Would you climb a ladder for $10? Oh, yes? That's good, that's good. What about Mt. Everest?
For most people, getting started on any project involves finding a way to overcome inertia with motivation. What makes it more challenging for adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) is the anticipation of boring hours, working at petty tasks we would rather ignore than accomplish. Even the simplest task becomes challenging if you are critical-minded, as many with ADD/ADHD are. Often, we procrastinate.
To start and finish my jobs, I must stop thinking this way. I live in the land of opportunity, but only if I can apply myself to what I'm passionate about and keep my foot in a door that always seems to be closing.
Motivation to Get Work Done
1. Break the task into smaller steps. Any task can be accomplished if I break it into small steps or segments. If someone bet me that I could not eat a large pizza by myself, I'd think, "You're right. It's way too big for me." Later, though, I might find myself on the last slice, guilty about the calories I'm counting as I mumble, "Bad Christine!"
Uncompleted tasks weigh on my mind; the more insignificant they are, the heavier they weigh. When I have something to do, I say to myself, "That's nothing. I can finish that in five minutes." But I don't finish anything in one stroke. For me -- and you? -- the space between each step requires mental packaging, making the final project more formidable. In my thinking about doing -- as opposed to doing -- there is the risk of sliding back into inertia, where the cycle starts again.
2. Use visual reminders to stay on task. Another trick I use is to post a big note -- if you're like me, a really big one -- near the source of major distractions. That would be the TV for me. If I lounge around watching the tube, the note stares at me and makes me feel guilty -- a proclamation that couldn't be more intrusive if it were tattooed on my forehead. Beware, though, that you don't take such visual reminders and admonishments too far, turning them into arts and crafts projects that eat up time you could have used on what they were meant to motivate you to do, in the first place.
3. Start off with easy assignments before tackling bigger projects. To keep my brain from getting punked by the difficult stuff, I do the easy things first. For example, do my dishes right now? Overwhelming. But instead of thinking, "Good lord, I cannot do this," I try to think, "OK, just the silverware" and then, "Since I already did that, maybe I'll do the glasses." I continue to make headway, until -- to my amazement -- all the dishes are done. ADDers are notoriously work-shy, and whatever gets us from A to B will get us, eventually, to C.
4. Surround yourself with productive, motivated role models. Another tip: Hang out with people who have their working act together. My Sagittarius boyfriend does. Watching him do dishes inspires me to start a load of laundry.
5. Give yourself room for failure ... and room for multiple tries. There are no futile attempts! Even a small effort is worthwhile, since it sets in motion an attitude about progress and accomplishment. Take this article. It took me three months to add one sentence that the editor requested. Point made.
6. Stay positive. Finally, stay optimistic. I'm a positive person -- except when it comes to work. I need to find something fun in any task I do. At the very least, when I have a bag of tasks, none of which I feel like doing, I think how good I am going to feel (or how much I'll be paid) when the task has been crossed off my list.
More on Motivation and Procrastination
This article appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of ADDitude. SUBSCRIBE TODAY to ensure you don't miss a single issue.