I did a lot of hard and worthwhile work during my year of coaching with DeShawn (of yourADDanswer). So, what was the return on investing in myself?
I came away with a treasure trove of new perspective, a streamlined and clearly defined list of goals, a plan for how I’m going to accomplish them and keep up with the day-to-day, new insights into myself and my needs, and a quiver full of strategies, tips, tricks, tools and hacks to keep my ADHD brain up on my surfboard and riding those ADD waves.
Here are just a few of the realizations, revelations, strategies and tools I gained during my year of ADHD coaching.
I get a lot of shit done every day!
During our first two sessions, DeShawn kept saying she was amazed at how much I got done every day. Sure I wear a lot of hats – wife, mom, daughter, master scheduler, cruise director, chief acquisitions officer, domicile organizer, head chef, bill payer, writer, photographer, blogger, social media marketing consultant, website developer and designer – but there’s SO much I never get done!
She suggested maybe I was being a bit hard on myself, setting unrealistic expectations. I immediately dismissed this as a crazy notion!
And I thought she was completely nuts when she suggested I do a daily activity inventory. “Sure, like I need one more thing I have to remember to do!”I thought to myself, while I mumbled politely about an inventory being an interesting idea.
It wasn’t until a week or so later, when my entire day had been devoured by my wife & mom duties, that I suddenly found myself writing down every little thing I had done that day. I filled an entire page of my trusty spiral notebook!
For the next week I kept jotting down my daily productivity – everything from unloading the dishwasher to each & every errand I ran, writing client proposals and blog posts, volunteering at the boys’ school library and signing them up for summer camps. Every day another page was FULL.
What I initially dismissed as a worthless, time-wasting endeavor, turned out to be an invaluable exercise. I was finally forced to acknowledge that I do indeed accomplish a whole lot of stuff each & every day! I also saw patterns of high & low productivity and started planning my days & weeks around those patterns.
Hyperfocus is my superpower, but it is also my kryptonite.
While I LOVE my ADHD hyperfocus, it allows me to accomplish amazing feats of productivity, it simultaneously drains my mental battery, leaving me unmotivated and unfocused. Sometimes the recharge requires just a couple of hours, maybe the rest of the day, but sometimes it can take several days. Now I’ve learned how and when to unleash my superpower, and that I need to plan for the necessary recharging period.
I need accountability! Nonjudgemental accountability, please.
If you tell me you need something tomorrow, I’ll push everything aside and get it done immediately. But if the due date is ambiguous, too far in the future or there’s no deadline at all, that task will wither on my list, eventually joining the ranks of other long-languishing & shame-inducing tasks.
So, I’ve learned to ask for accountability.
When a friend asks for a recipe, I ask them not to be afraid to call/email/text if I don’t get it to them in a few days. No, you won’t be pestering me, you’ll be doing me a favor because when I see you in three months and you tell me you really could have used my chicken wings recipe for your Super Bowl party, I’ll feel awful that I let you down. If I tell you I’m working on a big post or project, feel free to check in on how it’s going.
You don’t have to detonate a stick of dynamite under my butt, but a warm, friendly, nonjudgemental nudge is VERY much appreciated.
If I don’t wake up with a plan, my ADHD brain will come up with one, and it won’t be pretty or productive.
Over the past year, I’ve learned that if I give my brain the chance to wander around in the morning, it will set its own agenda for my day. That day may be randomly productive, but chances are, nothing on my task list will get done, and I’ll spend my evening beating myself up over not getting that one thing done instead of enjoying time with my family or friends or relaxing & recharging.
Through this year of coaching & accountability, I’ve developed a few productivity planning habits that are working amazingly well.
Sunday Evening Weekly Productivity Planning
- I review my task lists (I discovered a wonderful new task management app that I’ll share with you soon). What didn’t get done last week? What must get done this coming week? I focus on priority, urgency & deadlines. And most importantly, I force myself to underestimate how much I can get done – if everything gets done, then I get the rush of ticking off a few extra, unscheduled tasks!
In addition to the plethora of little tasks that need to be done each week, what are the two or three “must get done” tasks? And don’t forget to include one or two goal-specific tasks to keep myself moving forward on those goals.
- Then I review my calendar for the coming week and block out time for the mundane – workouts, showers, mediation, appointments, errands, work time and personal/family/friend time.
- I print out a calendar page for each day of the coming week.
- Then I compare the week’s task list against the week’s schedule and pencil in a few tasks for each day’s work hours, with a focus on maximize the potential of those working hours. Do I have a stretch of 4-6 hours on Wednesday – I make sure to save that time for something that could benefit from some hyperfocus, making sure Thursday isn’t too much of a brain-taxing day.
Now I have a plan for success for each week!!
Next Day Productivity Prep
At the end of every workday, I take a few minutes for Next Day Prep.
- I review my calendar and task lists for the next day and make any needed adjustments.
- I clean off my desk of miscellaneous papers. File, toss or stash away in my daily or monthly tickler folders so that when I sit down at my desk the only thing I see is what I’m supposed to be working on that morning. The goal is to eliminate any potential visual distractions that could get me sidetracked.
- I minimize all extraneous windows on my desktop, leaving only the first task of the day up on my laptop screen.
Self Care Is Required!
For me working out isn’t about fitting into that favorite old pair of jeans or feeling better at the beach this summer – OK, it is, but, more importantly, it’s about my brain. ADHD brains can use all the dopamine boosts we can get, and working out is one of the best.
I’ve tried mediation periodically over the years, but let’s face it, sitting still and not thinking isn’t an ADHD strength. However, a few minutes of nonjudgemental quiet and still time can truly work wonders in every aspect of your life. I started off using an app (which I’ll be sharing about soon) doing 3-minute guided meditations and slowly building up to a minimum of 10 minutes each day. I knew it was doing something positive, that’s what all the experts tell you, but I knew there was something to it all when I didn’t have to fight with myself to do each day. And when I missed a few weeks, that was when I really noticed the difference – suddenly the tidal wave of thoughts was back & racing around in my head.
Mandala coloring, reading (real books, not on a tablet) and hot yoga continue to be alternative forms of mediation for me – they slow me & mind down and force me to focus on just one thing. (In the case of hot yoga that often means focusing on just how much I’m sweating and wondering if I could drown while in downward facing dog from all the sweat running into my nose.)
I’m so very thankful to DeShawn for staying in contact after we met at the ADDA conference in 2013, for always answering my skeptical questions, and for sharing her wisdom, insights, and expertise.
And I’m so very thankful I took the coaching leap. I flew up and out of my comfort zone and landed in a new sea – vaguely familiar yet wonderfully new, braver and calmer.
After we logged out of our Google Hangout last month, I knew I had graduated. I had crossed a finish line I didn’t even know I was running towards. I know I’m ready to tackle those big ideas and goals that have been percolating in my head and I will achieve them all, one at a time, in my own time.
I also know that DeShawn and coaching will be there if I need them again in the future.
I hope by sharing my coaching experience, process, insights and outcomes I have helped give a bit more clarity to coaching as a concept and practice.