We all know there are just so many hours in the day. And trying to power your way through each day to get more and more done usually ends up backfiring. That is, rather than getting more work done, you end up with diminishing returns. But, if you learn how to manage your ADHD and your energy, you can change this.
If you don’t, you may be so depleted you end up::
- having negative social interactions.
- easily giving in to distractions.
- procrastinating on your important work.
- engaging in unhealthy habits, like over-eating.
Yet, you may continue this cycle of overworking because you still think spending more time equals getting more stuff done. Despite all the evidence to the contrary.
So, at some point, you may wonder, “Why do I keep on doing this?!” The simple answer is habit. You do what you do because, well, that is what you do. Ready to change this habit? If you are, then it is time to learn how to manage your ADHD and your energy.
Why GTD Is Not the Answer to Your Productivity Problems
If you are frustrated because of your low productivity, you probably already checked out systems like Getting Things Done. Make sense. After all, they offer roadmaps and promises to make you more efficient and effective. Even I offer you guides to becoming more productive.
And, no doubt, learning these skills can be useful.
But, even with a great roadmap, what happens if there is no gas in the fuel tank? Obviously, you can’t get to your destination, which for you may be:
- better productivity at work and home
- improved relationships
- more fun and downtime
- volunteering and service to others
Time to learn how you can build and maintain your energy so you can reach your destination.
You already know you need to get enough sleep, exercise, adequate nutrition and rest to operate at your best. Being able to focus, attend and regulate your emotions — ADHD challenges — depends on these complementary forms of treatment for ADHD.
While you already know this, you may not be tending to this area. Use the checklist below to see.
__ I don’t regularly get at least seven to eight hours of sleep, and I often wake up feeling tired.
__ I frequently skip breakfast, or I settle for something that isn’t nutritious.
__ I don’t work out enough (meaning cardiovascular training at least three times a week and strength training at least once a week).
__ I don’t take regular breaks during the day to truly renew and recharge, or I often eat lunch at my desk, if I eat it at all.
Are you doing as well as you would like? If not, what do you want to start doing to build and renew your physical energy?
Building and maintaining physical energy is just one piece of the puzzle…
Because much of the energy we need to persist in the face of challenges is emotional energy. Mira Kirshenbaum, author of The Emotional Energy Factor, refers to this as energy that “manifests as hope, resilience, passion, fun and enthusiasm.”
In fact, while taking care of yourself physically is important, you may still feel drained if you are emotionally depleted. And challenges with regulating emotions might make it even more difficult for adults with ADHD to build and maintain their emotional reserves.
Use the checklist below to see how you are doing.
__ I frequently find myself feeling irritable, impatient, or anxious at work, especially when work is demanding.
__ I don’t have enough time with my family and loved ones, and when I’m with them, I’m not always really with them.
__ I have too little time for the activities that I most deeply enjoy.
__ I don’t stop frequently enough to express my appreciation to others or to savor my accomplishments and blessings.
Are you building and maintaining your emotional energy? Want to do better? Here are few steps you can take to fill up your tank.
Take time to be present with the people — family and friends — who nourish you.
Find and participate in activities you enjoy.
Express gratitude for what you have and show appreciation to people in your life.
Of course, you may find, when working on the emotional landscape of your life, you need the help of a therapist or coach.
Of course, you also need to engage your brain — be alert, focus and attend — to accomplish any task. That is, you need mental energy.
What is in your reserves?
__ I have difficulty focusing on one thing at a time, and I am easily distracted during the day, especially by e-mail.
__ I spend much of my day reacting to immediate crises and demands rather than focusing on activities with longer-term value and high leverage.
__ I don’t take enough time for reflection, strategizing, and creative thinking.
__ I work in the evenings or on weekends, and I almost never take an e-mail–free vacation.
Of course, you want to tend your physical and emotional energy, as these impact your mental energy. And your ADHD can make it hard to build these reserves, as well.
If you’re not satisfied with your score, here are steps you can take to both manage your ADHD and your mental energy.
First, your memory is a little wonky, and trying to keep information in your head can lead to mental clutter. So, you need to use a container — calendar, task manager, electronic notebook, etc., rather than your memory. By doing so you can also be confident you can find the information when you need it.
Next, trying to juggle several tasks at once — multitasking — can deplete your mental energy. And you may end up being less productive than if you focus on one task at a time. The antidote is to tell yourself, “I’m doing this and not that.” And give yourself permission to focus on one task at a time.
In addition, it is important to manage distractions and interruptions, as these can also deplete your mental energy. It is easy for adults with ADHD to give into the stimulation these provide and forget what they intend to do. Managing these will help you maintain your mental energy, and execute better.
Especially for adults with ADHD, you need to make sure you are mentally stimulated. Because if you feel bored, you know it will be almost impossible to follow through. Check out the steps you can take to get the stimulation you need.
Last, it is important to do upfront thinking so you have the mental clarity to focus on your most important work. One way to do this is to take time each week to reflect and strategize by doing a Weekly Review. Without this time for deep thinking, you may just continue responding to the latest crisis.
What can you start doing to start building and maintaining your mental energy?
I know you may be wondering why human spirit is on the list, and it may conjure up all sorts of images for you. Moreover, when you think of improving your productivity, building your spirit is probably not what first comes to mind. Yet, it is key to being able to work effectively.
As Tony Schwartz, founder of the Energy Project, notes, this is the energy of meaning and purpose. That is, when you engage in activities you value because they have meaning and purpose for you, you are fueling your spirit. And this energy will make it easier to start and execute on your important work.
How are you doing?
__ I don’t spend enough time at work doing what I do best and enjoy most.
__ There are significant gaps between what I say is most important to me in my life and how I actually allocate my time and energy.
__ My decisions at work are more often influenced by external demands than by a strong, clear sense of my own purpose.
__ I don’t invest enough time and energy in making a positive difference to others or to the world.
Are you satisfied with your score? Even if you’re not, I know you might find it intimidating to think about trying to make changes to fuel your spirit. For many, it can feel daunting, for sure.
The first step is to take a long-range view. And acknowledge you will need to create a plan to build more capacity in this area. I know planning might not be your strong suit. So, you might need help from a friend, coach or therapist.
Whether you do this on your own or with help, the next step is to decide the areas you want to excel in and go big. Once you decide these essential areas in your life the next step will be deciding the right activities. You may find you need to do less to do better in what you decide is important to you.
And, as you engage in activities you value, you will feel more positive energy. This positive energy will also allow you to focus and persist better
How Are You Going to Manage your ADHD and energy?
The above checklists came from Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project. He also provided the following guide to category scores.
0: Excellent energy management skills
1: Strong energy management skills
2: Significant deficits
3: Poor energy management skills
4: A full-fledged energy crisis
After completing these checklists what can you say about your current energy levels in the various categories?
Moreover, what’s one step you would like to take now to manage your energy better?