Written by John J. Ratey, M.D.
Impaired executive functions in the frontal lobes, in particular erratic working memory and a faulty attention system, contribute to procrastination. Working memory can be likened to the RAM of a computer. Without sufficient RAM, the brain moves on to the next issue or stimuli, completely wiping clean what was being considered before.
Despite the awareness of the importance of getting started, the ability to procrastinate is often intertwined with the sometimes amazing ability of people with ADHD to forget, suppress, and repress their desired goals and “get busy” with some other activity, regardless of how meaningless it might be.
Trapped in the moment, the person forgets even painfully catastrophic consequences paid in the past for their avoidance and procrastination. The double-edged sword of procrastination for persons with ADHD is that so often they are able to “pull it off at the nth hour.”
By activating cortisol, the body’s stress response and stress hormone, dopamine, the primary neurotransmitter of the attention system, is released. This serves to correct the lethargic attention system and “turn on” the frontal cortex, which improves RAM and all other executive functions., The person then is able to become focused and sustain the effort and attention to start and complete tasks. This is why individuals with ADHD develop the false believe that they will always be able to “pull it off.” This works well until the complexity of their demands increases, and then they begin to fail.