Deadlines. We all have them: at work, at home, and in every aspect of our lives, from time clocks to taxes and bills to birthdays.
For some of us, the pressure of a deadline can be a good motivator. We’ve all heard someone say, “I work best under pressure!” This can feel especially true for many of us with ADHD who rely on the pressure and adrenaline rush of the deadline to stimulate our sluggish brains and help us to focus and get moving.
The pattern of delaying action until the deadline nears (or passes), and then frantically working to get things done is one I see in a many of my coaching clients. And when we’re younger, it can actually be sort of effective. But over time, especially as we get older and life becomes more complex, this approach can really take its toll! And the time it takes our bodies and minds to recover from these frantic flurries starts to get longer and more difficult.
We put our minds and bodies through an excessive amount of stress when we live in this Procrastinate/Rush/Crash cycle. And when we’re in the crash, recovery aftermath, we can be pretty much fried, and even more things that need to be taken care of are left unattended, and the cycle (or “procrastination cyclone”, perpetuates itself, and the vortex of stress and anxiety it creates expands.
As a woman with ADD myself, I get it. I’ve been there! But I’ve developed some unique approaches to harness the power of the deadline, without making life unmanageable or insane in the process!
You may or may not have noticed that my blog post & newsletter usually come out toward the end of the month. Often, it comes out AT the end of the month–sometimes even later in the evening on the last day of the month! But I do make sure that I get one out each month.
Looking at my last-minute routine, it may look like procrastination to the “untrained eye.” The truth is, however, I actually do it on purpose. (No, seriously! I actually do.)
It has taken me many years, but I have learned very well how my brain functions best, and I am very comfortable working from my own personal set of strengths. This kind of self-knowledge and self-acceptance has come from many, many years of struggle and suffering by trying to work against my ADD traits, as well as many years of very hard work in educating myself about me.
Most of my life, I felt like a hamster on a wheel trying to keep up with the rest of the world in terms of organization, clutter control, time management, productivity, etc. As a kid, I didn’t understand why I couldn’t keep my backpack organized, be on time, keep my room tidy, and get to school with everything I needed (or come home from school with everything I needed). I felt like the kids around me did it all so effortlessly, and I couldn’t quite “get it together.” I knew I was smart enough, but felt like everyone else knew some sort of secret that I wasn’t in on.
As an adult, as hard as I tried, for instance, my house never seemed organized enough, and I was constantly battling deadlines, piles and time clocks at work, always a few minutes behind to drop off my kids at school, and chronically a few days late with their tuition payments. I marveled at the others around me who made it look so easy.
Every few months I would try the latest time management system (a new day timer, desk blotter calendar, stickers, whatever), clutter busting technique, or time-saving gadget—and always with the same result. I could set them up beautifully, but it all fell apart after not much time. I knew I was intelligent enough, but blamed myself for being lazy, scattered, and undisciplined. As it turns out, I’m none of these! And neither are my clients.
So here’s my deep, dark, newsletter secret: the Power of “Purposeful Procrastination”! I’ve learned that my ADHD brain wiring thrives on the stimulation of a looming deadline, and nearly shuts down when I am overwhelmed. It’s not that I crave the pressure, but it can be a positively motivating force when harnessed properly. I’ve learned just how much is the right amount of pressure I need to give myself to be most effective, and I’ve also learned where the shut-down, tipping point of too much pressure will likely occur before I get there. I have developed systems and tools that work with my ADHD brain in a way that takes advantage of my strengths, and minimizes my personal weaknesses. I know that if I start my newsletter too long before I actually plan to send it out, it will either not get finished or not be my best quality work. But I know that I need to take a few concrete, specific steps in advance (like picking the topic and creating a document the first week of the month, jotting down some bullet-point ideas the second week of the month, and so on). I know how much time I really need to get it done (which is likely just a tiny bit more than I think it will take!), and how much time is too much.
That’s just one simple example of how I work with my own ADHD. I try to approach every aspect of my life this way, and help countless clients do the same. We work together to uncover their areas of strengths and learn how to work from them, rather than against them. Many of us (especially those of us with ADHD/ADD) have a hard time seeing where our strengths and “gifts” are, because we’re so used to focusing on trying to make our weaknesses stronger, rather than build upon existing areas of strength.
Most of us will never succeed with the one-size-fits-all approaches to life we read about in self-help books and magazines. Believe me, I’ve tried MANY!!! But with the right systems for your unique personality that take advantage of what you already do well, you can build your life on your own, firm foundation. And get off that hamster wheel!
How do you work WITH your strengths?
I’ll bet there are many ways you’re already working with your own strengths and traits that you may not even be aware of. Start paying attention to the things you’re already doing well to find areas of strength on which to build.
I would love to help you learn to work with your own, unique strengths and start functioning at that optimal level—where you know, deep down, you can be.
I’m here when you’re ready to get to work! Take that first step: Schedule your Complimentary Phone Consultation Today!
Lynne Edris, ACG