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Ask Dr B about Prioritizing, Managing You Within Time & Productivity - 040

ask dr. b podcast productivity Sep 07, 2017

Welcome to the eighteenth Ask Dr B episode, and the fortieth episode overall of Harness Your ADHD Power, a podcast show I created to explore the many facets of adult life with ADHD and how you can learn to harness your personal ADHD power to become unstoppable.

I’m so glad you could join me today!

So, are any of today’s topics a challenge for you?  If you’re like most of the adults I know and love, then I already know that the answer is yes.  And I’m curious, if you’ve ever wondered “why” these are so challenging for you?  I used to wonder and don’t anymore, so let me share a bit about what I’ve figured out about “why” they can be so challenging

First a key piece about neuroplasticity; the brain that continually changes itself.  Your brain rapidly prunes disused circuits and strengthens most-used circuits, which means that what you don’t use you do lose to a greater or lesser degree.  This is important to keep in mind. 

Next, I want to speak to your self-esteem for a moment.  YOU are not a failure!  Rather, the systems have failed you.  The systems have failed to teach you everything you needed to know (meaning skills), in the ways you needed to learn, so that you could have a happy, productive and successful adult life.  AND…it’s never too late to learn the skills that will make that possible for you NOW…no matter what your age is!  I really need you to pause for a moment and take this in.  YOU are not a failure.  Rather, the systems have failed you.  AND, it is your responsibility to learn the skills, mostly executive function skills you are missing, if you want to have a happier, more productive and successful adult life. 

After so many conversations with adults like you, I know that you want to be on time, and I know that you haven’t been able to be on time for a variety of reasons; and none of them are because you lack the desire to be on time.  I know that you want to be able to see which tasks need to be done first, second and so, and then be able to start them when they need to be started and finish them, yet you haven’t been able to do that either.  And again, it’s not for lack of desire on your part.  I know that when you think about the day ahead, you want to be productive and feel proud at the end of the day for all you have accomplished.  Instead, you look at how you spent your time and see that much of it was “busy work” and not productive work on the essential things that you really wanted to be working on.  I’ve seen the beat-down look on so many of your faces when you share these “failures” with me and it breaks my heart, because I know these failed attempts only add to the negative feelings you already have about yourself; feelings that may have been growing for years now.

And remember to pay attention to your WINS!!  Please don't short-change yourself by thinking that it’s pointless or stupid to reward yourself for things you’re “supposed to do.”  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  And if you feel that these are the “thankless little tasks of life,” they probably feel that way because that’s how you think of them and have given them that “less than” meaning.  Please don’t.  These are the very things that deserve to be celebrated so they become easier to do consistently, and you find them more enjoyable each and every time.

Developing your Executive Function Skills and shifting your limiting beliefs is the fastest and most effective way to overcome ADHD limitations, find focus, gain confidence, and newfound freedom in your life!

My mission is to put an end to the worldwide needless suffering of adults with ADHD and those with under-developed Executive Function Skills - whether from ADHD, chronic depression or anxiety, trauma, addictions, or chronic illnesses.  And, you don't need a formal diagnosis to know you need help developing these executive function skills in order to greatly reduce your suffering.

 

Full Episode Transcript Hey ADDers! I’m so glad you could join me today!

So, are any of today’s topics a challenge for you? If you’re like most of the adults I know and love, then I already know that the answer is yes. And I’m curious, if you’ve ever wondered “why” these are so challenging for you? I used to wonder and don’t anymore, so let me share a bit about what I’ve figured out about “why” they can be so challenging.

First a key piece about neuroplasticity; the brain that continually changes itself. Your brain rapidly prunes disused circuits and strengthens most-used circuits, which means that what you don’t use you do lose to a greater or lesser degree. This is important to keep in mind.

Next, I want to speak to your self-esteem for a moment. YOU are not a failure! Rather, the systems have failed you. The systems have failed to teach you everything you needed to know (meaning skills), in the ways you needed to learn, so that you could have a happy, productive and successful adult life. AND…it’s never too late to learn the skills that will make that possible for you NOW…no matter what your age is! I really need you to pause for a moment and take this in. YOU are not a failure. Rather, the systems have failed you. AND, it is your responsibility to learn the skills, mostly executive function skills you are missing, if you want to have a happier, more productive and successful adult life.

