What is Task Paralysis and How To Overcome It | Start Getting Things Done

We’ve all been there; the deadline is approaching, and you’re so absorbed in completing the job right that you completely freeze and wait until the very last minute.


Welcoming you to the debilitating realm of task paralysis, “a transient feeling of being stuck in a place of uncertainty, unsure of where to begin,” according to Mary Kingsbury Enquist, assistant vice president of business, strategy, and planning development for NYU Langone Medical Center.

More importantly, she says, “This lack of clarity holds you back from being able to leverage your full creativity and foils your attempts to harness your energy to focus on the goals you’ve set out to achieve.”


Workload paralysis is a possibility for anyone in an environment that is fast-paced and frequently unpredictable; it can create lots of stress and leave people overwhelmed before they even realize it.

What is Task Paralysis?

The term “task paralysis” refers to the inability to begin an activity because you’re waiting for the right conditions or the right timing.

The brain interprets your list of tasks as a threat; task paralysis is one of overthinking, which leads to the inability to act, even when you have a requirement to take action.

Simply stated, task paralysis refers to the inability to initiate the task due to waiting for the right conditions or the perfect timing. People who have ADHD frequently delay starting tasks because they think they won’t be able to do their task unless everything is right.


In certain situations, task paralysis can cause delays in the beginning of the task due to the fact that you’re waiting for a different task.

For example, suppose you are due to attend an interview later in the day. In that case, you may not start anything early in the morning because of worry about not being able to complete the task or becoming focused on the task at hand and thereby missing the interview.

While it’s beneficial to keep track of any upcoming tasks and appointments, a lack of focus can be harmful.

In reality, this type of thinking can create an unending cycle; the longer you delay starting an activity, the more you are under pressure to complete it, which results in more procrastination.

Apathy and waiting can be difficult when working. For example, you could delay starting a project because you’re waiting on all the details you require before starting. You might also put off starting a project because you’re afraid that you’ll be unable to complete it before the deadline. Whatever the reason, this kind of thinking could lead to decreased productivity and elevated stress levels.

What is ADHD Task Paralysis?

The issue is that people with ADHD find it difficult to begin or finish tasks, even though they have the motivation and desire to finish the task, which is known as ADHD task paralysis. It is a common ADHD sign that can manifest itself as avoidance, procrastination, indecision, and excessive emotions.

Why is Task Paralysis Common for People With ADHD and Other Forms of Neurodiversity?

A lot of people who have ADHD and other neurodiversity disorders are often affected by what is called “task paralysis.” This is when someone cannot begin or complete a task since they’re waiting for ideal conditions.

Task paralysis is a state of being inactive caused by the belief that ideal conditions must be fulfilled to begin or complete an assignment; this may manifest in a variety of ways, like procrastination, perfectionism, or difficulty making choices.

Individuals with ADHD and other neurodiversity are especially susceptible to apathy due to the fact that they have higher standards of themselves as well as their jobs; they might also be afflicted by impulsiveness that makes it difficult to adhere to the plan or to see a project through to its completion.

A lot of people with ADHD or other types of neurodiversity also suffer from what’s called the “intensity threshold,” this means that they’re only focused on a specific task if it is able to meet certain requirements like being interesting or significant enough. If the task isn’t able to fulfill this requirement, most of them find it difficult to begin.

The second reason is that you are often having difficulty organizing your thoughts, and this makes it difficult to decide where to begin on a project or what must be completed.

Impulsivity is a common trait for people with neurodivergent personalities; this may result in our starting tasks without considering them all the way through or giving up on projects before they’re done.

In the end, Task paralysis (sometimes called waiting mode or wait paralysis) is associated with numerous other neurodiversity-related experiences and ADHD, such as the phenomenon of time blindness and impulsivity; it can also cause stress, anxiousness, analysis paralysis in time management, inadequate emotion regulation, and many more.

Can You Have Task Paralysis and Not ADHD?

It’s the case that task paralysis may be experienced by people who do not have ADHD. It can be caused by various factors like worry, sadness, stress, or simply feeling overwhelmed by life’s demands.

For example, Even when they don’t have ADHD, one who is suffering from lots of anxiety or stress may find it difficult to finish or start work. In the same way, those with depression may struggle to stay motivated as well as find a way to engage in the activities they once enjoyed.

