Written by Grace Conyers
Can I tell you a secret? My superpower is ADHD, and I am highly dependable, fully functional human being… all while being unmedicated. Yes, it’s possible to achieve all your goals with ADHD!
Oh, I know. Today’s view on ADHD is that it’s terrible, something to be medicated into oblivion. That’s not how I see it at all, and I’ve lived with pretty severe ADHD my entire life. Sure, it was a bit of a pain while I was still gaining mastery over myself and my time. I drove instructors up the wall daily, and heard the whole range of pleas and threats about my future. I still hear, “You’ll amount to nothing!” ringing in my ears occasionally when my self-esteem is low.
I’ve had ADHD since I was a small child, and I’ve never been medicated. People often think it’s bad to have a child with ADHD since we tend to run around a lot, not focus well on the boring things, and do anything but what you want us to do. But when we see the value in something and become motivated to do it, we throw every ounce of that unbridled energy we have into it. Even the boring things that need to get done to reach those goals.
The “secret” method to self-mastery over time is two-fold. The first part is planning every day with a time blocking method, the second part is called an After Action Review (AAR). An abundance of discipline is not required for this, just an honest try to stay with the plan.
I say “secret” because I’ve trained all my students to embrace a similar, personalised method for themselves. So far it’s worked for a dozen ADHD kids between the ages of 10 and 17, so really, don’t think you need to be fully on top of it day in and day out. No one is that pulled together all the time.
First, the set up: Sitting down with your priorities.
Every week sit down with your ever-fluctuating, ever-growing to do list. It includes things like appointments, events, and things that pop into your head that you think you need to do. You know, like laundry, and going to your niece’s middle school play. Do your best to also include other members of your family knowing that certain things will be a priority for them as well.
Gather all that info together, then rank it by priority on how close it will get you to reaching your goals. I’ve found that by taking all the family goals into consideration, it helps open up conversations and lively debates about what should take priority for all as a solid family. It also helps everyone work together (somewhat well) and show each other a lot of love and support while each family member works towards their goals.
Next, time block the priorities.
With this in mind, fill in a planner, scheduling in the priorities in first. Things that further your monthly or annual goals usually go here. These are super specific, actionable things you’re doing to reach your goals. A financial example could be opening up an IRA or starting a new revenue stream. If health is a priority, it’s scheduling in your daily workout.
Then, fill in the areas around it with smaller tasks that are important, but not necessarily priorities in life. Laundry, food prep, and events like going to a friend’s birthday party. Try to balance responsibilities and play. That means scheduling in important things, like a date with your family so you can all reconnect.
And, finally, layer on the little tasks that need to be done “sometime” but really that means it could be any time, any day. Taking out the trash, cleaning the car out, and even buying that friend’s birthday present online are examples of those little things.
At the end of the day, review.
An After Action Review (AAR) is a way to take stock of what you’ve done and evaluate it so you can make more of your actions. To make the most of an AAR you need to stay non-judgemental. One day you’ll do amazing, the next day your energy might not enable you to pull off everything. Just take stock of the truths, then give yourself grace to work through the rest of your tasks.
Every day ask these questions:
- What went well?
- What could have gone better?
- What do I want more of?
- What do I need to do?
Do this every day because it really helps focus on the smaller details of your behaviour. If it’s been an unproductive day for you, take a moment to reflect about what was going on that specific day that held you back. Remember, an AAR requires you to be non-judgemental and honest. To that end, a brain dump every day keeps the sanity safe!
Look for trends and jot them down. For example, if you have “clean and organise” on the list of things that could have gone better, then maybe the goal and priority for next month should include a bit of that. Unless it’s pressing, it can generally wait till you finish the other major goals you set for that month.
As you go through your AAR, jot down things you want to accomplish, events that are coming up, and appointments. Review your big goals for the year and pick out another actionable to get you one step closer to it. These ideas will start the cycle for the next week while keeping you focused on accomplishing those long term goals you’ve set.
This doesn’t seem like much, and that’s intentional. Life is chaotic enough without having to have a complicated system to reaching goals and changing life. When you keep it simple and focus on the daily actions that will take you from where you are to where you want to be, you don’t need to overcome anything. You just need to build habits and act. Adding layers and details is just personalisation of this very simple foundation.