Tag Archives: executive function deficits

ADHD: Make Starting Tasks Easier

One of the symptoms of inattentive ADHD is difficulty getting started on tasks that need to be done, especially those that seem boring and uninteresting. Executive function deficits due to lower levels of dopamine in the brain make shifting gears and getting into action difficult.

One way to handle the problem with a brain-based faulty starter is to use stimulant medication prescribed by a physician who knows how to treat people with ADHD. Medication improves a person’s ability to focus, start and complete tasks. Unfortunately medication doesn’t work for everybody. It is estimated that 80% of people with ADHD benefit from stimulants. If you are part of the 20% who don’t find stimulants effective, one way to get into action when you need to so is to make the task easier to face. Following is an example of how to do that.

I don’t have ADHD, but like everyone, I do have difficulty making myself get started on certain tasks, especially tasks that are repetitive, new, and about which I lack confidence and competence. That perfectly describes practicing the oboe.

I’m at the beginning of a very frustrating learning curve since the oboe is one of the most difficult wood wind instruments to play. It would have been so easy to commit to learning the oboe and then avoid practice because practice can be boring and painful to do especially at first during the long period of normal incompetence. I knew I had to set myself up so that practice would be simple and easy to do.

Fortunately my music teacher helped me by setting a realistic goal for practice time. He suggested I play several 10-15 minute sessions every day instead of longer sessions. I could do that! Actually, I could do no more than that at first because I would tire easily.

First I created visibility. I set up my music stand in my home office with my music on it. I also left the oboe in plain sight so it is the first thing I see when I enter the room. Because I go in and out of my office numerous times during the day, there was no way I could forget to practice.

Then I had to figure out how to make starting to practice easy. The oboe is a three part instrument. It stores nicely in a little 13” x 7” box. I could put it together before practice and take it apart after practice or leave it put together on top of a storage cabinet. I quickly realized that leaving it intact was the best option because it takes an extra 20-30 seconds to put it together and I find the task annoying. I knew that if the first thing I had to do to practice was unpleasant it could deter me from practicing. I therefore chose to leave it intact on top of a low storage cabinet. Now all I need to do is pick it up, insert the reed, and start practicing.

Because I only have to practice 10 minutes to be successful, and all I need to do to practice is pick up the instrument and sit down to play, I practice 10-15 minutes every day.

What important task can you make easier to do?

ADHD: Benefits of Planning with a Coach

I coach women with ADHD. Part of the coaching process is to identify an action at the end of

Planning with a coach increases the chances that you will take action.

each session to do between sessions. In the next session I check back with the client about what happened. Did they take action? If so, what happened? What did they learn? What worked? What didn’t? If they didn’t take action I inquire about what happened that prevented taking action. Did they forget to take action? Did they choose not to take action? If so, how did they reach that decision? If they didn’t take action, what else were they doing?

It is not uncommon for ADHD clients to return to sessions and report that they didn’t do what they said they would do. Why not? Often they committed to an action but didn’t do anything to hold that commitment in memory. It was as if the action was a floating leaf that touched down because it sounded like a good idea, and then blew away out of awareness just as quickly.

I initially worked with clients on how to more effectively anchor commitments in order to increase the possibility of follow through. However, just remembering what they’d committed to do wasn’t enough to motivate them to take action.

So, I went a step further and asked questions like, “When will you do this?” “What’s the benefit of completing this task?” “What steps will you need to take to make this happen?” “What barriers could prevent you from doing this?” “What resources are available to help you do this?” When I’ve helped clients plan in this way, they were more likely to report the following week that they had taken action. It seems that the planning we did together helped to anchor their commitment in memory and made doing the action easier to face and follow through on.

Planning is a process that can be difficult for people with ADHD due to executive function deficits. Saying you will do a task is easy. Breaking a task down into step-by-step actions, considering the when, where, what, how and what ifs necessary to take action are not. Planning done in partnership with a supportive other can be just the mental fuel necessary to take action.

If you have ADHD and have difficulty starting and completing important tasks, perhaps difficulties with planning are blocking action. Coaching is an option that could help you practice planning and take action with support. To learn more about how you can be more productive with coaching, schedule a FREE 30-60 minute Back on Track phone coaching session with me.

ADHD: Watch Your Language for the Best Results

This week while coaching a client with ADHD I noticed that she kept saying that she was “freaking out” about holiday preparations and getting everything done. In conversations with others she’d tell them the same thing. “Freaking out” is pretty strong language, and its effect on my client was to keep her in a heightened state of arousal. 

People with ADD have under-stimulated pre-frontal cortexes which leave them with executive function deficits like difficulty with time management, planning, organizing, initiating action and completing tasks. They therefore unconsciously seek stimulation in order to kick their pre-frontal cortexes into action. In my client’s case she was using the stimulation of emotional language, “freaking out,” to motivate her to take action on important tasks associated with holiday preparations.

Using dramatic words was working for my client. She was able to get important tasks done. However, they also kept her feeling out of control, out of awareness of the progress she was making, and unable to pause to assess what she’d accomplished and what was left to be done. 

Also, words are energy. As such they attract more of the same. Being “freaked out” is likely to oct25_bizattract circumstances about which to be freaked out. In my client’s case she was staying motivated by the stimulation of the fear that “freaked out” was generating, but was unable to attract what she really wants — to feel in control and confident that she will create a positive holiday experience. 

What language do you unconsciously use to stimulate yourself into action? Could it be attracting circumstances you don’t want? What language would motivate you and attract more of what you do want? 

Watch your language. It could be determining your experience and your destiny!