You may find yourself reticent to adopting rules and structure for yourself because doing so may feel like it, well, just hems you in.
For adults with ADHD too much structure can feel stifling, to be sure. And imposing the wrong kind of structure certainly may get in the way of your creative process.
But the right kind and amount of rules and structure can also help you accomplish what is important to you. And rather than restricting you, they can free you from the stress, overwhelm and decision paralysis you may feel at times.
This Is The Way I’ve Always Been
In addition to, perhaps, feeling as though rules will box you in, you may also think you are just not cut out for following rules you institute for yourself.
Because you may think, “Well, I’ve never followed any of the ones I tried in the past. I just can’t follow rules.” And, because you have not been able to follow rules successfully, you may have concluded that, “I guess I just need my freedom.”
After a long history of trying and not adopting new habits, it makes sense that you may have come to this conclusion. It is hard to unlearn old habits and learn new habits. And it is particularly hard for adults with ADHD to do so, especially when you are so overwhelmed.
But you also know that the lack of rules and structure in your life can come at a cost, as life can feel chaotic without them.
You can change this.
Overwhelm, Stress and Decision Paralysis
I bet there are a lot of thoughts cluttering your mind right now. Many of these you may even revisit on a regular, even daily, basis.
But, while you ruminate on these, you may not have been able to come up with workable solutions, yet. Here are some “common loops:”
- “I always need to write a _________ (brief, report, blog post, etc.). When am I going to find time this week?”
- “I have so much clutter in my office/home. I’m going to have to spend forever digging out, again!”
- “I need to spend more time with my partner, kids, friends, etc.”
- “I have no idea what is going on with my finances. I really need to look at them…soon.”
- “If I exercise, I know I would feel better. I just can’t find the time.”
- “I forgot to______ (fill in the blank), again.”
What are three important things you want to accomplish but have not been able to get around to on a consistent basis, yet?
Maybe there is a rule you can create to help you accomplish whatever you are struggling with now. The rule you create will allow you to know what, how or when you are you going to do something.
The keys to creating and adopting any rule are to:
- Experiment with one rule (habit) at a time.
- Give yourself plenty of time to allow it to take hold. More than the common wisdom of 21 days. After all this rule stuff is not easy.
- If it does not work for you at first, get help in tweaking it, rather than assuming it is the wrong rule. An outsider’s perspective is always helpful.
- Ask for and accept support in implementing it. (See more about accountability below.)
- Whenever you are struggling and feel like giving up, remember that it will not be easy. Also, envision what the future will be like when the rule is in place. This can help you move forward.
Above all, be compassionate with yourself.
What Kind of Rules?
Start by experimenting with a rule for one challenge that always seems to get in your way.
You could try:
- writing everyday for 45 minutes first thing in the morning
- picking a different area of your office to declutter everyday
- sorting the mail (recycling, bills in file, magazines in a certain place, etc) immediately, rather than throwing it in a pile
- at the beginning of each month scheduling 1 or more date nights for the following month
- spending 1/2 an hour every Sunday on your finances
- walking for 15 minutes a day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday
- if forgetting your meds is a problem, try putting them by your toothbrush
What other rule comes to mind that might help you?
The key is make the sure the rule feels doable so you have a good chance of sticking to it. Start small. You can always decide to do more once the habit is established.
A former client decided to do his weekly planning every Friday. After the habit took hold he rarely missed it because he noticed it threw him off. And, in his words, “it just felt weird to miss it.”
Rules can do this for you, too. Just like brushing your teeth, right?
Of all the structures, asking for accountability to help you implement a rule is the one that may really rub you the wrong way.
As an adult with ADHD, it may bring up memories of parents and teachers constantly checking up on you. And, if this is the image that you conjure up when thinking about accountability, it may be hard to consider asking for it now.
But now you can choose to ask for the kind of accountability you want from people who will be supportive, such as
- a body double to help you finish your taxes
- a weekly meeting with a colleague to review and plan a project you are working on
- exercising on a regular basis with a friend
- breaking down a project and committing to checking in with a colleague / friend at agreed upon points
Is there a supportive person in your life who could help you accomplish what you want?
Question For You
What rule do you want to try?