Breakthrough Solutions

for Attention Deficit Disorder Adults

Bonnie Mincu

Senior Certified ADHD Coach

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Paperwork 101 for Procrastinators – Getting Started

I bet boring paperwork is pretty high on most ADD / ADHD people's list as something they procrastinate about big-time.   After completing my tax filing, there's lots of paperwork in my office that needs filing.  Here are my own personal methods for getting through it.

As an ADD / ADHD Adult, my brain won't focus on something that isn't engaging unless it has to.  So I try to make the paperwork easy and pleasant.  Since these steps reflect my personal preferences, you will probably want to modify them to suit your own needs.

Make it non-overwhelming by breaking it down.

If I look around a messy office, that looks pretty depressing, a BIG clean-up job.  But if I divide the space into small areas and make a list, it's easy to check areas off as I complete them.   The same principle works for breaking down a big boring project into small, specific action tasks.  (Mind-mapping is a great way to break things down easily.)

Concentrate on one small step at a time.

Actually “concentrate” isn't the right word, because I'm talking about work that's boring and doesn't really require intellectual concentration.  But if you're ADD / ADHD, you know your mind will drift, and then your feet will take you somewhere else, and suddenly instead of clearing the paperwork on your desk you find yourself in the kitchen.  So, if you make a decision to work on what's on top of the desk, then keep yourself “planted” by the desk.

Have everything you need in front of you

You can only keep yourself planted and focused on the task at hand if you don't have to stop to look for anything. So, before you start, make sure you have everything in front of you.  For my paperwork, that usually includes the right files, stapler, pen, and pad of paper.

By the way, my ADD kicks in about things like pen and paper.  They have to be exactly the kind I like, or I have trouble settling down and doing the task.  It actually makes sense from the context of ADD / ADHD: we get distracted if our tools don't feel right.  So make sure you have that ultra-fine point purple pen on hand, if that's what will get you going!

Set a timer for a specific number of minutes.

You could set the timer for about as long as your attention span can handle on one task before rewarding yourself with a break.  Or, if the task is really mindless and boring, play “beat the clock” by trying to get through it as quickly as possible before the timer goes off.

OK, those are some of the logistics for getting started on tedious paperwork. But, unless it's at least somewhat interesting or entertaining, you'll procrastinate forever, right?

Next posting, I'll give my favorites for making tedious paperwork more tolerable.

Author: Bonnie Mincu
Senior Certified ADHD Coach, Founder of "Thrive with ADD," Bonnie has been coaching adults with ADD / ADHD traits since 2001. She has developed numerous training programs to help with the challenges of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.


    […] “Tips for Tedious Paperwork – Part 1” I talked about setting the stage for making it easier for ADD / ADHD Adults to start dealing […]


    I am a 40-yr old female recently diagnosed with ADD. Your blog is wonderful! I particularly enjoyed hearing that you, too, are distracted by the wrong tools. I just can’t use a ball-point pen and wondered why I was so particular about having a neat piece of paper and a non-ball-point pen – I am not generally a neat person, so this seemed out of character for me. Thanks to reading your blog, instead of internally criticizing myself for being picky, I just use pens and paper that I like to get things done. Thanks for sharing such great tips!

    Bonnie Mincu

    I get quite picky when buying pads of paper (since I take notes when coaching, I go through many of them!) I’ll only buy narrow-lined paper, the surface should be slick, and they need to easily tear off from the pad.

    Hey, if it weren’t for lots of people being picky about their options, office supply stores wouldn’t have so many choices, right?

    now that i have a little more time, i am paying attention – really like your blog.
    and the tips about paper work. i am big on small steps, but hadnt thought about being sure i have everything so i have not excuse to get up – thats good!
    and strategies to make it less unpleasant more interesting – we adders have to pay attention to things like that

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Bonnie, there are no words to express how deeply I’ve been affected by your blog! I’ve only read a few things, but they have created such a complete mind shift that the tears shed have washed away my struggles forever!

For the first time in my life I feel understood and hopeful that I can put some tools and systems in place to help me overcome!”

—Michelle near Seattle

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