“I know what I need to do and I want to do it. It is important to me, really. But I’m not doing it, at least not consistently. And I’ve tried…everything I can think of!” Sound familiar?
And people in your circle who are neurotypical, which may include your spouse, friends, colleagues and boss may wonder: “How is it really possible for someone to not follow through on something they say is important to them?!”
You may also be puzzled by your behavior, even frustrated, and question if maybe:
- “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
- “It must not be important to me.”
- “I’m not trying hard enough.”
- “I’m just lazy.”
When it comes to doing what you know how to do and is important to you probably none of the above is true! It is your ADHD.
And, though there is no easy solution when it comes to executing, there are a lot of possible answers that can work for you.
And those answers lie in finding the right key to unlock each door along the path to getting your important stuff done.
Key #1 – Know Your Objective
Making decisions about where to focus your attention regarding your various tasks may be a challenge for you. Deciding on your objective(s) and visualizing the desired outcome for your tasks will make this process easier by helping you to:
- know when you have successfully completed the task.
- create criteria for making decisions as you work.
- decide what resources you need along the way.
- focus and minimize off task behaviors.
For example, my objectives and desired outcomes for this article are:
- Readers will learn about some of the reasons it is hard for adults with ADHD to execute on their tasks.
- They will also learn various strategies they can use to make following through easier.
- I will finish it in 1 ½ weeks.
- The article will be easy to read and digest.
- It will be comprehensive and useful, while not including “everything and the kitchen sink.”
- I will write in my voice.
These guide posts helped me to follow through on writing this article.
Key # 2 – Just Enough Planning
Though the amount and kind of planning you will need to do will depend on the complexity of your project, having some sort of plan will also help you follow through.
1. At one end of the continuum is the intuitive style of planning. If “buy stamps” is on your To Do List today, “mail letter” might be on your list for tomorrow. Once you complete a step you just know intuitively what the next step will be. Not much planning needed for these type of tasks.
2. Then there are projects, like the example below of choosing gutters, which may require back of the napkin planning. But don’t really use a napkin because you might lose it. 😉
It can be overwhelming when you don’t know how or when you are going to work on a project.
Breaking it down and creating due dates for the next 1-3 steps will allow you to breathe a little easier, as you can be more confident you know how it is going to get done.
Put the very next action step with a due date on your To Do List. Once you complete one step decide on the action and give it a due date. Here are the steps you might follow:
- Email people for recommendations.
- Research companies for an hour or so. Limiting the time at the onset ensures you won’t spend more time than you want or go down too many rabbit holes.
- Choose 3 companies. Limiting your number of choices at the onset will make it easier to make a decision.
- Call the 3 companies to get estimates.
- Choose 1 and contract with them. Having a due date for this last step at the onset can help you follow through in a timely manner.
3. Then there are the 5% of your projects, like planning a seminar which may require a high degree of planning to be confident you will meet the deadline for the project as a whole. For these types of projects you may need to list all the steps with projected due dates from the onset.
Because the timing and actions will inevitably change as you work on complex projects, put 1-3 next actions with due dates at a time on your To Do List, but usually no more. Once those are complete add the next set of 1-3 tasks.
4. Too much planning can get in your way of getting into action.
When you find yourself using planning as a means of procrastinating because you don’t know where to start, you are afraid you may make mistakes or you want to make it just perfect, it is time to stop planning.
In these instances jumping in and just doing it, at least initially, may be the best strategy.
What kind of planning do you need for the tasks currently on your plate?
Key #3 – Create the Right Environment
With an objective and a plan in hand you know what you need to do. One of the critical linchpins in following through on what you know is creating an environment that will support you in doing this.
- Whether you plan to write your business plan, paint the deck or cook a meal, make sure your first step is to prep in advance so you are ready to get down to work. In the case of a business plan this may mean finding all the old plans and associated documents.
- Eliminate distractions as much as possible. Close the door, turn on the white noise, shut off facebook, disable the email pop-up reminders etc…
- Resist placing yourself in situations where you may be tempted to stray from your intentions. If you know that getting in the car to do “just one errand” will likely lead to hours of “just one more thing,” don’t get in the car. Work on your project as you intended, and then go wandering.
- 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 start.
- Alternatively, eat your frog first by doing what you resist most at the beginning of the day. This can help you avoid using a lot of energy thinking about but not doing the task.
- 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.
- Set a timer for the amount of time you think you can stay focused on a particular task. The Pomodoro Method is one strategy you could try.
What else can you do to make your environment conducive to following through?
Key #4 Remember In The Moment
When you have identified the value of doing a task and created the right environment you are ahead of the game in terms of being able to follow through.
Yet, 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. This is especially true if the task, though important, is not intrinsically interesting to you.
To increase your chances of remembering in the moment you could:
- Create a visual of images and words to remind yourself in the moment when you are choosing whether to do your task or not of why completion of the task is so important to you.
- Block out time on your calendar to work on the task and add a reminder notification.
- Develop a supportive network of people who can provide accountability for you. This could look like:
- working on your taxes with a body double.
- meeting weekly with a colleague to review and plan your project.
- exercising on a regular basis with a friend.
- checking in with a colleague / friend at agreed upon points in a project.
What else can you do to make your important tasks more prominent than the seemingly urgent day to day tasks that pop up regularly?
Key #5 Support
Not sure you can do some of the above? Reach out for support.
Question For You
I know it is a lot to digest!
So, what is one strategy you can try this week?