Strategies for Easing Transitions

I don’t know about you, but I get a little bit annoyed to see reminders of the back to school rush and fall holidays too early in the summer. The last thing I want to see in August is an advertisement for Halloween decorations! I want to be soaking in the last days of sunshine, barbeques, and family road trips.

I love the crisp freshness of fall, but I don’t love the necessary transitions that come with it. Some transitions are “big picture”: starting a new job, getting married and changing seasons. Others are the stuff of daily life: switching from one task to the next, shifting focus from home to work and back again. For adults with ADHD, transitions of all sorts can be challenging, but they need not be disruptive. Adapting to changes, like fall and back to school, can be easier with a little attention to making adjustments, using some organizational strategies and accepting that change is inevitable.

Transitions Represent Change

Transitions indicate change, and change is hard. Plan for it, ease it into it, figure out what’s on the horizon and schedule it.

My daughter has a tough time with transitions – she always has and even though she is 10, we still need to give her a five minute window to disengage from whatever she is doing to transition to the next activity. She doesn’t like things to end, and change can be difficult once she is hooked into a task or activity. Clearly defining routines and schedules and discussing how they relate to time has been immensely helpful. We make it a priority to sit down with our daughter to go through her schedule (school and homework, activities, chores, play dates) and help her define and plan it herself – with a bit of guidance. This helps her feel more comfortable, makes her more aware of time and, subsequently, her transitions are smoother – most of the time.

Embrace the Transition

Change (read: transition) is necessary for success.

It is important to recognize that productivity requires a flow of movement and successful shifting from one task to another. Build in time to re-orient your focus and prepare for small changes or shifts in activities. We often lose track of time and feel our schedules are unmanageable when we do not plan for (schedule) the time it takes to transition. Be realistic or even exaggerate the amount of time you think it may take to shift or gather the necessary supplies to change tasks. Placing parameters around daily activities, accurately planning our days (as much as we can) and accounting for transition time lead to increased productivity and improved time management.

Time Management

We all want more time for the things we enjoy. Time is a commodity we must guard carefully. If we aren’t diligent in setting boundaries around our time, we can easily become overwhelmed. When we hyperfocus on low-priority tasks or take on more than we can reasonably accomplish, we can quickly find ourselves with no time left over to relax and enjoy our leisure activities.

We all waste time; it is a part of life. Instead of feeling bad about wasting time at the end of the day, plan for it. Build in time to purposefully waste as a way to give yourself a break, and plan in those extra transition periods while you’re at it!

Know what your biggest procrastination and distraction triggers are and think of ways to decrease them. Productivity experts claim it takes our brains a minimum of 10 minutes to readjust back to the task we were working on once we return from the object of our distraction. Do the math and you can see how easy it is to lose substantial amounts of time. Reduce access to distractions, take intentional breaks, have an analog clock nearby (so you can see the time pass), and set a reminder to cue a check-in with your schedule so you can redirect if need be.

Organizational Tools

Technology is one of the best organizational tools we have when it comes to accountability and time management. Make sure your action or to do list is digitized and is accessible through Dropbox, Evernote, or another cloud-based method. Review your list regularly and choose only the top few priorities to work on each day. If procrastination is a problem, tackle your most challenging task first, and set a timer for 30 minutes to get started. If you still can’t engage, consider whether you have organized the project into the smallest possible tasks or if there is something else you need before you can begin. Schedule deadlines and set electronic reminders beginning a few days (or weeks) ahead of time.

Seek organizational help if you struggle with a messy desk and clutter. Make your work station a productivity oasis – put everything away at the end of the day and make sure you have everything you need at hand. Remember that visual cues and visibility is especially important for ADHD-related organizational challenges.

Live in the Moment

Whether focusing on a work or school task or doing something we like to do recreationally, the more present we are, the more successful we will be. If we truly are focusing on a task or activity, our minds will allow us to be in the moment and we will enjoy the process more.

Instead of worrying about other things, concentrate on the task or activity at hand and set aside time later to mull over other things. Your productivity, effectiveness and enjoyment will increase.

Focus on the Highest Priority

In order to live in the present moment, we need to feel and believe we are focusing on the most important task or activity. Remaining truly present requires planning and triaging to identify the most important priorities to focus on each day.

Transitions Are Hard at First But Not for Long

Recently returned from vacation, I am feeling wistful that it is over. I’m not yet ready to go back to my normal routine. Transitioning back to work may be hard, but I have vacation memories to look back on fondly and much to look forward to. Even vacations themselves can be hard to transition into. With some acceptance, adaptations, triaging, refocusing, and planning, I have found I am better able to enjoy where I am and what I’m doing, right now.

Karen Gardiner is a professional organizer in Alexandria, VA, who has provided organizing services to individuals in the work and home setting for over 12 years through her company, Simplify For Life, LLC. Her motivation and passion is helping clients create organized environments that contribute to clarity, success, happiness and balance between work and home lives. Contact Karen through her website


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      • Mary
      • February 25, 2017

      I bookmarked this. I thought I was the only one who had trouble with transition!

    1. Reply

      helpful in the understanding of the person problem and how to help.

      • Lauren
      • September 11, 2015

      The part about adding transition time to the task is very helpful: Also – knowing it takes 10 mins to get back into the task that was stopped – MAYBEEEEEE that will help to stop the “guilt/frustration” of stopping the task & getting back on track…and give more support to maintaining focus (to NOT be distracted in the 1st place).

      I’m sooooooooooo glad I got to this site. Thank you. 🙂

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