Years later after my ADHD diagnosis, it dawned on me that I was having days like those Oslo winter days that never got going. I wasn’t gathering momentum, and I would reach a point when I would just give up on getting things done. That's OK when you're playing six nights a week, but not so good when you have a daytime job.
As ADDers, there are days when we never seem to reach critical mass or get up to speed. Maybe we don’t get off to a good start for some reason- no effective daily plan, not sure what task is first up, a lousy night’s sleep. The bottom line is that momentum just never develops, and we reach a point when we mentally write off the day.
This can affect us in several ways:
- the obvious one- we get less (or nothing) done
- we take a hit to our self-esteem, since the day’s perceived as a “fail”
- with less wins & momentum, we lower the chances we’ll have a good day tomorrow
When these slow or no-momentum days increase in frequency, they can become a pattern- a downward trend. So how do we turn this around, and become able to start and build momentum in our days? How do we learn to sustain this pattern on a daily basis?
To have a better than even chance to get a lot of what we want completed, it’s all about a good start, building momentum, and sustaining it throughout the day's tasks, interruptions, distractions, and transitions.
Here are some ideas that work:
- Plan tomorrow today
- At the end of your work day, leave behind a workspace that’s uncluttered and ready for the next work day. If you’re parenting or not traveling to work, identify clutter that may keep you from getting started and do your best to clear it
- Review and to-dos and calendar events for tomorrow; prioritize the to-dos
- Know what "Thing 1" will be (thanks, Dr. Seuss). It can be tough to get the day going if you’re not clear on what you’re doing first
- If you get distracted or pulled away from a task or activity in mid-stream, don't just switch attention to the other thing without awareness. Often a distraction has more stimulation, and the pull towards it is usually stronger than what you're doing at the time. If switching your attention won't serve you well, don't go there. You might need a break if you're getting more distractible. If you have to go there, note where you left off so you know how to return to where you left off
- When it’s getting towards bedtime, wind down, prepare for going to bed, THEN sleep (I'll be writing about the pre-sleep "wind-down" in another blog)
- Track your completed tasks- these are WINS, and worth reviewing later in the day and beyond
- Plan on having MORE time management/organizational structure than you think you’ll need if you're working/parenting from home. The home space is associated with a lot of things that aren't work-related, and there are a lot of time traps. Most work spaces don't let you bring your couch, big screen TV, or fiction library to work, and co-workers aren't there to notice when you binge on Netflix
I know- it sounds so good- in theory. It's a lot to learn and sustain. Putting thought, intention, and action into change is what makes the difference. We don’t get there just by getting the concept and being pumped about it. It’s about adding these skills incrementally- small steps! A few suggestions:
- Start by choosing one skill, and ease into it. You may want to start a new "pre-planning your days" skill by intending to do it every day. You're better off committing to a couple days for the first few weeks- that way, you're more likely to get a win, and less likely to over-promise to yourself and under-deliver, which we may see as a fail
- Add new elements one at a time
- Resist the urge to go all out and try to change everything at once. This is a common challenge for ADDers. We're prone to be all-or-nothing with things, which is highly stimulating, but not likely to be sustainable
Like a lot of ADHD skillset-building and overall ADHD management, it’s tough to do alone. The best approach is to work with an ADHD coach (I know a good one ;-), or an accountability partner, if coaching is not an option.
So let’s all do a little bit to get a good start in the morning- hit the ground running (walking is OK too) with a plan, know what Thing 1 (your first task) will be, keep an eye on our own momentum level throughout the day- and TRACK YOUR WINS.