Moving on with a little overview of today’s three topics…

In order for you to prioritize, you need to be able to “see what tasks are more important at each moment and give those tasks more of your attention, energy and time. You focus on what is important at the expense of lower value activities.” Let me put it differently. In order to see what tasks are more important at each moment, you have to be present or attentive in that moment, and you need to have some means of determining the importance of each task, which to me is criteria within the context of a situation. Criteria are a principle or standard by which you can judge or decide something; and without criteria, how could you? You also need good decision-making skills in order to effectively prioritize, and great self-regulating skills so that your emotions stay out of the entire process of prioritizing, setting criteria and making decisions. If you succumb to your emotions and are ruled by them, they might try and lead you in six different directions and they change throughout the day. Not the best path for a happy and productive life.

In order for you to manage yourself within time, you need to be able to “sense the passing of time, where you are within time, and be able to manage yourself so that you start something without hesitation and can finish it within the actual time allotted for that task.” Here we have another complex sequence of events that you will need to navigate to successfully work with the asset of time. Sensing the passing of time is not possible if you are hyper-focused on something; you are in “the zone” so to speak and all time is outside your awareness. This also means that when you are hyper-focused you lack the awareness of where you are in time and whether or not you need to transition out of a task and move on to something else. Managing yourself includes your emotions about what’s on your plate to do, as well as being able to activate yourself to get going on a task, when the time comes to do so. This implies no procrastination, and to me that means that you have to feel competent to start and complete the task as planned. Again, another tall order.

In order for you to be consistently productive, not just “busy,” you need to be able to “know what needs to be done that will move you forward in the direction of your goal.” This means you need a goal, which is the direction you’ve decided to move in, you need to know the steps to take to move toward the achieving of your goal, and you need to know how and when to take those steps. And even bigger than all of this, you need to be able to decide on a goal and know what it means to “set a goal” and achieve it. If you lack all of these pieces of information, you just won’t be able to be productive; you’ll only be busy.

I know I’ve covered a lot in a short time here, and I’ve shared this with you for a reason. I want you to understand the massive amount of skills that are needed “behind the scenes so to speak” in order to prioritize, manage yourself within time and be consistently productive. And that if you don’t have all of these skills yet, then the multiple “failed attempts” you’ve had when trying to do these things have a reason; not an excuse. Remember, I’ve told you before that you aren’t off the hook here, and that you have the responsibility to meet your own needs, to get whatever skills and training you need in order to live a happier and more productive life.

If you attended college, most likely they didn’t train you or prepare you for your life outside of the structured environment of college life; didn’t teach you how to create and maintain a structured environment and systems once you left school. The same is true of so many different places we go in life; they give us the program or information we signed up for but they don’t have the foresight to teach us how to live a productive life once we leave them and need to create and maintain these systems on our own.

After so many conversations with adults like you, I know that you want to be on time, and I know that you haven’t been able to be on time for a variety of reasons; and none of them are because you lack the desire to be on time. I know that you want to be able to see which tasks need to be done first, second and so, and then be able to start them when they need to be started and finish them, yet you haven’t been able to do that either. And again, it’s not for lack of desire on your part. I know that when you think about the day ahead, you want to be productive and feel proud at the end of the day for all you have accomplished. Instead, you look at how you spent your time and see that much of it was “busy work” and not productive work on the essential things that you really wanted to be working on. I’ve seen the beat-down look on so many of your faces when you share these “failures” with me and it breaks my heart, because I know these failed attempts only add to the negative feelings you already have about yourself; feelings that may have been growing for years now.

What’s the answer? To me, it’s the urgent need to learn the skills that most of us didn’t learn starting back in childhood; and the need to learn them now! I know I didn’t learn many of these skills growing up, and yet looking back, I can see that what “saved me” for being worse off than I was are the job choices I made while in college, because I was forced to learn many of these missing skills or become unemployed. It was kind of an immersion experience, with no exits of escape unless I quit.

I’ve since learned that all of these executive function skills are inter-connected and we can’t just focus on learning one if we’re going to be successful in our adult life; we have to not only learn but master them all – that is, if a happier and more productive adult life is what we’re after.

