Starting. Stopping. Switching between tasks.
You have to shift gears all the time. Throughout your day you transition between thoughts and tasks when you are:
- going to work.
- starting a new task.
- engaging fully in a new conversation.
- beginning a meeting.
- trying to “shelve” a thought/concern for the time being.
- leaving work.
And, because of the challenges with transitioning, getting stuck in a gear is a real possibility for adults with ADHD.
What are specific times when shifting gears is the most challenging for you? Use the strategies below so you can transition with greater ease.
Isn’t it time to stop grinding your gears?
ADHD and Transitions
Transitions can be difficult for you in part because of the challenges of your ADHD symptoms, such as:
- Activating – You may have a hard time starting a task because you don’t know how or where to begin.
- Focusing – At other times when you do start you may have a tendency to hyperfocus on a task that catches your interest. Alternatively, you may just get lost in the details, whether they are important or not. In either case, it is hard for you to stop.
- Managing Emotions – Your emotions – frustration, annoyance, anger, etc. – may get in your way, making it hard to move from one task to another.
- Regulating Action – If you are impulsive at times, and jump in before considering all the necessary details, it will obviously be difficult to transition effectively.
Do any of these sound familiar to you?
Ready to explore some possible workarounds?
Getting There On Time
Whether it is the office, meetings, social engagements, home or other places you may find it difficult to get there on time.
The key is to build your capacity to anticipate and plan for what you need to do in advance in order not to be late in getting from point “A” to point “B.”
I know. You knew that already.
But right now your standard operating procedure when going from place to place may sound something like, “Oh no, I didn’t know it was so late!! Where are my keys? I need that file. Why do I always do this?!!”
If you commonly utter phrase like these, and want to change this so you are not late so often or at critical times, adopt and practice the 4 Steps to Getting Places on Time.
Of course, all that preparation is not going to help you, if you can’t stop what you are doing so you can move on to your next task.
I know this may seem obvious. But it may also be one of the biggest challenges getting in your way of moving effectively through your day.
Here are some of the various strategies other Adults with ADHD use to make it easier to stop and make the flow of their day smoother:
- Have a clear plan for your day so you have a reason to stop. If you are not clear on what you are moving onto next you may just go down one rabbit hole after another.
- Decide in advance how much time you are going to spend on a task and set a timer.
- If you are in a hyperfocus mode, you may ignore the timer. So get up and stretch or take a short walk when the timer goes off. Physical movement can help you get out of hyperfocus.
- You may even want to change your environment by moving to a different room to work after the timer goes off.
- If you know it may be hard to stop working on a particular task because it is particularly captivating, you may decide to do it only after finishing less interesting tasks.
- Don’t start. If you know it will be hard to stop, and you don’t have enough time to engage in the task the way you want, don’t start it. Do it when you have more time.
Which of these strategies are you going to try this week?
The above steps seem pretty straight forward, right?
But, as an adult with ADHD, you may feel all “jumbled” at times when you have to move quickly from one task to another.
So, to fully extract yourself from one task so you can fully engage in your next task, give yourself as much white space as possible between tasks as you move through your day.
Instead of rushing from one task to the next:
- Stop and take note of where you are on a task before pushing it to the side. It will be easier to pick up when you get back to it and you will feel more confident that you won’t forget what you were doing.
- Take a short walk to clear your head and think about whether you are doing what you need to do.
- Review the agenda or your notes before going into a meeting.
- Even if you don’t have time to make a full plan for the next day, stop a bit early and make brief notes to make it easier to start the next day.
These are just a few ways to slow down and take stock throughout your day so you can feel more grounded and transition easier.
Ready to slow down?
If you’ve gotten this far in the article, you get that being able to plan, stop and switch gears are all key to transitioning well between tasks.
But what about activating, starting, initiating?! Once you stop, how can you make it easier to shift into first gear again and get going on your next task?
You don’t want to stall out.
The first step is to chunk down your project into parts. Because, if you are not clear on what your need to do, procrastination can easily set in – you don’t start.
The amount of time you choose for each part will depend on your attention span for that particular task, energy and time available. While the allotted time for each part may vary, be sure each part is discrete and you can see a clear beginning and end along with a due date.
You don’t have to have your whole plan prepared in advance. But you do want to see the next few steps as you are working. To see how this might work let’s look at the example of writing an article.
- Determine your objective, as this will guide you and keep you from going off into tangents.
- Review recent questions you have received, news items and other sources to get ideas for a topic.
- Decide on the topic.
- Decide on the title of the article. Again, this will help guide you as you write.
- Create a rough outline of the article. You can always change it, but at least you have a loose structure of what you want to include.
- Write a draft of each section. Don’t worry about too much careful editing as you go along. That will just bog you down.
- Edit the whole article at once to make sure it hangs together and you have met your objective.
- Add, delete or rewrite sections as needed.
- If you have someone editing your article, send it to them
- Make corrections per the suggestion of the editor.
- If you don’t have an editor, do a final edit.
The second step is to create an environment that will help you get started.
- Choose the optimal time of day for you to work on a particular task. If you are writing an article, figure out when you do your best writing.
- Clear your space of potential distractions. Turn off your email notice. Close your door. Turn off the ringer on your phone.
- Have enough food and water, so you don’t get distracted by thirst and hunger.
- Set a timer.
- Put on the proverbial horse blinders and remind yourself, “I’m doing this and not that!!”
- Play music or white noise, if that will help.
What can you do differently to get started on a task you are working on today?
ADDed Perspectives Bottom Line
Slowing down and creating a plan for better transitions can help Adults with ADHD feel more grounded and get more of the right stuff done.