Moira is continuing the series on getting things done–starting can be hard. When creating a schedule or trying to build habits isn’t working, maybe it’s time to consider expanding our repertoire to include comfortable and workable options to get to the starting line, ways to start, ease in, and be ready for potential roadblocks.
0:014 Moira focus on four elements we can consider if we want to start something
02:49 Moira shares steps, time and ideas that have helped with the process
07:06 Moira the more routine and consistent something is, the less executive function is required.
9:17 Moira the only thing that’s coming up is uncertainty if I can meet the timeline.
11:17 Moira How to get started on a difficult task.
13:50 Moira The first 20 minutes, easing in
15:28 Moira What are the ways we like to get going?
17:24 Moira Hurdles: It’s time to be forewarned and ready.
19:55 Moira When it’s not working
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 It’s ironic, I’ve just spent two days not starting this episode about starting, but there’s no denying it. What I’ve learned about making it easier to start has lowered my resistance enough to get underway. Let me assure you this is a very different kettle of fish from the previous episode on setting the stage or preparing. The ideas can seem similar when we don’t prepare and try to do both simultaneously. Today, we are talking about four parts to develop your repertoire to show up, have ways to ease in then begin and be ready for those roadblocks when starting something is hard.
Moira Maybin 00:54 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.
Moira Maybin 01:32 In the spring of 2022, I started a series about getting things done out of frustration with my writing process. I spent three weeks of in-depth, dedicated effort, trying out tools and ideas to make writing easier, especially with ADHD. Unfortunately, that series was left unfinished as I ran out of time. It is sure to be mentioned in the upcoming episode about finishing. The next few episodes are a refocus on how we can sort out what we need to guide ourselves, to get things done from starting, going and finishing. Mainly stuff we find problematic or want to be more accessible. If all goes well, you’ll hear it in two weeks. I recently re-listened to those episodes, and re-learned a few things I had forgotten. It seems on par for the course with ADHD. With each new idea, we can forget others that have also worked, especially when trying new ways or being attracted to a shiny thing. Although it may be tempting to wipe the slate clean and start fresh when we try to change, it’s easier to get going and keep going if we make minor changes or tweaks or limit changes to one part of our life at a time.
Moira Maybin 02:49 I need to give a shout out to insiders guides and preparation for their part in making it easier to start today. Thanks to them, I am here now, instead of reading my book, or occupying myself with procrastivity–productive procrastination. There were several steps required to get going today. Months ago, I drafted an insider guide to capturing what helped me start interview and finish writing these episodes. In between has been a lot of practice, trial and error. Then, a short time ago, an unexpected block of time became available. I’ve wanted to share the ideas I’ve been trying because we often hear how vital scheduling and building habits are to managing ADHD. There wouldn’t be any episodes if those are my go-to strategies. So, to be clear, being able to start this episode successfully had nothing to do with scheduling or habits two skills considered highly necessary to manage ADHD. Instead, what worked was being nice to myself, and learning more about what makes it easier for me to start.
Moira Maybin 04:08 I will focus on four elements we can consider if we want to start something more easily. First, please allow me to explain before you shake your head at me about what I’m going to say. The first one is to commit to starting. See there it is. Doesn’t that sound like, “come on, focus, just focus?” Or “why can’t you….” What I mean is having the determination to figure out what you need to make starting more accessible. Starting can be even more of a challenge for things we want to restart or repeatedly do—the new and shiny sparkle is gone. For example, I know an ADHD brain who has said that if something is in their schedule, they will do it. That is not me. I tend to treat things on my schedule as mere suggestions. Unless it involves another person, then I will follow through. I used to drag my butt out of bed in the wee hours to go to the gym.
Moira Maybin 05:19 Am I doing that on my own? Not a chance. I know it is easier for me to do anything if it involves anyone needing me to show up. I can leverage that. My commitment to providing consistent weekly episodes to you is part of what’s getting me going. That means I must get two episodes done this week. A hard deadline is helping. If I don’t get this recorded in the next 72 hours, this episode won’t come out on time. Until I record this episode, unless I’m using my time well, it will weigh on me and rattle around in my head. We do better with firm commitment and a clear deadline. To understand the ways that help you start, are there places you can look to for ideas? People you can ask what they do. What has worked in the past? Sometimes that can help. But if it no longer works for you retire it and look for something new. Maybe you’ll want to use it again later. But it’s okay if it’s no longer an option. The most helpful thing for me lately is being asked, what do you need? I am finding that when someone is waiting for my answer to that question and follows up with, “can you give that to yourself?” it increases how often I can and do today. Other considerations helped immensely. I can rely on the fact that the way I start writing an episode has embedded in it ways that helped me get going lower my resistance and my avoidance tendencies.
