Sometimes, I just don’t wanna.
I don’t wanna do the work. I don’t wanna look at my Action/Next Steps list. I don’t wanna do my Weekly Review or my Daily Review. I don’t wanna call that person or email that company. I don’t wanna write a blog post. I just don’t wanna.
Today is one of those days. I have three major projects on the agenda this month, and I don’t want to work on any of them right now. I’m traveling all month, so I’m working on the road, in coffee shops, airports, airplanes, buses, family and friends’ houses, etc. Which is actually what I dreamed of doing – I am actually living the dream, with my mobile office and Skype sessions and work/play combinations. I am manifesting my ideal life. It’s pretty awesome.
Still, I don’t wanna. Moreover, I don’t really wanna do anything else. So I’m sitting in this sort of ennui where nothing is happening and I’m not sure why.
Fortunately, when I get in this place, I have a plan of action to help me get out of it. Granted, I may choose to sit in my limbo for a bit, basking in the I-don’t-wanna-ness – but inevitably, I get antsy and decide I need to find my way out of it. Here’s how I do it:
- I ask myself why I don’t wanna. Am I procrastinating because I don’t know what to do next? Then I need to determine my next step. What needs are in play here? Am I burned out? Tired? Hungry? Preoccupied with an unrelated issue? Then I probably need to address that need (work on something else for the day, take a nap, eat something, take half an hour to recharge by doing something enjoyable). If I’m not sure why, it’s okay; I can still move on to the next question. However, it’s easier to take my next step if I have some idea of my motivation.
- I ask myself if I need to do it right now. Is the project at hand something that can wait another day? If not, what about another hour? Sometimes taking a break from the project is actually helpful, and allows me to come back with fresh eyes; other times, it can be detrimental (like if I’m on a tight deadline). I tell the difference by weighing urgency vs. importance.
- I ask myself what I can do that will motivate me. If I need to do it now, even though I don’t wanna, can I put on some music to improve my mood? What if I take a walk first to get my blood flowing and serotonin levels up? Is there a short project (like, say, taking 15 minutes to write a blog post) I can do to kick my brain into gear?
If I follow these steps, I can almost always get myself out of the quagmire. I try to remember to be gentle with myself and be flexible, while keeping my priorities in sight.
The other morning I fell into a mental snare trap that used to get me into trouble on a daily basis. Fortunately, I’ve trained myself out of it in the past year or so; unfortunately, I still have ADD, so it can never be completely eradicated. It’s my brain’s default reaction to being ahead of schedule: “Oh, I have plenty of time!”
This thought almost inevitably leads to one place: being late. Oh, sweet irony…
If you have AD/HD or any number of other reasons for a skewed sense of time, this scenario probably sounds familiar. Even so, the path from “plenty of time” to “late” may be completely baffling to you – and no wonder! It’s quite paradoxical. The ADD brain makes its own faulty logic to get from point A to point B. This involves the (misfiring) executive functions for analyzing and synthesizing information, gauging time, and future planning.
Here’s what happens in my mind, using this morning as an example:
I know I need to leave the house a minimum of 30 minutes before my 3:00 appointment. It’s 1:35; I’ve just finished my yoga routine and eaten lunch. I need to shower, get dressed, & walk the dog before I leave – all of which generally takes me about 40-45 minutes. “Oh,” says my brain, “I have plenty of time! I’ll read some news on my phone!”
After a couple of stories, I put down the phone, get up from the table, and take my plate to the sink – which is full of the dishes I didn’t do last night. “Argh,” I think, “I said I would do these today and I won’t be home until late tonight.” So I spend 10 minutes doing dishes before getting to the aforementioned things I have to do before I leave – and now I have to rush because I’m short on time. Long story short, since I pre-emptively used my “extra” 10 minutes on a non-essential thing (reading the news), I didn’t have it available when an unforeseen task came up. So I’ve now used 20 minutes where I only had 10.
