Friday , 24 November 2017

ADHD & Overwhelm: Taming the Chaos

By Rick Green
We are preparing to launch a new streamlined, cleaner version of We’re doing this while still running the current site, which is already a full-time job for two of us (and a part-time job for several others) which includes creating videos, blogging, sending out newsletters, Friday Funnies, booking live and online events, and more…

So updating 8 years of website stuff has been… daunting.

The individual tasks are not necessarily complex. There’s just a HUMUNGOUS number of them.

I mean, clicking two Lego blocks together is no big deal. It gets challenging if you’re making a 30-foot Lego reproduction of the 1939 World’s Fair.



What’s Needed Now? What’s next?

With hundreds of To-Dos it’s been easy to slip into overwhelm.  Several times a day. Even hourly.

Plus we have to decide who should do what, who should review it, and where to store it or upload or render or export… (Or any number of verbs that are needed to get something on the web.)

What is the most brain-straining, is separating what is Urgent from what is merely a “great idea that would be nice to have.” Cause I can come up with lots of great new ideas while someone else waits in frustration for me to finish something Urgent.

What should I do first? Then what? And after that?…

This is about ‘Prioritizing.’

My tendency is to make the simple, quick-to-complete tasks my priority.   When it’s fun and rewarding, I can hyper-focus and go for hours.  Even if it’s challenging.  In fact, I’m starting to see that the more challenging a fun task is, the better.  If there’s a challenging task that isn’t going to be fun, or turns out to be un-fun…(Is that a word?  What’s the opposite of fun? Taxes? Learning Morse Code? Montezuma’s Revenge? Losing a Mixed-Martial Arts fight? Radish-flavoured ice-cream?)  (You see how I can go on and on when something’s fun.)


My ADHD Has Not Been a Problem Rick Green Adult ADHD

The good news is that folks who are doing the website renovation have done this before. They tell us what they need next, “Could you please send me…”

Or, “Could you review this page and see if it needs more…”

Or, “Are there any images where Rick doesn’t look goofy and…”

To my surprise it’s gone very well.

I credit my low levels of important rage and despair to 3 ADHD-friendly strategies.

They’re drawn from the 36 tools, tips, and solutions that Patrick McKenna and I demonstrate in ADD & Mastering It! (Which, BTW, is still running on some PBS stations, a tribute to the value of the ideas in the video, and perhaps the rather humorous way it’s all presented. It’s also available in the TotallyADD shop if you want strategies that we trust and use in our lives.)

ADHD Another Idea

The three strategies are:

1. Start Small – Don’t Multi-Task – Chunk It Up 

Here’s how I use these 3 strategies with work: I get a request like, “Can you send me 17 images of Blah Blah Blah that are 500X500 pixels and include kittens.”

My first response is, “Arrghhh! Where do I find the images? And cropping and resizing them? And doing color balance and… this will take all day! Do we even have 17?…”

Then I pause, (Deep Breath) and Start Small. I decide to search for one image, knowing that when I find one, I usually find others.

I also Chunk It Up. I can’t face a whole afternoon of searching… And I shouldn’t. It’s not worth it.

So I tell myself that I’ll spend a maximum of 15 MINUTES looking for images and then stop.

That seems manageable. I won’t be doing it all afternoon. Just 15 minutes. That’s eminently doable. I am awesome at 15 minute jobs.

2. Bite-Sized Pieces

So I start the timer on my phone. Then I start searching.

At the end of 15 minutes I either have 17 images, (“Oh, right, I created that file folder last year.) Or I have some and I’m energized and I reset the timer for another 15 minutes. Or I’m on a roll and I don’t hear the timer on my phone go off. Or I have found a few, but I’m frustrated and I stop as I promised myself I would. At that point I may ask if they REALLY need 17 different images. Or ask Ava or David if they know if there’s more images somewhere.

3. One Thing at a Time

And finally, I avoid what my natural inclination wants me to do, which is MULTI-TASKING.

Like you and everyone else, I am convinced that I am way more productive when I’m multi-tasking. Unfortunately virtually EVERY STUDY ever done has shown that we are actually LESS productive. We feel busy. It wakes up the brain. But multi-tasking lowers productivity, accuracy, and speed, while producing more errors and omissions. (Which is why, for example, talking on the phone, even hands free, reduces your driving skills to the level of an alcohol impaired driver.)

Just stick to one task.

That means rather than find some images and start trimming them to size, while also answering a request for a description of a video, and three other tasks on the new site… I stick to finding the images. Then I move on, trimming all the images to size. Then to sending all of the images.

I should say, that’s the ideal. In reality I can forget I even have any ADHD strategies that work and there goes the best part of a day.

It’s Counter-Intuitive  Rick Green surprise

Ideally I finish one step and move on. It’s not easy. I used to be awful at this. But mindfulness, medication, commitment, and repetition have produced a transformation in my ability to stick with things. Even if only for 15 minutes.

And if it’s a job that will take longer than 15 minutes? If it’s fun, no worries. If it’s not what I’d consider fun… I chunk it up.

It’s worth noting that I’ve also set things up so I’m not interrupted by email, phone messages, and notifications from the 103 pieces of software on my phone. In ADD & Mastering It?! we call this strategy, “Bending the World to You.”

Once I’m done a task I pause to actually acknowledge it and feel the pleasure of accomplishment. Doing this gives me energy. Motivation. And confidence.

My natural instinct was to IMMEDIATELY start on the next task, thinking, “I’m on a roll.” Rather than realizing, “My brain needs a break to reboot for what’s next.”

Then a break: a few minutes of brisk walking, stretching, or, more commonly, refreshing myself with chocolate-covered almonds. (Hey, nuts are healthy.)

The Lesson? One Strategy is Not Enough

Which strategies I choose vary from job to job and day to day.

What it’s worth noting is that I have a lot of strategies to choose from, and even when I’m doing something I’ve done before, it’s never enough to use one strategy. It takes a multi-modal, holistic approach, with various mutually supporting strategies. One is never enough.

Which is also true of chocolate-covered almonds.

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