We all know that moment. We have carefully plotted out our calendars and our task lists. We know what we are supposed to be doing and when. But the moment comes to tackle a large project, or even, sometimes, a small one, particularly when it involves writing, we freeze. Our mind is mush. We don’t have the slightest idea where to begin.
The question was put to me by several people recently: what do I do when I know what I am supposed to be doing, and I still don’t do it?
This phenomenon I believe isn’t so much due to our ADHD as it is due to the long, deep impact of frequent “failures” on our part to get things done when they are supposed to get done. Two psychological elements are at work here: anxiety, and depression.
Depression comes from a feeling of powerlessness — the feeling that no matter what we do, no matter what effort we make, the outcome will always be the same negative end, or possibly even worse than what we have experienced before.
We lack motivation to do the task before us because we can’t see any actual future benefit from it. What does it matter if I do this thing or not? More than likely it will just be a waste of time and energy. Why not instead engage in some soothing activity (such as video games, watching tv, or any other relatively passive activity that doesn’t require a lot of decision making, or at least, not much decision making that will have a real impact on our lives).
Anxiety comes from a feeling very similar to depression, but it needs to be distinguished separately in order to address it. Anxiety over our work comes from being overwhelmed by the tasks ahead of us. We have a deep fear of failure, as with depression, but this fear is about making the wrong decision. We fear making decisions because we cannot foresee the outcome. If I choose to do x right now, what about y? When will I have time to do z as well as y?
So you’ve got your task ahead of you, and you sit down to do it, and you get this clutching feeling deep down in the pit of your stomach. You may even…