The Days Slip Away…

“I don’t know where the day went,” used to be a familiar lament of mine.

Eventually, I stopped long enough to find out where it went.   Because I really was missing it.

I realized that the day doesn’t go anywhere.  I do.

And where do I go?

Off track.

I start each day with energy, focus, good intentions and a manageable list of To-Do’s, but end the day exhausted, scattered, lost and an even longer list.

Sound familiar?

Picture me, ready to go, excited and eager, like a thoroughbred horse in the starting gate, waiting for the Kentucky Derby to start.  The bugle plays, “Charge.”  The bell clangs.  The gates open!  The crowd roars!   The announcer yells, “They’re off!  Out of the gate Rick takes an early lead, hitting his stride, pulling ahead!”

And then?

RRRRRRRING!

Someone calls.  Ava answers, but it is for me.   Someone asking about a script.  I’d finished it, but forgotten to attach it! “Right, I’ll email it to them right now.”

It only costs me a minute to send it.  Done!

But I take 2 minutes to check other Emails, and 2 becomes 20 minutes, spent reading a dozen Emails, three of which remind me of other ‘To-Do’s’ I forgot to put on my list.  Wanting to avoid missing anything, I dutifully add them to my list.

Gradually, all the spaces I have left in my schedule, the time for recharging and switching focus, begin to fill up.

“THEY’RE BUNCHING UP ON THE BACK STRETCH…”

My day starts out like the Kentucky Derby.  Gradually it becomes a steeplechase as I hit one unforeseen obstacle after another.

I return to what I was doing but end up hyper-focused on one paragraph, and 30 minutes slip away.

By mid-afternoon I am racing in a dozen directions at once.  I’m still trying to do everything I planned, because dammit, the list was manageable!!!

Eventually, the Kentucky Derby descends into a Demolition Derby.   And I crash.

WHAT DID I DO WRONG? OR NOT DO RIGHT?

A decade ago that’s how most days unfolded.

Today those crazy days happen far less often.  But more often than I care to admit.

Just starting the day with a sensible list of tasks is good.  But it is not enough.

Allowing breaks and extra time for unexpected interruptions is crucial.  But it’s not enough.

Before I start running the race, I have to be very clear about where the finish line is, and what is the prize that I’m chasing.  Otherwise I’m on a runaway horse.

THE FINISH LINE IS THE STARTING LINE

Racetracks are ovals.  The horses start at the starting line.  They finish at the finish line.  And it’s the same line.

That’s often how my days went.  Not just days, but weeks and months.

Like the world’s fastest horses charging full tilt in the Kentucky Derby, I can end up right back where I started from.  (Or so it felt.)  Or worse, get thrown and give up, another day squandered.

Another ‘also ran’.  The day becomes a D.N.F..

“RICK IS A LATE SCRATCH”

What do I do differently now?

What has made those days the exception rather than the rule?

At some point, before I start, as I’m drawing up that sensible list, I have to prioritize.  What is most important?  What is the one thing I must finish by the end of the day?

Then I have to  schedule more than enough time to do it.  Far more.   Because as often as not, it takes far more time.

Once I know how long it will take, I have to protect that time.

THE WORLD CONSPIRES AGAINST YOU

As Ned Hallowell explains so well if you do not protect your time, the world will take it away from you.

Unless that phone call is a neighbor asking, “Did you know the roof of your house is on fire?”  the call gets delayed.  It goes to voice mail.  And Email?  That gets opened after I’ve done whatever needs doing.

Only then do I resend the Email, this time WITH the attachment.

And since the most urgent task is usually the one that I least want to do, and have been procrastinating around the longest, getting it done feels soooo good.  Suddenly everything else I have to do feels like a piece of cake.

Otherwise, I get sidetracked, lost, scattered, defeated, and consoling myself by eating a piece of cake.

(Mmmm, Cake. I will end here. I need to go get something.)

The question is, why is it so hard to stake out that time when I cannot be interrupted?   Why does it feel selfish to say, “I cannot be interrupted for the next three hours.”  Why do I feel like I have to respond to every incoming call or stray thought?   Especially when I know where it will lead?

