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I’ll Do It Later, And Other Lies Adults With ADHD Tell Ourselves

by Pete Quily on June 13, 2013 · 6 comments

If you have ADHD, how often have you said any of these words?

I’ll do it later.

I’ll do it tomorrow.

I’ll just finish this page/article/email/task.

It won’t take much time.

This will be easy.

I don’t need a reminder.

I’ll remember it, don’t worry.

These are very common lies that we adults with ADHD tell ourselves. We don’t lie deliberately. We don’t even think they’re lies in the moment when we say them because we “have the intention to do them”. We really do believe that we will “do it later”.

But we rarely do in fact do it later. This leads to frustration, stress and other negative feelings for the adult with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and often even more of that for others around us, spouses, family, colleagues, friends etc.

Adults with ADHD have trouble with time management and arguably procrastination is one of the biggest problems for ADHD adults.

I’ve said them, my adult ADHD coaching clients have said them, I’ve heard them at the Vancouver adult ADD Support group I lead, and I’ve heard them from many, many adults with ADHD.

The problem is that all the good intentions in the world are useless by themselves. Intentions don’t really matter that much unless they’re malicious & hostile, then they do.

Intentions are not actions. But often we ADDErs think unconsciously if we have the intention to do something it will get done magically and then we don’t have to do anything about it, worry about it or plan anything to make it happen, create a reminder that works for us etc.

They’re basic examples of delusional optimism or magical thinking vs. pragmatic optimism or realistic thinking. Everyone has delusional optimism sometimes, but ADHD adults seem to have them more often than non adders.

Adults With ADHD More Likely To Be Delusionally Optimistic Because We’re More Likely To Be:

  • forgetful
  • time blind
  • disorganized
  • have trouble breaking down projects into smaller doable tasks
  • are easily distracted
  • are impulsive
  • have trouble considering the future
  • don’t like doing boring or repetitive things
  • have trouble planning.

So given all those things can you now see why when we say “I’ll do it later” warning flags should go off in our heads? But we’re forgetful and have trouble learning from past mistakes so they often don’t or we ignore them.

When you catch yourself saying one of these try & stop and be aware of your body to get out of your head and get grounded, become more present and start applying some reality filters. I.e., ask yourself some questions.


Here are some examples of reality filters to try out:

When, exactly, will later be?

How will I plan to do this?

How will I remember to do this? What kinds of reminders would work for me to remember it?

Was it easy/simple/quick the last time I tried to do something like this?

What might happen if I forget to do this?

You might want to create a simple plan and a reminder to practice saying them so that when you’re in the moment you’re more prepared to do so.

What are the most common ADHD lies you tell yourself?

What techniques have you learned to be able to deal with them more effectively?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan F June 16, 2013 at

I’ll flag this post to make sure I read it later

Pete Quily June 16, 2013 at

That is certainly a great example of a lie that many of us ADDers tell ourselves Dan

Corinne August 17, 2013 at

Pete, have you read Your Life Can Be Better by Douglas Puryear? One of my favorite ADHD strategies books. Puryear is a psychiatrist with ADHD. He has a mantra that he uses: “do it now, do it right, do the hard part first.” This helped me a lot at first but lately I have been putting off using it! :) Love Dan’s comment here.

Pete Quily August 18, 2013 at

Yes I have Corinne, interesting book. the swallow the frog first idea. get it done & over with

Mike January 8, 2014 at

Sometimes when I procrastinate on something, I’ve used apps to keep reminding me over and over till I actually do it. I found this to be effective (as long as the reminder is subtle, and not annoying).

What do you think of this approach? Has anyone else tried it, and found it effective/ineffective?

Pete Quily January 11, 2014 at

Hi Mike for some people for some things it will. For some the subtle & not annoying will work & with others the loud & irritating will work

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