00:00 Moira: What does it mean to be effective?
02:03 Moira: The link between time, energy and attention is often overlooked
04:26 Moira: Biological systems are designed to maintain stability or balance.
06:11 Moira: How much do you trust or listen to your own body and brain?
08:07 Moira: Nurturing our energy and attention for what purpose?
10:35 Moira: The rise of efficiency
13:41 Moira: How taking care of time, energy and attention impacts quality of life.
15:18 Moira: When there are roadblocks like procrastination or paralysis
18:30 Moira: Main takeaways
- Ep 29: toa time and energy
- Ep 44: toa about time blindness
- Ep 45: toa time awareness
- Ep 46: toa getting real with time
- Ep 41: toa an insiders’ guide
- Ep 40: toa slowing down to speed up
- Ep 40: toa hurdles
- Why ADHD Self-Awareness is Key to Effective Action, Change and Progress for Each of Us
- What the ADHD Brain Wants—and Why
- New Study: Adult ADHD Diagnosis Criteria Should Include Emotional Symptoms
- Effectiveness Is About Managing Your TEA
Moira Maybin 00:00 I acknowledge that I live, work, and play on the shared, unceded territories of the Semiahmoo First Nation. The Semiahmoo People have been stewards of this land since time immemorial.
Moira Maybin 00:14 Today we’re considering what it means to be effective. There’s more to it than knowing the time and wanting to get things done. Energy and attention, along with mindsets and previous experiences, are involved, leading to some thoughtful questions about how effective we want to be.
Moira Maybin 00:33 Welcome to the ADHD Friendly Lifestyle. I’m your host, Moira Maybin, a woman, Mom, and educator, and I have late diagnosed ADHD. The more I know about my ADHD, the easier life is to make different decisions, ones that are more ADHD friendly. We can use this time to practice getting rid of guilt or shame and spending more time with our strengths and passions. I want to share all of this with you. For show notes, including next steps, resources, and articles on this topic, visit adhdfriendlylifestyle.com.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of working with three of my Patreon supporters for one of our monthly group coaching calls. I’d like to thank Scott, Stacey, and Michelle for their ongoing Patreon support. If you’d like to hear about how, you can support the podcast and what perks are available, go to patreon.com/ADHDfriendlylifestyle to learn more. Okay, let’s get started.
Moira Maybin 01:37 I started this episode with the question, how can we work with our ADHD to help us manage our time, energy, and attention to be more effective? Here’s a chance to trust your own lived experience. Does having more time lead to more capacity? Can you think of a time, or do you know it to be true, that having more time didn’t lead to increased capacity? There’s a definite yes for me. And sometimes, it even leads to decreased ability from hunger, disinterest, or fatigue. That’s not only ADHD. That’s a battery run too low. The link between the combined use of time, energy and attention and our capacity is often overlooked. It’s well known that people with ADHD struggle to regulate our attention, and neurotypicals more easily plan, monitor, and evaluate time. They also can keep tabs on their energy to save it for later, adjusting it like a dimmer switch. In our case, energy is like an on-and-off switch, and our time perceptions are less reliable. Check out the three previous episodes on time and episode 29 about time and energy for more on this topic. Understanding how people with ADHD process time, energy and attention is key if we want to be effective. It’s also an essential part of our mental and physical well-being.
Moira Maybin 03:06 There is in-depth information available on how to improve time management, but less on energy or attention. For the same reason, women get excluded from most medical research. Subjects harder to measure, track and externalize are considered too variable to fit the scientific model and well were excluded. That is why including emotional symptoms as a core feature of ADHD in North America was excluded. It was said to be too hard to study. Thankfully, this is slowly changing. But as a woman who struggles with waiting, and multiple health conditions, it’s not good enough. Our quality of life with ADHD depends on our knowledge and ability to use our time, energy, and attention. The benefits include validation, symptom management, and knowing preventative measures. Charles Gilkey, author, business manager and creator of Productive Flourishing, has written about this topic, referring to time, energy and attention as TEA, a trifecta to treasure and protect. I couldn’t say it better. If you’re interested in exploring prompts from Charles Gilkey on managing time, energy and attention, there will be a link on the ADHDfriendlylifestyle.com website.
