Habits are often touted as one of the ultimate solutions to living a productive life.
After all you, once you have established a habit, presumably you can follow through without much thought.
Sounds like it could be the answer to many of the challenges of adults with ADHD.
But, for adults with ADHD, trying to impose too much structure in any form, including habits, can backfire. Though you feel you should establish habits in order to be productive, the thought of doing so may also conjure up visions of wearing a straitjacket!
Not very motivating.
And you already know that trying to force yourself to do something will usually not work.
You are not alone.
Establishing habits just takes a different approach. One that works with your ADHD.
Habits Can Help
While there are many reasons to have habits, one is that it can help you manage the challenges of your ADHD.
- You are purposefully deciding where to focus your attention.
- It can help you get started, as it becomes like a magnet, helping to pull you forward.
- When you have a habit firmly in place, it will be easier to remember your intentions.
- Likewise, being able to persist will be easier, as it becomes more automatic.
How else do you think habits can help you?
While they can be helpful, you also know that establishing habits is hard. You likely have experienced particular challenges because of your ADHD.
But because you may have struggled to establish habits, and even failed at times, it does not mean you are lazy or unmotivated!
So, what is going on?
- You may forget. With an irregular working memory, remembering your intentions is hard.
- And when something is not stimulating, you may feel lethargic. You are not lazy; it is your brain chemistry.
- You may resist doing the task, if you fear you may fail. This resistance may also be exacerbated by your internalized negative self- talk. "I've never been able to do this. This won't be any different."
- You get distracted by all of the stimuli that pulls on your attention.
- When boredom sets in you may switch to another task without thinking about it.
These are all typical challenges for adults with ADHD. And they don't have to stop you from creating habits!
Doing It Your Way – A Better Chance of Success
Once you know your challenges, you can design an approach that will work for you. Depending on your needs there are many ways to help you create and make a habit stick.
Below are a few general tips:
1. Start small so the habit seems doable. Run for 10 minutes every day instead of trying to run for 30 minutes.
2. Create an environment that will make it easier to start. Put your running clothes out where you can see them.
3. Link a new habit with an old habit to make it easier to follow through. If you already brush your teeth every night, and you want to establish the habit of taking out your contacts, try taking out your contacts when you brush your teeth.
4. As an adult with ADHD, it may take you longer than the recommended 21 days to establish a habit. Be compassionate and patient with yourself.
5. Acknowledge your successes. Remind yourself of what you are doing right in spite of the challenges.
6. Think of what may get in your way and design workarounds for these perceived obstacles. If remembering is an issue, you may try using a timer.
7. Allow for imperfection. Think more of progress than perfection.
8. Think of it as an experiment, and be curious about the results. Tweaking as you go along until it works for you.
9. Enlist the help of an accountability partner. Schedule phone check-ins with a friend who would also like accountability.
Do you have other tips you can share?