Coach Strategy: You Have to See Your Challenges Before You Can Meet Them
One ADHD coach uses simple diagrams to help a client stop procrastinating.
A favorite approach to helping my clients with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) gain clarity about their challenges is to present the challenge as a drawing or diagram. I often use visual diagrams to show clients the relationships between their thoughts or behaviors and the challenges they face. For many with ADHD, visualizing challenges works better than using words to describe the challenges.
My client, Larry, is a good example. Larry is a college student with ADHD. He is a visual learner. Like many students, Larry often pulls all-nighters and procrastinates on projects and studying for tests until the last minute. However, the anxiety this has caused him is overwhelming and affects his academics and emotional wellbeing.
Larry was aware that waiting to the last minute to get started on tasks was a major contributor to his anxiety. He used various strategies to reduce his procrastination, but we agreed more could be done.
During a coaching session after one of Larry’s all-nighters, I drew a diagram that represented the relationship between the increasing urgency of an impending deadline and Larry’s likelihood of getting started to meet it. The diagram showed that there was virtually no level of urgency to start a task several weeks before the deadline. Urgency started to slowly rise as the deadline got nearer, but Larry’s interest in getting started on the task was still not increasing. In fact, the diagram showed that Larry was not likely to take action until the urgency level was exceptionally high.
The problem was that, for Larry, exceptionally high urgency equated with very high anxiety levels, which he was trying to tone down.
Larry was floored by how the diagram captured his behavior and subsequent anxiety levels. The diagram was a game changer for him as he realized that he could control his anxiety by starting tasks earlier and before the urgency level became exceptionally high. Larry’s ability to see the relationship between his procrastination and his anxiety had a more significant affect on him than using words to describe the challenge.
Seeing his challenge on a piece of paper allowed Larry to free his mind from having to think about the challenge in his head. With his mind free, Larry was able to see the relationship between procrastination and anxiety in a way he had never considered before. This changed how Larry approached approach starting his tasks, in college and the rest of his life.