For people with ADHD or other neurodivergence, being productive (while staying organized) can be really difficult. Many people can be productive while also making a huge, seemingly unrecoverable mess. But if you want to learn how to be productive without the rest of your life falling apart, you’re going to need to build sustainable habits into your life.
Get clear on your goal
If you want to be more productive, get really clear on what your productivity goal is. Let’s say your goal is to have a more organized house. You need to be able to manage your time and energy so that you can not only organize all the current contents of your home, but continue to maintain that level of organization. Once you get everything harmonized and organized, and you know where everything belongs, you’ll eventually need to pick up after yourself. You’ll need to put things away. You’ll need to find homes for new items you’ll inevitably bring into your home. You’ll need to continually purge old items from your home. How do you put yourself into this spinning vortex of organization? If your productivity focus is on your home, how do you balance everything else in your life (your career, your finances, your health, and your relationships) so that the rest of your life doesn’t go down the tubes?
Change your thoughts
“Our thoughts become our words, our words become our beliefs, our beliefs become our habits, and our habits become our realities.” -Jen Sincero. One of the first habits to change is your thinking. Metacognition, being aware of your thoughts, is imperative to making real change in your life. Focusing on negative thoughts is a bad habit that plagues almost everyone. When you focus on negative thoughts, your brain will look for more evidence to support those negative thoughts, which will perpetuate a negative reality. When you notice yourself saying, “I’m a disorganized mess”, “My home is a shit-show”, “I can never find anything”, you’re reinforcing your identity as a disorganized person. When you catch yourself thinking those thoughts, it’s important to disrupt that train of thought. Even just noticing your negative thinking and quickly switching your attention to a cute dog, a pretty flower, or a funny memory, you’re already on the path to a more organized home. It’s important to switch your thinking to something positive- something that makes you laugh, smile, or get excited (in a positive way). You don’t want to switch your thinking over to another worry, or something that makes you feel sad, because that won’t get you to your goal of an organized home. By switching to a positive mindset, you’re lifting your mood (aka “raising your vibration”) which will help you attract more balance into your life. Pick a go-to mental image that makes you feel happy, like a picture of a cute puppy. Practice pulling this image into your mind often so you can quickly break your negative thinking with ease. Once you get good at that, practice re-framing your thoughts to a positive question regarding your goal. Some examples are: “What if I’m already learning to be more organized?”, “What if organizing my home is actually easier than I thought?”, or “What if I’m worthy of an organized home?”. When you start to tune your curiosity into thoughts like these, your brain starts looking for solutions on how to make it happen. You’re starting to align your thoughts with who you want to become.
Create your habit (and break another)
Once you’ve set your productivity goal, identify ONE habit you’d like to create. Also identify the opposing habit you’d like to break. Get crystal clear on what these habits are. Start with small commitments. Integrity with yourself is extremely important if you want to build on your habits. Don’t say you’ll do things that you won’t do. Keep it stupid simple. When you say you’ll do more than you actually will, you’re eroding trust with yourself. When you actually do the things you say you will do, you can gradually increase your commitments to yourself because you’ve built up rapport with yourself.
To create new neural pathways in your brain, frequency is your friend! You need frequent short bursts of your new habit for it to become something that’s automatic for you. It’s also important to know what the opposite habit is so that you’re not sabotaging yourself. For example, if you want to spend 5 minutes a day purging trash and recyclables from your home, you’re probably going to need to curb your shopping so that you’re not just maintaining equilibrium but you can actually make progress.
If you want to have an organized home, setting a time based goal is a great way to start. Make a chart for yourself so you can check off the boxes each time you practice your new habit. If you’re not already organizing on a regular basis, keep the time very short, like 3 minutes each day. It’s far better to organize 3 minutes each day for 7 days a week rather than 21 minutes once a week, because the frequency helps build the neural pathway in your brain to make it a long lasting habit. 3 minutes is also completely do-able. In 3 minutes you can go take the trash out, or you can take some boxes to recycling, or you can wipe down the counters, or you can spend 3 minutes tossing junk from a junk drawer. There are lots of other things you can get done in 3 minute bursts. Set a timer and you’ll be surprised how much you can get done!
If you’re focused on a goal, how do you create balance so that you’re still able to maintain your career, your finances, your health, and your relationships? The answer will be different for everyone. Make a note of the things that give you energy and the ones that zap your energy. If there are people, activities, foods, or information (the news!!) that is coming into your consciousness that drains your energy, maybe this is time to lay low from these things for a little while. Laying low will afford you the flexibility to add them back into your life as needed, and will help you avoid the drama and personal grief from cutting things out of your life completely. Or maybe one of these things is actually part of your productivity goal. If it is, when you’re making a big life change like that, make sure to surround yourself with a supportive community of people who can empathize with what you’re going through rather than layering on more guilt and self-doubt.
What habit would you like to create in your life? Let me know in the comments!
By Jean Prominski, Certified Professional Organizer
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