Like my clients who I have worked with this past week, you may also want to…
- exercise regularly.
- get your deliverables in on time.
- spend quality time with family and friends.
- communicate clearly and in a timely manner.
- get enough sleep.
- run productive meetings.
- and more…
Of course, these and other short term goals are likely part of a larger picture. For you that larger picture may entail growing your business, creating more balance, enhancing your career, taking better care of yourself, etc.
And on a daily basis you make countless decisions in critical moments that either support or hinder you in reaching these goals.
But, you, like many Adults with ADHD, make many decisions on autopilot. They are so habitual it may not seem you are even making a decision in the moment. You just act without thinking, right?
The key is to change your course by making more decisions in critical moments that support your efforts in reaching your goals.
I know you get that.
So, let’s look at how you can do this — change your course.
When Is the Critical Moment?!
Critical moments are not always obvious. Consider these examples.
1.Though you want to cut down on sugar, you buy 2 tubs of ice cream because it is on sale. You tell yourself, “It’s a good deal. I’ll make it last.”
The critical moment is when you bought the ice cream, not when you mindlessly had your second dish because you were tired and forgot you were trying to cut down on sugar.
2. You want to get to meetings on time. But, as you are getting ready to leave to meet with a client, you decide to send one more email. You tell yourself, “This will just take 2 minutes.” You end up answering a few emails, and you are late to your meeting.
In this instance the critical moment is when you decide to do one more thing, rather than leave. Because, if you had left right away, you would not have lost track of time and answered a few more emails.
3. You want to feel less rushed, more in control. But you schedule a meeting for 5 pm on a day you need to be home by 6 pm sharp, thinking, “I can fit in a 30 minute meeting and still get home by 6.” The meeting goes until 5:50. There is traffic… You roll in at 6:30.
Here the critical moment is scheduling the meeting at 5. If you had not done this, you could have left yourself a buffer and enough time to transition so you could leave by 5:30 and get home on time.
Clearly the critical moment is not always obvious.
Preparing in Advance to Change Course
The key to creating the change you want – adopting new habits – is to prepare in advance by identifying:
- your typical critical moment(s).
- options available to you in those moments.
- the option(s) that will give you the greatest chance of creating the change you want.
- how to follow through on the best option(s).
With practice and support you can get better at identifying these critical moments. So, when you come to the fork in the road, you will have less of a struggle making a decision in the moment.
Let’s take a deeper dive now to see how this works.
“I’ll Do This Later”
A common critical moment for Adults with ADHD is when you say, “I’ll do this later…”
Let’s look at the case of Sally, who wants to manage her time better in part so she can take the right actions to grow her business.
Sally received a request from a prospective client, Ahmed, to meet next Friday at 9:30 am; it is the only time he has available that week. She is available, too. So, she immediately sent him an email to confirm. And thought, “I’ll have to put that on my calendar, later. I have to get to my meeting with Aja now.”
But, that afternoon, while on a call with her team, after checking her calendar she scheduled a meeting with them for, you guessed it, Friday at 9:30. She forgot about her meeting with Ahmed…
Later, when she was going through her email again, she realizes her mistake and became really frustrated, thinking, “Not again!!” Then she had to spend her time and energy untangling the mess she created…
The critical moment, when she could have prevented double booking herself and the ensuing fall out, was when she responded to Ahmed’s email without putting the meeting in her calendar.
Since Sally is often overwhelmed, in many such critical moments her automatic response often is, “I’ll do that later. I don’t have time now.”
I bet that sounds familiar, right?
Sally, realizing that this response creates more overwhelm, affects her ability to manage her time well and grow her business, decides to create a more helpful habit for these critical moments. She commits in advance to slowing down whenever she is aware of a date and time sensitive appointments and…
– put these appointments, even tentative ones, in her calendar immediately.
– use self-talk to remind herself: “If I slow down and do this now, I will save time and energy in the long run. I really do have a minute to do this.”
– use Beeminder to track her progress and make it fun.
While not easy to implement, creating a different habit for those critical moments certainly made life easier for Sally in the long run.
Why Adults with ADHD Need to Focus On Critical Moments
I was first introduced to the idea of critical moments through the writings of Dr. Craig Surman, a neuropsychiatrist, ADHD researcher at Harvard Medical School and co-author of “Fast Minds — How to Thrive if you Have ADHD (or think you might).”
And since then I’ve been convinced that, if you want to create better habits with greater ease, identifying and changing these moments are key to do this.
Because, if you are like other Adults with ADHD, you may tend to live in the moment. This may be because you:
- are reacting to whatever comes up in the moment.
- are so overwhelmed you are just trying to keep your head above water.
- have not learned and/or adopted a system or strategies to be proactive, yet.
Identifying in advance your critical moments is one step you can take to become more proactive in your daily life.
It will take a lot of practice, for sure.
Next Step For You – Experiment
What is one goal area you are working on right now?
Identify the critical moment or moments that are hindering you from reaching this goal. Not sure? Ask a supportive person to brainstorm with you.
And then figure out what can you do to change the trajectory of that critical moment. You may need a thought partner to do this, as well.