Worrying about hypothetical scenarios that don’t exist
- Constantly checking social media
- Eating food with the purpose of procrastinating
- Being a perfectionist
Out of all these activities, thinking too much, worrying about hypothetical scenarios, and waiting for the perfect time to start are probably the three biggest factors that contribute to avoidance in people with ADHD.
People with ADHD are especially prone to overthinking. Thinking too much tricks you into feeling like you’re being productive. But, when you get stuck in your head with your thoughts, you aren’t actually accomplishing anything of value.
It’s also common for people with ADHD to worry excessively about hypothetical scenarios that don’t even exist.
Take a moment to think about how much time you’ve spent worrying about “problems” that eventually turned out to be non-issues.
I’m guilty of doing this myself. Especially while laying in bed at night. I’ll sometimes worry about improbable events like economic collapses, sudden death, and other horrible things.
But, I make sure to stop myself as soon as I start worrying, so that I don’t go down a spiral of negative thoughts…
You ultimately have to keep in mind that worrying is almost always a form of avoidance, because worrying doesn’t actually benefit you, or anyone else for that matter. Worrying is a massive waste of time and mental energy for everyone.
But, worrying is still one of the most common issues that people with ADHD face. So, it’s important to acknowledge how pointless worrying is 99% of the time.
For the absolute best insights on stopping yourself from worrying, I recommend joining our ADHD VISION program. This digital training program is designed to get to the root cause of your worries and help you solve them permanently.
If you find yourself waiting for the perfect time to start on a task, you should first acknowledge that you’re procrastinating. Then, you should accept that the best time to start on a task is right now.
You have to accept that you will undergo a period of mental pain as you go about starting and completing whatever task you set out to achieve (like doing chores, taxes, paperwork, etc.).
But, the mental pain is only temporary.
Procrastinating is always more painful than actually starting and completing whatever task you have to complete.
So, you ultimately have to make a choice between:
Less pain (just starting on your task and getting it over with)
More intense, longer-lasting pain (procrastination)
In fact, you should learn to love the mental pain that comes with taking on challenging tasks right away.
Because, if you can handle short (temporary) periods of mental pain, then you’ll become a more resilient, productive, and successful person with ADHD.
What’s the difference between task avoidance and laziness in people with ADHD?
Laziness is an unwillingness to accept temporary discomfort in exchange for long-term benefits.
Anyone with ADHD can defeat laziness by learning about homeostasis and how your brain actually works.
You have to realize that your brain wants to keep you in a perpetual state of laziness, because that’s how your body conserves energy. Laziness has been a survival mechanism for thousands of years. Laziness is beatable, as long as you can accept temporary discomfort as an ordinary aspect of normal life.
Task avoidance is much more difficult to overcome than laziness, because people with ADHD will rationalize all sorts of reasons to avoid completing tasks.
Again, it’s not your fault for rationalizing ways to avoid tasks. Because when you have ADHD, your executive function doesn’t work in a normal way. Your ADHD brain interprets ordinary tasks as stressors. With ADHD, you’re constantly coming into contact with stressors in your everyday life.
This is why laziness is easily conquerable, but task avoidance is a much more difficult battle to win.
However, task avoidance can still be defeated, because I’ve been able to achieve this in my own life, as have many other people with ADHD…
How to overcome task avoidance when you have ADHD (the 5 tactics you must know)
Conquering task avoidance is not easy when you have ADHD. I would say that task avoidance is one of the most difficult challenges that comes with having ADHD.
This is because your ADHD brain is wired to avoid tasks that it views as stressful (which turns out to be a LOT of things).
But, task avoidance can still be defeated…even with ADHD.
Here are the 5 tactics that you need to master to overcome task avoidance when you have ADHD…
Tactic #1. Create a clear list of your top priorities for the day
If you use a Windows device, then you can download Microsoft OneNote free of charge.
Even if you don’t have Windows, I still think you should consider using OneNote, because it’s one of the most helpful organizational tools that I’ve used.
(You might also choose to use something like Evernote, which works just as well as OneNote).
Either way, you really need to consider using a tool like OneNote or Evernote to create a clear list of priorities every single day. And, you should list your daily priorities in order of importance.
You should always take care of your most important tasks first, because people with ADHD only have a limited amount of willpower every day.
Ideally, you should knock out your highest-priority tasks in the morning, when you feel like you have the most energy.
Once you complete a task, you can then transfer your completed task to your “daily progress” tab (this is possible in OneNote or Evernote).
I create a new to-do list and daily progress list every single weekday.
If you aren’t a huge fan of technology, then you can always use a basic journal or a whiteboard to list out your top priorities every day.
I’ve recommended a great journal and whiteboard for you in my article on ADHD Organizers, Planners, Home Items & More.
Tactic #2. Go to war with the activities that contribute to your avoidance
If you’re lucky, there will come a point where you get sick of the activities that have been robbing you of your time, energy and focus.
Hopefully, that time comes right now.
You probably already know which activities contribute the most to your avoidance…
- Do you frequently browse Reddit when you get bored with your work?
- Do you binge watch Netflix?
- Are you addicted to negative thought patterns, destructive self-talk, and getting stuck in your head?
If you know that certain activities contribute to your avoidance, then you should respect that your time on this Earth is extremely valuable, and proceed to cut those avoidance-enabling activities out of your life.
If you don’t know which activities are contributing to your avoidance, then you can try using a time management app like RescueTime, which will show you exactly which websites you spend most of your time on.
You can also simply become more mindful of when you’re using avoidance as a coping strategy. Most people don’t even realize when they’re avoiding tasks, because they aren’t fully conscious of the actions they’re taking.
Just think about how many times you’ve mindlessly logged into Facebook or Twitter without even thinking about what you were doing.
