Prioritizing seems impossible

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    • #130443

      (If I double-posted this, I apologize, my post seemed to disappear the first time after I edited it)

      Hi all,

      I’ve always been inattentive. Listening to people and hearing their voice, but simply tuning out before they could finish their sentence. And then having to ask what they said. I used to blame it on my parents when I still lived at home, haha, because they kept repeating stuff to me that I already knew. I still have this habit of tuning out when my dad speaks to me, ha ha, that’s probably never going away. But really he doesn’t seem to know that he’s repeating himself all the time.

      I’ve unknowingly compensated for it by using auditory memory. Now that I’m older, I’ve gotten better at keeping my attention on it when someone says something important, like a boss or coworker. And when I missed a part, I can play back the sound fragment in my head, and listen again. This is why it takes me longer to answer a question. But it works.

      Anyway, that’s not what this topic was going to be about ;p

      I’m almost 27 now and have spent a lot of energy over the years meditating and learning to concentrate. That’s made my life easier, because I can just ‘decide’ to do something boring now, and force myself to do it. Like emptying the hundreds, sometimes thousands of emails out of my inbox. (ADD hell to stay focused on that :P) Or do a boring work project. You know.

      The problem I’m still having, and have had all my life, is deciding what to do first. I always have between 10 and 60 things that must happen urgently at one time. I just don’t know where to start, so I don’t. Because none of the things I really look forward to, and once I pick something, it’s very easy to change my mind and pick something else as the most important thing. Also I just don’t believe anymore that I will ever get to the end of the list. I haven’t gotten there in 10 years.

      So my mind saves me the trouble and doesn’t start. I stay in overwhelm mode.

      Many days I have wished: “if I just had someone with me to tell me WHICH of these 40 things I should do first! That would help, because I change my mind all the time.”
      But then I think that no, I should be able to do it alone.

      I’m tired of walking around my house for hours, changing my mind about what to do first, not doing anything.

      In college I came up with a formula: I could calculate for each task what its priority score was, and the one with the highest score I knew without doubt I must do first.
      But calculating that formula for every task became too much work and I didn’t stick to it. I thought about turning it into an app or something, to sort my tasks for me so I only have to think about the top thing and can forget the rest.

      Who can relate?

      How do you solve this issue, if you recognize this?


    • #130528
      Anni @ ADDitude

      I love the idea of an app that asks you a series of questions for each item you enter on your to-do list and, behind the scenes, calculates a Priority Score like the one you describe from college. There are a few that come close – you might check out Focus Matrix, which is free and gets good reviews. I would also point you toward our How to Prioritize channel for more ideas:

      Best of luck!

      • #130883

        Hi Anni!

        Thank you so much for pointing me towards that group! Also, I will have a look at Focus Matrix.

        It’s great to know that I’m not the only one who struggles with this.

        If there is no app that is a good fit for my brain type, then I will just have to create one (I’m a programmer)

        If I may ask, are you using Focus Matrix (or Priority Matrix I believe it’s called)? If not, why is it not working well enough for you?
        Or is it simply, as Douglas A Puryear says in his book about ADD, “when something helps us, we tend to stop doing it?” 😛

      • #131606

        Hey guys,

        I’ve decided I want to move forward with trying to make something.

        But it has to be good and helpful. Somehow it has to be different, so that we don’t stop using the system, like so many other systems we’ve stopped using.

        With some people from another ADD/ADHD-PI group, we’ve put together a list of features it could have.

        Your input and opinions are crucial to our project!

        I posted the list here:

        It’s only 3 questions.

        For whoever wants to contribute their thoughts, thank you!!😄

    • #130552

      Not sure if I have any great solutions, but I can so relate! It is the worst for me, as a teacher, when I have time off in the summer (or even on weekends), and have large blocks of time in which to accomplish things, but on many days simply can’t make a decision about what project to start. If I feel strongly about starting one thing, I always second-guess deciding to do it, because I have this underlying feeling that there must be something else that is more important to do first. And often, as soon as I decide to start something, some distraction or resistance mechanism in my brain prompts me to really want to do something totally different. I drive myself crazy with my dithering!

      I have found that to accomplish tasks that feel long and tedious to me, like cleaning, sorting laundry, food prep, washing dishes, exercise, etc., it helps to pair them with something I enjoy, like listening to podcasts. (It even helps me look forward to these tasks, sometimes!) And for tasks that require the kind of attention that won’t allow me to divide my focus between both the work and listening to something else, like going through mail, paying bills, lesson planning, etc., it helps me to set a timer and plan a break (like the Pomodoro method, or some modification of it). Also, there are days, when I’m not at work, when I make to-do lists of very basic things, like make the bed, get dressed, eat breakfast, start laundry, so that I can build momentum by crossing things off the list, and, if I fail to make progress on any other projects, I at least feel better by recognizing that I have done a few things and not sat around all day in my pj’s scrolling through Facebook.

