One of the challenges for Adults with ADHD is deciding what to do at any given moment. And, if this is one of your challenges, you may make these decisions based on what feels important. But, when everything feels important right now, it can feel impossible to decide.
Of course, while you want to pay attention to your instinct, as it may point you in the right direction, relying just on your feelings to drive your decisions in the moment is risky business for Adults with ADHD.
To make it easier to make decisions in the moment:
- decide what is essential to you — your priorities — in advance.
- decide in advance what activities / tasks will help you succeed in doing what is important to you.
Ready to learn how to do both of the above?
Why Is So Hard For ADHD Adults To Make Decisions In The Moment?
First, a bit about how your challenges with making decisions may be related to your ADHD, as this information can help you in your quest for workarounds.
You may have heard ADHD Adults can’t pay attention. And, if this were true, it would certainly make it hard to make decisions. But one of the reason you have problems making decisions is not because you can’t pay attention, but because you pay attention to everything!
In the nuerotypical brain the various areas of the brain work together so that extraneous stimuli are not so distracting. But, because of your brain wiring, unless you use strategies to counter this tendency, you pay attention to all the internal and external stimuli in your environment like the:
- person in the meeting tapping their pencil
- email you need to write to you boss
- report that is due next week
- hum of the air conditioner
- hard conversation you had this morning with your spouse
And, as you take on more responsibilities — more distractions — in both your professional and personal life, you may find your ADHD seems to get worse and the coping mechanisms that helped you manage your ADHD challenges earlier in your life seem to stop working as well.
And, when you can’t decide what to do, you may:
- avoid making decision — shut down — because it is all too much.
- act without thinking because you just want to do something.
- think without acting — ruminate — because you are afraid of making the wrong decision.
What is your experience? Has it been harder to make decisions as you’ve added more responsibilities?
Decide In Advance Where You Want To Focus Your Time and Energy
As Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism, suggest one of the first steps you can take to make it easier to make decisions in the moment is to decide in advance where you want to go big. That is, where do you want to excel?
- family / kids?
- profession / business?
- profession that is not a day job / does not pay the bills?
- hobby / sport?
Like many Adults with ADHD, you may be drawn to the stimulation of doing a little bit of this and little bit of that. Nothing wrong with that! Unless, of course, it keeps you from doing what is important to you, right?
So, what do you do 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?
If you are like most of us, you will probably need to consider what trade-offs you are willing to make in order to do this. So, when choosing to go big in one area, you may also choose to give up another activity or, perhaps, just spend less time in it.
Anything you want to do less of or give up entirely in order to go big in what is essential to you?
Decide In Advance What Activities Will Help You Succeed
Once you decide where you want to go big you need to focus on answering the question, “What activities will allow me to excel in_________?” This is where the rubber hits the road!
Because, when you can decide in advance which activities will help you do well at what is essential to you, you will have an easier time deciding what to do day to day and moment to moment. You can see this in the examples below.
1. Being a good parent is essential for Ben, which for him means being present for his kids when it counts.
So, for example, though transitions are hard for ADHD Adults, when his 14 year old son had a hard day at school and barged into Ben’s home office to talk, Ben was able to stop working because he had decided in advance that being present was important.
Ben was able to remind himself, “Ian needs to talk to me right now, and this conversation is most important right now. I can spare 15 minutes…”
2. Sheri wants to build a successful consulting business, and she is business savvy enough to know people will only hire her if they can trust she will follow through, which includes communicating in a timely way.
Yet, because she is so overwhelmed by her email, she alternates between avoiding it altogether and spending too much time crafting the perfect emails, while ignoring other emails. She knows she needs to turn this around and decides to:
- respond to clients within 24 hours, prospects within 48 hours, everyone else within 72 hours.
- create email templates to cut down on the amount of time she spends on emails.
- let clients know when it is better to have a conversation, rather than respond by email, which will cut down the time she spends answering complicated questions via email.
- set aside a couple of times a day to just focus on answering email so it does not get out of hand.
Deciding on these guidelines in advance allows Sheri to communicate in a timely way, which contributes to building the trust she needs to have a successful business.
3. Self-care is important to Noa, and she really does want to take better care of herself, but all she did was think about what she “should do,” and did not take any actions because she was so overwhelmed by all the options. Sound familiar?
At last she was able to shake her all or nothing thinking and decided to start small by focusing on eating better during the day, which included:
- not having sweets in her house or in her desk at work.
- eating oatmeal with fruit and yoghurt for breakfast and salads brought from home for lunch, Monday – Friday. A little boring, perhaps, but at least she did not have decide what to eat each day.
Making these decisions in advance made it easier for Noa to start taking better care of herself.
ADDed Perspective Bottom Line
Deciding in advance what is essential to you and the activities that will get you there will make it easier to make decisions day to day and moment to moment.
What decisions can you make in advance to help you be successful at what is important to you?