As we move into this New Year, one of the most frequent questions I am asked by my adults with ADHD and entrepreneurial clients is “How can I be more productive and get things done?!” Unfortunately there’s not an easy answer that works for everyone. The problem is that the answer to this seemingly impossible goal is really solved only when we have considered the answers to some more specific questions.
If asking yourself “How can I be more productive? or “How can I get things done?” isn’t working for you, try considering your responses to the following questions to help you figure out what is getting in your way and how you can solve the real issue.
For when you are dealing with a long list of To Do’s:
- What project, if completed, would have the most positive impact for me?
- If I could do any of the projects on my list, which would I do right now?
- If I could do any of the projects on my list, which can I accomplish right now?
- If I set a timer, what can I accomplished in the next 5 minutes? 30 minutes? 1 hour?
To help you with a specific task or project:
- What is it specifically that I want to get done right now?
- How will I know when I have completed it?
- What specifically will be the result and what will it look like?
- How will someone else know when I complete it?
- What’s important to me about completing this task?
- What is the result I really want?
- What’s the best way for me to accomplish this task?
- Is this a bright shiny object (distraction) or one of my “disco balls” (reflects my goals, values and what’s important to me.)
- What are the specific priorities for this task? Have my priorities changed?
- If I don’t know what the priorities are, who can I ask?
- Does this task have a “hard” deadline, not one I made up, and what is it?
- What is the benefit to me to complete this task?
- Who have I told that I am going to get this done? If no one, who can I tell?
- Who else is expecting me to complete this?
To get you started and moving forward:
- What three parts of this project can I get done right now?
- What three easier tasks can I do right now to get things started?
- What is the first next step to accomplishing this task? What comes after that?
- How can I “chunk” this project down into smaller do-able pieces?
To help you dealing with external obstacles and distractions:
- Is this the best time of day for me to be working on this project? If not, when is the best time?
- Is there a better “place” to be working on this project?
- What support do I need to follow through on completing this project?
- Do I have all the tools I need to complete this task?
- What do I need to set aside right now to be able to focus on this task?
- Have I allowed enough time right now to complete this project or piece of the project?
- Is my environment optimal to accomplishing this task? (light, temperature, noise)
- What are my biggest distractions to getting this done?
- How can I eliminate or minimize predictable interruptions? Have I done this?
- Have I taken care of what my body needs before trying to accomplish this? (food, water, rest)
To help you overcome internal obstacles:
- How am I making this harder than it really is?
- How can I make this task easier? More enjoyable? Simpler?
- What’s more important to me…done or perfect?
- What will it feel like when I complete this task?
- How will I reward myself when I complete this?
- What is the benefit to me to complete this task?
- When was I able to complete a similar task? What about that can I use right now to get this task done?
What do you find helps you “get it done”? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
I am a lifelong learner and in a recent class aimed to expand skills and experience as a coach, one of the guiding principles proposed was “first do no harm”. It would never occur to me to purposefully hurt someone, but it made me stop and think about all the people I know with ADHD that have been hurt by thoughtless comments, lack of awareness and misunderstandings about their ADHD.
We seem to be living in a world that gets less kind every day. Being different, visible or not, seems to make someone especially vulnerable. Looking closely at the hurt, pain and loneliness so common with persons with ADHD, it appears there is unawareness of the harm we do, or we ignore the harm we do, or we intentionally do harm because it makes us look better, or sadly in some cases we do harm for our own pleasure and enjoyment. I would like to think it is because we don’t know better.
How do we learn to do no harm?
If we haven’t been taught to do no harm, we see no harm in doing harm. We cause harm and shrug it off. We cause harm and laugh about it. We cause harm and brag about it.
Sadder still, our children bear witness to our actions and never learn to do no harm themselves and the cycle continues. What would be possible if we made a choice to treat each other with greater respect and compassion?
When we become aware of, “Do no harm”, because we can feel pain and suffering, we can imagine the pain and suffering of others, and we can act accordingly to minimize the harm we cause. We can live intentionally doing no harm.
What does “do no harm” mean? Ultimately it means to give thoughtful consideration to our actions. “Do no harm” simply means to consider how our actions may affect the world we all share, to be compassionate in our dealings with others, especially others different than us like those with ADHD, with the creatures of this world, and perhaps even not to thoughtlessly despoil our planet.
Doctors are asked to “first do no harm.” Why not us? Why not now? I am glad that “first do no harm” is being incorporated on a conscious level into the coaching profession.