Sometimes, task paralysis could be a symptom of other ailments like fibromyalgia, brain trauma, or chronic fatigue syndrome.

It is important to recognize that task-related paralysis isn’t an essential characteristic of ADHD, although it’s a symptom. You should consult a medical professional in case you’re having serious trouble getting through tasks so that they can help you identify the root cause and provide appropriate treatment.

Why Does Task Paralysis Happen?

Analysis paralysis also refers to a state of task paralysis, which is when individuals are confronted with so many options or options that they become overwhelmed. Factors like risk aversion, perfectionist tendencies, lack of information about the complexity of decisions, and feelings of anxiety cause a state of mental inertia. Overly detailed analyses, emotions, and external forces could all contribute to this phenomenon.

The ability to perform and progress is hindered by the anxiety, hesitation, and avoidance behaviors that take place; this phenomenon of task paralysis complicates interaction between cognitive, emotional, psychological, and physical factors that render people powerless and hinder individuals from making decisions or taking action.

What Does Task Paralysis Feel Like?

If there are a lot of options or choices to make, the task can be a source of paralysis, which is also known by the name of “analysis paralysis” or “decision paralysis,” which could cause feelings of mental inactivity and an inability to move. It could be frustrating and mentally demanding. What it might feel like is the following:


The number of chores or decisions you have to make can cause you to feel overwhelmed. Anxiety and feelings of utter powerlessness could result from this.


The condition can lead to difficulty in making decisions, as the word suggests. You may be unable to make decisions because you’re taking too long to consider the pros and cons of every alternative.


It is easy to get caught up in procrastination because the thought of doing the work that is currently required can be daunting. To get away from the more difficult decisions or obligations, you can choose to do other, more mundane activities.


The feeling of not being able to make decisions can make your anxiety worse. The longer the paralysis persists, the more worried you may feel about not doing anything.


If you are looking to move forward but aren’t able to, you might get unhappy with yourself and your situation. This frustration could cause you to feel more overwhelmed.

Productivity Loss

Task paralysis can lead to a significant loss in productivity. It is possible to spend a lot of time contemplating what you need to accomplish without doing anything at all.


Self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy may be due to the inability to make choices or take action. You might doubt your abilities and wonder why you cannot appear to progress like others.

Physical Symptoms

Task paralysis may also trigger physical symptoms because of mental stress as well as overthinking. Individuals may experience headaches, tension, and restlessness, and some may even experience fatigue.

Negative Feedback Loop

The process of task paralysis feeds over itself in a steady manner when it persists. It can be harder to break free of the cycle when anxiety and self-criticism grow due to an absence of improvement.

Relief Following Decision

There’s often a sense of relief when you are finally able to make a decision to take action. It is possible to feel a new sense of accomplishment and purpose when the burden of doubt is lifted.

Causes of Task Paralysis

A range of reasons, such as a lack of resources, time, or understanding, causes task paralysis. It may be caused by:


The pursuit of perfection can cause the inability to complete tasks as people are too focused on getting perfect outcomes; the anxiety of being a failure or failing to meet the requirements of standards can become overwhelming, which can lead to procrastination and the avoidance of tasks. The constant quest for perfection can lead to unrealistic expectations, making it difficult for people to get started or finish their projects since the fear of failure is a barrier to the improvement process.

Fear of failing

The fear of failure could create task paralysis, causing anxiety and disinclination to begin or finish tasks. The fear of failing or not meeting expectations can cause individuals to put off tasks or even avoid them completely; the fear of failure undermines confidence and slows progress since people shift their focus from meeting objectives to avoiding the negative consequences of failing.


Procrastination can cause task stagnation by slowing the start or the completion of tasks. The habit of putting off actions could lead to an unproductive cycle and create a blockage to moving forward. As tasks increase, the difficulty of either starting the task or getting caught up grows, further strengthening the habit of procrastination and reducing productivity.

“Task paralysis can have a significant impact on your productivity and well-being. Whether it’s a looming work deadline or a messy home project, the sense of anxiety and dread can be paralyzing. Task paralysis is a common psychological phenomenon that occurs when we feel overwhelmed by a task and uncertain of where to start; this can lead us to procrastinate or avoid the task altogether, which only amplifies the feelings of anxiety and inadequacy,” Dr. Tugnait says.

How is Task Paralysis Different From Procrastination?

