I am not Martha Stewart. Nor do I aspire to be like her.
But I do like having friends and family in my house. It is important to me.
So, a few weeks ago I decided to host a large dinner.
Then immediately went into a spin cycle.
I felt like a ping pong ball for a couple of days, as I shifted back and forth between all of my tasks. Feeling totally overwhelmed, I began to drop balls in both my professional and personal life.
For adults with ADHD this may sound familiar.
Can You Multitask?
Often times I hear from clients, “I am really good at multitasking.” When I hear this from adults with ADHD, they usually mean that they have a lot of energy to keep on going.
It usually does not mean working effectively and efficiently.
What does it mean to you?
You may feel overwhelmed with everything you need to do.
It feels like everything is important, and you need to put out all of the fires right now.
This sense of urgency gives you the energy to keep on doing, without regard for priorities and a plan.
As you start to drop balls, you may see this as evidence that you need to work more and faster.
And you may feel like you do not have any choice, but to keep on doing everything, seemingly at once.
But you know there is a cost to working like this.
What Is The Cost of Multitasking?
As you work fiercely to keep all of the balls in the air, you forget what is really important to you in that moment. That is, you forget about:
- your values
- your priorities
- your projects that have due dates “far into the future”
- all of the intermediate steps that need to be completed in order to complete your long range projects
- taking care of yourself
You lose focus.
Moreover, because there are so many transitions as you move back and forth between tasks:
- you lose track of where you are on a task and frequently have to start over.
- you need more time to complete a task because you do allow yourself enough time to become focused on one task.
- you become more overwhelmed.
The Antidote To Multitasking
There is another way.
- Set aside time to review your non-negotiable appointments (meetings, car pool, dinner, etc.).
- Put the due dates for your other tasks in a container, either your task list or calendar.
- Make a decision about what you are going to focus on and what you are going to table temporarily or indefinitely.
- Break down your tasks and schedule work time for each part. Be sure that your schedule is visible in your tasks list or calendar so you remember your intentions.
- Use a timer, if necessary, to remind yourself of when you need to transition between tasks. If you think you might forget where you are in a particular task, make notes for yourself before moving on; this will make it easier to resume working on the task later.
- Plan enough “white space” (time) so you do not feel hurried between tasks.
- Take time to tweak your plan when it does not go as you expected.
And when you do drop the occasional ball, despite your best efforts and intentions, practice forgiveness. It will happen! I know.
Then figure out how to address the lapse, rather than forgetting about it because you may feel ashamed. Perhaps, it is a simple, “I’m sorry. How can I make it up to you?”
ADDed Perspectives Bottom Line
Multi-tasking rarely works.
Try to plan as best you can, but expect that you will need to make changes to the plan.
And, please, be compassionate with yourself…