The ADHD mind can be a wonderful thing when fully engaged. Hyperfocus is a gift when it matches up with what you need to be doing, and the constant flow of new ideas mean your creativity never dries up. I, myself, have notebooks, notepads, and sticky notes filled with ideas that I’ll never have time to write, develop, or produce, but that beats banging your head on your keyboard with writer’s block any day of the week.
ADHD Mind Management Technique – The Backstop
One problem with the ADHD mind is that once it comes untethered from whatever it was previously doing, it can float in a meandering kind of way that breaks your productivity. It is important to have ADHD mind tricks to keep your work flowing.
One ADD mind management technique is the ADD Mind Backstop.
The way the backstop works is to provide a quick, easy to enter, task or function that you can switch to in order to re-engage your mind.
The Mental Backstop List
If you have ADHD, you are no doubt experienced in creating, and often ignoring, various types of lists. This is why the ADHD daily list is so important.
The daily list is a list of just the tasks that you must / should do today. Keep track of everything else wherever you desire, but the daily list should be a single list, on a single piece of paper, with only the tasks that you must reasonably accomplish today. This won’t work with the giant list you keep in your ADD planner.
Include on the daily list at least one backstop idea.
What Is an ADHD Backstop Idea?
An ADD backstop idea is a useful, relevant task that you can enter quickly, and easily.
To meet these criteria, the task needs to be relatively pleasant. Backstop tasks should not be those that you have to fight your own desires to accomplish, so not a project or task you dread.
A backstop task also needs to be easy to start, so not something that takes too much setup, or requires you to change locations, or engage in a multistep process to get going.
For those of us who do our productive work in front of a computer, a great backstop task is to watch a training video, relevant Ted talk, or presentation. Keep a list of these bookmarked, or favorited. If you use Microsoft Edge, this list makes for a great collection.
Just create a new collection, or bookmarks folder, titled ADHD backstop. Fill this list with useful links that you can open quickly, and without setup. When your ADHD mind wanders too far, and you can’t pull it back, open this list and click.
The mental juice you get from some stimulus, plus the potential to direct your brain into the task of your choosing during that lull that occurs after stimulating your mind with something that has a definitive end, both moves your life forward from what you watched, or learned, AND allows you to move productively on with your day.
Since you wasted no time getting into the backstop task, and you were able to get back to work after it, you avoid the ADHD guilt that comes from feeling like you wasted time from lack of focus.
Other ADHD Mental Backstop Ideas
Since I work as a freelance writer in front of a computer, most of my backstop ideas involve watching, or participating in something online, but that isn’t the only kind of ADD backstop. Be creative, and don’t forget, that even if you don’t sit in front of a computer, chances are you have access to similar things on your phone or tablet device.
- TED Talks – careful not to use the really long ones, or your backstop task turns into a long project.
- Training videos – Are there 20 minute training videos that can help you learn or solidify important skills?
- Brainfood articles – Bookmark articles or essays that are interesting to you but you can’t take time to read when you come across them. Then get back to them when you need a backstop.
- How-To articles or videos: A quick how to is great brain food and a good ADHD backstop. Remember they don’t have to just focus on your job, anything useful to your life, like how to fix your sprinkler works.
- DIY articles or videos: Always wanted to do something? Don’t know how? A Do-It-Yourself session can get you started. DON’T GET DISTRACTED by pulling out materials and trying to do it during your other productivity. This is a survey so that you have an idea about where to start in the future, or maybe find out that it is too long and involved after all.
- Guided meditation – If you have ADHD you should be meditating, or if you prefer using ADHD mindfulness. Either way a guided version can be uplifting and reset your mind.
- Mini-Exercises: One set of pushups, or a few sun salutations are a great way to stimulate both body and mind. Remember, these are quickie, bonus exercises. Don’t try and do a workout. That isn’t what you are supposed to be doing. But, some quick exercises will make your ADD brain proud, and ready for what is next.
- Go outside: but, don’t wander off. A few deep breaths. MAYBE a quick walk. Again this isn’t time for exercise, these are quick mental tasks that can take place with some sun and fresh air.
Poor ADHD Backstops
Avoid these types of things for your ADD mind backstops
- TV shows or episodes – The purpose of mental ADHD backstops is to feed your mind, without the resulting ADD guilt that comes from wasting time or being distracted. Watching episodes of shows will leave you feeling empty with ADHD guilt. Restarting out of that can be tricky
- YouTube Videos and TikToks – If you have bookmarked an educational YouTube video, that works. But, don’t go clicking through your subscriptions watching funny videos. That road goes straight to ADHD guilt. — And don’t even get me started on scrolling your FYP TikToks.
- Crafts, or Trying New Skills – You’ll either get distracted by the joy of something new and spend way too long, or you’ll get frustrated by your lack of progress. Either way, that won’t give you the ADHD buzz you need to shift onto another task.
- Anything that takes materials or setup – These are supposed to be quick hits of mental adrenaline. If you spend time pulling out supplies, or doing a lot of setup, you’ll feel the ADD guilt kick in before you can even get started.
Let me know what kind of things you use for your own ADHD backstops.