Why is it that you do not follow through on the goals that are truly important to you?!
If you are like most adults with ADHD you may at times scratch your head and wonder why, despite your best intentions, you don’t follow through.
Though you may at times question whether this is true, it not because of lack of desire. Remember, you have already decided that the goal is one you truly want to pursue.
My guess is that you have not set up your environment to support you in achieving what you want with your ADHD in mind.
Time to close the gap between your intentions and actions.
Intention into Action
First, think about how you talk about your intentions. You may hear yourself saying things, like:
- “I’ll try to…”
- “I want to …”
- “I should …”
I think some adults with ADHD equivocate with statements like these because they do not have faith in their ability to follow through. Anyway, that is what I see for many of my clients. Do you think this may be true for you?
If it is, you may not fully commit to your goal. Rather, you make halfhearted attempts.
Alternatively, you may think about what you want to do, but not make a decision of whether to pursue it or not. If you do this, it is still taking up your head space and you have to keep revisiting and revisiting the idea.
I’m sure you have better things to do!
I think semantics matter. So, the first step is saying
“I am going to…by (pick a date)”
“I am not going to…”
“Maybe someday I’ll…, but I have no intention of doing it now”
Check out my article on deciding what to keep on your plate, ADHD and Productivity: Do You Know What Action to Take?
Of course, just saying it more emphatically doesn’t really matter, if you do not really believe it.
So, what would help you really believe that you could follow through on your intentions?
Just Do It?!
Your tendency may be just to jump in and start. After all, like many adults with ADHD, you may have a general impatience with process. This is not always bad! In fact, the “just do it” way of operating can help you break the initial resistance to getting started and can lead to accomplishing great things.
But if you find yourself stumbling about, and not progressing the way you want, it is likely time for a more deliberate strategy.
Creating a strategy is the second step in putting the odds in your favor and will also give you more assurance that you can reach your goal.
Visualizing a Path
While the exact strategy for reaching a goal will be different for each person and each goal, below is a place for most to start:
- While linear thinking may not be your strong suit, creating a timeline of all of the actions you need to take can be incredibly helpful. Ask for help, if you are having difficulty doing this.
Even if the plan changes down the road you will have an idea of how to proceed initially. Better than having ideas swirl about in your head. Doing this for small (painting a room) and large (marketing your business) projects alike will help you get started.
- Then break it down and schedule time to do each piece. Even if you do not have a lot of time, you will surprise yourself at what you can accomplish when you slowly chip away at even a seemingly insurmountable goal.
You probably already knew to do this though, right?
Choices and Point of Performance
While you were reading the above section you may have been saying to yourself: Right, sure, Marla, I know this already! I still don’t do what I need to do even when I have a plan!!
I get it, really.
As an adult with ADHD, just having a plan is not enough to insure that you will follow through on your intentions.
While it is sometimes hard to make the choice you want at the right time, there are strategies to, yes, increase the odds.
Read on to see some ways of doing this.
ADHD and Memory
A critical piece and the third step in having a greater chance of matching your actions with your intentions is remembering your intentions.
Not always an easy feat.
Working memory or the ability to process information to make decisions and hold other information at the same time is often weak in adults with ADHD. Since working memory plays an important role in your prospective memory, your ability to remember your intentions, it important to understand how this affects your ability to follow through.
Bottom line. Your memory may be more like swiss cheese than a trap door, but it has no relationship to your intelligence, really.
The key is not to rely on your memory.
Here are a few workarounds for a weak working memory:
- write a note as soon as an idea pops into your head
- record your ideas on your phone, if you cannot write
- when you think of a new task put it on your paper or electronic task list immediately
- take notes when in meetings or in informal discussions
- set an alarm to remind yourself when you need to transition to a new task.
- refer back to your written plans as often as you need
Using strategies and tools to help you remember your intentions will bring you one step closer to following through.
But it still may not be enough… And, yes, of course, there are strategies to help you.
ADHD and Choices In The Moment
You have a plan and reminders. The fourth step is creating an environment that will support you in doing what you know.
- Set up things in advance. What do you need to get started on writing your resume or business plan, painting the deck or going running. Get out your files, list, tools, clothes…
- Create a visual of images and words to remind yourself of why your goal is important to you. This will make the choice you want to make really stand out.
- Eliminate distractions as much as possible. Close the door, turn on the white noise, shut off facebook, disable the email pop-up reminders…
- 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.
What else can you do to make your long term goals more prominent than the seemingly urgent day to day tasks that will always pop up regularly?