The end result? I was ten minutes late for everything for the rest of the day. My 3:00 appointment with a client was scheduled to last 2 hours, so despite my efforts to compress our work, I left at 5:10. My next meeting was at 5:30, 20 minutes away; without the planned 10-minute cushion, a delayed metro meant I was again 10 minutes late.
Moral of the story? If I think I have plenty of time, I need to wait until I reach my destination before I take advantage of it. Then I can read the news while I wait at my client’s doorstep, and look like a professional because I’m early!
According to one of my favorite ADD-management books, time-management experts have identified four areas of “high-priority activities” that are most neglected: socializing, doing paperwork, reading, and exercise. These ring true with that “self-care” idea: socializing takes care of our crucial human need for social interaction and gives us an outlet for our joys and frustrations; doing paperwork on a regular basis, like it or not, keeps our administrative duties from snowballing into major stressors; reading (and other brain-stimulating recreational activities) gives us a break from daily stress, calms and nourishes our minds, and/or helps us process what’s going on in our lives; and exercise has too many benefits to our physical, emotional, and mental well-being that I can’t begin to list them in a paragraph.
In recognition of this all-too-human tendency to shoot oneself in the foot, I have added a new touchstone in my Daily Reviews (a practice I have yet to detail here, but to which I referred in my overview of the System). In the morning as I look at the day ahead, I am naming one thing I can do in at least one of neglected areas. At night, when I am checking out with my daily planner, I ask myself, “Have I hit my neglected areas today? How?” This is a new experiment, but I hypothesize that these additions to my daily routine will help me pay appropriate attention to these oft-overlooked, important but not urgent areas.
- What are four areas of your life to which you want to give more attention?
- Do these things support your overall well-being and life balance? How?
- Name one thing you can do today to support these areas.
In honor of NaNoWriMo, and to hold myself to my commitment to post more regularly as soon as I move, I will be posting every day in the month of November. I am not, at this point, a novelist, so I’m adopting the idea behind National Novel-Writing Month to put some momentum on this blog.
Some days, the posts will be short (like this one) – a thought on an executive dysfunction, a question to probe deeper evaluation of your own challenges and strengths, etc. I anticipate this will be the case through Nov. 9, when, at long last, I arrive in Paris! (This has been the major project that I’ve prioritized over the blog for the past few weeks). Once I arrive and get settled, I will start hashing out those ideas and tips I’ve been cooking in the back of my multi-track mind during my sojourn (from writing – not from work, by any stretch!). In any event, this is my Next Step toward my goal of making this blog a full-time gig.
So with that, I ask you: On what goals will you follow through by doing one little thing a day?
A brief post tonight to let you know that I am still here and this blog is still active. It just so happens that other areas of my life have been quite active since ending my digital sabbatical on October 9 – so while I resumed Internet use, my habits have been different than before.
Remember that post on Urgency vs. Importance I made recently? It’s quite relevant to my lack of posting. My move date for gay Paris, while not yet set in stone, is less than 3 weeks away, and my move-out date from my apartment is October 31. Thus, my top priorities – both urgent and important – have been sorting, selling, and otherwise paring down my stuff to that bare minimum that will be crossing the Atlantic with me in early November. This blog – which is important, but not urgent – has therefore gone on the back burner until the immediate projects are finished.
In November, you will begin to see new series of posts detailing the components of the system I have already outlined, the process by which I have gone about simplifying my life (which, among other benefits, tranquilizes my executive dysfunctions), and in-depth looks at the science of AD/HD and how it applies to the lives of those who have it (and those who have to live with us).
For now, I recommend taking a look at this article on the impact of ADHD on sleep, which I received in my inbox from CHADD this evening. As someone who’s struggled with sleep regulation my entire life, I found it eye-opening, relieving, and full of useful information. Hopefully you will too. More on regulating daily life cycles in a future post!
Hope you’re all having a great weekend!