Many people with ADHD and other executive function issues have a hard time starting tasks. Starting boring tasks can feel particularly difficult, bordering on the impossible! Unfortunately, we all have to get ourselves to do uninteresting things sometimes. Next time you feel stuck, try one or two of these strategies to help you get going.
Before you start, do something relaxing. Many people have trouble initiating tasks because they feel overwhelmed by them. Something as seemingly mundane as doing the dishes can feel like climbing Mount Everest (but way less fun). Before you start, then, do something calming. Blast some music that makes you feel good, go out for a run, or call a friend. Whatever makes you feel better. Feeling a bit calmer and more pumped can help you get started.
Set a timer. Perhaps you have to read a book for your history class. A whole book. Even opening the book can feel daunting. Setting a timer and, therefore, limiting the task to a small amount of time can make reading feel manageable. Try setting the timer for fifteen minutes. At the end of that time, close the book. You’ve done it! You’ve started your task! Later that day, set a timer again and do 15 more minutes. Keep doing it until the book is done.
Only do five things. This one is similar to setting a timer but seems to work better for some people. Say you have a sink full of dishes and the last thing you want to do is clean them but you know it has to be done. Tell yourself that you only have to clean five dishes. If you decide to clean more, great. If not, you’ve done five. Hooray! Like with the timer, you can do five more later in the day.
Provide yourself with an external reward. Some tasks don’t feel particularly rewarding in and of themselves so finding motivation to even begin them can be difficult. Some people find external rewards are helpful in these cases. For example, if you start your English paper and work on it for 30 minutes, you can take a break and play with your dog, eat some ice cream, or buy a comic book.
Break down tasks so you know where to begin. To start a task, you need to know where to begin. And knowing where to begin can be extremely difficult for people with ADHD and other executive function challenges. Sometimes, there isn’t one definite place to begin and you can just choose one. Alternatively, a parent or friend can help with this. But if this is difficult for you on a regular basis, you may want to work with an executive function coach. Where do you begin when you have to write a research paper? Or how do you organize your room so you stop losing your work? Executive function coaches can help you learn to break down tasks so you know where to begin and how to follow through.