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Planning With ADHD, Successfully: A Brain Hack and a Simple Tip

August 16, 2022

Planning with ADHD (and sticking to the plan) I believe is the executive function that has the heavier impact on our lives. Strategies like setting small objectives towards our goal, indeed work; but, sometimes, achieving those little tasks can still feel like walking through a desert with no horizon in sight.

Here is the plan that took this hyper neurodivergent: four months (plus three more, plus three years)

Planning With ADHD: Surviving the Montage

Picture with me: 

movie…, where chubby losers, with a crappy job, a cat, and no human lover, decides to lose weight and change their life. In five minutes, we watch them running, buying clothes, sweating their weight off, making plans! And just like that, they’re a new person; and we think… “I’ll start today!”

Or …, those TED talks where ADHDers who have made their dreams come true are now sharing their stories it to inspire us. And we think, “I could do that!”

We try! And then…, we get stuck.

After having watched a lot of those movies or talks I wondered more than once,

“Ok; but let’s get real; how do I survive the year (or more) that’s going to take me?”

The Brain Hack

I am a heavy smoker; so, whenever I’m about to fly to the US and I think about the 15 hours I’ll spend without a cigarette, I turn off the “time switch.” I say to myself, “I’m going to fall asleep or enter some kind of trance, and ‘just like that’ I’ll be on a sidewalk again.” And it works.

Seriously, it works. It’s something like time blindness plus hyperfocusing on “nothing.”

Three years ago, when I visualized how much time it would take me to plan and do what I wanted for this blog, my brain felt a deep desire to take off…. I think it even got to my door… But I said:

“No; we’re going to survive the montage as if we were on a flight; forget about the time, just focus on the tasks. I am simply going to work on it, as much as I can whenever I can, until one day it will be done and I will feel time has passed in the blink of an eye.”

And it worked.

“As much as I can, whenever I can”… Which leads me to “the simple tip”

The Simple Tip

When I schedule a plan, I consider two time frames:

  • one, the time it will take me to do the tasks needed
  • two, the time I won’t be able to work on the plan

The second time frame is the most important when we’re planning with ADHD: those “no-no” days as I call them, when our brains are simply not interested, when we are experiencing a dopamine crush; and, probably above all, when shit happens, people say, “It’s life!” but we feel it’s the freaking apocalypse.

If we make peace with the fact that our plan is going to take ‘tasks’ time’ plus ‘brain’s time’, and if we focus on doing our best when we can, being kind to ourselves, even during the “no-no” days we’ll feel: “It’s ok; it is part of the plan; this isn’t time lost, but time I need. I am doing it!”

And… What Was My Plan Exactly?

I wanted five things:

  1. to create a metaphor to explain how an ADHD brain works
  2. to make this blog more ADHD friendly
  3. to create a content schedule!
  4. to develop “ADHD friendly” courses
  5. to remove the ads so you can focus on the posts

The result? Follow the blog and you’ll see it!

On A Final Note

The horizon I set my eyes on, three years ago, became blurry more times than I’d have wished. 

I had periods of hyperfocus; no focus at all; dopamine crushes and – of course – sudden interests to learn how to play the guitar (the piano and “something else”)

But you know what? When it comes to planning with ADHD, we are to consider all of that; the simple tip, I believe is the biggest trick. 

This hyper brain takes weeks or months off without giving notice; and I know that most of the times all I can say is, “Ok; take them; I understand you need them; in the meantime, I’ll do some gardening or code… See you when you’re ready!”

We ask for neurotypicals to understand us, to be patient with us. Do we do the same for ourselves?

I am doing my best to do it, every day. I hope you do it too.

Laly York. B.Ed. Lawyer. Writer / Researcher. ADHD advocate
Developer and author of the blogs "Neurodivergent", "NKOTB" and "Laly's."

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