Do you have New Year’s resolutions you’ll need to get started on soon? Here are some strategies to overcome ADHD inertia and get moving.
by Beth Main
A body at rest tends to stay at rest. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. That’s the definition of inertia, Newton’s first law of motion. ??People experience inertia too. It’s stronger in those of us with ADHD. Once we get moving, it’s hard to stop us.
But it’s really hard for us to get moving! Blaming ourselves for our extra inertia is kind of like blaming an army tank for not being able to reach top speed in 3.5 seconds. It’s just the way we are. Our executive functioning is impaired, which means we have trouble with things like planning, memory, problem solving, and organization. And starting things. This difficulty with executive functioning is like friction that we must exert extra force, every time, to overcome. ??
"Fuel" includes nutritious food, plenty of water, good sleep, and exercise. Your brain needs these things to function at peak performance, just like your car needs gas (or diesel). Fill your tank up with junk and your engine will just sputter.
Find the track
Think through the steps required to complete a task, create a checklist, and follow it. Separating the planning from the doing is incredibly powerful. Usually we can plan, and we can do, but we can’t plan and do at the same time.
Rev your engine
Raising your energy level can be a critical first step to getting moving. If you’re on the couch or at the computer (i.e. a body at rest), it may be unrealistic to expect yourself to spring into action and instantaneously become a body in motion. Start by simply wiggling your fingers or swinging your legs. Gradually increase the energy until you’re up and moving.
Set your wheels straight
Evaluate your options and decide what you’re going to do. Don’t second guess yourself. If you tend to belabor the “what to work on now” decision, or start a bunch of different projects without actually doing anything, you may need to practice giving yourself permission to be wrong. Spend a reasonable amount of time making the choice, and just do it already.
Rely on automation
Anything you can automate is one less thing you have to exert force on, saving you energy for other tasks. Automation includes things like computer programs, online bill pay, and direct deposit. Routines are also a form of automation. Having a repeatable process for things you do regularly means you don’t have to think them through every time.
Remove the boulders
De-clutter your environment. Eliminate distractions. Make a list of questions that are keeping you stuck in the same place, and find the answers.
Start in first gear
You won’t get far trying to start out in fourth gear. Break the task down into small steps, and focus only on the first one. Just like you wouldn’t expect an apple to fall up from the ground into the tree, don’t expect it to be easy to get started on things.
The good news is that once you get rolling, you can expect to keep rolling for quite a while! The laws of physics can work in your favor.