I know you’ve done this, we all have. We don’t always want to admit it to ourselves, but often with ADHD we make ourselves "busy" with work to try and avoid doing something we really need to do instead. We do what's easy on our to-do list rather than what's necessary. We lie to ourselves saying we're being productive. We do it to create another lie to ourselves that we don't have time. In reality, this is all still task avoidance. Be honest with yourself. Is whatever you’re frantically cleaning really more important that phone call you’ve been putting off?
Once you realize when you’re doing this, you can start working on it, and the first step is learning how to prioritize. Priorities tell us what is not only important, but urgent, they give us a roadmap for getting through our list. When you’re having that “I don’t even know where to start” moment of overwhelm, priorities tell us where to start, so start with prioritizing! This is the only method I’ve found that works quickly and is simple enough to get along with my ADHD brain, it’s called “Must do, Could do, Do later”. It requires a bit of playing along, but once you see how much you’re getting done you’ll never want to do it any other way!
First, make a list of everything you need to get done – we’re usually pretty good at this part. Then you need to give each thing on the list a priority, look down your list and ask yourself: “what on this list is not only important, but urgent” – meaning there's a specific time it needs to get done by. Things like calling a place before they close, or taking something out of the freezer to defrost where there's a short timeframe for completing it. Label those things as "Must do", which is the highest priority. These go at the top of your list and you MUST do them first before you can move on to the next set which is "Could do".
“Could do” tasks are things that are important, and they have to get done, but they're not as time-sensitive as Must do. For me these are usually chores like mowing the lawn or doing laundry, they won't derail me if they don't get done right away. If it’s possible, these are great items to delegate (especially if they’re work-related!) These are often what pulls our attention away from the most important and urgent things, and why we get so easily derailed. I know that they have to get done, but you don’t have to be the one to do them, and you definitely don’t want to use them as an excuse to skip your more important items that need more of your attention!
Now anything else on the list gets labeled "Do later", I know you really want to make progress on your video game or read about Dutch linguist and mathematician Rudolph Snellius on Wikipedia all day, but we have to acknowledge that those things shouldn't be more important than the others. We always think "oh I'll just do this for a little while THEN I'll have the motivation to do the important stuff", but what always happens? You look up from the screen and realize it's already 9pm, and you have no time left to do anything else on your list.
I know it's not easy, but being able to prioritize these things and make a choice to do the important stuff first is a big step on the way to living more intentionally as we talked about in the last newsletter. Living intentionally, managing priorities, and planning each day will have a profound impact on your ability to manage your ADHD better. But it’s up to you to make the commitment to take ACTION.
If you want some helpful tools to guide you along the way, check out this link.
Thanks as always for reading,
Founder, The ADHD Project