Often, procrastination and ADHD go hand in hand. The stress and anxiety produced by piling heaps of unfinished tasks can cause decision paralysis, further delaying our work, and contributing to chronic procrastination. Priority Matrix excels at helping busy professionals decide what to work on next, focusing on high-impact work. This is part of an article series that asks experts on ADHD to share their prioritization tips and techniques. Most of these apply to just about anyone.
Just get started
It may sound easier said than done, but the secret to getting a big task going is to, put simply, just start. Sometimes it helps to break it down into smaller bits that are directly actionable. Perhaps, it may work to find an easy, trivial task to complete first, and then use the gained momentum to start on the bigger, more important task. Our experts have shared with us several tips and tricks to beat procrastination.
Billy Roberts from Focused Mind ADHD Counseling advises his clients to turn goals into actions: “Most of the time, to-do lists are made up of generic goals: file report, remodel bathroom, etc. However, actions are what get things done. Breaking things down into smaller parts like “sending the email,” or “calling the contractor,” are what the goals are built on.” Once you can visualize the connection between actions and goals, it’s easier to get started, and keep going.
Sure enough, Jacquelyn Tenaglia recognizes that “The hardest part is usually getting started on tasks. Ask yourself how you can break tasks down into smaller steps. If you think a task might take 3 steps, break it down into 10. ADHDers are notorious for underestimating how long a task might take.” And don’t forget to take a look at our time management tips.
Content marketing manager Chelsea Blackstone, who was diagnosed with ADHD at 13, has a simple trick for combating executive dysfunction: “When I get walled by executive dysfunction, I’ve found that digital project management tools can become overwhelming. Seeing everything laid out in a jumble of colors, numbers, tasks, can cause my brain to blue screen. On these days I go back to pen and paper and write down three small things I need to get done in any order, and then I start at the top of the list. Even if it is not the elephant in the room, just doing one of that shortlist and crossing it off gets me past the speed bump of choice and gets me moving. Once I’ve done one thing, the momentum can carry you forward.”
Getting started is crucial, but once you’re done with a big task, it’s also important to celebrate, to treat yourself in a meaningful way. That way, your subconscious will start associating putting in the required work with the upcoming reward. Our experts know this very well.
Abe Breuer, CEO and owner of VIP To Go and John To Go, displayed ADHD tendencies from his childhood. Over time, he has learned several valuable lessons to successfully live with ADHD. Starting with the importance of celebrating successes: “Find a way to reward yourself when you finish an assignment or follow through on these tips. Take a walk during your break. Read an article in a magazine. For larger goals, treat yourself to a memorable lunch/dinner or purchase something you’ve always wanted.”
On the topic of perfection, Chelsea Blackstone wants you to remember that you’re not going to nail it every day, and that’s okay: “While it’s easy to think that if you do everything right, take medication, practice mindfulness, exercise and so on, you’re suddenly going to be able to manage everything all the time. That’s just not true for anyone. Accept that some days you’re going to be scattered, or succumb to executive dysfunction, and that’s okay. Get through what you can and come back at it tomorrow when you’re back on your feet.”
Don’t sit on this, there’s more!
Along this article series, we will continue sharing tips from successful professionals living with ADHD, as well as the experts who help them hit their goals.
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