I often call ADD “Attention Direction Difficulties” because I hate the label of a disorder. Managing the external and internal distractions is a big focus of my productivity strategies.
But there’s also a bigger component to ADHD: managing overwhelm and anxiety.
These emotional states are not unique to people with ADHD, of course. Many people experience overwhelm. We are bombarded with too much information all the time. We need better filters to weed it out.
Overwhelm and anxiety drain our life force. They zap us of the energy that we need to be productive. There are many catalysts for overwhelm and anxiety, and different people experience these emotions for different reasons.
What Drives Us to Overwhelm
For many people, uncertainty and fear of the unknown can cause overwhelm anxiety. Some of my clients are reluctant to sell their homes without knowing exactly where they will move when the home sells.
I can remain remarkably calm in the face of that type of uncertainty.
What sends me into overwhelm is looking too far ahead. Having to navigate too many pieces and parts. Thinking about the step after the step after the next step.
Why Lists Are the Enemy
The simple solution that most neuro-typical people use when they have a lot of moving pieces to a project is to create lists, or project plans.
Lists are my enemy. Lists send me into overwhelm, especially when I’m the one who has to execute them.
It’s interesting to me that when I’m helping others navigate complex projects, like buying or selling a home, or running an event, I can maintain perspective over all the moving parts and pieces in my head. I don’t need complex spreadsheets or lists.
That is, of course, because I’m not also the actor in those situations.
It’s a different story when it comes to my own work and my own projects, I need to focus only on the immediate thing in front of me.
People with ADHD tend to have two time frames: “now,” and “not now.”
Anything that’s “not now” sends me into a panic. This includes vision boards, to-do lists, project lists and plans.
It’s a challenge. If you get overwhelmed by lists, how do you get stuff done?
I inevitably make lists, more as a way to clear my mind.
How My Morning Routine Helps
Rather than fight my essential nature, I’ve learned to work with it.
One way I’ve done this is through my daily rituals. From the time I wake up in the morning I do my best to keep in front of me the immediate next thing.
I get out the door as quickly as possible to go to the gym. I focus on my workout. Then I sit for meditation practice. When I return home, I do my personal rituals: shower, get dressed, makeup. Then I sit down to write.
I do all of this before I think about checking email or social media.
The Critical Path
At each stage in my morning, I focus only on the immediate next thing. I eliminate or block out anything that’s not in the critical path to the immediate next thing.
There is a big distinction here: Many people talk about staying on the “critical path” to your outcome by creating a blueprint or a plan. For me, having a step-by-step plan can be too much. It can flood me with details that aren’t yet relevant, causing me to balk before I get to the crucial part.
I have a big picture vision, but I’m not attached to it. Instead, I maintain focus on the process. I need to pace it out slower, focusing on what’s immediately next.
That’s what I do with my rituals. I know where I’m going in the big picture, but I ocus only on the immediate next step in the process, releasing myself from the big picture.
Big vision, incremental steps.
Fitness First started with getting out the door. I spent 2 years writing daily before I started blogging daily. At each stage of my day, I focus on what’s in front of me.
And in the bigger picture, I don’t think ahead to the big milestones. Each day, my goal is the same: do it again tomorrow.