How I get unstuck and get things done with Adult ADHD
Updated: Nov 7, 2022
Starting tasks is difficult for many people with ADHD for various reasons. It might be overwhelming, and we don't know where or when to begin effectively, or it's so uninteresting that your attention wanders to anything else instead of doing it. Or, in other words, running away from the bland thing instead of towards it and getting it done. -in your way, of course.
Walking away from a task before it is done is not an option for me simply because something more interesting has come up. This is especially true when overwhelmed with a job; most people are told to "stop and smell the roses," they probably think that's excellent advice. But for someone with ADHD, stopping can be a recipe for disaster. That's because when we have ADHD, our minds are constantly racing, and we need to keep moving (sitting down and doing something counts!) A hyperactive mind – is hyperactivity, even if you aren’t jumping on tables and constantly interrupting others!
For me, "running" is the key to getting things done. It allows my ADHD mind to get the momentum to focus on the task at hand, so if you're like me and find it hard to stay focused, try running instead of stopping! It might just be the key to getting things done.
The key to building behavioral momentum or taking the first step towards starting a project and letting the movement fuel progress is just that – start with something small towards completing a more extensive project or task. Momentum begets Momentum.
When you see and feel the tangible progress of your folding- folded laundry, an orderly workplace, a completed article - it becomes simpler to begin and continue with activities that once felt like climbing Mount Everest.
Write down all the steps involved in completing something, and then only pick 1-3 steps at a time to start with and check off the steps as you complete the steps. This helps your brain focus and feel rewarded by seeing and feeling the rewards of tangible progress and keeps you going. Then write down the next 2-3 steps and repeat! Get it done.
Since stopping usually means that our ADHD brain will get distracted on picking out the imperfections and get overly focused on getting it "perfect," - code for, "you will find me working on this one Parag, three for three more hours without getting anything done."
By "running," you keep your behavior momentum up and train your mind to seek progress and completion over perfection and incompletion. You can always "change it up" or take a break if you feel overwhelmed. It's better to keep moving to stay focused, even if you're stuck. Go back to step 2 and then skip to step 3 if necessary.
Create the order that works best for you, not the other way around; this is crucial.
And don't forget to take breaks! Breaks allow your brain to rest and recharge, which is when you have ADHD. But take your breaks strategically by:
pre-selecting the activity you will do, the amount of time you will do it, and how you will transition back to work before taking another break.
Avoid using apps, watching TV, or anything that involves the internet. Instead, print out an article you want to read during your break or gather and put aside items needed to engage in a creative pursuit like painting.
Set timers, and then go back to your other task and check off a few more steps until done.
Start with things you don't want to do the first thing - this will make the rest feel easier.
Now, I am not saying it's easy to do, but it’s a challenge worth taking on. You may find that strategies that worked for you a few months ago may need some refining once your demands in life change. Life transitions are inevitable, and the only way forward is to adapt and adjust your strategies to your current life situations.
Due to my life’s demands as a mental health professional in private practice, published author, wife, mom to a young child, and an inquisitive puppy, I stay flexible and plan for the unexpected. When I feel stuck, I “pause and pivot” on to the next thing I need or want to do on my list. Personally, it’s not worth the feelings of guilt and shame that are triggered for us ADHD people when we cannot accomplish something. Not when more important things are waiting, such as spending quality time with your loved ones, eating well, pursuing creative outlets, and getting the right amount of sleep.
When this happens, I look at my list and put a heart symbol next to the incomplete task, giving myself grace and an extension – not an excuse, to come back and finish that task first thing the following day. For you, it may mean coming back to it later in the day when you are at your sharpest.
What are some of your strategies for getting things done when you have ADHD? Let me know in the comments! I would love to hear from you and learn something new. #Adultadhd #productivity #mentalhealth #neurodivergent #neurodiversityandinclusion