Moving Past Task Anxiety to stop “procrastinating”


Procrastination vs. Task Anxiety
Executive Functioning struggles redux

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Time & Task Management Series

Poor Organization & Task Completion

Most of us with Executive Functioning struggles have difficulty “putting it all together.”

Our cognitive deck of cards gets shuffled in the process of recording “awarenesses” into short term memory and consolidating for long-term storage.

That makes it harder to figure out which cards to pull when it comes time to play the game — making it difficult to respond appropriately, or to correctly evaluate consequences, outcomes and timing.

As a result, projects tend to be abandoned unfinished in our dissatisfaction with our lack of ability to play at a level that makes the game interesting rather than an exercise in frustration.  Before we know it, we’ve labeled ourselves chronic procrastinators — and so have most of our associates and loved ones.

It certainly may look like chronic procrastination to anyone looking on. And boy howdy do those onlookers love to sling that label around — as if they believed that merely pointing it out would launch us into activation!

I would like to suggest that what’s really going on here is Task Anxiety.

Task anxiety, just what it sounds like, is what science used to call a “limbic system” activator — where your brain and body are primed to fight, flight or freeze, NOT to get things done!

EVEN those who push through and force themselves to tackle the tasks on their To-Do lists are, according to the latest studies, up to 50% less effective than they would be if they handled the task anxiety FIRST.

  • According to scientific studies conducted in the past few years by Dr. David Rock and his team, and Emotional Regulation Research founder, Stanford’s Dr. James J. Gross:

The degree to which your “limbic system” is aroused is
the degree to which your PFC [prefrontal cortex] is deactivated.

  • Task completion is decision-dependent — and deciding depends on prefrontal cortex activation.
  • The PFC of “the ADD/EFD brain-style,” which includes all of us with Executive Functioning struggles, is already under-performing, relative to the neurotypical population — and the research above was NOT carried out using the ADD/EFD population!

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Madelyn’s 3-point Procrastination Primer

1. The greater the number of items to accomplish on the way to completing any particular task, the higher the likelihood of so-called “procrastination.

2. The higher the number of decisions to be made on the way to completing any particular task, the lower the probability that it will begin or end in a timely manner.

3. The more each item or decision depends on the completion of a prior step, the more likely it is to result in shut-down — and the greater the likelihood that the project will be tabled for another time.

Related Post: Procrastination — Activation vs. Motivation

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Here’s the GOOD news:

Simply identifying what’s going on, whether you actually DO anything about it or not, helps to bring the PFC back online somewhat.  And there is SO much more you can do!

Identifying these areas and naming the steps involved will go a long way toward intentionality.

Awareness is always the first step, and “naming” it is the second.

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Sherlocking Task Anxiety


By Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T., MCC, SCAC Another in a series of articles from my upcoming book, TaskMaster™ – see article list below

Task Anxiety 101 – part 2

Watson, we need to review

The three most recent segments introduced a unique connection between bribery and intentionality, linking it to reward and acknowledgment. I introduced the connection between inner three-year-olds and the cookie concept, a real-world application of the importance of reward and acknowledgment to ongoing accomplishment.

IF you’ve been playing along . . .

In the TaskMaster™ Series Introduction and in Task Anxiety Awareness, you made some lists.

One is a List of Ten — activities you find yourself doing INSTEAD whenever you attempt to complete a task, or in response to an attempt to initiate a task.

  • This is a list of any ten of the things that YOU do that leaves you chronically behind and befuddled.
  • Many of you had self-identified with that not-very-helpful “chronic procrastinator” label as a result.
  • I encouraged you to reframe those tasks as “avoidance” activities: avoiding task anxiety.

You also have a List of Five Feelings.

I asked you to think of a specific example in your life where you tried to listen to “logical” advice from those who did not take the time to understand the parameters of your problem before stepping in to suggest their “simple solutions.”