And you must know by now that celebrating your WINS is an important piece of this very complex puzzle. I continue to ask you about your WINS and encourage you to acknowledge and celebrate them every day because they matter! Every WIN you acknowledge and celebrate with emotional authenticity, is changing your neurology, meanings and mindset in a positive way. Seems like a great return on your time investment.

Please don't short-change yourself by thinking that it’s pointless or stupid to reward yourself for things you’re “supposed to do.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. Are you really going to wait until something HUGE happens to celebrate? Does something HUGE happen everyday? Probably not! But the kind of WINS I’m talking about do. And based on the feedback I get from the students in my program, this regular practice of celebrating their WINS is changing their lives.

So, what’s it going to be for you today? Maybe you decided to get a second opinion before just going with what one professional said and it made all the difference; that’s definitely a WIN. Perhaps you are working on eliminating your codependent behaviors and letting others in your life know that you are making these changes; that’s certainly a WIN. Maybe you’ve decided to take an inventory of your executive function skills and determine which one is your strongest skill and practice making it even stronger; that’s another WIN. You get the point; celebrate all of them. And none of this “half-hearted celebrating”; mean it. Exaggerate your emotions. YES!!!! WOW!! AWESOME!! You want your acknowledgement and celebration to register in your physiology. Many of us need a higher level of stimulation or intensity for things to register. So, if that’s you, give that to yourself and exaggerate your celebration so you can actually feel it.

And whether this is your first or fortieth time of listening to my show, you’ll hear me say time and again, that you are NOT what you do or don’t do; that you are more than that. WE are not defective or less than as people – as human beings; we’re just wired differently, and that difference doesn’t have to be a bad thing, once you understand what activates you, how to sustain effort with the least amount of stress possible, and have a lot of new tools to live your best life. It’s my hope that you’ll get some of what you need here.

Today’s episode is all about answering the questions you have about issues or challenges you experience as an adult living with ADHD, and offering you hope. I have three stories for you about the challenges of prioritizing, managing yourself within time and consistent productivity plus action steps. How much time do we have? Not much. So let’s get to it.

Now back to being an adult with ADHD in today’s world.

Transitioning to our first story about prioritizing…

· Patty never knew where to start when it was time to work on things at home. She had so much backlog of work to catch up on and she had the time set aside to do so, but when it came time to get started, she didn’t know what to do first. Everything looked like a “10” and felt urgent to her. She was afraid of making a mistake and starting on the wrong thing and wasting time, only to see afterwards that she should have started on something else. And, that something else was so very obvious to her “after the fact” but in the moment of needing to decide, she just couldn’t see what she could see afterwards.

· Literally, everything looked like a “10” because she couldn’t differentiate between things in terms of their value. It was like trying to work on a jigsaw puzzle and all the pieces were the same color instead of different patterns that gave some clue as to the final picture all those pieces would make. So, with all of them looking the same, how could she be expected to prioritize?

· Patty had no idea that she was missing executive function skills that would have allowed her to see the differences in value and hence be able to easily put them into a sequence or order starting with the most important and working her way down from there.

· She knew she could easily do that if she could only “see” the differences in value that she could not see.

· It was like all her friends and family members were talking to a “blind person” and in a sense they were; as she was apparently “mind blind” to seeing the differences in value of tasks and being able to proceed with prioritizing them. And no matter what strategies or technology she would try, if her senses could not make the connections to see the differences, nothing could happen until they could.

· Patty was really scared that there were many other things that she was also mind blind to that she was yet to learn about. How could she possibly do her life under these conditions? Pushing herself literally made her freeze up mentally and then she was unable to do anything; the day passed with nothing accomplished and Patty feeling awful about herself.

· NOTE: Long ago I used to use a system of three columns for prioritizing: needs, wants and would be nice. I recognize that this system wouldn’t work if one is not self-aware (an executive function skill) or can’t make decisions of which category things go in or be able to identify and then differentiate what a need is from what a want is and from what a would be nice is. It was a somewhat primitive and superficial method that worked for me to the degree it did, and it clearly didn’t work for many people who tried to use it.

· Your action steps:

o Focus on being curious as to WHY you can’t prioritize. What could the possible reasons be? Educate yourself about what you can and cannot do and see if you can tease out any clues that lead you to the underlying reasons.

o Follow through on learning whatever executive function skills you discover you are missing that impact your ability to prioritize, which may or may not be skills that others need to learn for them to prioritize since we are all internally organized at little differently.

o Self-management on how you are feeling about discovering what you are missing, and that you haven’t learned it until now.

