Every spring I go through this… being overwhelmed. I look back over my years and see a definite pattern of committing myself to projects over the winter, making headway, and then BAM! Spring comes and my focus disintegrates.
I don’t understand it, everything has become magnified. I see the boxes of photos I was going to sort, junk sitting around that needs to leave, lawn and garden work around the corner. Let’s not even talk about the exercise goals I had set.
OK, time to step back and take a deep breath. Everyone is “SO busy.” I don’t get it, I have tried hard to obey the rule to “say no” to things I don’t want to do. So where is this self-generating to-do list coming from that keeps multiplying in my head?
Where is the Chaos Coming From?
Part of this is it’s a quantity of time issue: you come into this world with an empty schedule and an empty head, and from there it’s just downhill as both fill up, up, up. The older people get, they rise to the top of authority and naturally assume more responsibility overseeing things. It just creeps in. At one point, you were the one asking all the questions, and maybe now people are coming to you.
In my case, my kids are always asking to find their missing stuff (boy, if I could have THAT time back!). The other part of this annual mystery I really, really believe has something to do with the change of the seasons. Nature is a pretty powerful force – longer days and more sunshine subconsciously tell our bodies to get going and make good use of the growing season before winter comes (a throwback to our agricultural roots).
The answer: stop and regroup. I find that extremely difficult. If I’m not taking direct action, it seems to me I am losing time. Newsflash – stopping to pause and come up with a strategic plan can give you back your time. So are you ready? I have one disclaimer, I think my strategy is effective, but it can take my brain up to a week to transition, but good things take time, right?
Plan of attack to get you out of your funk:
- Do a small thing that will give you extreme personal satisfaction, like cleaning out a sock drawer. Taking an action step will calm you down for the next step, and give you the delightful feeling of making progress. Personally, I wouldn’t skip this.
- Acknowledge that you are overwhelmed. Truthfully, you could have some whopper events hanging over your head, at this step just acknowledge them (its self-care and an easy way to take anxiety down a notch).
- Being overwhelmed seems to create temporary blindness, you can’t see anything. Get a paper out and using hand-eye-brain processing goodness, draw out the big picture, the MAIN things looming in front of you. Circle several times each main point, your brain loves that kind of stuff. It starts to help clarify your challenges.
- Now here is the scary part, not knowing what to do next. Silence. Crickets chirping. I thought about this step for a long time, because I was off track and needed to get back on. I am dedicating this entire last step to its own section: Pick a Time When Your Brain Will Listen.
Pick a time when your brain will listen.
I often imagine that my brain has one tiny hole entering it; it doesn’t seem to want to let in the thoughts that govern my Executive Functions. I need these thoughts to persuade my brain to follow through on big projects and keep the momentum going (hyperfocus is my downfall, after all!).I’m not in denial; I know that people with ADD/ADHD take a hit to their Executive Functions (read about it here and the five skills Executive Function is responsible for). No worries, I’ll just get around that little detail.
My strategy is setting the mood for my brain to listen, it’s well worth the time. I choose a favorite spot to think, take a walk, meditate, draw, or listen to classical music. I LOVE complete silence (library silence) and drive with no radio on. My brain locks in on the hum of equipment or fan whirring. Alternatively, I’ll take Suntheanine for focus or a relaxing, calming tea. Do whatever you need to put your brain in the right thinking mode. Maybe you need to wait if you have a ritual in place, like a Monday morning planning session. If you have formed a habit that you respond well to, then go with it.
OK, you have set the stage for your brain to listen. As I said before, this journey might not happen all in the same day. I take several days to re-program, always have. When you are ready, grab a paper/pen and turn any distractions off. Start by writing down a list of reasons why your project stalled.
This is a very special moment. Imagine your previous racing mind feeling depressed and like a loser; you were overwhelmed and action seemed to elude you… now how do you feel? Your mind is quiet, hopefully it has stopped racing and you are ready to find solutions. I hope you are feeling calm and relaxed, it’s a good place to be.
During my most recent session I listed what derailed me: preparing for a major event, house renovation plans, short illness, bored, and surprise, surprise fear of success. My, my, we are hard on ourselves, aren’t we?
Now I want you to respond with your own reality checks and solutions. Maybe you need to make a shift in your time schedule, get up earlier, have other family members assume more responsibility, or drop a commitment that is not serving you.
Here is my reality check: the sickness and major event are over. My renovation plans are at a stage that I can take them to a builder. Bored and fear of success? While I was offline for a month my newsletter following exploded and I picked up more Facebook and Instagram followers. Sorry, this is not me gloating, I don’t gloat, I’m a little in shock.
Of course, my ADD brain is knocking me over and running back to the projects I dropped. Nicely done, just what I wanted. Sometimes the transition is a quiet re-commitment to a project; I am re-focused and ready to do another good run. Sometimes I realize I need to drop a project all together, which is OK, too. I really don’t care how I got back on track, I feel empowered that I CAN.
- Never discount the power of thinking it through with doodling or journaling. A quick Internet search of “benefits of brain processing and handwriting” will convince you.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself, breaks are good and can lead to amazing breakthroughs.
- Remember, this is not a one-time deal. This process will have to be repeated as necessary, when momentum fades and you get stuck.
There you are, the 4 steps to regain your focus on a big project. I would love to hear your experience with this process, or your winning process in a comment below. Accomplishing goals is an exhilirating feeling, but the journey can be a long one. Good luck with your special project! – Renee
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