Best,

Rick

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12 Replies to “The Days Slip Away…”

  1. Why?

    Maybe ’cause we’re afraid to commit to something, because it means we’re not free to pick up on any other interesting things that come along.

    Maybe ’cause we’re afraid that we’ll be concentrating so hard on what we’re doing, that if something really interesting pops up, we’ll never even know it was there. (I once missed a major bathroom flood that spread into the living room, because I was so busy doing the dishes just a few feet away.)

    Maybe ’cause we’re so used to subverting our own desires, as we desperately try to please others, to make up for all the times we’ve disappointed them by screwing up.

    Maybe ’cause— Ooh, look! There’s a rhinestone on the floor!

  2. Procrastination is the ADHD’s kryptonite, laced with a powdered-sugar coating of crack. (Well, perverse visual imagery aside, you get the idea.)

    I recommend with any project plan to start by defining what is the purpose and the vision/outcome. I sometimes use mind maps (like Mindjet for Mac); or Things for Mac, since they both sync across multiple devices and in the “cloud.” Also, turn off e-mail or discipline to check it only at key times, like 9 am, noon, and 4 pm. If you need breaks, have an app that sets off an alarm after a designated time period; and again when it’s time to go back to work.

    By the way, Kentucky Derby race horses are known to poop 20 times as much as the average human being. If that’s not a reason to procrastinate getting one, I don’t know what is. 😉

  3. Just to throw you all for a loop, I have had ADHD all my life, all 53 years of them, and was, of course, not recognized until my children were being diagnosed. Yes, you’ve heard that one a few times before. Like many of you, I was so relieved to find out that I was not lazy, crazy, or stupid (isn’t there a book title to that effect? Heh heh). Our whole family was diagnosed and I’ll skip that part of the story. But here I am at the age of 53 and going through treatment for Lyme Disease and Lupus, yeah, fun combination, and my Lyme treatment makes my neuro-cognitive functioning down to a child’s level of functioning in organizing anything and my memory so scattered that all of y’all’s difficulties would seem normal next to mine. I know this because I know what it was like to just work on the ADHD without the additional burden of Lyme. Not trying to make the case for being the one who bears the hardest road at all, but, I’m trying to ring the bell that all of us with ADHD/ADD need to be ready to give some comfort to those with Lyme who are experiencing our symptoms as if their symptoms are on crack. Having known both, separately, I can speak to this easily. You’d be surprised how humiliating it is to watch your cognitive abilities seem to go down the drain, if proper treatment is given, and then wait to see how much of those abilities will come back. You could really encourage someone with Lyme Disease by sharing with them that you know just a wee bit about what their cognitive struggles are. Our “term” for it is “brain fog”, as if a fog has settled onto your shoulders and you just can’t see things with the clarity you had before. Sound even vaguely familiar? Canadians also have Lyme in your country since the deer and mice population don’t see to know which countries they are supposed to stay in! Keep yourselves protected out there. Go onto the web to find out how if you don’t already know, because having BOTH Lyme Disease and ADHD/ADD is NO WAY TO LIVE LIFE. Just a PSA for all of our community.

  4. I find that a lack of trust in myself will cause me to be overly tuned in to stray thoughts.

    For instance, what if my stray thought really is a sudden reminder of something as urgent as what I’m doing?

    What if that ringing phone is somebody waiting for me at the appointed time and place calling to say “Where are you?”

    What if that great idea goes out of my head before I can find a pen and jot it down?

    What if this is the only time I’m ever going to feel like cleaning the bathroom, so better just do it now!

    That’s my trap, anyway.

  5. I am in this same race everyday that I’m on my own, at home… I so need help or I’ll be on one of the next Hoarder Shows…. Everything around me, is calling my name….. as I walk from room to room, or look up from the task at hand….distraction, after distraction I can’t ignore.
    It may be hours before I get back to my original plan/task I started that morning. So at the end of each day, it looks like nothing was done, including the task I started with…. Very disheartening, frustrating & depressing. Makes me feel unless, hopeless & at one point in my life suicidial…. I am very embarrassed about all of this, so have never discussed it with anyone before… the only thing I’m good at is hiding all this from others… Keeping everyone far enough away, so they don’t see my weakness…

  6. @Rescueme, we all know those feelings of shame, because we’ve always been told we’re lazy, stupid, crazy, klutzy, hopeless, inept, etc., etc., etc. But can you imagine someone saying all those things to somebody with cerebral palsy? Or telling a blind person that all they need to do is DECIDE to see?

