“It’s not silly or crazy if it engages your brain.”
I had just apologized to a colleague and coaching instructor, who specializes in follow through and working with people who have ADHD.
I’d apologized for my unusual to do list, which I call “My Quilt Rows.” “It’s crazy that I have to do it this way, because I love my client work. Why do I need something to grab my attention and pull me into doing my work?” That’s how I’d prefaced my description of my colorful, practical, fun (and engaging) matrix of a to do list.
Knowing how to engage your brain is crucial to living your life well with ADHD. Embracing and being proud even of your self-knowledge and awareness is also critical. Two different issues; I’ll discuss just the former here today.
Engaging your brain:
- gets you to start a task more easily which you might otherwise put off or dread or do late.
- calms the overwhelm.
- allows you to focus on one step at a time.
- adds to the education you need on how ADHD shows up for you.
Couple of examples:
My client, Sarah, engaged her brain around cleaning the house by calling a friend. She needed something more fun to take her attention off what she considered tedious work.
She also noticed that involving her daughter fed her value of being a role model for “life skills,” which household management certainly falls under.
My client Patty doesn’t use a master to do list. She prints out emails and other work to do on paper, then writes down the list of steps she needs to do for her projects. She checks off what’s done and has an easy way to get back to where she was, should she be interrupted.
My ‘to do’ list: I was bored by my list. I love to create and used to quilt. So now, my to do list is a matrix in Excel. Column one has a “group” such as “lead generation,” “volunteer role,” “book marketing” – each with a different color. Across the top I have the month. Cells contain dates to work on the tasks. It’s the color, the groupings, and the deadlines focus which make it work for me. The color is imperative because it makes the list feel more creative to me.
What do I mean by ADHD and how it shows up for you?
Think of the symptom “distractibility.” If it’s one of yours, tell me more … Does it show up:
- in your conversations at home? At work? Only with certain people or topics or in the car … ? Where and how?
- or in your not finishing up work – but what kind of work? What happens before you get to being “done”? What are the obstacles? What’s the energy going on?
- is it you getting distracted by your thoughts? Someone interrupting you? Internal or external distractions?
Yes, it can be a symptom, not always. But if it is an issue for you, get more specific about how it shows up for you, and you’ll figure out ways to outsmart, compensate or use other strengths instead of being frustrated, unproductive or worse, beating yourself up.
- Educate yourself on the science behind ADHD so you understand what you’re dealing with;
- Accept that it is part of you, something you’ll need to work with always;
- Deal with the anxiety piece, a frequent companion to ADHD;
- Keep notes on how your ADHD specifically shows up for you;
- and work with a specialist, educated in ADHD to learn and accept this, and then to refocus on using your strengths to move ahead.
Coach Approach for Organizers: 2007-2009; practical coaching for people with a brain-based challenge (ADHD, depression, anxiety, bipolar, TBI, and so forth);
ADHD specialist, level two, from the Institute for Challenging Disorganization, 2012;
Finishing level three certification this Fall from the ICD, 2012;
ongoing classes through Coach Approach (advanced ADHD coaching, curious accountability) and the ICD (monthly);
and my client base: clients with ADHD have been in my client base since I began my work. Today, more than half of my clients have ADHD.