It’s now mid-January. I’ve noticed the New Year’s Resolutioners at the gym have started to fizzle out. If you are someone who set New Year’s Resolutions, how are they going? Are you still going strong? Or has your motivation dwindled? Many people think that they just need “more willpower” to accomplish their goals. By nature, people with ADHD have trouble with one or more executive functions. Motivation is an executive function. Just “trying harder” will not work. If you are someone who has trouble with getting motivated, how can you control your brain’s motivational circuitry? And once you’ve gotten yourself motivated, how can you sustain motivation? In this post, I’ll talk about strategies to help you accomplish your goals that don’t solely involve willpower.
Be Clear On Your Goals
If you really want to accomplish a goal, you need to be clear on what the goal is. Put it in writing. Describe exactly what you intend to accomplish. For example, “get your home organized” is pretty vague. A more specific goal would be: Sort, purge, and find homes for everything in the house by X date. Maintain that level of organization on a weekly basis.
Be Clear On Your Steps To Reach Your Goals
“Success isn’t that difficult; it merely involves taking twenty steps in a singular direction. Most people take one step in twenty directions.” -Benjamin Hardy
Now that you know what your goal is, you need to break it down into actionable tasks. Take out a notebook and make a list of all the areas of your home that need to be sorted, purged, and organized into proper homes. Order these tasks into priorities. When doing this, sometimes it’s helpful to cut up pieces of paper (or write individual tasks on post-it notes) so that you can move them around and figure out what order the tasks need to go in so you’ll know where to start. Assign dates to the tasks. Put the dates in your calendar. Just do your best- you may not be able to stick to this timeline, but just start somewhere. Adjust the timeline as necessary. When doing a big project, I find it helpful to make a checklist that can be crossed off or checked off, and post it somewhere that you’ll see often.
Get Picky About Your People
Traditionally, people think that if they want to accomplish their goals, they need to be more disciplined. While this is partially true, someone that has to exert too much discipline will burn out. The secret to accomplishing goals is to create a situation where the least amount of willpower is necessary. The most productive people are productive because they need the least amount of willpower. They have created situations for themselves where they won’t be distracted by temptations that will lead them away from their goals. This is the time to get really picky about who you spend time with. Don’t spend time with “Debbie Downers”, “Wet-Blankets”, people who revel in their victim-hood, people who make you feel bad about yourself, or people who aren’t inspired to meet their goals. This is the time to up-level the people who you spend time with. Don’t know how to do it? Join a quality networking group, join a club, or start taking exercise classes. These types of groups attract growth oriented and positive people. Within these groups of people, of course you’ll find people who aren’t going to lift you up and inspire you to meet your goals, but figure that out, and don’t spend time with those people. Focus on the high quality people who are motivated and growth oriented. Don’t let anyone dim your light!
Weed Out Distractions In Your Environment
If you want to get your home more organized, weed out the things that are making you paddle upstream. Get FAR less tolerant for the minutia that is keeping you from doing the work it takes to get your house in order. Do your best to reduce your junk mail. STOP answering every phone call that comes in! Don’t race to read and respond to non-urgent texts right away. Turn off the TV for at least a little while. Reduce your intake of negative news media. Be vigilant with the messages that you allow in your environment that emphasize a feeling of “you are not enough” (books you “should” read, never-ending to-do lists, clothes that are too small, etc). Make a decision and move on. If you’ve been saying you’re going to sell all these things, either DO IT, or donate them and let that task go. (FYI- the majority of the time, selling things is not worth the time and effort). Your life is not meant to be spent decluttering all the time, or having the “to-do” of decluttering hanging over your head forever. Do it, and get on with your life!
Manage Your Mind
Next week I’m dedicating a blog post to this topic, but for now, when you notice yourself doubting yourself or worrying about what will happen, as quickly as you can, you’ve got to stop your train of thought and redirect it. Of course I’m not advocating for shoving negative feelings down and not dealing with them. But negative thinking is a bad habit. Process negative emotions when the time is appropriate, not all day every day. The quickest and most effective way to transform the bad habit of negative thinking is to ask yourself a positive “what if?” question. For example, if your brain is constantly saying: “you will never be finished organizing”, notice your thought and interrupt it by asking (either out loud or in your head), “what if everything works out just fine?”. Just as dogs need consistency, repetition, and continual reinforcement with their training, so does your mind. You will probably need to interrupt negative thoughts with positive “what if?” questions multiple times a day.
As you’re working to reach your goals, it’s going to be very important to periodically reward yourself so that you feel motivated to keep going. Instead of being quite so ruthless with your junk mail, you may want to indulge yourself and thumb through a shiny new catalog. Heck, you may even want to buy yourself something new. Or eat a delicious treat. Or let yourself be lazy and binge watch some trashy TV. Similarly to how someone who is on a diet and wants to lose weight needs to periodically indulge themselves so that their body doesn’t think it’s starving and needs to hold on to all reserves, when you’re working on reaching your home organizing goals, it’s good to do something to give yourself a pat on the back so you don’t feel like you’re in starvation mode. HOWEVER, if you are someone who knows you have to be 100% free of something, don’t do it just a little. Just as recovering alcoholics have to have a zero tolerance policy for ingesting alcohol, you may have something similar that you need to refrain from completely. What’s really interesting is that the buildup of clutter usually stems from a feeling of not being enough. When you deal with your clutter and let it go, your subconscious receives messages that it IS enough. You will notice that you will stop craving the things that accumulate into clutter.
By Jean Prominski, Certified Professional Organizer
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