  • I asked you to recall how you felt when you attempted to take that “logical” advice (or even thought about taking it), especially when accompanied by a failure to reach a goal or complete a task.
  • I suggested you write down at least five descriptive feeling words, then walked you through four paired-awareness exercises, shuffling the paired words around a bit to see if any new insights bubbled up from your unconscious.

Now, dear Watson, let’s connect some dots!

Alphabet Soup


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EFD, ADD, ADHD, HRT, MBD – WTF?

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

Hold onto your hats everybody, there is discussion afoot toward yet another renaming of ADD (currently “officially” ADHD) — and the front-runner seems to be (at the moment, at least), EFD.

I wouldn’t block consensus on EFD.

However, as illuminated in an earlier article on this site [ADD – What’s in a Name?], I don’t have a problem with the acronym “ADD” — as long as we focus on the disorder of THE ATTENDING MECHANISM and the Dynamics of Attending.

In other words, the essential point, for me, is that, for whatever reason, ADD is an impairment in the extent of one’s ability to pay attention, STOP paying attention, and/or to get back on track after an interruption or distraction.

  1. Focusing on the intended object;
  2. Sustaining the focus;
  3. Shifting focus AT WILL

Underlying each of the Dynamics is the same impaired element of cognition common to all of the Executive Functioning Disorders: VOLITION.

That’s INTENTIONALITY, boys and girls – being able to drive your own brain and run your own life, rather than being at the effect of chronic oopses and mishaps.

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Task Anxiety Awareness


Task Anxiety 101 – Part 1

By Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T., MCC, SCAC
The second of a series of articles from
my upcoming book, TaskMaster™
– see article list below

Task Anxiety 101 - Part 1

Get out your notebook

Before I go into a bit of background explanation about task anxiety, I am about to ask you to make another list.

For those times when you attempt to complete something or in response to attempting to begin something, make a List of Ten activities you find yourself doing INSTEAD.  What is it that YOU do that leaves you chronically behind and befuddled.

As I asked in the first article in the TaskMaster Series:

What were some of the tactics you used to deal with your anxiety about not knowing how to tackle a particular task?
(Those supposed “procrastination” activities you took on instead of what you intended or needed to do)

I find it more useful, AND more accurate, to reframe those tasks as “avoidance” activities: avoiding task anxiety.

So now it’s time to get to work on changing a few things.

I’ll get you started by sharing my own list of activities I do when I “go unconscious” about my own task anxiety. To get the benefit of this section, you need to connect PERSONALLY – so take the time to write out your own List of Ten, so that you will be able to do the four exercises that follow.

I’ll bet you a year’s free coaching, if you don’t actually DO the exercises, there will be no new insights — and you will dismiss them as a huge waste of time and energy as you read about them.

(At the bottom of this article, I’ll give the skeptics among you a couple of credible scientists
to check out, with links to what they have to say about optimizing internal processing.)

TaskMaster – Getting Things DONE!


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by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Part One of the TaskMaster™ Series

Taming Training 101

You are about to learn to become your own Task Master.

Nooooo – I don’t mean standing with a chair and a whip, caging the beast that is YOU.

The TASKS must be trained.  They need to be tamed so they’ll work the way YOU need them to work.

Task taming is a multi-stepped process:

•  Tasks must be trained initially, then
•  Revisited and re-trained every time you learn something new about what you really need.

Let me guess . . . at this point, ALL you know about what you really need is that whatever others tell you to do doesn’t seem to work for YOU, right?

I’m about to let you in on an important ADD secret that many of us had to learn about the hard way. Shhhhhhhh!

At least 80% of what others have been telling you wasn’t designed to work for you!

  • It was actually intended to chastise you for not ALREADY knowing how to make it work, and
  • to get you to stop looking to others for help (especially them!)

Really! And I’ll bet it worked just as designed.

Think about it. Didn’t you feel thoroughly chastised, tongue-tied about what to say next, and reluctant to ask for help the next time?

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