Task Paralysis: The Job Seeking Killer

Not so long ago my friend went for a counselling session and came back with the notion she may have ADHD. As someone who was already in her 30s, it was a bit of a light bulb moment. Though essentially, she had been working steadily at a job for 15 years, and was able to cope effectively. Therefore she didn’t think too much of it. It wasn’t until she lost her job, and was seeking a new one, that the difficulties started to creep in. 

Clinical psychologist Sharon Saline (2023) explains that many individuals with ADHD experience task paralysis, a state characterised by overwhelming feelings, disinterest in the task, and negative expectations of success. This paralysis often results in severe self-judgement, compounded by the ADHD-related challenges in initiating, organising, prioritising tasks, maintaining focus, and managing performance anxiety. Stress, worry, and low self-esteem further impede concentration, making it even more difficult for those with ADHD to begin, continue, and complete tasks. This cycle of procrastination and avoidance exacerbates the problem, leading to more inactivity.

How does it affect people with SLD?

According to a 2013 study, between 31% and 45% of people who have specific learning disabilities (SLD) also have ADHD  (DuPaul et al.). However, the figure can vary depending on the specific academic domain. For example, the rate is seen to be higher among people who have difficulty reading,  between 25% and 48% (Sadek, 2018), versus maths-related difficulties that range  from 11% to 30% (Capano et al., 2008). 

How does it affect the job hunt? 

According to Gillette (2022), task paralysis or its closely related choice paralysis – often referred to as indecision or decisional procrastination – can feel like too many choices are present, and thus too many decisions, leading to stress that becomes nothing ever getting done. Meaning that a person who may want a job, could be overwhelmed by how and where to send their CV, and thus fall into a routine of not being able to submit the applications.

What can be done about it? 

To effectively combat task paralysis, it’s key to: 

  • break down tasks into smaller, achievable steps. 
  • Setting a timer can help focus on one task at a time
  • Organise tasks visually on a whiteboard or planner, including breaks. 
  • Establish a routine to work on tasks daily, focusing on starting rather than finishing them. 
  • Emphasise task completion over perfection. 
  • Introduce playful elements to mundane tasks.

For job seekers specifically 

One technique I like to use for making job seeking simpler, is to go directly to the business’ website. There are countless job seeking websites, and if they happen to list who the employer is, that employer may have a “careers” page with the job listed, and a direct way to apply. Job seeking websites, on the other hand, can make job hunting significantly more difficult, because they A. have a huge amount of forms to fill out, when a candidate might already have a completed CV; and B. if the website doesn’t function well, it may discourage applicants from completing the steps.

Additionally, a lot of job seekers get stuck on the idea of perfectionism. They view a list of criteria, and assume they should match 100%. They also tend to believe that their application has to be the best thing ever written. Contrary to this, “Why You Only Need To Meet 40% Of Requirements In Job Descriptions” by Dr. Ruth Gotian, published on Forbes, highlights that job descriptions often list a “wish list” of qualifications rather than strict requirements. Applying even if you meet less than half of these can still result in a successful job match, challenging the notion that one must be a perfect fit to be considered.

Get help where you can

A final tidbit is to ask for help. Different countries have different avenues for help with career hunting. A career coach for instance, could be a great way to have support though the job application period. Of course, this is not always financially viable for people, which is why checking out public resources from the unemployment office could be a good first step. It is important to note that resources from here are not reserved for only unemployed people. In Estonia, for instance, the unemployment office often will offer new courses, seminars or re-trainings for free, which are open to any person in the region who is interested in a new career path. What’s more, a lot of people are able to find work through networking, which could happen at one of these seminars. In fact, according to Gotian (2021), sometimes as much as 70% of the available jobs are not even posted to the public. 

In navigating the complexities of job seeking, especially for those grappling with ADHD and task paralysis, the journey may seem fraught with hurdles. Breaking tasks into smaller, manageable steps, leveraging networking, and adjusting expectations about job requirements can serve as effective antidotes to the paralysis that hampers job-seeking efforts. Moreover, understanding that perfection is not a prerequisite for success could significantly reduce the stress that may be preventing someone from sending their application.



DuPaul, G. J., Gormley, M. J., and Laracy, S. D. (2013). Comorbidity of LD and ADHD: implications of DSM-5 for assessment and treatment. J. Learn. Disabil. 46, 43–51. doi: 10.1177/0022219412464351

Capano, L., Minden, D., Chen, S. X., Schachar, R. J., and Ickowicz, A. (2008). Mathematical learning disorder in school-age children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Can. J. Psychiatry 53, 392–399. doi: 10.1177/070674370805300609

Gotian, R. (2021). Why You Only Need To Meet 40% Of Requirements In Job Descriptions. Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/ [Accessed 3 April 2024].

Gillette, H. (2022). All About ADHD Paralysis. Psych Central. Medically reviewed by Marc S. Lener MD, May 4. Available at: https://psychcentral.com/adhd/adhd-paralysis [Accessed 3 April 2024].

Sadek, J. (2018). Clinician’s Guide to ADHD Comorbidities in Children and Adolescents: Case Studies. London: Springer.

Saline, S. (2023) ‘Overcome ADHD Task Paralysis’, Psychology Today. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/on-your-way-with-adhd/202309/overcome-adhd-task-paralysis [Accessed 3 April 2024].