How to Get Started When You Have ADHD

When you read any set of instructions, they will give you a Step 1, but that Step 1, for whatever reason, rarely feels like the true Step 1. Sometimes, you need to gather all of the materials before Step 1. Yet, that doesn't feel right either. The true step 1 is almost always is to get started. It is like there is a magic switch that your brain has to flip before you can do the thing. The question, then, becomes: How does one flip that switch?

Make Your Goal to Just Set up the Project

Sometimes, the project just seems too overwhelming. It seems too big and scary. A brain hack you can use here is to simply set up the project. Do not worry about actually working on it. Focus your efforts only on setting up what you need to do. Once it is set up, it becomes much easier to actually do it. When I know I need to write a blog post, but it seems like too much for the energy I have at that moment, I simply commit to writing down the headers for the main points. I tell myself that, if I can just do that thing, that’ll be fine. I almost always find myself writing out a thought or two under each heading. Once I do those things, I suddenly find myself motivated to write it.

Remember: All Activities Have Three Parts

We often think of work as working and that is it. However, work (or an activity, for that matter) has three parts:

  1. Setting up

  2. The job or activity

  3. Cleaning up

The overwhelming part is thinking of all of those things as one thing. This makes tasks seem bigger (and hurts our time management). Breaking things down into these small categories can make things smaller and more manageable. Each of those three things can be broken down into smaller parts. The more you can break down a task, the easier it will be to do it.

Where Do I Start?

So, what happens if you set everything up and you are motivated to start, but you do not know where to start with the task? Sometimes, if you’re not sure where to start, you have to start with what would seem to be the most obvious first step. Generally speaking, what seems to be the most obvious thing to do is the first thing you need to do. However, when it isn’t the thing to do, you find out what you need to do first by doing the thing you thought was the most obvious thing to do.

What if the Starting Point Isn’t Obvious?

If the clear starting point is obvious, then celebrate! You can start anywhere! Sometimes, it just does not matter where you start. For example, with these blog posts, I do not write an introduction, then proceed to point one, then to point two, then to point three, then to the conclusion, Sometimes, I start with the introduction. Sometimes, I start by just writing the headers for each of the main points. Most of the time, I start with designing the featured image. It allows me to be creative and jump start my brain. Start where it works for you.

What Will Jumpstart the Project?

Find something that jumpstarts your ADHD brain. What does it need to get into “Activity X Mode?” Sometimes, your brain needs something fun to do before it can do some tasks that are not fun. Sometimes, it needs the right soundtrack. Turning on certain music will get you motivated to do a task. Some people buy their child a superhero costume that they can only wear when they are doing their homework. What will get your brain going? What does it need to get engaged? In short, find where do YOU need to start.

Remember: Good Is Good Enough

Sometimes, the fear that the end result will not be perfect prevents you from getting started. Perfectionism prevents progress, and proper people probably need to put perfectionism in prison. You can work at something for years and still find ways it could be better. There is always something to improve. Eventually, you have to say, “Good enough,” and move on. I could edit these blog posts a bunch, but if I did, I would never publish any. Find what the acceptable standard is and work until you reach that. Just make sure that the acceptable standard is not perfection. Nobody is perfect. You will not be able to get there.

Remember: You Do Not Have to Do a Whole Project All at Once

One of the best tips for getting stuff done when you have ADHD is to break it down into bite-sized pieces. Doing each small step and celebrating that victory can help you keep the motivation to finish a project. However, it can also help you get started. When you realize that you do not have to do everything at once, the task seems smaller. The smaller the task, the less overwhelm you will feel at the prospect of doing it.

Today’s Reset ADHD Challenge:

Start a thing!