How Many Spoons Do You Have?

A client and I have been using the metaphor of spoons to refer to the energy needed to get stuff done. I have been enjoying using this metaphor. When I asked my client if I could use this metaphor in a blog post she not only agreed to let me use it but also informed me that Spoon Theory is not her original idea. I read up on what the real Spoon Theory is and will now relay to you, dear reader, what it is and how it applies to us ADHDers.

Spoon Theory

Spoon Theory creator Christine Miserandino’s headshot from where she initially shared Spoon Theory with the world

Spoon Theory creator Christine Miserandino’s headshot from where she initially shared Spoon Theory with the world

One day Christine Miserandino was asked by a friend what it is like to live with Lupus. She grabbed every available spoon she could at the diner where they were eating. Giving the spoons to her friend, she told her to start talking through an average day. Every time her friend mentioned a task that took a significant amount of energy, Christine took away a spoon. Note: A significant amount of energy means something completely different for someone with Lupus. Simple tasks can burn a significant amount of energy for someone who is chronically ill. This spoon exercise allowed Christine’s friend to see how she has to ration her energy and be mindful of what she has to do for the rest of the day. If she isn’t careful, she might find herself out and about with no spoons left to drive herself home.

Ever since, Christine posted this story online in 2003, it has become a popular way for people who are chronically ill or who face significant energy management problems (like ADHD) to explain to those who do not understand what it is like to ration one’s energy. This idea has even spawned Fork Theory and Knife Theory. Multiple people have proposed a Fork Theory, but there is no Fork Theory that has proven to be the definitive Fork Theory. I may write a future blog post on a Fork Theory that strikes my fancy, but for now, we shall focus on spoons. I will never write about Knife Theory on this blog because it is a D&D thing (okay, so maybe it isn’t a direct descendant of Spoon Theory).

What Takes Your Spoons Away?

ADHDers have trouble managing our energy. For various reasons, getting enough sleep at night is a challenge, and certain tasks require more effort and energy. We need to pay attention to our energy levels in order to be productive. This means identifying spoon stealers. Which tasks are harder for you? Which tasks have a wall of awful surrounding them? Which tasks require a lot of effort and energy? Identifying these spoon stealers will help you better prepare for them and to get them done when you have plenty of spoons.

What Needs a Shovel, Not a Spoon?

Before my client informed me Spoon Theory was a thing, I once said a task might require a shovel, not a spoon. This little wrinkle I thought I was adding to a metaphor she (or we) had created involved a task that was especially burdensome. A spoon would not be able to lift that pile of crap away, a bigger utensil would be needed.

This is my addition to Spoon Theory. I might expand on Shovel Theory at a later date, but for now, this is all it is. Please use it or ignore it as you see fit. I hereby declare Shovel Theory in the public domain.

What Gives You Spoons?

I do not have the expertise in Lupus to know whether or not they can regain spoons other than through sleep. However, We ADHDers do have the ability to get spoons back. Through blue and green activities on Tamara Rosier’s “Solve-It Grid,” we can get spoons back. Blue tasks are fun things, but they do not provide emotional stimulation (e.g. Netflix or scrolling through Facebook). This is passive relaxation that slows refills your energy tank/ Blue tasks only provide tiny spoons. The green tasks are those things that you love doing. They are emotionally stimulating and fun. Green activities are energizing and provide giant spoons or sometimes even a shovel. Identifying these energy giving activities can help you employ them at strategic times to replenish your spoon supply.

Today’s Reset ADHD Challenge:

Keep an eye on your spoons!