Procrastination and task paralysis are two terms often interchangeably used, but they are not the same thing.

Technically, task paralysis is a distinct type of procrastination; it is a particular problem when you put off an activity for reasons other than the fact that there is another occasion or job scheduled for the next day.

Procrastination, on the other hand, is a result of various reasons; you might not have the energy to tackle your task, or maybe you’re experiencing a lack of motivation that makes you put off beginning your work.

How Do You Overcome Task Paralysis?

The problem with task paralysis is it places your fears and worries on the front burner and pushes the things that matter to you or need to be completed to the sidelines. A deadline or a foreseeable consequence provides you with enough energy or motivation to push you forward.

Here are some ways to overcome task anxiety:

Remember to RAN

RAN, you might have already guessed, is the abbreviation of:

  • Rewards
  • Accountability
  • Novelty

The three components mentioned above can help those with ADHD by making the activity more enjoyable and interesting. Here’s the best way you can utilize each component:


Since they often struggle with motivation, those with ADHD may not be able to complete tasks they find boring or tedious; the task may feel more rewarding and create satisfaction by introducing rewards.

Anything that inspires you could be rewarding, whether it’s an indulgence or a break. It’s important to pick rewards that you look forward to and that are meaningful to you.


For those who have ADHD and other disorders, the concept of accountability can be a powerful motivation. It may feel more important and urgent when you know that somebody else relies on you to accomplish the task.

Suppose you ask a person to join your team; let them know of your goals and due dates, for example, your family member, friend, or colleague; they can check in with your progress and offer encouragement and assistance.


People with ADHD often crave excitement and novelty; they can become bored by mundane tasks. An activity can feel more exciting and interesting by adding a sense of fun; this is accomplished by changing your environment, for example, being in a different location, listening to music, or taking a different approach to the task. You could, for example, split the work into smaller chunks that are easier to complete or set a timer for yourself to complete it.

Break the Monotony

Monotony is an issue that many individuals face in attempting to accomplish tasks, particularly when the task is monotonous or routine.

Doing the same thing repeatedly can be boring, which can result in a lack of motivation and, ultimately, the onset of task-related inactivity; this is particularly the case for those with ADHD who might experience anxiety and boredom.

Create a To-Do List That’s More Manageable

An overwhelming to-do list usually causes task-related stress. It’s good to keep a list of tasks on hand to ensure you have a clear picture of what has to be accomplished, and you should not be enticed by the idea of putting massive, daunting chunks of work into it. Make things smaller so that they’re less intimidating and may be more manageable in a short amount of time when another obligation is near.

Allow yourself to begin by starting and taking small steps.

Sometimes, we get stuck at the sight of an undertaking because it seems impossible to even begin; that’s why it’s crucial to break your tasks into smaller possible parts to make it easier and help us gain momentum by achieving small successes.

Make it as specific and small as you can! Next, you should focus on the actions that seem most straightforward, even if they’re just one step. The main goal is getting going, so don’t get worried about the bigger overall picture; simply take each step at a time!

Examine the reasons you’re avoiding the task.

Sometimes, we do not take on a task without a conscious intention of exploring why we feel stressed or anxious about the task. When we take a step back and look around, we’ll find that there are some specific obstacles that can be addressed more effectively.

If you’re stuck, ask yourself these three questions:

  • Is there a particular step in the process that I’m worried about?
  • If so, could I not do it? 
  • Can I keep it in mind for a later time or cut it into smaller pieces?
  • Is there information I’m missing?
  • If so, where do I get it?
  • Can I set aside time to conduct more research or to talk with someone?
  • What parts of this task feel doable?
  • Do I have to start from there, or is it something I must complete in a specific time or time frame?
  • Are there any positive feelings I will experience after the task is completed?
  • Do I have the ability to shift my attention and remember the emotions that those feelings will be like? (Relief, excitement, pride?)

Increase your dopamine

There are many ways to increase the amount of dopamine in your body.

Some of the more ‘easy’ ones are:

  • Moving (especially energetic movement or joyful dance)
  • Enjoying upbeat music
  • A protein-rich snack 
  • Get some sun (hello, Vitamin D!) through a quick walk.

Set Alarms

Alarms can help you overcome the problem of task paralysis and help you stay focused on achieving your objectives.

