Before you can start any task you have to remember to do it. Yes, I know this may seem obvious! But, while it is a simple concept, it is not easy to do for adults with ADHD.
So, to help you think about this, I gave you a list of 20 ways to remember your intentions in my last post. Check it out, and please add tips of your own, too.
Once you remember what you want to do you have to make a choice to do it. This act of starting something, also called activation or initiation, can also be a challenge for adults with ADHD.
There are ways to make getting started easier.
The easiest way to get started is to have some sort of external pressure.
When you were a kid your parents might have said something like, “If you don’t clean your room, you can’t go out and play.” If you really wanted to play, this might have worked to get you going.
As adults we’re expected to create the internal pressure to do it on our own. But for adults with ADHD when it comes to doing things you do not enjoy it is hard to build enough internal pressure to get going. And without enough you end up procrastinating.
As a result, you may tend to rely on the external pressure that comes from a looming deadline, check-ins from a boss, queries from a spouse, etc. In some instances these might work to get you into action. But there can be a cost.
- You may feel extraordinarily overwhelmed by the pressure of an urgent deadline or person.
- Because people see you doing things you like and putting off other things they may think you are intentionally not doing a task because you are lazy, irresponsible or just not interested. So, you may feel a sense of shame and blame.
- Rather than getting you into action, the mounting pressure may actually backfire and lead to more procrastination if you don’t think you are able to accomplish the task.
So, how do you set yourself up for success without relying only on external pressure?
Steps To Initiate With Greater Ease
The first step is to be aware of what kinds of tasks are harder for you to initiate and how your ADHD brain wiring may be part of the problem.
Then you can focus on investigating and experimenting with various solutions to address the specific challenges in initiating a particular task.
Think of a task that is important to you, but does not really interest you. You know, something you really want to do, but the mere thought makes your eyes glaze over… With that task in mind, consider which if these strategies might help you get started.
- Start your work day with something you can accomplish with ease so you can experience some success first. Then tackle the task you find more difficult to initiate.
- Alternatively, do what you resist most first by eating your frog first. This can help you avoid using a lot of energy thinking about but not doing the task.
- Have someone by your side, like an accountability partner or body double, as you work to make getting started and following through easier.
- Enlist the help of a supportive person to check in / report to on a regular basis so you can have accountability.
- Make sure the steps are clear and small enough that it feels doable. If the steps do not seem clear and/or doable, ask for help.
- Reward yourself along the way. Go for a walk after working for a certain amount of time or completing a certain amount of work. Don’t wait until the end to reward yourself.
- Schedule and set a timer for the amount of time you think you can stay focused for a particular task. You could try to the Pomodoro Method, which uses 25 minute chunks.
- Remind yourself why it is important to you. Maybe doing a task is important to a family member, friend or colleague, and you want to do it for them.
- Make it fun! True, not everything can be fun, but cranking up the music, for example, might make the task more enjoyable.
- Choose the right environment so you don’t have distractions, but enough stimulus to suit your needs. Depending on your preference and the task, it could be a cube in a library, busy coffee shop, your office or even your patio.
- If you’ve tried a lot of the tricks in the book, so to speak, and you are still not able to start, it may be time to look at how your mindset is getting in your way. A few of the common mindsets that interfere with starting a task are perfectionism, fear of failure, fear of criticism, overwhelming yourself and “shoulding” yourself.
These are just a few of the tips to help you get started. I bet you can think of more.
Questions For You
Where am I having a hard time getting started?
Which of the above strategies could I try to making initiating easier?