      • #130884

        Hi MrsH,

        So glad you can relate! Large blocks of time are the worst (in a way) indeed, because it feels like we should get so much done there, but can spend most of it deciding and going back and forth!
        (It’s ADD, Everything Feels Important, haha)

        But I also do thing sometimes that my brain is indeed messing with me, making other stuff feel like the most important thing ever right now, just to deter me from doing something hard 😛

        Like you, I like to listen to audiobooks or podcasts when doing dishes or cleaning (JRE is a favourite). I’ve also used a pomodoro app for a long time. Nowadays I do something similar, where I just write down what I’m going to do and then do it, and write the next thing and so forth.

        Do you believe that an app could be found or invented that would help us skip the dithering?

        I’m contemplating making something.

        What would it have to do?

      • #131225

        Just joined this forum, so excited to find your comment! I’ve always wondered if there are any teachers out there who deal with ADD (knew there were, just hadn’t met any) and how they do it. I say this because I’ve always been amazed by teachers – their organization, their prioritization, their time management skills. Teachers seem to make the perfect spouse, parents and friends because they seem to know how to ‘plan life’ better than anyone.

    • #131214

      I’m struggling with this now when I have a list of should dos and none of them seems all that important but all of them are required to maintain ‘just life’. Looking at the list is a labor because I don’t want to do any of them. And then I do none. It’s not about lack of prioritization, it’s lack of motivation and some apathy; although I’m overall pretty happy and excited about life. It’s procrastinating thinking about procrastination. lol. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

      • #131861

        Hi jenstaf,

        That is so recognizable! Also many people tell me they start some system, but don’t continue after the initial excitement wears off.

        Something like that?

    • #131219

      Oh how I relate to this topic in so many ways…so, considering I’m in no position to speak on success in this matter – recently have had some positive progress in the following concept:

      Something about “Time” that seems to get me, if you relate you’ll know what that means. So really the fear in my case is a false sense of running out of time, or more importantly, performing a task that has no “purpose” or end-game.

      In other words, for example – I find it impossible to break down boxes and throw them in the dumpster when ordering from Amazon. I let them pile up to a point of extreme embarrassment honestly. However – give me a couple of hours with an iPad and I can discover a link in comparative religious thought. Catch my drift?

      So despite how silly it feels, anytime I walk out my door will try to take at least a couple boxes with me. It’s crazy this is even a struggle but the point is, it’s getting done. Maybe, instead of the prioritizing using a model (which is mind-blowingingly awesome by the way); why not treat each one equally until it’s done?

      Food for thought – lol

      • This reply was modified 2 years ago by Accendo.
      • #131862

        Hi Accendo,

        So recognized myself a bit with the boxes piling up!
        Only in my case, it was dirty dishes, collecting fungus, hidden in my cupboard🤔

        We do tend to experience time differently than most, don’t we.

        Maybe, instead of the prioritizing using a model (which is mind-blowingingly awesome by the way); why not treat each one equally until it’s done?

        Food for thought – lol

        yeah, makes sense. For me, the answer would be: “Because I always invent way more tasks than can humanly be done, because my brain likes details and branching off” 😋

        Thank you😄💚

    • #131239
      David H

      Waw! You folks look just like me. I fear Weekends and Holydays because of just that: large islands of time + too much options + pressure from kids and wife and relative to use all this beautiful imagination of mine to create the most entertaining holyday….

      Most of the time the result is: I can watch Netflix for 3 days in a Row doing just nothing…

      Feeling like crap ….

      When I realise that (most of the time I dont)… I use tricks… it’s all about tricks isn’t it… the whole idea of this sharing is just that….

      My first Trick is (found it nowhere on earth.. like am an Alien or something)… Drink 2 large glass of water and wait 5 minutes…. it melts something in my mind.. just like relaxing a part of my brain that is stuck in a open loop…

      Second Trick ( in french : les 5 P . Le Plus Petit Premier Pas Possible…) I could translate it into: the smallest first step possible… It really is the idea of putting yourself into action doing something active. Doesn’t matter if it’s priority #99. At least I will be done and once done your focuss will automatically go to another thing between 98 and 1..

      The 2 glass of water are magic for me. Sometimes I wonder if my medecine truelly works or is it the water I took it with (Abilify 1 mg and Concerta 27 mg)

      • #131863

        Hi David H,

        I love the trick with the water! And we should all be drinking more of that, anyways, right!😄

    • #131243

      (Ugh) I’m full just thinking about all that water 🤢 lol

      • #131256
        David H

        Where water is pure of course! That’s my case!