It sounds like a simple idea because it is a simple idea. Will “do no harm” solve all the problems in our world? Perhaps not, but it might just decrease the suffering in the world and increase the kindness. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Maybe, “do no harm” can become that little voice that guides our actions. And maybe if we do no harm, then someone else will do no harm…and it will keep going and going and going.
Let me know what you think. Do you think a little bit more of “do no harm” could make a difference?
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a new year full of kindness and compassion!
Do you hover over your spouse while they’re doing housework or completing other important tasks around the house? Do you take more than your share of responsibility for things in your ADHD relationship? Do you find it is just easier to get things done if you micro-manage your partner’s schedule or better yet, do it yourself? Have you tried nagging, pleading even anger to try and motivate your partner to get things done. If so, you may be a helicopter partner!
Most of the time, a helicopter partner is borne from years of frustration while waiting for job after job or task after task to get completed. Or from a well-founded fear that an important piece of something will be missed in the disorganization, lack of planning or seeming lack of structure typical of your partner. It’s also not uncommon to think we are just “helping” out when our ADHD partner might be struggling to prioritize, follow-through or get back the train of thought they lost.
The problem with being an ADHD helicopter partner, aside from the frustration and imbalance it creates in a relationship, is that it doesn’t allow our partners to learn for themselves. To feel respected. To learn what works for them and what doesn’t. To experience that sense of accomplishment when they are successful, even when getting there is different than how we might have done it. So, if you’re tired of struggling to reform your helicopter partner ways, want to reestablish the balance in your relationship and enjoy the satisfaction when each person is appreciated for their contributions, you can begin by putting the following practices into action:
- Remind them only once. No one likes a nag, and no one likes being a nag. Being nagged makes us feel like a child and being a nag makes us feel like a parent. Not very sexy. So give a single reminder when you must, and then step back and let your ADHD spouse rise to the occasion.
- Leave it. Just because you can fix or do something quicker or easier, doesn’t mean you have to, or even that you should. So the next time you realize your ADHD partner has left for work, but his wallet is on the kitchen table or his briefcase sits by the front door, leave it. They are a grown up and the consequences they’ll face might seem difficult at first, but consequences leave a meaningful impression –– and are more likely to make the impact needed for your partner to create change all on their own.
- Stop taking responsibility for your partner’s actions. You know what I’m talking about –– that subconscious impulse to make an excuse for our spouse’s actions. Like offering the apology when your spouse is late, when they forget an important date, are disorganized, make an impulsive comment or totally dominate a conversation. Adults, including ADHD adults, take responsibility for their own actions, not another’s. Rather than make excuses, make a plan. A plan that your spouse comes up with to take accountability and responsibility for their actions.
- Let them fail. This is a toughie. As a spouse or partner we can feel like our ADHD partners success or performance is somehow (intimately) connected to our own self-worth –– “If they fail, I am a failure.” “If they look bad, I look bad.” But the truth is that we learn best from our own failing, and a whole heck-of-a-lot less when we are rescued! Not to mention the near impossibility of being there all the time to “save” them. An occasional save might be appreciated, but as an everyday occurrence, it becomes a bit enabling.
- Let them learn from their own experiences. As partners, we are…well partners, not parents and our role is not to protect our partners from being uncomfortable. The fact is, when people are uncomfortable, they are more likely to change. A partnership is between two adults who support each other equally with the strengths they have learned from their own experiences.
- Don’t do for your partner what they can do for themselves. This includes calling or texting to remind them of what they are supposed to be doing or where they need to go. Packing for our ADHD partner’s trip, taking time out of our morning to make them breakfast or pack their lunch is not letting them do what they can do for themselves. Often this habit grew out of love for our partners, right? But we have to remember that they’re capable. When we do for someone else what they are capable of doing themselves we rob them of the feeling of enjoying personal success.
- Name the feeling. If your efforts to pull back from being a helicopter partner make you feel a little uncomfortable, you’re probably doing something right. Instead of curing that unsettling feeling by stepping in and doing whatever it is you’re trying to remind yourself not to do, name the feeling. Saying it out loud (“Letting him/her be late for that meeting because I didn’t text to remind them, feels uncomfortable”) or writing it a journal can help you process what you’re feeling without giving in to the temptation to over-partner. Naming it allows you to know it and you can then choose how you want to act.
Finally, remember that this is a process. We’re not going to get it right every time. What counts, though, is that we’re making progress and focusing more on creating a healthy, equal partnership that we can enjoy for years to come.