Which of the following are projects?
- finding a dentist
- writing a business plan
- buying paint
- planning an office retreat
All of them. Yes, even buying paint, really. If there is more than one step, it is useful to consider the task a project for planning purposes.
And when faced with a project you may feel intimidated by all of the seemingly moving parts. You may procrastinate out of fear that you will not be able to complete it well. Alternatively, you may react quickly and dig in, thinking you just have to put in more time and work harder.
Yet, you know that being reactive or procrastinating does not help you to make the right choices in order to get the project done.
The key is learning how to follow a process. While following a process does not come naturally for many adults with ADHD, not to worry! You can learn how to design a method that works for you and your ADHD.
If you are up for it, try it now. Choose one of your projects. Perhaps, try one that involves just a few steps.
Identifying Your Outcome
First, decide on your objective(s) and visualize the desired outcome for your project.
For adults with ADHD making decisions and focusing on the important tasks at hand can be challenging. Being clear on your outcomes can help you create clear boundaries.
Creating a clear objective will help you to (adapted from David Allen’s Getting Things Done):
- know when you are successful
- create criteria for making decisions
- decide what resources you need to complete the project
- focus and minimize off task behavior
For example, my objectives in writing this article are:
- Readers will gain an appreciation for the importance of developing a process for doing a project.
- They will also become aware of the steps involved.
When I visualize the outcome I see a reader pondering the idea of project planning and becoming curious as to how they can do this.
Ready for the next step? Read on.
Once you are clear on your objective(s) and can visualize your desired outcome, the next step is brainstorming what is involved in doing your project. This helps to get your ideas out of your head and minimizes the overwhelm.
Below is a sample mind map (great tool for brainstorming) I created using Xmind. For a small project like this, paper and pen would do just as well.
Next, in order to decide how to start, you’ll need to organize your ideas in some format. Again, borrowing from David Allen, the key steps are
- Identify significant parts.
- Sort according to sequence, priority or component
- Add more details as needed
Continuing with my example of writing this article, it made sense for me to sort the significant parts sequentially.
- decide on topic
- clarify objective
- schedule writing time
- post on blog
- fill out SEO on blog
- put in newsletter
Breaking it down this way helps to do the next step, which is taking action.
And this can be the hardest part for many Adults with ADHD in part because of the overwhelming feeling that comes with having the details of a project swimming around in your head.
A helpful perspective is illustrated by the story, which writer Annie Lamott shared in her book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write [it] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”
Best advice I know of when tackling any project.
ADDed Perspectives Bottom Line
When working on a project it is only necessary to plan in as much detail as necessary to keep the project out of your head and in a place that you can easily access it.
Revisit the plan as often as you need to in order to determine the next action step.
And remember to move forward “bird by bird.”
Need support? Contact me and we can talk about how I can help you plan and follow through on your projects.