You’re busy. I know. But you really want to be productive – do what’s important to you. ADHD adults who use this 3-step process can do that.
- Busy is not the same as productive.
- Being productive means you are doing the right activities to reach your goals.
- The 1st step is to decide where you want to excel.
- The 2nd step is decide what activities you need to engage in to do this.
- The 3rd step is to create an execution plan to help you follow through on those activities.
I know you’re busy, but at the end of the day, have you accomplished your most important work? Keep on listening to see how you can be productive and not just busy.
You’ve turned into Scattered Focused, Done – Reimagining Productivity with ADHD, a podcast for ADHD, adults like you, who want to learn how to adopt the best strategies, tools, and skills to be able to get your essential work done in a way that works with the way your brain is wired. I’m Marla Cummins, and I’m glad you decided to join me today on this journey to re-imagining productivity with ADHD. So you can get what is important to you done without trying to do it like everyone else.
You may wonder how it’s possible to be so busy and yet not really feel like you’re getting anything done. Your days may often seem like a struggle with time. Sure. You come up with a list of what you want to get done, perhaps in between meetings. Yet, as the minutes, tick by, you may feel the stress of falling behind, and not being able to accomplish what’s on your list each day. So you may end your day thinking “If only I managed my time better, I could be more productive.” You may even look around and think, “Everyone else seems to get their stuff done and doesn’t seem so stressed.” And this thinking may send you into a shame spiral, further hindering your ability to spend your time doing what’s important to you – being productive. If this sounds familiar and you want to turn this around, which I’m sure you do, you’re definitely in the right place.
The first step you need to take is to make sure you’re doing enough upfront thinking, which many ADHD, adults frequently neglect to do, in part because they’re so busy. But without enough upfront thinking, you’ll just continue spinning your wheels, being reactive Instead of proactive. You can start by deciding what is essential to you. That is, where do you want to excel – go big? Once you decide this, this will hopefully inform how you decide to spend your time and energy. So where do you want to go big? Is it in being a parent, practicing good self-care, doing your art? Whatever it is, you need to decide. And, if you want to take a deeper dive into this topic, read Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism.
Here’s an example I came up with. Here’s how Charlie chose to spend his time to excel in his business and family life. Charlie was a married father of two small kids, working full-time in tech sales. He also served on the board at his church and the environmental committee for his town. He also played in an adult soccer league, which had a game every week on Saturday afternoons and frequently helped out his parents who lived nearby. With all this going on, Charlie was stretched so thin he felt like he was just running in place, trying to keep up with all his commitments. His business was suffering and he wasn’t spending the kind of time he wanted with his family. He often missed soccer practices and was not even following through on all his commitments to the church board or the town committee. Not surprisingly he also wasn’t taking care of himself. Sleep? What was that? But he didn’t think he had any options. He felt he had to do it all because he had already committed himself.
And the pile just kept getting higher and higher. Charlie wanted to figure out how to fit it all in without feeling so stressed. But in reality, he couldn’t fit it all in. During his daughter’s soccer games, he was on his phone, emailing and talking about business more than he was watching the game. When he was at work, he was constantly putting out fires. He wasn’t able to focus on either his business or his family, the way he really wanted. He was just trying to get it all done. Instead of trying to fit it all in Charlie needed to do less. He needed to do the right things. He needed to do the right thing so he could Excel in his business and family life. So where do you want to Excel? Once you decide where you want to go big, the next step is to decide the tasks you need to engage in to reach your goal of going big in the areas you choose.
Hopefully again, this will inform how you spend your time and energy doing the right things. So you’re not just busy, but are productive. So that’s what Charlie did. Since he decided to go big in his family life that meant spending quality time with them, supporting them in doing what matters to them and carrying his weight when it comes to, you know, the administrative tasks that come with being in a family. To do this, first Charlie decided not to participate in the adult soccer league. But rather he played in the bimonthly adult pickup game if he had time. He declined to do another stint on the board at his church. But he did volunteer for the fall fundraiser. And for now he just wouldn’t be on any committee for the town.
To spend more time with his family he decided that dinner time was sacred and that he would be home on time to eat dinner. He also decided that he would not work on Saturday. And, while they didn’t need to have an elaborate plan the family would spend that time together. With respect to his business, he flushed out his business plan, which detailed the exact specific activities, as well as where he wanted to delegate. It wasn’t an easy process. But over time Charlie learned to choose the right activities so that he could be successful in his family life and business, as well as participate on the side with other activities that interested him. it wasn’t an all or nothing. But he did learn how to choose his own agenda – be proactive. And he stopped being reactive, acting by default. Again, it entailed plenty of trade-offs. But it was worth it to him, if it would mean excelling with his family and business.