· I hope what I have shared about prioritizing is of benefit to you as you sort through your own challenges with this skillset.


Transitioning to our next story about managing yourself within time…

· Ernie was a highly esteemed scientist and researcher. He did the type of work that let him hyperfocus and get lost in his thoughts for days at a time. When the university Ernie worked at had to size down and close his department, Ernie was kept on but moved to a difference department and job description.

· He had no idea how to manage himself in time because he never had to. All throughout school and his academic and research career, he was able to escape the confines of working with time or having a relationship with time. He had assistants or associates that kept track of time for him and prompted him to make transitions when necessary. Sometimes they even brought food to him because he was so deeply involved in his thoughts and research ideas.

· It was definitely an abrupt and radical shift for Ernie to have to be present in relationship to time and the passing of time, plus not having the associates or assistants that he had in his previous position really made it difficult for Ernie to adjust to his new position at the university.

· Some of his new duties or roles had him attending meetings, contributing ideas, following up with email exchanges and brainstorming with others as part of a team. Interacting with others on such a regular basis was not something Ernie was accustomed to and was a really bad fit for him. He started to become depressed in his new position and was contemplating quitting the university and looking for work elsewhere.

· NOTE: We all think of time differently. Some common expressions are “I feel like I am constantly running out of time or chasing time” or “Time just feels like it’s slipping through my fingers every day” or “I’m always late and can’t seem to make myself be on time to anything” or “Time seems to be moving so slowly today.” Long ago I realized that the idea of time management didn’t make sense; that I can’t manage time because time is what it is, moves at the pace that it does and I have to learn to manage myself in relationship to the rhythm of time.

· I also recognized that I needed to stop thinking of a day as 24 hours because to me that would be dangerous. I started thinking of a day as 16 hours because I had to make 8 hours sacred for my sleep. That worked much better in terms of managing myself within the 16 hours I actually had.

· Your action steps:

o Focus on training yourself to becoming aware of the passing of time. Set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and see if you can know when the alarm is going to go off before it does; note how close you get to the actual time. Also focus on timing how long things take you to do; actually take you to do once you start them (after you’re done procrastinating or getting yourself ready to start or whatever you do before you actually start the task. It’s important to know how long things actual take you.

o Follow through on using the feelings and information you now have about experiencing the passing of time and how long things actually take you to start being in better relationship with time.

o Self-management of your feelings about your relationship with time and shifting your thoughts to time being your friend, or time being on your side. Time can be a strong ally if you cultivate that type of relationship with it.

· I hope what I have shared about managing yourself within time is of benefit to you as you sort through your own challenges with time and embark on developing a new relationship with time that will serve you moving forward.


Transitioning to our final story about consistent productivity…

· Lou and Gus had been friends since childhood and business partners for about a year. They had some great ideas that they wanted to bring to the marketplace together, yet it just wasn’t happening months later. In fact, they were both very discouraged.

· When they talked about going into business together they were both so caught up in the excitement of their ideas and passion that they didn’t take time to consider their respective skills and abilities to run a successful business together and how their skills would need to compliment each other.

· So, what they ended up with was the two of them having the same weaknesses and their business going nowhere fast.

· Both Lou and Gus loved generating new or innovative ideas; they were both definitely idea people. And neither of them was grounded in the world of getting things done; only in generating ideas. In fact, neither of them had ever taken an idea and done something with it, but that wasn’t something they paid attention to or thought about when they decided to go into business together.

· When they would schedule a meeting to sit and discuss the steps they needed to take to move their innovative ideas from the dream board to the production phase, they would get derailed in their conversations and end up discussing upgrades to their original ideas and stay stuck there.

· They both wondered why it was so difficult for either of them to actually get things done; important things that is. It’s not like they were sitting around all day long doing nothing; they weren’t. In fact, they were constantly “busy;” and busy isn’t the same as being productive.

· For them to be productive, they would need to commit to an idea they had generated and stay with that one idea, rather than choosing a new idea again and again. They would need to map out a plan for taking that idea from “just an idea” to an actual product or service; that means they would need to slow down and perhaps work backwards, step-by-step to get to the starting point for the plan. They would need to have clarity on what the actual steps are to get from the idea to the product or service.

