Find out WHY you're stuck by observing yourself
I talk every week to ADD / ADHD Adults inquiring about coaching for life-long challenges with procrastination, poor follow-through, or generally low productivity.
The most common phrase they use when describing their dilemma is “For whatever reason…”
- For whatever reason, I never got around to starting that report that was due two weeks ago.
- For whatever reason, I spend most of the day drifting and not starting anything.
- For whatever reason, I can’t get myself to organize my office.
If you relate to this “for whatever reason” phrase, you know how frustrating and bewildering it feels when your own behavior is a mystery to you.
In order to crack the code, the necessary first step is to pinpoint the exact reason why you aren’t able to get started on each of the challenges that you have. As an ADHD Coach, I know the kinds of questions to ask you, in order to determine the real nature of the problem. But you can learn to tease this information out of yourself. Here’s how.
Create an INTENTION and track what happens
I use the word “INTENTION” (in caps) to refer to an action you want to take, including not only the action itself, but also the strategy you intend to follow that will make it most likely to happen. So a realistic INTENTION might state:
- What you intend to do
- Where you intend to do it
- What time you will start
Then, within 24 hours, record whether or not you succeeded in carrying out the strategy, and if not, what exactly got in the way of your success. This should be done the same day, while the details are still fresh in your mind.
EXAMPLE: Nicole had to get started on writing a report that was two weeks overdue. Her written entry of this Intention was:
“Start writing the report in an empty conference room at 2:00.”
Her reporting on it afterwards stated:
“Did not succeed in starting because I couldn’t find an empty conference room at 2:00; they were all being used. I was interrupted constantly in my cubicle, so I couldn’t focus. I didn’t know where to start on the report, it felt overwhelming. I wasn’t sure what the report should look like.”
Reporting exactly what happened to keep her from starting provided Nicole with important information that helped her begin to identify some common patterns in her behavior and thinking. In this example, several problems indicated why she didn’t start.
- Didn’t plan ahead, so no quiet conference rooms were available to work in
- Difficulty with organizing the report – she needs to learn a good process to approach this kind of writing
- Ambiguity, uncertain about what should go into the report – she needs to determine how to get clarity on direction before writing
In a nutshell, the specific problems Nicole exhibited were in planning, gaining clarity, and the writing process. These are common difficulties for someone with ADHD, and easily coachable.
You can identify your reasons for being stuck by tracking 5 to 10 intentions over a week or so. See what kinds of problems show up as a regular pattern. Just the act of putting it down in writing will start making you aware of better strategies.