Managing ADHD: Getting Ready to Begin to Prepare to Start

By Chris Hammond, MS, IMH

One of the many challenges of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is taking the first real step in beginning a task or assignment. There are the many sort of, kind of begins such as organizing your desk, sharpening all of your pencils (because one is never enough), going to the bathroom, adjusting the lighting, and checking your email again but in actuality, you have not really begun the task or assignment. Rather you have gotten ready to begin to prepare to start the task or assignment and before you know it, time disappears and nothing is accomplished.

Sadly enough the rituals that you spent all of your time engaging in prior to beginning a new task or assignment and often repeated the very next time you begin to prepare to start. Or worse, new rituals are added to the list even further delaying your start. In the long run, such delays can negatively affect your work performance, a school grade, a messy garage or the other ten projects that are in limbo. The pile up of tasks then becomes overwhelming which adds to increased discouragement, anxiety and can even spark bursts of anger. There is hope. Whether you have ADHD or are related to someone with ADHD these tips will help you to actually start and complete the new task or assignment.

Identify your anxiety. One of the reasons you are delaying the start of a new task or assignment is the fear of increased anxiety. Each new task or assignment carries with it expectations of thoroughness, completeness, and timeliness. If you postpone starting, then in theory you are postponing the anxiety and fear of unmet expectations. In reality however, you are increasing your anxiety because you are lessening the time you have to complete the task or assignment. If instead you view each ritual as stealing time away from you, the desire to keep performing the ritualistic behavior will diminish. In addition, taking several deep breaths and intentionally relaxing the muscles in your body can minimize some of the anxious feelings while beginning.

Live by the clock. By setting time limits for how long you will work on a task or assignment or how long you will indulge yourself in ritualistic behavior, you self govern your own behavior rather than being governed by someone else like a boss, spouse, parent, or teacher. In the end, you are in charge of your own behavior and while the temptation may be great to ignore the clock, it is an unbiased opinion as to your progress or lack of progress. If for instance you give yourself ten minutes to engage in ritualistic behavior and one hour to begin the task or assignment, then you have taken control of both situations.

Stop narrating your progress. A co-worker, friend, spouse or sibling does not want to hear that you gave yourself ten minutes to do your rituals and now you are going to start on the task or assignment. Looking for praise and most likely not receiving it based on you past behavior will further discourage you from returning to work. Instead, reward yourself. Knocking off five minutes from your task or assignment, taking a walk, and doing another ritualistic behavior in-between blocks of time designated for work, are all good ways to reward yourself that do not involve others.

Yes, it is very hard to change the way you have been doing things for so long and adjust to new ways of thinking or performing tasks or assignments. But in the end, a finished project without the increased anxiety, excessive rituals, unmanaged time and constant narration will bring you satisfaction for a job well done without all of the stress.


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