    • #131305

      As David H mentioned, do something small to get yourself started. The feeling of accomplishment will get the ball rolling to knock off the rest of your to-do items. I perform best when I have music going, as well… Upbeat music not only boosts my mood, it seems to keep the “squirrel!” part of my brain entertained (which helps keep me focused), and it also helps me keep track of time so I don’t waste my day hyperfocusing on organizing my sock drawer. Lol

      • #131864

        Haha, I see your “spending a day hyperfocusing on organising a sock drawer” and raise you one “full day of making a rack for my sunglasses out of cardboard when I actually set out to clean up the place”


    • #131390

      As a sufferer myself and with a son with ADHD I have to be organised. I write a list of all the things I want to get done and then a subsequent list of all the things I MUST get done. I don’t use little bits of paper as they get lost, I use a notebook. I then prioritise the tasks. The key is not to spend too long procrastinating over this, if u have a family, u don’t have time. Just take a few tasks or it can seem overwhelming and tick them off as u go. This is very motivating as u can see what u have achieved. Also, u can timetable your day so that u can get jobs done. I work 4 days a week and have a family, so I have to be organised. Hope this helps x

      • #131865

        It does help, thanks!
        Do you think having a son with ADHD has ‘forced’ you to be better at coping with it yourself?

    • #131419

      Ugh, yes, I’m actually on this forum because I’m trying to scale a massive “I don’t feel like it!” wall right now.

      I am glad so many others commiserate. THIS is why I’m just not having success in being a freelancer… or a small business owner… or really, at the moment, anything.

      There are a number of “things I should do”, and normally, I try to just tackle one, and hope momentum takes me along to the next, and eventually I do end up accomplishing something.

      But a huge roadblock for me is when I encounter problems, or complications, in that first task. So if I’m trying to download an app, but then there’s a problem with the credit card, meaning I have to go fix it in settings, but then there’s another problem (say, a declined credit card because I forgot to pay the bill), and then I get a text notification about confirming a doctor’s appointment… and it just goes on and on. When complications pile up, my motivation dies a painful death. Honestly, as someone posted earlier, I almost have to do a task with no purpose or “end game”, because it actually brings relief. Even when I manage to slug it through, I end up grumpy because it was such a miserable experience.

      I also work in the creative arts, and if I feel I have to put in a lot of “non-creative” work (writing a grant application… it’s always that), I definitely do not feel inspired. I also talk myself out of ideas that I once thought were brilliant, but in the harsh light of a Monday morning, now appear ridiculous. I end up procrastinating about work that I actually enjoy, want to do and am capable of doing because of this destructive pattern.

      Anyway, I’m just adding to this because it’s something I struggle with enormously, and it’s also something I’m deeply ashamed of; it seems so immature. It’s hard to admit I do this, and ask for help (especially because neurotypical people often think the answer to is shame you for doing this, when that’s just perpetuating the cycle).

      I have heard of two suggestions that have helped: 1) Start the task, but do it in slow-motion, or with the most sluggish attitude you can muster. I don’t know why, but that helps somehow (maybe because physically embodying my reluctance actually makes me feel acknowledged): 2) Arrange for a ‘body double” session, where you invite a friend over or ask a family member/roommate to just be there while you work on a challenging task. They’re not there to instruct, coach, criticize or nag you; they’re just providing a physical presence that triggers a sense of accountability (I have also heard of groups that do this via Zoom or Skype, but haven’t found any yet).

      • #131866

        Hey there Elise,

        So, did you manage to scale the wall? 🙂

        I had not heard of the term ‘body double’ before, but now it makes sense! I remember recently thinking to myself: “I wish I could ask a friend to sit here while I clean my room. But that’d be weird…”

        Maybe there oughta be a platform to find people to body double with🤔😃

    • #131884

      Hi Gregory
      Yes I think it has forced me to be better organised as he cannot and he has the excuse he is a child and I have to try and give him the tools to function when he gets older. And thank God for technology on that one. Xx

    • #171197

      I know the feeling. I’ve been trying to find a new job for over a year now, but I just go for a little bit every few months, get overwhelmed by the prospects of changing everything in my life, convince myself to put up with it for another month/year/whatever, and give up on the search. I don’t understand how some people can just “do” something. It’s as alien a concept to me as other people seem to find my task paralysis. That’s what makes it hard for me to go on, that I don’t know anybody else with ADHD and so I feel like they don’t understand me. I find lists hard to use too, they just get so big that I give up trying.

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