Updated: Sep 9, 2019
Wahoooo! This is a big, humongous topic and I cannot wait to dive into it with you!
Have you noticed how it's really easy to start and finish some tasks and other tasks seem painful to even begin? We can spring into action with total motivation and then get stuck, become unmotivated and are unable to finish the task that we were once so gung-ho on starting. Did you know that those with ADHD have an interest-based nervous system?
To help explain what is going on when we are feeling unmotivated, here is a video from How To ADHD based on Brendan Mahan's "Wall of awful". The wall of awful is a great metaphor to explain what happens when we are presented with a task that we really don't want to do. Check out the video:
Ways to kill any sort of motivation:
Are need-ing or should-ing on yourself? --> "I should be able to do the 15 tasks on my to-do list" --> "I should be able to do my work at the same speed as my co-worker" --> "I need to finish the dishes" --> "I need to apply for 5 jobs every day" --> "I need to go on a diet"
Adding a lot of pressure. I also like to call this "weight". This pressure is emotional. --> How heavy does the task feel? --> How can we remove some of the weight or what can we do to make the task less heavy? --> What's responsible for the pressure/weight? --> Is this outside or internal pressure?
Self-talk - What are you currently telling yourself about the task? I often hear my clients saying things like "I have never stuck with a diet so why bother?" or "I never finish anything". Talking to yourself that way is a sure way to squash your motivation.
Perfectionism - If we tell ourselves things like "the task has to be perfect or we will fail" how will we build up the motivation to do the task?! It's literally impossible to make something perfect!
Procrastination - The more we procrastinate, the harder the task becomes. I like to use the task as a visual. If you were in a room and the task were a balloon, how much space would this balloon be taking in the room? How "big" has our thoughts and self-talk made this task seem? The smaller the balloon, the more motivation we have. So, with that logic, how can we make the balloon smaller?
Thinking that you need to be in the right mood to do a task -
Questions to ask yourself:
What is your why? What is your reason for doing the task?
Why would you benefit from completing this task?
What will it be like once you have finished the task?
What will it feel like once you have finished the task?
Is this a good time for me to start this task? Personally, I work MUCH BETTER in the morning so for tasks that require a lot of my energy I make sure to do it in the morning. Also, to consider if there is something or someone that may interrupt you while you're doing the task and it would be best if you start it at another time.
What would it look like if I just did the thing?!
What is your story around doing the thing that you don't want to do? What are you telling yourself about the task?
Interest - We have an interest-based nervous system. It's pretty simple: things that we are interested in grab our attention and things that we are not interested in are so incredibly boring! By knowing this we are able to identify what will naturally grab our interest vs. what we may need a little help with. Once we know that we need a little help we can be kinder to ourselves and set ourselves up for success by using one or all of the below solutions!
Use a body double: This is a friend, colleague, parent, sibling, grandparent, teacher, mentor, the list goes on and on. This person works beside you while you are working. Find someone who will not distract you, but rather motivate you to stick to your task. The act of someone working alongside you is usually motivation enough! Focusmate: This is an amazing site for finding a body double!
Work with your processing modality - If you do best by talking out your problems, you are most likely a verbal processor. If you pay better attention while in movement then study while on the treadmill or out on a walk (check out kinesthetic)! Embracing how you best operate will help boost your confidence and motivation.
Remove distractions: *cough* your phone *cough*. The other day one of my clients told me that she lost her phone in her house for an entire afternoon and it was the most productive she has been in a long time. What do you say to purposefully losing your phone for an afternoon?! Too drastic? Another one of my clients swears by using an app blocker. What else, besides your phone, can you think of that might be distracting?
Create an outside deadline: A member of the adult ADHD support group that I go to shared that he was struggling with keeping his house tidy. There was quite a bit of clutter but he couldn't get himself to start to clean... until he hired himself someone to come in and clean his space! By hiring someone to come into his space he created a deadline. On top of that deadline, he then felt emotionally responsible for tidying his space. He said that the motivation came twofold: 1. From knowing that he would be paying someone to come and didn't want to waste his money by having the cleaner do a lesser job come in a cluttered home. 2. He was embarrassed for someone to see his place as messy as it was. In the end, having a clean apartment made him feel so much better!
Decouple motivation and activation - "Letting go of the idea that in order to do The Thing, that I must be in The Mood to do the thing". -Samantha Cooper. In other words, motivation does not equal activation. If you need to do some laundry and you don't feel like doing laundry why do we think that we need to be in the mood to do laundry to be able to do it?! I know that you are capable of doing laundry, I believe in you! Yes, YOU!
Start a success journal - This is almost always my answer! Since our brains move so quickly we go from one task to the next to the next and have a hard time seeing all that we have accomplished. As Jessica McCabe said "ADHD brains need more motivation than neurotypical brains because our brains don't naturally reward us with piles of dopamine for doing something as mundane as putting on pants". So why not write down our accomplishments and let those accomplishments serve as our motivation for future projects? The success journal is so powerful because it gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on our day to remind ourselves all that we have accomplished. This is very motivating as long as we take the time to pause, reflect and remind ourselves!!
Reward yourself! As mentioned above our brains don't give us dopamine for our mundane daily tasks. It's our job to reward ourselves!
Create a challenge/gamify - Create a game and challenge yourself! If you know that it usually takes you about 5 minutes to fold your laundry, set a timer and see if you can fold your laundry in 4. You hate your drive to work? Challenge yourself to find an alternative route that takes about the same amount of time while driving the speed limit. We are creative beings so I challenge you to use your creativity and see where you can create a new challenge or what you can gamify in your daily activities!!
What pumps you up? Maybe a certain song can give you the motivation that you need to start your tasks? What about a podcast? Maybe your favourite show on Netflix? Identify what naturally gives you motivation and use it to your advantage!
From the words of William Dodson: "ADHD is not a damaged or defective nervous system. It is a nervous system that works well using its own set of rules." So, make your own rules! Give yourself the permission to GET CURIOUS! Give yourself the permission to experiment! Give yourself the permission to find the system that works well for you! Need some help? Partner with me as your ADHD Coach and let's build your motivation to reach your full potential!