If you are like many Adults with ADHD, you probably like to dabble in a lot of different activities. It’s fun, stimulating and keeps you busy…
And the thought of just focusing on a few areas might elicit, “What?! I could never do that. I need to keep busy. I would get sooo bored…”
Don’t worry. I am not going to ask you to give up all your interests. That is just not realistic, right?
But, if you have decided you would like to excel in a few areas, but are not right now because you are trying unsuccessfully to keep too many plates spinning, this article is definitely for you.
Below I’ll prompt you to start to think about two main questions:
- What is the trade-off I want to make?
- What can I go big on?
Along the way I’ll introduce you to the work of Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism, from whom I have adapted and borrowed some of the ideas.
When Good Enough Is A Good Thing
First, I want to be clear. I’m a huge fan of the perspective of “good enough.”
In fact, with all the competing interests in your life, it is often necessary to approach some tasks with an attitude of, “This will have to be good enough.”
Otherwise, if you try to do every task perfectly as if you have an unlimited amount of time and energy, you would be in a constant state of overwhelm with a long list of incomplete tasks.
Maybe that is partly true for you now…
Doing something well enough allows you to:
- enjoy a hobby even if you will never be a pro.
- get work done in a timely way.
- experiment along the way to getting better in a certain area.
- minimize your overwhelm when you have too much on your plate.
For sure, there are definitely times that doing something well enough is helpful and even necessary
Choosing To Go Big
But what about when you decide you really want to excel in an area — “make your highest contribution toward things that really matter to you” — without stretching yourself too thin?
You can think of these as the essential areas in your life or your core purpose.
In order to identify these, according to McKeown, you need to answer the question, “What do I want to go big on?”
Here are a few places that people decide to play big:
- family / kids
- profession / business
- profession that is not a day job / does not pay the bills
- hobby / sport
What are the essential areas in your life? If you can, answer this question before moving on.
“I Choose” vs “I Have To”
You’ve already heard, “You can’t do it all!” And by now you may be really tired of hearing this.
Because there is just so much you want and need to do.
So, I’m not going to be presumptuous and tell you can’t do it all. In fact, I don’t even think the question you need to ask yourself is, “Can I do this or that?”
Rather, a more helpful question to ask yourself, as Charlie does below, is, “What do I choose to do?”
Charlie was a married father of two working full time in tech sales. He also served on the board at his church, a committee for his town. Oh, and his parents, who lived nearby, relied on him more and more for help.
He also really wanted to get back to playing in the adult soccer league. But that seemed like a pipe dream.
In fact, Charlie was stretched so thin he felt like he was running in place, trying to keep up with all his commitments. He also was not taking care of himself. Sleep? What was that?
But he didn’t think he had any options; he had to do it all because he had already committed himself. And the pile just kept get higher and higher.
By the time Charlie came to me he wanted to figure out how to fit it all in without feeling so stressed. His business was suffering and he was not spending the kind of time he wanted with his family.
During his daughter’s soccer games he was on his phone, emailing and talking about business, more than he was watching the game.
When he was at work he was constantly putting out fires.
He wasn’t able to focus on either his business or his family the way he really wanted. He was just trying to get it all done.
In reality he couldn’t fit it all in.
He needed to do less.
He needed to do the right things.
It wasn’t an easy process. And entailed plenty of trade-offs. But through our work together Charlie decided where he wanted to go big — his business and his family.
Then, over time, he learned to choose the right activities so he could be successful in his business; his income went up 20% that year. He also learned how to carve out time so he could really enjoy spending time with his family without doing business during that time.
He learned how to choose his own agenda, and stopped acting by default.
You can choose too, even if it is hard to do right now.
ADHD and Choosing
Maybe, you, like Charlie when he first approached me, are not used to thinking about how to choose because there is so much you feel you have to do.
After all, it might not be easy for you to decide on what is essential in your life because making decisions — choosing— is one of the greatest challenges for ADHD Adults.
It may feel as though everything is important — essential— and needs to all be done right now!
But not being able to choose — trying to do too much — is in part contributing to your feelings of overwhelm, right?
If this is where you are, you can start here.
The first step for you is to reach out for help so you can decide and commit to the essential areas in your life. That help can come from a family member, coach, friend or therapist — depending on your needs.
What support do you need in order to choose?
A Deep Dive Into The Essential
Once you’ve made a decision about what is important enough in your life to go deep, you will need to decide which activities, among the hundreds of possibilities, are the right activities.
And the right activities are the ones that allow you to make your highest contribution.
For an adult with ADHD this is often the million dollar question because of, yes, your challenges with making decisions. Because it is so difficult you may be avoiding even trying to choose right now, and instead you are, as McKeown notes:
- always in motion.
- busy, but not necessarily productive or getting anywhere.
- stretched too thin.
- majoring in minor activities.
Does this sound like you?
If it does, and just thinking about trying to decide on the right activities is already making your head spin, stop for a moment.
Rather than heap shame and blame on yourself for not being able to do this now, consider your internal dialogue.
And try, “I’m not sure how to pick the right activities so I can do well at________ (fill in the blank), but I need to figure this out. Where can I get help?”
If you really want to spend your time and energy in the right activities so you can do well in the areas you consider essential, but it is a challenge for you right now, you don’t have to stay in the spin cycle.
Again, ask for help from a family member, friend, coach, therapist… You decide.
Questions For You
Where do you want to go big? What is the next step you need to take on your journey?
The solution is there.
But you also do not need to do this on your own…