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I Cringe Over the "7 Tips to Get Things Done" Articles: Addressing the ADHD Productivity Struggle.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Before the pandemic hit, no one anticipated how many would suddenly find themselves with time on their hands. Time to tackle the projects that had otherwise been delegated to doing in one’s proverbial, “free time.” Seizing on this phenomenon, a plethora of well-meaning “how to” tips have popped up in email newsletters, social media and online news sites.

Naturally, we are curious about enticing titles that suggest simple and number specific solutions to our getting things done challenges. Titles like “7 Tips to Make the Most of Your Day” grab our attention, which is what they are meant to do.

For many, such “how to” tips may be helpful. Those are the people that the phrase “just do it” makes sense. No big deal. They are usually the lucky neuro-typical brains that think linearly. I am a linear thinker. I can start a task, figure out the logical steps and complete it. Maybe not as efficiently as planned or hoped, but I am able to monitor myself and adjust the course of action as needed.

To act on the tips, one needs to decide when to start, remember at that time to start, and be able to resist the temptation to put it off for another day. For my clients with ADHD or executive functioning challenges this can be a tall order. They can be stymied by what to do first, may worry whether they will do it right, and get side-tracked or lose interest along the way. So, the articles that tout the list of “how to” tips become a reminder of good intentions gone haywire or imply standards of functioning they fall short of achieving.

The Gap

The gap between the good intentions and acting on them is what we explore in ADHD coaching. As an ADHD Life Coach, I do not give my clients advice. What makes sense to my linear thinking brain, is not necessarily right for them, particularly if what motivates them or what they feel capable of, is not considered.

Instead, the exploration with my clients involves building on one’s self-awareness, recognizing unhelpful perspectives and understanding the impact of their ADHD or executive function challenges. Armed with that knowledge, actions are designed to fit who they are, such as ways to start, stay on track, evaluate, shift gears as needed, and eventually complete.

This is learning the process of doing and completing. It is appreciating that experiencing trial and error is where the “how to” is understood. If one struggles to even start, there is little experience in the doing and therefore little opportunity to build positive reference points that can serve to guide and inspire future endeavors.

To support this learning, we remain curious about the doing or not doing. We do not judge actions as failures or reward only successes. Instead, we want to build confidence in one’s own sense of competence.

So, this is why I cringe over articles that list tips. They impart good information but miss the need that many have for learning how to get to the doing.

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