Moira Maybin 07:06 As much as we may push back against routines, they are our friends. The more routine and consistent something is, the less decision-making or executive function is required. So, creating a guide involves learning how to build consistency in comfortable ways. That way, we are more at ease and can notice more of our own experience. We can slow down and honestly notice what’s happening positively or negatively. It helps us to make more informed decisions and be in control and trust in our actions. And usually, we make a lot better decisions than when we rush into something.
Moira Maybin 07:48 For example, way back on that morning in the spring of 2022 I had the lofty intention of figuring out what makes it easier to start and complete two episodes in one morning, but swirling just below the surface was anxiety, guilt, resistance, fear of more procrastination, my perfectionism and pressure to get it done. Until that day, I hadn’t recognized these familiar emotions as part of my writing process. I learned more about writing in ADHD how to start finish and get it done from a webinar with Jenna Avery. You know when someone explains something in a way that makes so much sense, you wonder why you didn’t see it that way before. That happened as I listened to Jenna Avery name my emotional and strategic writing challenges and provide possible ideas to try.
Moira Maybin 08:42 I may be only a handful of episodes from when I started that process. But I am 11 months into applying these ideas in many different areas of my life. One of the challenges all over my life is biting off too big of a chunk, which I believe to be reasonable. Writing was no exception. I can see massive changes. Instead of two episodes in one morning, I’m working towards two episodes in a week, which already had a lot of the groundwork done today, as I check in with my emotional well-being. The only thing that’s coming up is uncertainty if I can meet the timeline, the ticking clock weighs on me now with 48 hours left. But I think my schedule is clear enough to be okay. I used to get quite upset if I couldn’t meet the timeline I wanted. I now give myself and encourage others to use more latitude to adjust expectations as information or reality changes. That helps a lot.
Moira Maybin 09:43 Okay, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. First, the goal is to start small, building ways to begin with prompts or activities. What we want to do is break down a project or task into clearly defined action steps that include ways to ease into starting. We can adapt a writing strategy I use with children learning how to write complete sentences. What they learned to ask themselves was, if that sentence was written on a scrap piece of paper, and it fell to the floor, and then someone found it, would it make sense to them? We can take the same idea. The same goes for us when we break things down into steps. Are those steps clear enough that anyone could read them and know what to do? If they’re not? How are they going to be easy enough for us to do? So here’s my starting list for a new episode. Butt in chair, use prompts from the idea stage, see the list below. Set a timer for 20 minutes, then check in and set A simple goal. The step after this is writing without revising, using yellow planning prompts if stuck.
Moira Maybin 11:07 This simple set of instructions is the jumping-off point. For a complex task I struggled with, I needed to be more accessible. I started with but in chair, because that has been the most challenging part, committing to starting by making it the priority. Once I am there, I open the list, and I do each one in order, it carries me through the entire production process of an episode.
Moira Maybin 11:38 Depending on your interest level and capacity, there are different options to try this out. An ADHD brain reminded me of a tool she likes, and it also complements the approaches I share on the podcast. She uses the free worksheet, Productivity Jumpstarter by Productive Flourishing. It has five straightforward steps for choosing a few daily goals and deciding on the actions needed. Adding in some motivators and reminders to not overdo it. Often it can be hard to start when we don’t have the clarity of what to do. This very helpful ADHD brain also shared what helps her sometimes she knows she needs to include motivators before and during the time she wants to be productive. Well done my friend. You can find a link to the worksheet on the web page for this episode.
Moira Maybin 12:34 If you want to dig in deeper, I once again recommend the book Your Brain’s Not Broken. It has a step-by-step guide for task initiation. That includes coming up with a simple goal that feels both attainable and relevant. It’s helped me a lot with my sticking points. It is specific to help those with ADHD getting started on a difficult task, referred to in the book as yellow tasks. Difficult again can mean different things to different people. It applies to a struggle to get started keeping going or finishing. Am I starting to sound like a broken record? I hope not.
Moira Maybin 13:11 Using the prompts from Your Brain’s Not Broken are the types of questions that we bring up here. What are you specifically trying to do? What preparations are needed? When will you start? What might get in your way? And how can you avoid these hurdles. The next step is to try out the directions you made for yourself in a single work block. And using a timer set for 5, 10 or 20 minutes. There also included suggestions on what to do after if answering a few questions. Doesn’t sound like it be enough. Give it a try. It works. Honestly, I was full of dread. Remember all those emotions I said were swirling underneath? That’s how I was feeling when I first tried this approach to writing an episode. But in only 20 minutes, I shifted to exhilaration. No lie. I was so excited that this was working. I use that first 20 minutes to answer the prompts from the book. It helped me identify my struggles and find ways to do something about them. One of the reasons I suspect that approach works are that everyone needs time to get started. I mentioned this in the last episode about needing time to arrive at work. Allowing including an honouring transition time into something is integral to moving from struggling to getting started to getting into a groove, the flow, deep work, getting it done whatever you want to call it.
