Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring Cleaning? ADHD? No Problem!

Eight Tips for Getting Those Projects Done

guest post by Leslie Rouder, LCSW

It’s time to consider those spring cleaning projects. Are your closets overflowing? Does your garage or attic need an overhaul? Have all those dresser or kitchen drawers accumulated mounds of clutter? Where does all that stuff in your night table come from, anyway?

Spring cleaning might seem like the biggest nightmare for someone with ADHD. But it doesn’t have to be. You can successfully tackle spring cleaning projects despite your ADHD. Let’s explore some ways to be consistently more productive and get those projects done.

1. Get motivated. Without motivation, many projects or tasks seem difficult even to start, no less finish. Get clear about the value of completing these projects, how they will positively affect your life, and keep those reasons in mind. Consider making a list of all the benefits and posting it near the project location so you will be reminded of them.

2. Know your engagement threshold and use it to your advantage. This is the longest amount of time you can consistently work while staying focused on a particular project, without being distracted or losing interest. Then evaluate how long you will actually need to accomplish the project. Try adding a cushion of about fifty percent more time. If the task takes less time than you think, you may be delighted to find you have a bit of unexpected extra time for yourself.

3. Make an action plan. How will you accomplish this goal? What are your specific action steps? For example, if you are cleaning out your closet, it might look like this:
  • Empty the entire closet (30 minutes)
  • Separate items by type of clothing (1 hour)
  • Have four boxes ready to sort all items
    •    One box for shoes and bags
    •    One box for donating to charity
    •    One box for clothing
    •    One box for items that you may want to discard
  • Re-hang all remaining clothing items by type and color (1 hour)
  • Re-fold and place clothing on shelves (1 hour)
  • Organize placement of shoes and hand bags on shelves  (30 minutes)

4. Schedule the time to do the project. Many adults with ADHD think that the only way to get something done is to break it down into small action steps. But every time you transition in and out of a particular activity, you lose a lot of time, which means you lose a lot of productivity. That's why it's important to know your uppermost threshold and set aside the time that most reflects it.

Keeping your engagement threshold in mind, set aside an appropriate amount of time to get a good chunk of the project completed. Consider those times when you have the greatest energy and ability to focus. If you know that your medication wears off at 6 PM, don’t start that project at 5 PM just because that’s when you get home from work. If you are a morning person, don’t start that project in the afternoon. Work with your schedule and block it off on your calendar.

5. Don’t be a perfectionist. Many people with ADHD get caught up in doing such a perfect job that they lose sight of the big picture. Avoid getting stuck in the minutiae. Do as much as you can as quickly as possible until the job is complete. You can always go back after it is finished to make it even better.

6. Work with a body double or professional organizer. Many adults with ADHD find it extremely helpful to have someone there to work with them while keeping them on track. Find a friend or family member who would be willing to assist. Or hire a professional organizer to work with you if you want and can afford their services.

7. Avoid distractions. Turn off the phone, television, or any other distraction that could interfere with completing your project. Once you get started, place a DO NOT DISTURB sign outside the door of the room where you are working. Tell your family not to disturb you during your allotted amount of time unless there’s an emergency. Take this commitment seriously and others will, too.

8. Make the project fun and interesting. Play fun and lively music. Invite your friends to come over and help. Use timers and create some kind of challenge to make it more engaging. Promise yourself a special reward for completing the task. Bet your partner or friend that you will finish by a certain time or else. You get the idea.

AFTER YOU READ THIS, don’t just consider the ideas. Take the time to actually plan your spring cleaning project on paper, following each step above. Imagine that it is already completed and visualize yourself having completed the task. Imagine and enjoy the feeling of having accomplished your goal. Then, take action and do it exactly as you planned and envisioned!

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Attention magazine. A longer version of this post appeared in the April 2013 issue. 

Leslie Rouder, LCSW, is an ADHD coach and therapist in South Florida.