Why Can’t I Get Off My Lazy Ass?

Why is it so hard for ADDers to get started on a task?

We all seem to have this problem. We know we need to do this thing but we procrastinate, see a shiny object and get distracted, do something else BUT what we all know we need to do.

Well according to a new study by Certified ADD Coach Bonnie Mincu something else is going on.


According to her Getting Started Blues survey here. 

The survey began by asking ADD / ADHD participants to distinguish between Procrastination, Distraction and Mental Paralysis in their difficulties getting started.   Each phrase was clarified for its specific meaning. Respondents were allowed to choose two out of three as their top challenges.

  • Mental Paralysis – paralyzed and unable to start – 62%
  • Procrastination – not starting due to boredom or lack of motivation – 44%
  • Distraction – tried to start but got distracted or interrupted – 38%

Mental Paralysis was picked almost 30% MORE than Procrastination as a top problem in getting started! In fact, once “Procrastination” was strictly defined as only pertaining to boredom and motivation-deficit, fewer than 50% of responders selected it as a major problem.

We’re being labeled with the wrong stereotype!

She notes:

If you ask anyone what they think the biggest problem ADD / ADHD Adults have, they’re likely to say “procrastination.”  This answer is likely to come from people with ADD themselves, as well as those who live or work with them.

Once I began coaching and training ADD Adults, I came to realize that people use the word “procrastinate” to describe any kind of not starting, without distinguishing whether they were avoiding starting because they didn’t WANT to, or whether they actually weren’t ABLE to. It’s long been my belief that the majority of  ADD / ADHD “procrastination” — especially in the workplace — was actually due to an individual feeling STUCK, mentally unable to begin.  Their brain was unable to figure out where to start, how to start, what to do, or was simply overwhelmed by how much there was to do. 

What causes Paralysis?

Her survey finds that:

The possible reasons for paralysis into 8 primary answers. Not surprisingly, “Overwhelmwas the most-chosen reason people stayed stuck, at 68%. Other reasons having to do with brain functioning  on the “how to” front were:

  • Inability to prioritize – 38%
  • Don’t know where / how to start – 33%
  • Inability to plan out the project – 22%

Anxiety or emotion-related paralyzing factors arose from:

  • fear of the outcome – 25%
  • difficulty working with ambiguity when aspects of the project were unclear – 18%
  • shame creating avoidance – 15%

Disorganization played a significant role in keeping people from starting.  When people couldn’t start because they had to do another step first, for 47%, the first step was to find or organize what was needed.

Perfectionism was identified by some as contributing to fear of starting, or belief that no effort could be good enough.

Click here to see complete results on the “Getting Started Blues” Survey.

Is paralysis stopping you?

If it is the first step to fixing the problem is to identify it and find a workaround.

This isn’t laziness it’s an executive function issue.

Ask yourself why:

Why am I overwhelmed?

Why can I prioritize?

Why don’t know where / how to start?

Why can’t I plan out the project?

Why am I afraid of the outcome?

Why are aspects of the project unclear?

Why am I ashamed?

Identifying and dealing with each one of the these things that is causing your paralysis will go far in changing your life. Now it’s up to you do find the method for you that will allow you to overcome your paralysis.

Good Luck


Other articles to read:

Are You Stuck With Perfection Paralysis?

Mental and Emotional Paralysis: Depression

Too Many Choices: A Problem That Can Paralize

How to rid yourself of analysis paralysis

The Curious Case of Overwhelmed Paralysis Syndrome

Paralyzed By Your To-Do List? A Quick Guide to Prioritizing

Is Your Start Button Stuck? Five Ways to Get Unstuck and Achieve Momentum

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Why Can’t I Get Off My Lazy Ass? — 5 Comments

  1. Hi Augie:
    Great blog you have! Thanks for referring to my “Getting Started Blues” Survey. It’s fascinating how much people link the “procrastination” stereotype to ADD, but hardly ever talk about the mental paralysis.

  2. Getting tired and fatigued even with proper diet and sleep is a problem. Whether with or without medication…I throw caffeine in tea/coffee, etc in here. Feel mentally alert but bodily tired…This is like with ADD, would are driving down the road. Your car a a Bent Tie-rod so you MUST hold the steering wheel tight all the time..Let go and the bent rod makes the wheels turn into a Ditch. All the effort/focus is a heavy drain. You have a great blog. Guess just look for Success and try to be Consistent. Sustained Effort…That was what was on all my report cards as I ran hot & cold.

    • Thanks for the kind words. I think the point is Sometimes being overwhelmed or afraid to fail again is the executive function lacking.

      • When I was in my 20 s and had no understanding of the caeuss of my procrastination and my sense of total inadequacy, I had a job as a case worker in a social services. I got so far behind in my cases and had no idea how to untangle the incredible level of disorganization plaguing me that in desperation I went out and bought a neck collar and called in sick , saying I had hurt my neck. I spent the next few days catching up on my work at home and then made myself wear the heavy, padded neck collar in the office (and out) in 98 degree weather. I can remember the hot, sweaty collar and the total shame I felt as if it were yesterday (instead of 25 years ago!).

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