Moira Maybin 14:51
It really is tempting to gloss over what can help ease us into doing something just like we can overlook the setup and take down parts of our life. transitioning or easing in? Is one we skipped too often. It took me a long time to accept that with almost everything I do, there is a warmup and cooldown part because of time and effort. Doesn’t it just make everything take longer? Well, yes, Moira it does. But it also means a less stressed-out hot mess version of you that might enjoy the day. Are there things that you typically do before starting something? Are there small rituals in other areas that could provide insight or ideas to borrow for another area of struggle? Think of how you like to set a table, what your pre-shower routine is, and what we do in our car before we start to dry. This can give us insights into what we like to do or have around us. So, as we start something, I usually have to tidy my workspace to keep my thoughts organized. Make sure my body is physically comfortable. Remove certain distractions and consider what type of music will help soothe or motivate me. I also need to have food and drink nearby and turn off notifications to that takes some time. Meanwhile, I’m starting to mull over my intention. The same ADHD brain I mentioned earlier, thinks of it like getting ready for movie night complete with snacks, beverages, comfortable clothes, and a soft blanket. What are the things that would help in another situation to get started? Are there any warm-up activities that bring you closer to being ready to dive in? We’re looking for options that help ease or transition into starting. I now have my prompts for writing, but I certainly don’t do this for most things. Deciding on a small explicit action that moves me in the direction I want to go is key. In my writing, sometimes what helps is a smaller piece of writing, especially with a timer for about 10 minutes. That’s how this series started and then restarted from using pieces I had already written along with ideas and progress that led to this. And it’s been possible to create something I’m happy with and proud of. I am not trying for perfect; I am trying for good enough. Now with clarity on some ways to ease in and get going. It’s time to be forewarned, and ready to deal with the familiar roadblocks that can get in our way.
Moira Maybin 17:31
The working name for this series has been “guide your process,” We are at the stage of thinking about how we can guide our avoidance and resistance If all of this is new, or the sheer number of things that can get in the way is starting to seem daunting. Remember this, expect that it won’t go well at first. After a first go round, we can see the necessary changes. It’s not likely it will go smoothly or amazingly right away. It’s a trial phase, we can expect it to be sticky or awkward. When procrastination or its cousin procrastivity shows up–that’s our not our usual procrastination, it’s procrastinating on productive things just not our priority. Any way we are procrastinating, avoiding or resisting can be a sign that the next step isn’t small enough or clear enough on what we need to do. Perhaps a scope is too broad or undefined.
Moira Maybin 18:30 Episode 39, the one about hurdles really focused on becoming more familiar with our tendencies, and in turn, growing insight to decrease roadblocks. Self awareness moves from being reactionary or uncertain. What if we aren’t sure what’s going on for us? How can each of us figure out what is still in the way of starting? Well, there are follow-up questions in the book I mentioned earlier, Your Brains Not Broken. I love that book. When the timer for starting goes off, that’s the chance to check in and see what hurdles are in the way. It can help determine the next step too. That’s what we’re going to get into in much more detail in two episodes because I had to make a change based on the amount of time that I have. I have one hour left in my recording time. And I knew I could not get the next episode in this series ready in the time that I had. But I had another episode that I was excited to share. So very soon, we’re going to get into more detail about how do we keep going. In the meantime, when we’ve tried all we can do to get started or keep going and we’re still struggling, it’s okay to take a break. Not a vacation mind. Get out your dopamine menu or your list of motivators and choose something fun and emotionally stimulating in the way that you need to rev yourself up or calm you down. Set a timer so that within about 20 to 30 minutes, there’s a reminder to re-clarify or try the next step.
Moira Maybin 20:27
Okay, you’ve done the hard work by staying to the end, your reward? Here are the main takeaways from today’s episode.
- Guiding the process to start has four pieces: Committing to start, having a way to start that feels super easy, and easing in.
- Have a plan for hurdles, we go in depth in that in episode 39. It will help to lower resistance and avoidance.
- If you want a specific way to guide your task initiation, The book Your Brain’s Not Broken is a good resource.
- If all of this is new, or the sheer number of things that can get in the way of starting seems daunting, remember this: Expect it to be awkward and sticky at first. And if you’re struggling, take a break. Do something fun and good for yourself.
Moira Maybin 21:39
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 favorite 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.