· When Lou and Gus started talking about what would be involved in actually taking any one of their great ideas from “just an idea” to an actual “real thing” they both got antsy and a bit scared. They didn’t know if they were actually competent enough to do this. They started to wonder what they had gotten themselves into and how they could even have thought that they could have a business in the first place.

· They even hired a consultant to help them map out the steps they needed to take to transform an idea into a service or product. That was helpful for as far as it took things. Now they had the steps they needed to take laid out clearly in front of them and still they were not taking the steps. This seemed crazy to them.

· NOTE: I learned a long time ago that just seeing what needs to be done or being told what needs to be done isn’t enough; at least it’s not for me. I need to know the “thinking” that’s behind the steps and actions or I can’t even get myself to engage and make the journey. I learned that those that are successful at being consistently productive know WHY they are doing what they are doing, when they are doing it; there’s no guesswork. They are able to talk themselves through the difficult days and keep moving forward and being consistently productive because they are able to talk to themselves and answer the questions that their mind generates about stopping or quitting or slowing down or whatever else it generates.

· Your action steps:

o Focus on what you say to yourself when it’s time to get started with a task. Notice if you are encouraging, confident, ready to go after the task you’ve set in front of yourself or hesitant, uncertain and unwilling to engage.

o Follow through with the insights and information you gather about your self-talk and answer the questions your mind poses to you about its fears and concerns. Troubleshoot whatever situations are presented to you by your mind just as if you were doing so with another person, separate from yourself.

o Self-management of your feelings about being consistently productive and what that means to you emotionally. Do you feel intimidated by the idea of being a consistently productive person? Is this something that makes you feel uncomfortable in your own skin and feeling like you want to run away? Or, do you feel excited and ready to engage emotionally and physically with the tasks you have?

· I hope what I have shared about consistent productivity is of benefit to you as you sort through your own challenges with being productive first, and then consistently productive second, as you develop the skills you need for that to happen.


So that’s it for our three topics and stories today.

If this seems overwhelming and you feel you’re going to need some help developing these skills, to give you that happier and more productive life, I suggest you put your name on the Waitlist for my online program, ADDventures in Achievement. Enrollment just closed the end of August and I’m not planning on opening up again until later this year, however that could change. So, be sure to get on the Waitlist now if you’d like to learn more about this program. I plan on recording some informative videos for those of you on the Waitlist so you can benefit while you’re waiting for enrollment to open up again. I’m adding some exciting new content to the current program that is well worth the wait! ADDventures in Achievement is definitely the place to be if you want help understanding what’s been holding you back and want to learn the skills to break free of your stuckness.

A Favorite Quote:

Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The question I have for you at this point of our journey together is “Are you willing to apply this to your relationship with yourself as well as to your relationship with others?” I hope so. What you say matters. What you do matters. Who you are matters. First and foremost to yourself and the quality of your own life and second to you’re relationships with others.

New episodes are released on Mondays and Thursdays. As a subscriber, the newest episode will be in your feed by 1 am Pacific time, plus you won’t miss out on anything “special” I create; certainly a good reason to subscribe.

Asking questions for the Ask Dr B episodes couldn’t be easier now. Just click the link in the episode description on your mobile device or on my website where it says “Ask Dr B” and ask away. And a bonus opportunity! You can Ask Dr B every week in the community group, where I show up live for Q & A. If you want to participate and ask me questions in that group, please friend me on Facebook and then ask to join the group – The Harness Your ADHD Power Community. It’s a great place to celebrate your WINS and learn from each other.

Please share this podcast with your friends and family, as well as rate the show, if you are finding it valuable. And if you’d like to do a little more, I’d be grateful if you wrote a thoughtful review on iTunes. You don’t have to write anything lengthy; just a line or two would be great! I do love hearing from you, reading your reviews, learning about your life and how the show is benefiting you and those you care about. It’s an honor to accompany you on your journey and make a difference in the quality of your life. It continues to mean a lot to me to know that your life is getting a little bit better every time we get together.

So that’s it for today. Be sure to take advantage of all the resources I continue to generate with you in mind. All the links are in the episode description, including the show notes, which means a PDF transcription of the episode. Every episode has that free resource. Thanks for listening… Until the next time… Bye for now…

 

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