When you are having a hard time starting and following through on a task it is possible you have not clearly defined the task and/or the outcome you are seeking.
So, because of your uncertainty you may:
- avoid the tasks altogether and never start — procrastinate.
- start and stop multiple times.
- after working on it for a bit, eventually throw your hands up in frustration.
- pull something together at the last minute
Below are 4 mistakes you can avoid so it is easier to start and follow through on your tasks
Mistake #1 – You Don’t Know What You Want To Accomplish
As an Adult with ADHD you know making decisions about how to do a particular task can be challenging. One way to minimize the difficulty is to begin by visualizing your desired outcome.
As David Allen of Getting Things Done notes, being clear on your outcomes — knowing your objectives — will help you to:
- have clear boundaries about what you need to do and not do to complete a task.
- know when you have successfully gotten to the finish line.
- create criteria for making decisions as you are working on the task.
- decide what resources and support you need to complete the project.
- focus and minimize off task behavior because you know what you are trying to accomplish!
For example, when I visualize an outcome for writing this article, I see an article that will:
- help readers learn how to tackle a few tasks that are often difficult.
- be scannable so it is easy to read.
- have no spelling mistakes. 🙂
- flow well.
- illustrate my knowledge of ADHD and productivity.
- be good enough to publish in blog format.
If you don’t have the end in mind, how will you know what you are trying to accomplish, right?
Mistake #2 – You Skip Over The Step of Making A Decision
Also, like many other ADHD Adults, you may get stuck following through on a task because there is a decision you need to make. But, in the moment, you may not recognize that you need to make this decision.
Consider these examples.
Abdul keeps on looking at his to do list, which includes “get a new bike rack.” But he keeps glossing over it, thinking, “I have to get to that soon…” As time goes on he gets frustrated with himself for putting it off. After all, he tells himself, “How hard can it be to buy a bike rack?!”
While talking to a friend he realizes he is stuck because he doesn’t know what kind to get, and ask the friend for help choosing one.
Abdul’s first task should have been “research and decide what kind of rack to get,” not “get a new bike rack.”
“Get tax paperwork to Sue” has been on Mei’s list for weeks. And the same loop keeps playing in her head, “I need to get all that stuff to Sue’s office already, if I’m going to file my taxes on time!”
But every time she thinks about doing it she feels overwhelmed, and thinks, “I can’t do that now. I’ll do it later…”
It makes sense that Mei would put off the task of “get tax paperwork to Sue.” It is just too big. And, in talking to Sue, she realizes she is procrastinating because she is not sure where to start and how to break it down to make it more manageable.
Mei’s first task is not “get tax paperwork to Sue.” Her first task is decide where to start and how to proceed through the list of items she needs to collect.
Notice both Mei and Abdul were stuck in executing on their tasks because they listed the wrong task as the first step. They both needed to take a step back and make a decision before they could move forward.
Mistake #3 – You Try To Work On Your Backlog and Current Work At The Same Time
Another place where Adults with ADHD often get stuck is trying to keep up with current work and figure out how to deal with a backlog — email, filing, administrative forms, expense reports etc.
If this is true for you, you may end up avoiding your work because you are too overwhelmed.
The first step is to make sure you have a process for dealing with your current work so you can minimize the chances of developing a backlog. Check out The Complete Guide to Managing Your Email for ADHD Adults for an example of how to do this with your email.
But stuff — like backlogs — happen.
So, the second step is define the backlog and put it in a pile — electronic or physical — to keep it separate from your current work.
Then the third step is to work on your backlog as a separate project from your current project. For example, you may decide to chip away at your email backlog for 15 minutes every day. Alternatively, you may prefer to settle in for a 2 hour marathon on the weekend.
The key is to treat your backlog as a separate project so you can do your best to keep on top of your incoming current work.
Mistake #4 – You Don’t Do The Preparation Work Needed For A Task
One of the challenges for Adults with ADHD is transitioning — starting and stopping — when moving from one activity or task to another. And what can make it particularly difficult to start a task is when you are not really ready because you don’t have what you need.
Think of the last time this happened to you. Sure, it makes sense that when you are feeling overwhelmed and pressed for time you want to dig in and get started right away. But, in your rush to get started, have you ever found you actually end up wasting more time starting and stopping — looking for what you need to do the task?
If this sounds familiar, the key to stop making this mistake is to trust that the time spent preparing to do the task is actually time well spent. And then do the necessary preparation work.
Consider the example below.
Aliza had “file expense report” on her to do list forever. But has put it off, and now needs to submit six months worth of expenses. Sound familiar?
She starts filling out the report online, and then needs to stop and figure out the dates of her trips and local client lunches. She figures this out and then starts again.
She is already frustrated that it is taking so long when she realizes she does not have all the receipts she needs. She really thought she had them all, but did not check before starting the form.
Finally, she quits and tells herself, “It is taking too long to fill out this form! I don’t have time for this now…”
Aliza made the mistake of assuming that the first step was filling out the form. Then, when she could not do it quickly, she became really frustrated and quit. A better plan might have been:
- First, make a list of all the trips and lunches – expenses.
- Then find all the receipts.
- And last, after she was sure she had all the information she needed, start the report.
Where can you prepare better this week for one of your task?
Questions For You
Which of the above mistakes do you want to work on correcting.
What kind of help do you need?