Stress & Anxiety

The Motivational Matrix

This simple tool helps me address anxious feelings with logic — and put my priorities in their proper place.

It’s not a new idea, the urgency matrix you see at the left, but it works. It can prioritize your ADHD life. If I were using it for that purpose, for short-term thinking (attacking a day’s tasks, say), I would draw out the quadrants just as you see them, and plug my tasks into the appropriate quadrant. I’d begin my day by focusing on the “urgent and important” tasks.

I find the matrix motivational in a larger sense. Most of the time, I want to keep things out of the urgent and important quadrant. If I scare myself a little bit with the possibility of too many “urgent” tasks, I no longer procrastinate.

As I struggle with anxiety, this tool takes on a different purpose. My anxiety tells me that everything is an emergency, and dumps every little thing into the urgent and important quadrant. I don’t let it do that anymore.

I use this matrix every time my anxiety pops up, telling me that I need to be afraid of failing, or that I should be worried about a negative outcome. The matrix helps me frame the manufactured emergency of the moment with logic. It is a simple concept, and easy to picture in my mind. The only quadrant I need to think about is the urgent and important one. Does the thing I’m worrying about belong in that quadrant? No? Then I don’t have to think about it now.

I breathe slowly and reassure myself that I’ve made the right decision. It’s important to get accustomed to a feeling of peace, in order to begin to accept peace as normal.

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