Set alarms that remind you to stop for a break when a certain period has elapsed; this is particularly helpful when you are prone to the habit of being so absorbed in your work that you don’t take breaks, and it can result in burning out and reduced productivity.

Give your brain and body the time they require to recharge, and keep you refreshed by setting an alarm that will remind you to stop for a moment.

Another purpose for alarms is to alert you about deadlines or appointment times; this can help you stay on track and recall important tasks or appointments. For example, you can set the alarm so that you remind yourself that you must submit an assignment by a certain date or remind you to attend an event.

Use Calendars

Calendars are an excellent tool that will aid you in staying organized and efficiently managing your time. It is possible to use calendars to keep track of deadlines, appointments, and other obligations and ensure that you’re using your time to the maximum extent possible.

Calendars also assist you in planning your schedule more efficiently, providing you with a visual representation of your schedule and pinpointing any possible conflicts. For instance, if you notice that you have two multiple meetings that are scheduled to run for multiple hours, You can alter your calendar to incorporate buffer time between meetings to account for unexpected delays or tasks that require follow-up.

Book Appointments for First Thing in the Morning

If you’re able, book appointments first at the beginning of your day; this will ensure that you don’t lose track of appointments at the end of your day and find yourself rescheduling or canceling at the last moment (or maybe even more importantly, delaying doing other activities in the day because you’re worried about missing the appointment).

If an appointment does occur at the last minute, make it work! Refusing to show up or canceling at the last minute is likely to become more frequent as time passes.

Focus on Interesting Tasks

Another method of getting more accomplished is to concentrate on exciting, important, difficult, or challenging tasks, even if there’s something else to do. Since these tasks are new and may be more stimulating to your mind, you are more likely to devote your attention to them. Just be sure to set an alarm to ensure you don’t lose the other obligations later, but some people believe it’s better to take the opposite approach to focus on mundane or non-prioritized tasks (like cleaning the dishes) in the event of some task-related paralysis.

Successful people understand managing their time effectively is essential to their efficiency, competence, and success. One of the strategies they employ to increase their efficiency is adding a scary hour into their morning routine, getting their day started productively and efficiently.

As a blogger in the self-development niche, I’m an obsessive believer in productivity optimization. If I don’t hold myself accountable for how I manage my time, high-level goals could easily go by without making improvements.

Adding a Scary Hour to Your Morning Routine to Increase Productivity and Focus

Get Moving

Physical activity can help ease stress, increase concentration, and improve focus, both of which are essential in the face of task paralysis. Walking through the neighborhood or running will help you clear your mind and boost the energy to carry on for the remainder of the day. If working out isn’t for you, that’s okay! Find something that will get you moving, and keep doing it.

Consider blocking your time; this includes answering all your emails in one piece or attending appointments on the same day, etc.

Time blocking allows your brain to focus on a specific task at a time instead of dividing it into various places; it can assist you in staying focused.

Read More: Andrew Huberman’s Daily Morning Routine: Explained

Read More: Ways to Invest in Yourself and Build a Better Life

Read More: Signs Your Antidepressant Dose Is Too High or Too Low


No matter if you have ADHD or otherwise, task-related paralysis can cause frustration and reduced productivity, but there are steps you can take to overcome it.

Get into the habit of tackling tasks earlier rather than later. Also, set realistic deadlines and request assistance if you require it.

Although the condition of task paralysis may be difficult, there are methods you can use to do it. These methods can aid in overcoming this condition:

  • If a project appears to be too large to be completed in one go, it should be broken down into smaller, manageable pieces. Concentrate on completing each step one at a time rather than the whole task.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself and arrange your work. Take note of your limits and avoid taking on too many tasks at once.
  • Use time management strategies to ensure you stay on the right track. Techniques to manage time include setting deadlines and organizing tasks.
  • Switch off all social media and emails that distract you from your task to reduce interruptions.
  • Be positive with yourself to help you motivate yourself to keep your eyes on the ball. For self-confidence to increase, keep a record of your achievements and potential to succeed.
  • Get help from your family members, friends, or a professional in mental health if you’re suffering from a serious state of task paralysis; they can assist you in overcoming this issue by providing support and support.

It is important to keep in mind this is a frequent condition that can be overcome through perseverance, resilience, and hard work. With these methods, you can overcome the problem of task paralysis and meet your goals.

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