“I just can’t get started on things!”

Have trouble getting started on tasks and projects? That’s not surprising if you have AD/HD. No, it doesn’t mean that you are “lazy” or lack willpower. It’s just part of the way your brain’s wiring works. 
Trouble getting started is often called trouble initiating action.  Initiation is actually one of the hallmark executive functions that often pose challenges for individuals with AD/HD. 
What exactly is initiation?
“Initiation: The ability to independently recognize when it’s time to get started on something and mobilizing one’s resources to do so.”        
Cooper-Kahn and Dietzel in Late, Lost and Unprepared
What can you do about it?
Here are some tips to support your ability to initiate:
  •         Create external structure
       Developing routines for daily activities can lead to automaticity and reduced need for initiation to get the activities done.
       Setting up and sticking to a general schedule can work similarly.
       Setting time frames and limits for tasks can encourage action. Play the “beat the clock” game!
       Planning procrastination – setting aside ample time for a project just before it will be due and then making use of the adrenalin to get it done helps some individuals initiate.
       Discovering how and where you work best on various tasks is helpful. 
–    Setting up times and ways to be accountable to others for your actions: check ins.
  •        Use external prompting
       Examples: posting notes,  using “to do:” lists, setting alarms, engaging someone to gently remind or prompt.
–    Picture the outcome of your work and visualize yourself as successful.
  •   .     Work in groups
       The energy of the group as well as the commitment to and interaction with others can prompt action.
  •          Reduce overwhelm
– Decide what to do first in any project, even if it seems random.
–  Break a project into smaller component parts by time (e.g. 1/2 hour blocks) or by tasks/steps.
– Look for/at examples of the task or project to provide a framework  or model that can stimulate action.
– Tell yourself “ I just need to do this for 5 minutes.” Often once you get going it is easier to stick with a task.
  •          Increase energy/arousal
       Engaging in physical activity before starting a task can increase arousal.
       Taking creaks to engage in some physical activity can re-invigorate
       Use  high interest activities as rewards/motivators
       Breathe deeply
  •         Expect and respect needing time for thought and organization
       Recognize that you may not be able to jump into a project without some thinking or planning first
       Gather needed supplies to feel organized
  •        Use rewards as incentives/motivators! 
  •         Avoid using the “Lazy” label with yourself – difficulty with initiation is a neurobiological hallmark of AD/HD. 
  •  The most important tip is: experiment to figure out what works best for YOU! 
Coaching is one type of external structure and accountability support often used to help with initiation and other  challenges of AD/HD. Working with a coach can also help you sort out approaches to try. 
Liz Ahmann, ScD, RN, ACC        AD/HD and Life Coaching       www.lizahmann.com
Posted in initiation, procrastination

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