In my recent article entitled “I Have ADHD, Help me!”, I explained the importance of identifying which ADHD challenges to work on first. In the follow up article, “If You’ve Got ADHD, Missing this Step Practically Guarantees Failure,” I discussed the importance of building awareness of ADHD in your life to determine what’s causing the problem.
In this article, the third in this series, I explain the best way to solve the problem you’ve identified once you’re aware of its source (or sources).
You know the cause of your problem, what’s next?
So you have a pretty good idea of what’s causing your most vexing problem, what should you do next? Most of us think, “Well, stop whatever’s causing the problem!” Ah, if only it were that easy.
The good news is, there are almost certainly several ways to solve the problem, just as there may be many sources at the root of it. Remember, though, it’s very likely that solving your most vexing problem may take a few more steps and a little more effort than, say, turning off a light. However, while this may sound counterintuitive, if you want to make progress quickly, start by asking yourself this question: What is the smallest significant step I can take towards solving the problem? Don’t try to change or fix everything at once; pick one small, but meaningful, thing, and change that.
When our financial awareness-building exercise revealed we were overspending on small purchases – we were both shocked to discover Duane was spending $200 per month on soft drinks alone and I was spending the same amount on coffee – we looked at ways to cut only on those purchases. We didn’t try to refinance the mortgage, get another job or begin growing our own food. Those might also be good ideas, but when you try to fix everything at once, you often sabotage your own efforts.
Instead, we asked, “What’s one small, but significant, change we can make to help solve our problem?” Duane began to purchase his soft drinks at the supermarket instead of from the soda machine, saving a whopping $1.50 per drink (75%) and I started making some coffee at home; I’d drink my first coffee of the day at home, and then fill a travel mug for my second. Only buying one coffee per day instead of three saved 67%.
Starting one small step at a time
Nick, who was on the verge of a burnout, realized several behaviors were reducing his productivity. He wasted a lot of time on emails each morning, said “yes” way too often and jumped from one task to another because he didn’t plan his priorities each day. He knew he’d go a long way to solving his productivity issues if he had a clear plan of what he wanted to do with his time throughout the day. He decided his small but significant step would be to start planning. He didn’t start planning his whole week right away, because that would have been too big a step and he would have been overwhelmed. Instead, at the end of each work day, he identified his top three priorities for the next day and wrote them on a post-it note in front of his computer. Seeing those first things reminded him what his priorities were. He committed to only checking his emails in the afternoon, once the three priority tasks were completed.
The only approach that guarantees success
If you want to “fix” the problems ADHD is causing in your life, the only approach that guarantees success is to start with a small step and work your way up. Changing everything at once doesn’t work. Even changing multiple things at once doesn’t work. When you make too many changes in your life, you get too far out of your comfort zone. No one can sustain changes that are too uncomfortable.
You can also help yourself succeed in maintaining your changes by developing small support systems. For Nick, his system was as simple as having a post-it on his computer monitor that said “Check Your Calendar”. For Duane, it was writing a note to himself to include soft drinks on the grocery list.
Your mission should you choose to accept it…
- Identify the first small step you can take that will make a significant difference. Implement it.
- Devise a simple system to remind yourself of your plan.
- Leave a comment in the box below to let us know what small step you’re planning to take.