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ADHD and Doable Actions

When I was little, restaurant portions seemed so big that I would look at the plate of food sitting in front of me and not know where to start. 

Even if I was hungry, the large potion looked big and overwhelming.

 My mum knew this, so she would put a small portion on a side plate, which I would eat, and then she would put another small portion on the side plate, which I would eat, too.

Although I didn’t realize it back then, this was my first experience of doable actions.

A doable action is a small task that feels like a manageable step within a larger task or project

Doable actions are really helpful tool when you have ADHD because they mean that any project, no matter how big or overwhelming, can be achieved one doable step at a time.

Once one doable action has been completed, you feel motivated (thanks, dopamine) and ready to achieve your next doable step.

4 Ways Do-able Action Helps You

1. Helps you feel Motivated

Motivation is all about feeling like you want to ‘do’ something.

It’s much easier to want to take action on a task if it’s short and simple with a clear beginning, middle, and end (i.e., a doable action!)

2. Lift Overwhelm

Creating doable actions helps remove the feeling of being overwhelmed when you have a big project.

Doing one small doable step helps reduce overwhelm because you have made a start. 

Even though you know there is lots more to be done, you can still feel the overwhelm lift because you’ve started to make progress.

3. Following Through

It can be hard to keep going and follow through on a task all the way to the end if you aren’t sure exactly what the steps are.

Doable actions help whenever you find yourself losing steam or stalled. Simply take a moment to figure out what still needs to be done and break it down into doable actions.

4. Right-Sizing

Doable tasks also help you realize how big or small a project is.

Sometimes, tasks and projects are bigger than you thought (or hoped) they’d be.

When you break them down, you get a realistic idea of the steps involved and the time it will take. 

At other times, the opposite is true. 

You think a task is enormous, but once you break it down into doable actions, you realize it won’t take much time at all.

This usually happens when the task feels scaryor you have been thinking about doing it for a long time, and so it’s looming large in your thoughts.

Either way, doable actions give a realistic idea of how long something takes.

 Do They Help Task Paralysis?

ADHD paralysis happens when someone with ADHD is physically, emotionally, or mentally overwhelmed by a situation or task. It’s not an official medical diagnosis, but it is something that many people resonate with and recognize in themselves.

There are 3 types of ADHD paralysis. Mental paralysis, Task paralysis, and Choice paralysis.

Breaking tasks into doable actions can help all 3, but particularly task paralysis, which is when it feels difficult to take action on a task. On the surface, Task paralysis can look like procrastination, but the root cause is different.

Procrastination is when you are choosing (consciously, subconsciously) to delay taking action, whereas task paralysis is due to an involuntary stress response 

How to create a do-able action

A doable action is the exact opposite of something that is vague or general.

Imagine you wrote on your to-do list

“Get organized”

Getting organized is a good goal, but it’s generalvague, and hard to act on because it could mean many things.

Perhaps organize your physical space, or organize the files on your computer, or organize your time.

To make it doable, drill down further and get more specific.

“Organize my bedroom.”

This is more specific, but it’s still not a doable action because “organizing my bedroom” could include many different tasks.

“Pick up all the clothes from the bedroom floor and put them into the laundry hamper” 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟


This IS a do-able action!!

Your brain know what to do and what the end point is.

Other ways to know if you have broken your task down into a doable action.

  • You can do it in 15 minutes or less. Sometimes it only take seconds.
  • A stranger could do your doable action because it was clear and precise.
  • It’s so small and doable that you can’t wait to get moving and complete it

What if it feels hard to create doable actions.?

Your ADHD brain might not be accustomed to this way of thinking, so it might feel strange at first. Don’t worry, though. That isn’t a sign you can’t do it; it just means it will feel more natural with practice.

What if I don’t know ALL the doable actions for a task?

That’s okay. You don’t need to know all the doable actions of a project from start to finish—just enough to get started. 

Very often, the steps become clear once you’ve begun.

If they don’t, then some of your doable actions can be to find out what the next steps are 🙂

Will it take a long time to write out all the doable steps?

You don’t have to list out all the doable steps, just the first five, to get started. Often, once you start, it feels easy to keep going. But if you stall or feel stuck, that’s your sign. Take a few minutes and write out the next five doable actions

How small do you have to break down a task?

That will vary based on you, the task, and your feelings on that day. For instance, if you’re dreading starting a task, your first doable step might be something very small, like “open laptop” or “put on shoes.”

On a different day, when you’re feeling better, you might not need to break the task down into such small steps. 

You’ll know when it’s small enough because you’ll be ready to take action.

Good Luck creating your first doable action!

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