If you can become conscious of your avoidance, you’ll be much more likely to stop yourself from doing the activities that contribute to your avoidance.
Tactic #3. Fill your life with the right incentives (and there won’t be a need for avoidance)
Why do some people with ADHD achieve amazing feats, while other people with ADHD struggle endlessly in their day-to-day lives?
Stop and think about this for a second (it’s important).
> Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA, has ADHD
> Simone Biles, an Olympic gold medalist, has ADHD
> Charles Schwab, the founder of the awesome bank that I currently use, has ADHD
It’s been proven that people with ADHD are capable of accomplishing enormous tasks.
But, how do some people with ADHD manage to accomplish so much interesting stuff?
Well, it seems like there’s a key factor at play that pushes some people with ADHD to accomplish amazing things, while other people with ADHD struggle endlessly.
And from what I can tell, accomplishing tasks and overcoming massive obstacles mostly comes down to finding the right incentives for your life.
You have to figure out which activities incentivize you to push forward and accomplish tasks no matter what happens in your life.
Because, it’s been shown that people with ADHD have lower levels of dopamine in comparison to most people. And since you have lower levels of dopamine (on average), your brain doesn’t interpret “rewards” in the normal sense.
People like Ingvar Kamprad, Simone Biles, Charles Schwab, and other high-performers with ADHD all likely sought out massive hits of dopamine to satisfy their “dopamine deficient” ADHD brains.
In other words, people who accomplish amazing feats with ADHD typically fill their lives with powerful dopamine-fueled incentives, purposes, and reasons to live.
What incentives push you to live your life to the fullest?
- Young retirement?
- Socializing with amazing people?
- Creating art?
- Building a side business?
- Writing a book?
I find that people with ADHD need to have massive incentives in their life.
You have to wake up knowing that you have something to look forward to every day. Even if you get to work on a “passion project” that you love for just one hour every day. It’s still something that you can look forward to.
This is what will motivate you to keep accomplishing tasks and pushing forward in life.
Find the incentives that work best for your life. If you don’t have the right incentives right now, then you need to create them.
If you live in a Western country like the USA, then you don’t have any excuses in this regard.
> Anyone can self-publish a book through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program free of charge
> Anyone can design their own t-shirts and sell them on Amazon free of charge through the Amazon Merch program (although you must apply for this program first)
> You have access to millions of free websites, YouTube tutorials, and other resources that will help you create your own path in life
Do something that you’re good at, and stick with it for a while. See if it works. If it doesn’t work, then try something else. Rinse and repeat until you find the incentives that work best for your life.
You don’t have to win an Olympic gold medal, or build a gigantic business to have good incentives in your life. You can start with something small that shows you what’s truly possible.
You’ll know when you’ve found the right incentives for your life when you feel excited to wake up every morning. That’s the only “signal” you need to look for.
Tactic #4. Focus on the Pareto principle
The Pareto principle means that 80% of your results in life stem from just 20% of the actions that you take. This is also known as the 80/20 rule.
I find that the Pareto principle applies to most things in life.
You have to discover the 20% of actions that account for most of your success in life.
Because, people with ADHD have a limited amount of time, energy, and focus. So, you have to make the most of the resources that you have.
It only makes sense that you should focus on the few actions that account for the biggest results for your life.
For example, I know that eating high-quality food and exercising every day is one of the most important actions that I can take, because my health and physical fitness steeps into all other areas of my life.
When I feel healthy, the quality of my work, relationships, and personal happiness skyrockets.
When I’m not healthy, most aspects of my life suffer.
Your health makes up a massive chunk of the “20%” part of the Pareto principle. Health seeps into most areas of your life. So, make sure to focus on your health first and foremost.
Once your health is in check, you can figure out the other “high-leverage activities” that help you make massive progress in your life.
These high-leverage activities might consist of surrounding yourself with the right people (this is huge), finding an ideal job, or traveling every month.
Everyone is different. So, you have to experiment, and figure out which activities give you the best results for your life.
Tactic #5. Create systems for your life (automate, delegate, and build systems)
There’s a chance that you’re avoiding certain tasks because you find those tasks to be boring, annoying, or frustrating.
Everyone has to deal with tasks that they don’t like doing at times.
But, you can always build systems that help you automate, delegate, and systematize your lifestyle.
> If you frequently avoid cleaning your house, then you might want to hire a maid who can clean your house for you
> If you don’t like to cook, then you should look into meal delivery services (somewhat expensive) or DIY meal prepping (extremely budget-friendly)
> If you don’t like doing taxes, then you can hire a CPA for a very reasonable rate
> If you always have a bunch of busywork to take care of, then you can hire a Virtual Assistant (VA) who will help you free up your time
> If you don’t like paying bills, then you should enroll in autopay for all of your bill payments
We live in an astonishing modern age where your opportunities for “lifestyle automation” are basically endless.
So, you can stop doing menial tasks all on your own, and start thinking about the bigger picture for your life.
I assume that people with ADHD can eventually eliminate 90% of the activities that they frequently avoid.
You just have to get creative, and be willing to seek help from other people.
There will always be people available to help you with the tasks that you frequently avoid.
Always remember this before you avoid doing something important.
Overall, I hope this article helps you acknowledge the underlying reasons why you avoid certain tasks.
And even more importantly, you should now have the tools to stop avoiding high-priority tasks, and start pursuing the tasks that you actually enjoy doing.
But, keep in mind that it could take you a number of weeks, months, or even years to reach a point where you’re fully engulfed in the tasks that you love doing.
You typically have to earn the right to pursue the tasks that you love on a daily basis.
So, you will have to go through a period of pain and growth in order to get your life to a point where you feel somewhat comfortable.
But, you will appreciate the process of overcoming the task avoidance caused by your ADHD. Once you learn how to confront your challenges head on, there’s just no going back.