This is it, the first post to the blog. It’s pretty exciting. Starting isn’t easy.
In fact, starting is simultaneously the most basic and most challenging aspect of any project. At its core, it means taking that first step. Putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard. Packing your gym clothes, ironing your suit.
Chances are for some of you reading this, just seeing those steps put to paper caused a little burst of anxiety. That’s the challenging part of starting. When you start a new task, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The echoes of similar tasks that you struggled with or succeeded in throughout your life reverberate within them, making some things easy to start and others incredibly hard. This is especially true for people with ADHD.
How do you get past this emotional barrier?
First, realize that it’s there. Once you know you’re dealing with strong emotions, it’ easier to manage them. Owning up to past mistakes and the way they affect your motivation is an important step when trying to move beyond them.
Next, you have to fully cement in your mind the importance of the task ahead. Why is it important? Often, the importance lies in what will happen if you do or do not engage in the task at hand. Looking at the consequences of doing or not doing the task can be a powerful motivator. For some people negative consequences will push them to act, for others looking at the positive effects of taking the action will provide the needed motivation. Get to know which one works best for you, if you don’t already know, and use it.
What happens if you don’t do it? Look at things from both a short-term and a long-term perspective. If you put it off, might there be a harsh consequence? A demotion? Damage to you reputation? Will you anger someone important to you? What opportunities will you miss out on either now or in the future? What other goals will you have to put off if you procrastinate on this task?
From a more positive perspective, how will completing the task on time or early strengthen your reputation? How might your position be improved by completing the task? What opportunities will present themselves? How much easier will it be to achieve your next goal when you can ride the momentum created by successfully finishing this one? Visualizing success in this way can be hugely motivating for those with ADHD.
How does visualization help with motivation?
Visualization helps us to see that our goals can be accomplished. It provides us with the much needed perspective that we can succeed.
People with ADHD can have difficulty transitioning. It’s usually associated with going from one activity to another, but it can also affect the transition from one emotional state to another. Visualizing success helps transition from a struggling, discouraged state to one that is motivated to tackle the task at hand. It helps shift perspective.
Once you’ve got the perspective that you need, and you can feel the motivation starting, it’s time to implement strategies to help you move forward.
What is the best way to start?
The best way to start anything, is with the first step. Unfortunately, that first step isn’t always clear. People with ADHD tend to be very good at seeing the big picture, but not as good with the details. As a result, they often get caught up in what the end of a project will look like. This often leads to excitement about the goal, and intimidation about the road ahead. It becomes difficult to see the forest for the trees, and that crucial first step become lost in the shuffle.
The best thing to do at times like this is to break the task down into small steps. Steps so small they almost seem silly. What’s the first step to getting into better shape? Going to the gym. What’s the first step to going to the gym? Driving there. What’s the first step to driving there? Getting out of your house and closing the door behind you. You get the idea. Just keep breaking the task into smaller and smaller pieces until it doesn’t seem so hard to do.
You’d be amazed at how many goals start with getting out of your house and closing the door behind you.
What strategies can help with taking the first step?
So you’ve figured out your first step. Here are four strategies to help you take it.
- Set a timer. It’s that simple. Set a timer for twenty minutes, and get to work. You can do anything for twenty minutes. Just commit to it and get going. If the timer beeps and you’re in the zone, keep going. If not, take a five-minute break, reset the timer and get back to it. Repeat a necessary.
- Figure out your best time to work. Some people work better at night, some work better in the morning. This may very well change with the task. Mental tasks might be best for you in the morning, and physical tasks might be best in the afternoon. Determine your best time to work, and begin your most challenging tasks then.
- Find a buddy. A classic ADHD productivity strategy is the body double. It involves having someone in the room with you while you tackle difficult tasks. They don’t check up on you, or pressure you to do your work; they’re just there in the room with you. Effectively, their presence helps you feel like you’re getting credit for doing whatever the task is that you’re working on. Often that credit will be just enough of a motivator to get you down to business.
- Change your inner voice. Often, when thinking about the things we have to do, we use passive terms like “should” and “ought to”. Changing these terms to active verbs greatly improves motivation. Suddenly, a “should” becomes a “must”, and an “ought to” becomes a “must do”.
What if it’s still hard to start?
Sometimes you need the help of another person to get you going. Maybe you need their advice on how to break the task down. Maybe you need the accountability that comes with having another person invested in what you’re doing.
That’s what an ADHD coach is for. As an ADHD coach, I help my clients move through the process of setting and accomplishing goals. I find that once I help them set their goals and get rolling, they do an excellent job of tackling the tasks in front of them. Although they may need some help along the way, often it’s at the beginning of a project that they need the most help. If you need help tackling a new project, or even an old one that you’ve been putting off for too long, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to help you out.