For people with ADD (ADHD), motivation can be hard to come by. Or, at least that’s what I have thought until just recently. You see, the trick with lacking motivation due to ADHD, is that ADD is not so much about willpower and the ability to start things, as it is about distraction, and difficult to control executive function. In a way, ADD and procrastination shouldn’t necessarily go together, but they do. It’s just about momentum, more than it is about motivation.
ADD and Motivation
If you have ADD, chances are you have difficulty with time management and organization. But, in order to improve your ADHD skills in this area, you have to really understand what is happening.
Consider this, probably all to familiar scenario.
It’s morning. You just grabbed a cup of coffee. In your mind, you’ve been thinking about lots of things (naturally) but, as you exit the break room, you have an idea for a project you are working on. It’s a good idea, and you are excited about getting back to your desk and implementing the idea right away. Let’s say, you’re lucky this morning, and no one intercepts you along the way to distract you by asking about your weekend, or if you saw something on TV last night.
You sit down. You are ready and raring to go. So, you sit down, set your coffee where it goes, and log on. Then, you want music, of course, so you open Spotify, or whatever, and you look for a playlist. Not that one. Maybe that one. OK.
You have music now. You open the program that will let you do your idea, and it has a popup notification that there is an update. So, you click the update button. You listen to your music. You take a sip of coffee. You restart the program now that the update is finished, and…
Now, you don’t really feel like doing the thing that you were so excited about just a minute ago.
Now, you start thinking of other things that are still work, but not this thing. Not the thing that would have actually pushed you forward. You answer emails. You check your voicemail. You notice that you are supposed to be on a conference call in 45 minutes, so there is no sense in getting into anything big since you’ll just need to switch tasks in 45 minutes. (If you didn’t have ADD, and this wasn’t your life, you might laugh hysterically, at the thought of someone with ADHD being unable to handle switching tasks after 45 minutes, as if you would make it that long in the first place.)
Momentum vs. Motivation in ADHD
So, what happened?
It’s easy to say that you were procrastinating, but what really happened was that you got distracted. But, it is a little harder to see here, because the distractions weren’t the kind that take you off task, so much, as they were the kind that slowed you down. They sapped the forward motion you had, acting like a brake at each step until you stopped. Just like any other object. Once your mind comes to rest, it takes more effort to get it moving again than it takes to keep it moving in the first place.
Using Momentum to Beat Procrastination
So, what can you do?
The key, as with many things ADD, is to be able to recognize what is truly happening. All too often, we just generically blame our ADD, as the reason why something didn’t get done. That may be true, but it won’t help you succeed.
In this case the key is to understand all of the little things that slow you down and keep you from getting started. If you are like many of us with ADHD, the reality is that once you get going on something, you are able to make progress. Depending upon the something (say, like writing this post, for example), you may be able to punch all the way through to completion before the distraction goblins come to show you a new app, or make you suddenly very curious about what company is directly above your office (it would only take a real quick elevator trip to find out…)
But, in order to finish, you have to get going first, and the key to that is to recognize the brakes and get past them as quickly as possible. The examples above are not pulled out of thin air. They are real things that happened to me earlier today, when I sat down motivated to write, but found myself picking music, updating software, and then ultimately, checking Twitter.
The key to getting this post done was that I realized earlier that I lost all my momentum, not by becoming distracted, per se, but by having my motivation nickel and dimed to death by little mini-tasks along the way. Armed with that knowledge I sat down, did not bother putting on music, ignored the update icon, and started writing. And, voila! Here we are, at 840 words in a blog post.
Now, I need to find some clip art, hit publish, and then throw out some links. If I’m lucky, I’ll make it all the way to the end. If I’m really lucky, I’ll only spend minimal time before moving on to the next thing I need to do. And, when I do, I’ll ignore as many speed bumps along the way as I can.