    ADHD is a disability, because it does have a very big impact on all aspects of your life. Though, I prefer to think of it as a “handicap”, because it makes things harder for me, but I’m still able to do them.

    Your brain is wired differently, and all these things you describe are happening purely because of that different wiring. Now that you know this, you can learn all you can about that different wiring, and you can try some different ways of doing things…ways that are more in sync with that different wiring. They won’t work 100% of the time, but “sometimes” is better than what you’re doing now, right?

    I spent years in those “shame spirals” you describe. Sometimes, I still have them. But now, I can stop them before I get in too deep. Being able to come here, where there are all sorts of other people who know what I’m going through, is a real comfort to me.

  7. I just recently went through a procrastination spiral of doom while trying to complete a university paper. I pulled out the video with the 30 tips for ADHD that comes from this website. I “chunked” stuff and got back on track. It scared me because it has been awhile since I have been so derailed by my ADHD. The paper is done – got a 78%. Which fueled me to keep going. The video was great for getting me going. It helped me procrastinate while avoiding writing the paper too:)

  8. @rescueme – my thoughts exactly. I feel so ashamed too even though I know it’s not my fault. And just like you, all I am actually good at is hiding my problems from others, but with lies and manipulations and I firmly believe I SHOULD be ashamed of that. I feel like i’m a total fraud. Even my own freaking add doctor constantly tells me how proud I should be because of how “successful” i am. Just because someone has a good job doesn’t make them successful. Just because I look like I have it together – I’m a total effing mess inside. I have been stuck in this racetrack or treadmill and live in constant fear and stress of being “found out”. I would love nothing more than to live the life everyone thinks I live, or to be the person they think I am. No one knows the shame and anguish going on in here

  9. @adhdwife1, I used to feel like that all the time. In fact, I still feel that way a lot more often than I’d like. But not as much as before.

    The more I got involved with this little virtual community, the more I was learning, and the more little steps I was taking, without even being aware of it. Each tiny success (and I had/still have a LOT of screw-ups along the way) led to just a little bit more confidence. I wasn’t aware of it, but my outlook was changing, little by little.

    One day, when someone else praised what I’d done, I was actually able to believe it, and to bask in the satisfaction, without feeling guilty. I hadn’t felt that way since I was in my high school Drama Club! And I never would have believed I could feel that way again, until it actually happened.

    I still have all those self-doubts, and I still battle my lifelong Impostor Syndrome issues which are at the root of a lot of my procrastination (http://www.impostorsyndrome.com), but it’s a lot easier now than it used to be.

  10. @Larynxa – very interesting, I have never heard of Imposter Syndrome before but something I’m going to look more into as it sounds like I certainly have it! I am just very grateful for finding this site – before posting that last night I have never admitted that to another living soul, and to have someone say they can relate and give me hope, instead of being shocked in horror and running for the hills – is a really great feeling. I’ve only been diagnosed for a few months now, so I know I’ve got a long way to go on this journey. I just appreciate this supportive community so much!!!!!!!!!!! And thanks for the link and info!

  11. Dear ADHDwife1! What a great message.
    You are so clear about where you are. Trust me, it gets better.
    And yes, at times it gets worse. I still have bad days, but I’m realizing that my standards are higher. So that’s part of the problem.
    It’s like when you get a new cell phone or computer, and you get used to the speed and power, and you forget how slow the old one was.
    Funny eh?
    I do hope you’ll become a Premium member. It not only allows us to bring you more information and more experts, but also ongoing support, which is key.
    ADHD is never something you can master on your own. Once I got the diagnosis, I thought, Okay, now I can get this handled. But it’s not that easy. If you look at the most common symptoms of ADHD–trouble organizing, trouble with time, trouble getting motivated, impatient, prone to procrastination, etc, etc.– you basically come up with a list of ‘the top 10 things that will stop you from mastering your ADHD.”

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