I don’t really like this term because it doesn’t make much sense to me. But, in the ADHD coaching world, it means working alongside someone else. You can be engaged in totally different tasks and/or not even know the person, but you keep each other motivated and accountable by proximity. Think back to how productive you are in the library when people nearby are quietly working. Productivity is contagious. Turn on Do Not Disturb
Silence your phone! Turn off any notifications that might pop up on your computer screen. Put a “Do not disturb note on your door.” Everyone knows minimizing interruptions is essential. Now, we just need to do it.
Pull out your supplies
One of my favorite productivity and time management experts in Boulder, Seth Perler, talks about the power of just getting started. Make a deal with yourself that all you have to do is clear off your desk and pull out all the supplies you’ll need for your project. Gather any books, computer, and office supplies you’ll need to start that paper or study for that test. Once you have everything out on your desk, you can take a break. However, most likely, you won’t want to. Oh, the games we play with ourselves!
Start with a 5-minute goal
Most of us know that feeling when we “click” into work mode. It’s like something magical happens inside our brain that galvanizes us to tackle our projects with focus and energy. To propel yourself into “drive” from “neutral”, start with an easy 5-minute task. Examples include: empty the dishwasher, water your plants, or fold one load of laundry. Do not start any task that could possibly last longer than 5 minutes! Once you complete this warm-up task, you’ll have a dopamine rush that you can then apply to your harder tasks.
Break down big projects into 20-30 minute tasks
Seeing these as separate tasks rather than the overwhelming “write 10 page paper” project is an easier way to feel motivated. For example, manageable tasks for a big paper could look something like this:
- Go to library and find five sources
- Review 1 book per day and type notes for 5 days
- Write outline
- Meet with professor to discuss outline. Are you on the right track?
- Integrate professor’s suggestions into outline
- Write introduction
- Write two pages per day for five days
- Write conclusion
- Run rough draft by Writing Center tutors
- Make tutor’s changes
- Submit paper 1 day before deadline
Take a break a brain break and move your body
Don’t sit for hours studying for that big test. Take breaks! For some people, they can only be focused and productive for 25 minutes. That is ok! For others, they can stay focused for 45 minutes or an hour. Know yourself and set a timer. Your break should only be 5-10 minutes. Warning, DO NOT jump on screens over your break! You will most likely get sucked in, lose track of time, and then end up back in the vicious procrastination loop. The best brain break is movement! Walk around the block, do jumping jacks in your room, climb several flights of stairs in the library. Movement improves blood circulation to the brain and helps us focus. It also activates feel-good neurochemicals in your brain like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
Set a reward
We’ve all heard “IF you finish your dinner, THEN you can have dessert.” That’s what we are still talking about. IF you finish your work, THEN you can have some fun. Figure out what rewards you really want. Is it watching your favorite Netflix series, going out with friends, or shopping for that new outfit online. Remember this childhood IF/THEN parenting phrase.
Celebrate all small achievements
Instead of focusing on everything left on your to-do list, give yourself credit for those things you do complete. Seriously it’s important to acknowledge any forward momentum. So go ahead, pat yourself on the back each time you cross something off that to-do list.