ADHD Awareness Month and a Project Management Tangent

Welcome to ADHD Awareness Month! In typical ADHD fashion, I’ve wanted to post something every day this month, and the month is nearly halfway over, and OOPS.

However, I’m not going to feel bad about it. Coaching has taught me that spending time berating myself when my brain does what it does is not valuable in any way. I’ve spent the first 10 days of October seeing clients, working in my toddler’s school, coordinating volunteers for my boys’ elementary school, getting to soccer practices and games, and a number of other things!

It’s been a productive October so far, and I’m learning to accept that I may not always get done what I set out to do, but I actually get a lot done during a given week, and I’m getting better at learning my limits in terms of taking on commitments. I’m somebody who does better with a lot on her plate, but I can over do it, say yes to ALL the things, and end up overwhelmed and paralyzed about what to do next.

This happened recently, when I felt completely overwhelmed by all of my commitments, although I also felt like I could manage them if I could figure out a system. After all, I once managed over 300 large projects at a given time, without medication (and no children, so more sleep!)  and received consistent positive feedback from my managers and clients, so what’s 10 or so commitments?

I started to write out all of my commitments, big and small, from setting up my coaching business to home maintenance. I started to re-frame them from commitments to “projects” because I have a lot of experience as a project manager, and “commitment” felt too abstract. At first I felt more overwhelmed as I wrote out all of my different projects, but it also felt validating in that my overwhelm was justified!

When I was a project manager, I separated out my projects by category based on where they were in the project timeline, and put Post Its on each pile of projects with the next task and a due date (oh how we ADDers love our Post Its and piles!) I got a zing from tackling each pile (which fed my  visual self), reducing it to nothing as they made their way back to the filing cabinet, and another zing when I got to crumple up the Post It and put it in the recycling bin.

My current projects don’t all have folders and paperwork like my business ones, so instead of a pile, I’ve started writing out the weekly commitments and tasks for each project in my bullet journal. Here’s an example of what a week might look like:

Week of October 3:

Preschool:

  • 10/4: 9-11:30 D preschool
  • 10/6: 9-11:30, D preschool, working in classroom, Snack Parent
  • 10/6: picture day, bring $25

Elementary School:

  • 10/4, 4-8pm: restaurant fundraiser
  • 10/6: fall fundraising form due
  • input volunteer forms into database
  • send book fair volunteers to Chair

Coaching:

  • 10/3, 9 am: Client C
  • 10/3, 10:30: meet parent of newly diagnosed ADHD kid
  • 10/4, 6 am: Client B
  • 10/4, 10 am: Client A

Fitness:

  • 10/4, 5:15 am: walk with J
  • 10/6, 5:15 am: walk with J
  • 10/7, 5:15 am: walk with J

C:

  • 10/3, 10/5, 5:30 pm: soccer practice
  • 10/6: fall fundraising form due
  • 10/8, 10: 15 am, game, white jerseys, snack parent

This is just a snapshot of some of my commitments, and reading through it, it looks like a lot. However, most things don’t take a lot of time. It takes 5 seconds for me to set out the correct soccer jersey for my son’s game on Saturday, but if I try to keep it in my head, I can spend hours trying to remember it and dozens of other small items to keep track of everything. When I had 300 projects, I did not have the status memorized for every project, but I could export what tasks were due in a given week from a database, and my piles showed me what needed to get done. Now, I use my calendar and a bullet journal to keep track of all the small things that need to happen in a week, which gives me room in my brain for more strategic thinking and long term planning, especially when it comes to building a coaching practice.

This technique that I’ve described, taking a past experience and applying it to new circumstance, is something that I use a lot in my coaching. When clients feel stuck or overwhelmed, I work with them to look at past successes and see what techniques may be effective on their current challenge. I ask them to log the results (good or bad) in what I call their “Owner’s Manual.” Over time, they start to have a set of rules, tips and techniques that help them be successful, and begin to learn from past mistakes (often a struggle for ADD-ers) by logging what doesn’t work for their unique brain wiring.

I love this method because it can be really empowering, especially during times when someone may feel most vulnerable to negative thinking. For example, I left a 10 year career to become a coach, and I have times where I worry that I wasted time in a field in which I no longer work, or that I am wasting knowledge that I gained those ten years. When I get to apply my past experience and training to coaching, parenting, or any other commitment that I have, I get a surge of energy and motivation that allows me to push past any lack of momentum or motivation that my ADHD brain puts in my way.

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