But Charlie wasn’t done yet. He still had plenty of hard work to do to maximize his chances of doing the right activities. And to do this, he had to create an execution plan to follow through on the tasks that he decided were important. Because you know, as an adult with ADHD, even when you have a visceral connection to the reward, the payoff of following through on the activities that will help you be successful, it can still be really difficult to act at what I like to call the critical moment choice. That is, even when you tell yourself you want to do something and you tell yourself it’s really important, you know you may still not follow through. So you just can’t leave this up to chance, thinking that you’ll do the tasks you’ve decided are important because, well, they’re on your list. How does that work out?
Knowing what’s your task are is just not going to be enough for you to ensure follow through. I know I may be belaboring this point, but I really want to make sure you hear what I’m saying. As an adult with ADHD, you just have to go the extra mile. You really do need to take into consideration the various factors that will help you through, as well as what maybe get what may get in your way. And then use strategies to help you follow through and minimize your distractions. Let’s go back to the example of Charlie. To excel in his family life, Charlie wanted to support his spouse and his kids to do what’s important to them, remember. And Charlie’s kindergarten aged daughter had show-and-tell every Wednesday. Of course, he didn’t expect her to remember. But, neither he nor his spouse remembered it either.
So, he put it in his task manager and when it popped up on Tuesday, he helped his daughter choose what she wanted to bring for show-and-tell just before they ate dinner on Tuesday nights. Every Tuesday, it became a rinse and repeat activity, a routine for him and his daughter. It may seem like a lot to do to ensure a kindergartner has something for show-and-tell. But imagine being the only five-year-old in your class without something for show-and-tell. It’s a big deal, right? And Charlie knew that. Another example is to pull his weight on the home admin tasks that he agreed to do, but wasn’t doing, he put aside a two-hour block once a week to do these tasks, if they didn’t necessarily need to be done at a different time of the week. He stopped worrying about what he was supposed to do because he knew he had this time and he had the list in his task manager.
He also signed up for a one-hour block on Focusmate to help him get started on that two-hour block. He discovered, though, once he started with Focusmate, he was able to finish the second hour without help. By the way, Focusmate is an online platform that pairs you with an accountability partner for live virtual co-working sessions. I’ve had many clients use this service with great success. It’s free for three sessions every week. And, if you want to use it more than that, it’s only $5 a month. So I would definitely check it out.
Okay, before continuing on, I want to be sure you can put all of the steps together. Because what we’re talking about today or what I’m talking about today is about helping you figure out how you can be productive – do what’s important and meaningful to you instead of just being busy each day. The first step is deciding where you want to go big – what you want to excel at.
The next step is deciding what activities or tasks will help you reach this goal. And then the last step, which is critically important for ADHD adults because of the challenge that you know about in terms of following through and being able to act in the critical moment when you intend. That you need to remember, it’s just not going to be enough to simply have a list of activities. You need to have an execution plan, a strategy for maximizing the chances that you will act, follow through with the tasks on your list.
But it’s also easy to lose sight of your original intentions, right? Happens. So, you also have to focus on how are you going to remember to remember. Checking in weekly to both plan ahead and reflect on where you’ve spent your time and energy in the previous week is one way to catch yourself before potentially going too far off course. You can check out my post, The ADHD Adults Guide to the Weekly Review, for more info on how to do a weekly review.
But maybe you’re not sure you’re spending your time productively. Another way to reflect on where you’re actually spending your time vis-a-vis where you want to spend your time is by using the urgent important matrix. You can place your activities and the amount of time spent on them in one of the four quadrants to see if you’re doing the activities that you decided were important to reach your goals or not. You could check out my posts, ADHD and Using The Urgent Important Matrix, for more info on using the matrix,
Figuring out how to be productive really does take a lot of time. I know. But, then again, so does being busy, right? So, what are you going to do this week so you can be productive, do what’s important and meaningful to you, instead of just being busy.
That’s it for now. I’m really glad you joined me and stayed until the very end. If you’re interested in learning more about my work with adults with ADHD, check out my website, marlacummins.com. Of course, if you’ve learned a thing or two from today’s podcast, which I hope you have, please pass along the link to anyone else in your circles you think might benefit. Until next time this has been Scattered, Focused, Done. And I’m Marla Cummins, wishing you all the very best on your journey to reimagining productivity with ADHD.