Four Inspiring Ways to Start and Accomplish Something You Hate with ADHD
Mobilizing your child to do something they don’t want to do is downright exhausting. If you’re like me, you’ve no doubt asked yourself, “Why can’t they just get out the door, listen to me, and get their homework done?” It can be even more overwhelming when you have ADHD yourself: “How can I rally up my kids if I have trouble getting myself together?”
Kids and adults with ADHD have challenges with getting started, planning, organizing, managing their emotions, and/or regulating attention, known as executive functions. They don’t have a “just get it done” button.
Some folks think of it as laziness or not caring. You’ve most likely heard this before, but we all know it’s not true.
The ADHD Brain and Getting Started
Studies have found that getting started is more about brain chemistry than willpower.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that activates our reward system, gives us satisfaction when we accomplish tasks, and increases our motivation to keep doing them.
In the ADHD brain, when you’re interested in a task, an increase of dopamine is naturally released. This may help solve the mystery of your keen ability to focus on something you’re passionate about, while at the same time, it can be a struggle to accomplish tasks that are unexciting.
Here are four inspiring ways to get started so you can accomplish a task that's tedious, difficult, or boring.
Align with your Interests
Dr. William Dodson introduced the framework of ADHD and the interest-based brain, where individuals with ADHD are motivated by their interest or passion for a task.
• Make the task interesting. Dr. Russel Barklay says that ADHD is more about the loss of interest and motivation than about attention and focus. Pair your interests with the task.
• Use your interests as rewards to get things done.
• Prioritize your interests and schedule them into your day. If you’re a student, and you have a paper to write, try to find a topic that’s related to your interests.
• Create a challenge or game. Challenge yourself with what you can get done in the next 30 minutes. Find the challenge in the task and make a game out of it: If I get out of the door in 20 minutes, I’ll have enough time to get coffee before work.
This can also be helpful for learning new information or plowing through a project. Fresh starts, such as a new week, or a change in the environment can trigger getting started.
• What settings could be available to change things up to do homework or get rolling on a project?
• When learning information, mix up the practice, such as asking questions, writing to learn, or using flash cards.
• Experiment with changing your work environment from time to time, such as room temperature, desktop, or lighting. Observe any changes in motivation.
Overcome Negative Feelings About the Task
Putting off starting a task you don’t want to do provides the rewards of temporary relief. At the same time, when failing to do an intended task, negative emotions set in, such as guilt, boredom, resentment, and shame.
• Expect that when you have negative emotions associated with a task now, you will most likely find that you may not want to do the task later.
• Let go of the need to be interested, motivated, and wanting to do the task.
• Prepare yourself but do the task without feeling motivated. “I know I won’t feel like doing it tomorrow, but I will do it anyway.”
• Give yourself permission not to be perfect. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You are enough. “This is too hard” can become “I’m working on this;” “I will never get this,” can become “I’m taking baby steps!”
• Be compassionate with yourself about your past experiences and work on accepting, rather than fighting, what comes up when you are triggered.
Connect with Others
The social influences of community groups, tutors, mentors, friends, and positive family members can be inspiring and supportive.
• What groups or partnerships can you or your child take part in to support social connection and friendships?
• Who can you and your child rely on for support?
To sum up, when it comes to unexciting tasks, the ADHD brain has a tough time getting going. To get started and accomplish tasks that are tedious, uninteresting, or boring:
Align with Your Interests
Overcome Negative Feelings about the Task
Connect with Others
PS. Need support with getting started on what's most important to you?
Contact me for an ADHD Strategy Assessment and we’ll set up a realistic game plan!
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