Moira Maybin 04:22 Here’s another critical reason to take care of our time, energy, and attention. I get to geek out here a little bit. Although it may seem I have taken a neurodivergent random turn in this episode, bear with me. It’ll make sense and be relevant. Biological systems, specifically humans, are designed to maintain stability or balance, and that helps us survive. The drive for balance requires ongoing adjustments to changing conditions. It is known as homeostasis, and it’s when we’re in an optimal state for survival. When we have ADHD, our ability to find and maintain this stability while adjusting to conditions is a significant part of our struggle. Our brain and body constantly adjust or regulate to find an optimal stimulation level. The difficulty in getting to and maintaining homeostasis, or optimal stimulation, differs from a non-ADHD brain. For example, when our attention varies, it can be because of what is going on internally, externally, or both. Sometimes there isn’t enough coming at our brain to keep us engaged, and we need more juice to keep our attention going. Other times, we want it to stop. There’s too much, and it feels overwhelming. And then there’s hyperfocus. Now let’s expand that drive for homeostasis to every part of our biology that has a connection to us internally and externally, our physical body, environment, interpersonal, family, and relationships, every aspect of our life and being.
Moira Maybin 05:58 We are kind of like Goldilocks; when we aren’t aware of that need and what’s happening, it can take a lot of trial and error to get that optimal stimulation right. How much do you trust your own body and brain? Do you listen to it? I’m not trying to get woo-woo here. When we’re thinking about is, sometimes we’re craving more stimulation, when other times we need less. Are we considering what is feeding our energy and attention? And what’s draining it? How does recovery rest and recharge help? What’s it like in your schedule for this week? What are you going to do to help your body, your energy your attention? Have you ever thought about what situations, experiences, events or people trigger a need for some sort of different kinds of stimulation or benefit to having some time to boost your energy and intention? I discovered last summer that when I have to sit with my parents, I ended up playing with my toes a lot. And it wasn’t until I realized that that was me trying to regulate to find some more stimulation because I have a hard time sitting still. When we’re having kind of the conversations we do when we get together that, I needed to find another way because playing with my toes can be kind of gross. There’s a time and a place. And so I needed to find another thing to do that met that need.
Moira Maybin 07:35 Another struggle I have is related to the next question. Do you notice when you’re needing more or less stimulation and what’s needed? Have you taken note of where you are in your life, and how you may have a greater or lesser need to feed yourself, feed your energy, feed your attention, feed your recovery, or support yourself? My family is in the middle of a lot of heavy emotional work. And that takes a lot of energy. None of us can afford to pay too high of a cost in this area. That means to work with our ADHD to help us manage our time, energy and attention. To be more effective, we need to understand ourselves, our ADHD, and how we can nurture our energy, and our attention and then use that in our sense of time.
Moira Maybin 08:39 My brain kept churning. If I want to be effective, for what purpose for increased productivity, self-esteem, pleasure, or to ease burdens? When we have a reason for doing something, it’s easier with ADHD. It can’t be any reason, but it has to be one that motivates us. So let’s keep going here. My most recent definition of what being effective meant was getting things done and being able not only to have free time but to enjoy it without guilt or a nagging feeling. That’s a reasonably new meaning for me. For most of my life effective only meant completion efficiently and well. Have you thought about what being effective means to you? Oxford languages defined effective as producing a desired or intended result. That made sense to me until my ADHD cognition kicks in. What about the discrepancies we can have between our intentions and our results? When is it okay to be ineffective? Like I don’t want to have to be effective all the time. And how vital is timeliness or efficiency and all of this?
Moira Maybin 10:04 I used to honestly believe everything would be well once I got everything done. But I never got enough done; there was always more to do, and I needed to work harder and faster. This mindset led to an abundance of negative self-talk and unhealthy behaviours in attempting to cope with the inevitable strain. Oh yeah, throw in a dose of anxiousness and irritability. It seemed to me that to be a competent adult. This was how I needed to spend my days.
Moira Maybin 10:35 The environment I was raised in contributed in part to my outlook. Effectiveness and efficiency became synonymous. I highly valued efficiency as a potential solution for my perceived lack of time. Efficiency, as a prized value, rose significantly over the last 200 years thanks to industrialization. Wasting time or effort was to be avoided at all costs, in order to lead to increasing levels of organization, competence, and maximum productivity. But hold on here. There’s more, it says, especially in a system or a machine. Okay, so I have internalized the definition of efficiency that wasn’t initially even meant for people. Most of our world is geared towards being highly effective, efficient and productive. Time is money, as the saying goes. To quote Mondayblog, “I used to think that, but being focused and efficient, and getting more done doesn’t directly lead to more clarity on what I’m working towards, what am I working towards.” But I know now that there aren’t natural connections between productivity, attention, efficiency, clarity, and goals for anyone. They’re all specific and distinct skills learned over time.
