Do you know these 5 techniques ADHD adults use when bored?
First, if you haven’t already, check out my last post The 3 Facts You Want to Know About ADHD and Boredom. In that article, I covered the reasons why ADHD adults may feel bored more often and more acutely than their neurotypical peers. All good information to help validate your experience.
I bet, after reading that, you were really curious. Now you want to know what strategies you can use to persist in doing what’s most important to you. So you can avoid shutting down because you’re bored. Below are a few strategies you’ll want to manage your boredom and also follow through on your meaningful work.
Read on to see what you might want to try today.
Create the Right Environment to Minimize Feelings of Boredom
The first step is to recognize the tasks you find particularly boring. And then be proactive in creating a plan to help you persist through these inevitable feelings. Rather than defaulting to your boredom routine. Below are a few strategies you can experiment with incorporating into your plans:
- You have a limited amount of willpower and it quickly dissipates throughout the day. Doing a boring task first thing in the morning before your willpower is depleted may work for you.
- Work with a body double who can help you stay on track even with a boring task.
- Create accountability for yourself by checking in with a supportive person regularly.
- 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 a short amount of time to work on the task so it will feel less daunting. You might try the Pomodoro Technique, which is based on 25-minute increments.
- Make it fun! True, not everything can be fun, but cranking up the music might make it a little less boring.
- Work in an environment that doesn’t have too many distractions, but enough stimuli to suit your needs. It could be a cube in a library, busy coffee shop, your office or even your patio.
- Time when you do a task to when you take your medication.
- Schedule play so you will more likely be pulled to do your work and find it interesting.
These are just a few of the tips to help you get started. I bet you can think of more.
Give Your Floating Attention a Job
Giving your floating attention a job to do may minimize some of your feelings of boredom and make It a bit easier to continue working.
Because, as hard as you try, you may find it nearly impossible to engage fully in boring activities, even if they are key to meeting your important goals. These might include participating in meetings, dealing with finances, answering emails, having hard 1–1 conversations, etc.
Part of the reason is you have some floating attention — the part of the brain scanning the horizon for stimulation. And, if you don’t give it a job to do, you may impulsively do or say something to stimulate your brain. And that may not be at all what you want to do.
Giving your floating attention a job to do helps to distract the part of the brain that gets bored. Then you will be better able to focus on your primary task. In fact, you may be doing this already when you doodle in a meeting or play with a pen while talking to someone.
Depending on the context any of the following can give your floating attention a job:
- use white noise (SimplyNoise) or music ([email protected]) in the background
- play with a fidget object.
- doodle or take notes.
- have your meeting while walking
The bottom line is don’t leave it up to chance as to what you might do when you’re bored. Think of what you might do to engage your floating attention so you can focus on your primary task.
Remember “the Reward” in Order to Persist Toward Long Term Goals
Remembering the reward can sometimes also help you to persist even when a task is boring.
As Dr. Thomas Brown points out in his book, “A New Understanding of ADHD,” the challenges you may have with executive functions are situationally variable. That is, if you either have a strong interest or fear of an unpleasant result, you may be able to better use your executive functions.
But, when your interest wanes because you are bored, you may be tempted to conclude, “This must not be that important to me.” Resist this temptation! Because your lack of interest does not necessarily indicate that the project is not important for you. Rather, your ADHD can make it hard to persist even when something is really important.
Above all, what will help you persist over the long haul, despite the ebbs and flows of variations in daily energy, is a visceral connection to your goal.
But, as you know, a common challenge for Adults with ADHD is remembering to remember. In the moment of choice — the moment when you are choosing whether to do a task or not — you may forget how important it is for you and feel detached from the goal.
This is especially true if some of the tasks associated with the project are not intrinsically interesting to you — boring. So, to have a visceral connection to your goal and increase your chances of remembering in the moment why it is important to you to choose to do the task:
- Create a visual of images and words and post it where you will see it.
- When you block out time on your calendar to work on the task add a message to the calendar item.
- Create an electronic visual to use as a screensaver or desktop background.
- Set an online sticky with a message you create as your default browser. So, when you go online you will see the message first.
What else can you do to help you remember in the moment why a project is important to you?
Be Willing to Tolerate a Bit of Discomfort
While it is really important to try to create an environment to help minimize your feelings of boredom, it is also important to learn to tolerate a bit of discomfort. When you do this you’ll be able to decrease the chances of engaging in activities that are counterproductive to your values and goals.
If you can, when you recognize you are bored, say to yourself:
“This doesn’t feel great, but I’m going to try and hang in there a little while longer. At least until I can figure out a plan to deal with how I am feeling.”
Because sometimes it’s not possible to get the stimulation you need in the moment. And you don’t want to impulsively do something you’ll later regret. When you can be with the discomfort for a bit you’ll be able to get the space and time you need to decide your next best steps.
Take a Break and Get the Stimulation You Need
When the discomfort is too great and the above techniques just aren’t going to cut it, it may be time to take a break. Because remember self-regulation is one of the primary challenges of ADHD. And sometimes you’ve just used up all your self-control reserves, right?!
And the best thing you can do is to take a break and figure out how you can get the stimulation you need. Otherwise, you know you may, yes, do something you’ll later regret. So, to avoid this, you’ll need to recognize when you’ve reached your limit before there are any unintended consequences.
And then, at that critical moment, ask for what you need, when possible. For example, you may ask to wrap up a meeting/conversation and suggest another time to reconvene. If you are working by yourself, rather than surfing the Internet, go for a walk.
Try 1 of the 5 Techniques ADHD Adults Use When Bored
Yes, it would be great to minimize our engagement in activities we find boring. And I encourage you to do this as much as possible.
But obviously, you’ll have to participate in activities you find boring at times. So, the best you can do is find ways to make these times somewhat palatable. You can do this by finding ways to engage the boring part of your brain, learning to be with the discomfort or taking a break, when possible.
What are you going to try this week?