Are you avoiding going after your long-term goals — dreams? Because you don’t think it’s possible, especially for ADHD adults? You can. Really. Using the steps below you can devise the right kind of goal and plans that will make it possible for you to follow through.
As you read below you may wonder whether it is worth all the time and effort. I know. But putting in the time and energy up front will save you time in the long run, and help you progress more effectively and efficiently toward your goals. Yet, I know that it may take a while to trust that this is true.
Give it a try. As the saying goes, you may have to see it to believe it.
Don’t Try To Fix Everything At Once
Before exploring how you can create optimal goals and plans, it is important to recognize that you really don’t need to fix everything. Just because you are failing in some areas does not mean you need to change anything.
For instance, when faced with the trade-offs of time and effort, you will fail to make “perfect” choices, such as the examples below:
- You will often need to write emails that are good enough, as you just can’t craft great ones each time.
- Even when you are trying hard to use your time well each day, some days won’t be so productive. Happens. There is only so much time and effort you can put into planning.
Also, because you have limited resources, making it necessary to decide how to allocate your time and energy, sometimes you will fail to meet you goals regarding your roles. For example, while you might want to be an active parent, good friend, supportive partner, excellent professional, on some days you might:
- miss your daughter’s soccer game.
- turn down an invite to go dinner with a friend.
- not engage fully in a conversation with your spouse.
- cancel a work meeting.
Of course, if you are constantly failing at something, then you want to think about whether you want to make a change.
3 Reasons It Can Be So Hard To Create Change
When you do decide to make a change it is helpful to acknowledge that it might be hard. That way you can take steps to be better prepared for the challenges you might encounter.
One possible challenge, which you are likely very familiar with, is the pull of immediate gratification — doing whatever catches your attention in the moment — rather than working on long term goals. For instance, you intend to work on your new project, but you end up cleaning your desk.
Another common challenge is needing to unlearn old habits that compete with your new goals. For example, you may schedule time to work on the project, but when you open your computer and see your email, you default to answering emails.
The third widespread challenge is, because of limited resources, deciding what to give up in order to work on a new goal. While it is not easy for Adults with ADHD to make these kind of decisions, you can definitely do better by doing less.
#1 = Create The Right Kind of Goal
In order to make it easier to create the change you envision the first step you need to take is to create the right kind of goals.
When you think of your goals now you might think of getting more organized, being more productive, getting in shape, having better work-life balance, etc. These are just too general to be helpful, though. Once you have a general idea of where you want to focus, you will need to drill down deeper in fashioning your goal by following the three steps below.
First, describe the goal in specific terms so you will know when you have reached it.
Second, define your goal in terms of the process — steps you will take. This is particularly important for Adults with ADHD, as an outcome based goal is too far in the future to hold your attention. Whereas, a process oriented goals gives you sustainable actions you can take on a regular basis.
Third, state the goal in positive terms, rather than in terms of what you are not going to do. It is harder to stop doing something, than to start doing something.
For example, Leslie decided that in order to reach her general goal of more work-life balance she would:
- leave work by 5:30 every day.
- schedule at least one social activity during the week.
- work Monday –Friday and a 1-3 hours on Sunday, if needed.
- look at work email 9:00 am – 6:30 pm, Monday – Friday.
- plan fun activities for the weekend by Thursday each week.
#2 = Create A Plan
You know having a plan is the key to following through on your goals. You’ve heard it before. Nothing new, right? Yet, you may try to sidestep planning because: it is hard to do, takes time, you want to jump right in and start, satisfying your need for immediate gratification and it is boring.
So, when you are tempted to forego the planning step, remind yourself that without a plan reaching your goals may: be harder, take more time, be more frustrating, lead to failure. Art Markman, author of Smart Change, suggest you ask yourself these questions to create your plan:
- What actions do I need to take?
- When am I going to do it?
- Where will it take place?
- How often will I do it?
- What are the obstacles I need to work around in order to reach my goal?
- Who can ask for support do I need?
- What other resource might I need?
For example, Leslie, wanted to leave work by 5:30 in her effort to create more work-life balance. So, she created an implementation plan to make this possible.
To leave work at 5:30 I’ll need to schedule meetings to end by 4:30. I’ll set my timer for 5:10. Then respond to any time sensitive email and look ahead to tomorrow from 4:30-5:10. At 5:10 check in with Liz and Becca at the front desk. They usually want to talk to me, and I don’t want to ignore them because I am in a rush. But I’ll also let them know I need to leave by 5:30 every day.
You can see by looking at Leslie’s implementation plans that leaving work at 5:30 is not as easy as just saying, “I’ll leave work at 5:30.”
Take a moment to create a plan for one of your goals.
#3 = Create The Right Environment
One of the ways to address the challenge of unlearning old habits when trying to reach a goal is to make changes in your environment. For example, Leslie, who you remember is trying to create more work-life balance, decided she would:
- put her phone in her desk at home by 6:30 each night so she wouldn’t be tempted to read or respond to email.
- leave her work laptop in her desk drawer at home on weekends, and not open it until Sunday evening.
- add to her weekly review list: schedule one social activity for next week and plan for the weekend. Without this reminder she would just focus on work during her weekly review.
You’ll also want to make sure you discuss changes with the people who the changes might affect, and address any objections. When Leslie discussed her ideas with her family…
- they asked her to put her phone on mute so they wouldn’t have to endure the ringing when she couldn’t get to her phone at night.
- her spouse asked her if they could talk about weekend plans on Wednesday night because Thursday was too busy.
The bottom line is you will be more successful at changing your environment when you have the buy-in of the people the changes will affect. Because you know, if you encounter any resistance from the people around you, you will be less likely to follow through in making changes to your environment.
adhd adults reach long-term goals, and you can, too!
As an Adult with ADHD you know how hard it is to work on tasks that hold little excitement. So being excited about a goal is definitely important. And when you need to work, but you just can’t muster enough mojo, there are strategies you can use. But you also know that being excited is not enough to sustain your efforts in reaching your goals.
So, take a moment to:
- create the right kind of goal.
- devise a plan to execute on that goal.
- design your environment to support your plan
It will be worth your time.
And, if you think you need help to do this, explore the available coaching options.