Moira Maybin 12:16 Do we all really want to be more productive? How well had it worked out for me? Let’s do a quick recap. I’ve gone through many burnouts and health issues in my life. I have always overworked. I’m still learning how not to overwork. I internalized the message that good little girls don’t speak their minds or distract other people. And I was on my own to manage this. I didn’t know how to pay attention to or understand the wisdom of my body. Being smart led to praise. The result? Disengaging from my body and living entirely in my head until my 30s made it easier to block out discomfort and pain, both physical and emotional. My drive to be effective and efficient has been a critical factor in my successes and my trials. Everything we do or don’t do has a cost. I could see that focusing on efficiency and time was becoming less effective. Over the last five years, actively adding more of what feeds my energy and attention and reducing or eliminating what drains my energy and attention has improved both my effectiveness and my quality of life.
Moira Maybin 13:41 I know there are many cultures and societies that focus more on living life, the quality of life, and not in a monetary sense either. I’ve had to work on realizing and remembering it’s the journey, not the destination, it’s all about, because ultimately, what are we living our lives for? I hope for a peaceful death after a long, fulfilled life. There is ample research to show that how we live our days with ADHD will directly impact our length and quality of life. If our lives are a journey, our choices determine the route. I had to accept there is no final destination where we have all our ducks in a row. Do you remember I wanted mine stapled to the floor and in bow ties? So what does that mean about being effective? If I don’t want it to be only about productivity, I am realistic. I will have to accomplish some things in this lifetime. The bottom line, our life, time, and energy are all limited resources. My definition of effective is now broader. It includes producing a desired or intended result. But it does not mean only getting something done. Being effective can include considering how I use my precious resources of time, energy and attention to benefit my quality of life.
Moira Maybin 15:18 To do that requires grace to accept with compassion and understanding that my best effort will vary daily. Procrastination and paralysis will show up and make this harder too. Productive procrastination is a familiar friend. I can easily procrastinate on time-sensitive or necessary items while effectively working away on something valid but not the priority. I don’t get any pleasure from it, as I have a nagging feeling, but I do console myself that I’ve accomplished something. The remedy? Finding a way to sneak past the fear, just dip our toe in and prove to ourselves that it wasn’t that bad. What is a very first step we can take? What is the most minor or manageable part of starting? We all know I struggled to begin writing, and opening up a document can do the trick. That simple. I also have a reminder to set a simple goal at the top of the document. Another option is to set a timer for five minutes or 15 minutes and just see what happens. When I’m honest about my needs with time, energy and attention and give myself those things, procrastination and paralysis decrease. Then, when I repeatedly see that things can get done, and I can be kind to myself at the same time, we get to see that it’s okay. We can do it a different way. That’s the plan with procrastination and paralysis. Build up to more slowly and with compassion.
Moira Maybin 17:02 Nowadays, it’s about knowledge, choices and actions available to move towards the days and life we want. Being honest with ourselves and practicing self-acceptance is the way forward. A non-judgmental approach leads to compassion, acceptance, and then solutions or new ideas. I hope today’s episode helps with that. When we understand better why we do things, it’s easier to realize that many of our challenges are not character flaws. We can use proven successful ADHD approaches to target symptoms and do things our own way. We have choices. ADHD friendly means we can use solutions, change them, tweak them, and decide when they’re not for us. We want to create a sustainable path to our true identity.
Moira Maybin 18:01 This episode has focused on the mindsets connected to time, energy and attention. I will do more episodes about strategies in these areas too. Like the ones, I’ve already done about insiders guides, hurdles, and slowing down to speed up. Those are episodes 39 to 41.
Moira Maybin 18:30 Okay, you’ve done the hard work by staying to the end. Here’s your reward. Here are the main takeaways from today’s episode.
- With ADHD our stimulation needs vary according to internal and external factors. And that is central to our use of time, energy and attention.
- Being able to take care of our energy and attention improves our quality of life and use of time.
- Our environments past and present influence, and with awareness, we can decide what to keep and what to let go.
- We can use proven successful approaches to target ADHD symptoms and do things our way.
Moira Maybin 19:19 Thank you for joining me today. If you like this episode, tune in again and if you know someone who will be inspired or encouraged by listening to the ADHD Friendly Lifestyle, please share this. You can find the ADHD Friendly Lifestyle on your favourite podcast player. So go ahead and take a moment to subscribe right now to make sure you’ll never miss an episode. Follow the ADHD Friendly Lifestyle on Facebook and Instagram for lighthearted expressions of life with ADHD alongside ideas and resources to support me or the podcast check out Patreon at patreon.com/adhdfriendlylifestyle.com for exclusive content, early access to episodes and a one-hour live Q&A and Ask Me Anything each month for every Patreon supporter. At the 25 and $50 levels you’ll be invited to monthly group coaching sessions and more. Looking for other great ADHD podcasts to have on your
playlist? ADHD Essential hosted by Brendan Mahan and Hacking your ADHD with Will Curb. Brendan covers many topics related to parenting and family life with ADHD. Will focuses on tools tips and insight that always inspire. Happy listening. I’ll be back again with you on the next one.