The start of a new year brings an excitement with it that has many people setting resolutions, regardless of whether they have ADHD. Some folks get “creative” by saying, “I don’t make resolutions, I set goals!” No matter what you call it, it’s likely there are things you want to do differently this year, have a project to complete or a new one to start, would like to develop a good habit or quit a bad one, and possess general “feelings” about how things “should” be different by the end of 2018.
Publications that have far more time on their hands than I do, have done research into the success rate of resolutions. It’s commonly said that 80% of the actions people are taking to fulfill their resolutions or goals are abandoned by February, and only 8% succeed in reaching their goals by the end of the year.
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There are myriad of reasons one might abandon their desires in such a short time period. For those of us with ADHD minds, our interest tends to wane as novelty wears off. Many people set their goals without deep thought about why they are assigning themselves the tasks to support their goals in the first place. If they have spent the required time to thoughtfully determine why they’re undertaking the goal, many times the goal is unachievable.
Simply saying, “I’m going to lose 120 pounds this year because I should”, is not going to set anyone up for success. First of all, unless one is considering surgery, losing 120 pounds in a year is unrealistic. Furthermore, using the word “should” is never a substitute for a truly compelling and heartfelt “why”. If your dozing off at this point because I’m simply restating information you’ve already heard, stay with me.
Although I’m aware of the concept of making time to accomplish goals, few speak about the need to also make space. When undertaking new tasks, be it flossing each night, going to the gym three times a week, or simply spending a few extra minutes with family, you must also remove something from your life in order to have that time available.
My belief is that most people, ADHD or not, simply add to their overflowing to-do lists without removing items to allow for time to complete the new stuff. Piling on more and more stuff we “should” be doing without having an internal conversation (or external if you have an ADHD Coach) about what is going to be dropped from their schedules in order to make time is a sure path to failure!
Making space for your goals, and the tasks that support them, is just as important, if not more so, than having a compelling why.
Throughout my life I have been guilty of overloading myself with new goals to accomplish, without pondering what I will give up in order to succeed. If you’re guilty of this too, go ahead and say “Yup” out loud. Don’t worry about raising the curiosity of those around you.
Back in December, I decided to implement a nightly routine that included the aforementioned flossing. As usual, I paid no attention to what would receive less time in order for me to achieve my new ten-minute routine each night. While I did achieve success flossing every night for 30 days using the “Darn it, I’m going to do this!” tactic, the remainder of my routine languished. I had told myself I wasn’t doing anything at 10 p.m. each evening and the alarm I set to remind me would jolt me into hopping up and into the bathroom to start the routine. Surprise! It didn’t.
For the first 30 days, I ignored my reminder and flossed promptly when my spouse decided to head to bed. The story I told myself was false. Each night at 10 p.m. you’ll find me decompressing while watching some YouTube clips, catching up on the days tech news, reading a book, playing a game or just about anything other than implementing an intentional goal. I hadn’t made the time for my ten-minute routine and my mind knew it.
I realized my mistake and acknowledged that if I’m going to accomplish my goal of completing a nightly routine I’d have to give up ten minutes of my “relax” time. No matter how noble my intention, that’s something I’m not willing to do at 10 p.m. each night. I am however, willing to give up ten minutes as my spouse heads to bed. In fact, that trigger (more on those in my next article), serves as the indicator that it’s time to complete my nightly routine and to shift my relaxation time to activities that don’t have a bright blue screen shining in my face.
While you may or may not be considering restarting the goals you set earlier this month, I can almost guarantee you are criticizing yourself for not following through. Now is the time to consider whether the criticism is valid or whether you could have set yourself up for better success. If you do decide to restart the tasks needed to reach your goals, now is a great time to consider what you will remove or give-up in order to make the time to complete those supporting tasks. Just be sure you define what you are willing to relinquish in order to make that time for that consideration.
Keith Griffin, ACC is a Credentialed Productivity and ADHD Coach who helps people get out of their minds and into their life. He is a current ADDA Board Member, head of ADDA’s Infrastructure Team, an ADDA Ambassador and Virtual Peer Support Group leader. He also posts videos and podcasts about how he’s living “This ADHD Life”. You can can contact Keith at email@example.com.