Lost something again? A fresh approach to keeping track of your stuff.
Are you a person who’s always losing things? There’s your keys, your phone, your purse, your glasses. They are never in the place where you think you last saw them, are they? Or where they ought to be, in that special basket by the door, or on that hook next to the stairs.
Why not? Well maybe you, like many others, are not fully paying attention when you put your keys down. Because you’re busy thinking about other things.
When you’re busy in your head thinking, it’s pretty much impossible for you to notice what you are doing with your hands or anything you’re carrying. For much of our days we are going through life on autopilot. We can eat, walk, and even drive whilst thinking about other things entirely. Some studies show that maybe as much as half of our lives are spent on autopilot, and that goes for everyone, not just people with ADHD. No wonder we lose our stuff!
So what’s the solution? Well, one sure way is to pull yourself out of autopilot at the right moments, so you can pay attention to where you are putting your keys. Catching our own autopilot behaviour as it is happening is the secret.
You can do this by building up your ability to catch yourself acting on autopilot. Think of it like a skill that can be improved on with practice. You get better at it the more you do of it, right? Or a muscle that gets stronger the more you exercise it. If you are training to lift weights you don’t immediately start with the heaviest weight, do you? You’d end up in hospital with a strained tendon or worse. So you start small with a weight that’s well within your capabilities and work your way up.
Use plenty of help and support to make it easy on yourself at the beginning. A good starting point is to use some kind of external prompt at intervals throughout the day. This could be any signal that comes from outside yourself which can call your attention to what you’re doing in the moment.
For example, choose an activity you already do several times a day – such as making yourself a hot drink or having a glass of water – and link that to consciously noticing what you’re doing right then. This will begin to build up your “noticing” muscles. Maybe you’re the sort of person who wants something that will be sure to rouse you out of your autopilot trance. You could use bells, alarms or any kind of noise that will grab your attention. If you are a visually oriented person, other options might be to have post-its, sticky notes or coloured dots strategically placed in odd corners of your home. Put them somewhere you’re sure to see them.
You can set up timed or random occasions for catching autopilot throughout the day. Why not get creative with this; finding new ways to gently prod yourself to consciousness with an alerting stimulus? Try several until you find something that works. You may need to swap them around from time to time once your techniques lose their novelty and become an invisible part of the furniture, when you don’t respond to them anymore.
Once you’ve noticed you are in autopilot, then what? Simply being aware of what’s happening in the here and now, aware of both your internal thoughts and feelings, and of your surroundings, can give you some space. A welcome break from the chatter in your mind.
You can regularly interrupt the current of mindless inattention, by bringing your attention back to the present. I tell my coaching clients they can do this by practicing catching themselves in autopilot and bringing their attention to what’s happening in and around them. Then I encourage them to stop whatever they are doing for a few moments and bring their attention to their breath. This is a form of Mindfulness practice; a way of “taking control of our attention (self – regulation) with an attitude of openness, curiosity and acceptance.” (Bishop et.al. 2004 – in Mindfulness: A proposed operational definition.)
This way you give yourself a chance to notice, then choose what you want to focus on. By checking in with yourself at regular intervals throughout the day, you’ll give yourself opportunities to ask yourself “What do I want to do right now? What could be next?”
Once you learn to catch your own autopilot behaviour, you’ll begin to notice things you didn’t notice before.
You can learn how to pull yourself out of autopilot and back into the present with:
Before long you’ll also become more aware of the times when you’re putting your keys down. And begin to remember where to find them later.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
Procrastination Isn’t Always Intentional: How ADHD Traits Can Derail Productivity For Creative Entrepreneurs. Part One of a Two Part Blog
Procrastination most likely affects us all at one time or another. My recent search of Amazon yielded over 3000 results for books on the subject. Someone must be reading them! This behaviour of putting things off until a future unspecified time, commonly known as ”procrastination”, probably doesn’t occur on a daily, hourly, or even minute by minute basis for most of us, and it can be particularly poignant for those of us with ADD/ADHD when it does.
Procrastination can be perceived as intentional, i.e. you are aware of putting something off, and unintentional, i.e. it just happens because of the interplay between other factors.
So, what is it about ADD/ADHD that makes the creative entrepreneurs among us with this condition so exceptionally good at procrastinating? Beneath the surface, things are not always what they may seem…
There are quite a few factors that come into play. Here are just a couple.
Imagine a brain that’s as full of creative ideas as a pan of popcorn with no lid on. Ideas are continually popping into existence, but because the pan has no lid on many of them are escaping.
Then see yourself trying to catch hold of those ideas before they can slip off, because they are great ideas! One minute there you are holding in your mind a fantastic concept for how your whole business could be run more efficiently, and the next minute it has skittered off down a side alley never to be seen again! Have that happen several times a day for years and years of your life and how would you be feeling? How can you start something brilliant that you cannot reliably get a hold of a lot of the time? Devastating!
Or imagine your brain is like a computer that intermittently keeps losing its internet connection. You try going to a website to look something up, you know the information is there, but you cannot reliably access it when you need it. How frustrating is that!
Even if you can recall or keep hold of your ideas, this next trait makes it hard to work on them;
An aversion towards routine:
Suppose you have an inexplicable dread of doing the same things in the same way every day. What would it be like to hate routine? How many things would get put off as a result? ADDers often have a dislike of routine and can even have an aversion to the very word “routine”. Maybe it’s something to do with the need for novelty and stimulation and the fact that things that become boring are painful to the person with ADHD; repeating the same things over and over can literally feel excruciating.
Many of my clients are highly talented in their creative field, yet the thought of e.g. sending regular emails out to their list of potential buyers fills them with inertia. For the creative entrepreneur this can be problematic in that in any business there are a number of routine responsibilities, such as keeping on top of finances, or regular marketing activities, which help the business run smoothly.
If left uncompleted, things begin to pile up, adding psychic stress to the already complex mix of other ADD/ADHD traits. Things like paying bills or submitting tax returns can carry an unpleasant financial penalty if they are not done. The uneasy feeling of potential punishments hanging in the air means the ADD/ ADHD brain is that much more likely to succumb to overwhelm, and grind to a full stop. Procrastination reigns.
The brain saves energy when habits or routines are repeated and they become automatic. The person acquiring these habits will find they are able to complete them faster and easier as time goes on. Yet ADDers often find these tasks so gruelling that they never repeat them the same way for long enough for this to happen. Something usually comes along to knock them off trajectory, something more interesting, and I don’t think to date I have met a person with ADD/ADHD who didn’t have many interests and enthusiasms, past and present.
So, what’s the solution? : Well, for a start, it can be helpful simply to understand that if something more interesting presents itself at a time that needs to be devoted to something perceived as boring, then the interesting thing will be the one that gets the attention.
Knowing that many routine tasks can get put off by default, can be a guide to where you can direct your energies in building strategies to address these tendencies. For some tips see my blog on How to Tackle the Boring Stuff here
For some this can mean finding ways to capture ideas quickly before they disappear into the Abyss of Forgotten Memories, while for others it might mean strategies to make the Boring become more Interesting.
However it occurs, the reality is that putting things off can have dire effects on productivity, and for creative entrepreneurs, every minute counts. Delaying action for whatever reason, is liable to short-circuit your profit margins and your self-esteem if left unchecked.
In Part 2 I’ll be putting some more ADD/ADHD traits under the spotlight and considering how they also can contribute to the complex phenomenon we know as Procrastination.