Notes From The King of Overwhelm
I’m procrastinating. Financial paperwork. Legal documents. Old tax returns. Contracts. Ugh!
I’ve had a month to locate and compile all the paperwork for my meeting this Tuesday. Tuesday is tomorrow. I started yesterday. And this is a victory over procrastination because normally I would have started looking today. Or called and asked for a one-week extension, explaining that I’ve been so busy… Not productive, necessarily, but oh, so busy.
Overcoming Procrastination. I “Should” Be Able To…
Now part of me thinks that if I had successfully mastered my ADHD, I’d have the paperwork compiled weeks ago. I should have everything handled, and everything done far in advance. Just like all those people who don’t have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder do.
Yeah. Right. The rest of the world has everything in their lives handled… If you’re not an adult with ADHD, you’re rolling your eyes. “Yeah. Right.”
Friends at the opposite end of the spectrum also complain that they leave things to the last minute, feel overwhelmed, and are falling behind. They just have a different measuring stick for what is ‘behind’. Rather than leaving things to the last second, they leave it to the last week.
I Put the ‘Pro’ in Procrastination
So as I started gathering the paperwork yesterday, a whole day sooner than I normally would, I felt the usual fun mix of dread, lethargy, resentment, ennui, and déjà vu. That’s when I start wishing I’d been born in the Middle Ages when life was simpler. No one needed paperwork. And since your whole village would probably die of some plague, there was no need for a will, or contracts, or mortgages.
Why Can’t I Do What I Want To Get Done?
Of course that feeling subsided the minute I found the list of ‘Things to Gather’ that I’d written out during the previous meeting. Six items. Four of which I could understand. Hooray! And two notes which were so brief that I no longer had any idea what they meant. Uh oh. I read them several times.
“Bring earliest” and “Notices too.”
Definitely my handwriting , with it’s lovely frenzied style, like it was written by a buzz saw. No one could fake that. So clearly I was there.
Apparently I still do this, make notes in a rush. Rather than asking the person to stop so I can make sure I’ve got it all written down, clearly, and completely.
So, rather than wait, I did the To-dos I could decipher. Then this morning I called someone who was at the meeting, pretended I was helping them review the list of To-dos to make sure they had everything, and managed to figure out what “Bring earliest” and “Notices too” actually meant.
Now, I am experiencing a very weird sensation. And it’s almost scary: I’m actually ready for the meeting. (Okay, yeah, I know, I think I’m ready. Sure, I could easily show up and everyone will pull out some document, “Now let’s review our RS-18-Invoice Assessments under the GRA rules,” and I’ll do my fabulous impression of a stunned lemur. It’s happened before.)
However, for the moment, I’m savouring the victory and sharing it with you.
Psychological and Physical Costs
What had me start a whole day ahead of my usual start time?
What I learned from Ari Tuckman, the author of Understand Your Brain. I went over a list of the physical and psychological costs of procrastinating (the dread and lethargy) and then I looked at the causes. From a list of 20 reasons, there were at least six of them at play.
From “I don’t know where to begin,” and, “I need more information,” to “It’s huge! It’s overwhelming.” And even some, “You can’t make me.”
A bunch of reasons.
And the strategies that work to get me past “I don’t know where to start,” do not work on, “I’m waiting for the perfect moment.”
The point is that the challenges of ADHD are often complex. Intertwined. Some are obvious. Some are hidden from view. Many are driven by past failures.
But when I took the time to use the tools I had learned, things went quickly, with stunningly little drama.
Now the question is this… why didn’t I remember to use these tools earlier? Why did I procrastinate with dealing with my procrastination?
Hmm. I need to take a good look in the mirror.
I’ll do that Wednesday… No, wait, I’m practicing a speech on Wednesday. So, uh Thursday… No, we travel. Hmmm. Friday I’ll be busy giving my talk. And then on Saturday Ava and I are going…
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