Sometimes doing nothing is a good thing. After a busy week, it is nice to be able to relax and do nothing. It is guilt–free, because you feel accomplished and this is your reward.
However, there is another type of ‘doing nothing’ that comes with a lot of negative emotions, such as: shame, guilt, worry, anxiety and overwhelm. This is when you know you have things to do, but you aren’t doing them.
Here are 4 reasons you might find yourself ‘doing nothing’ when you have ADHD.
1. You start one thing, get distracted and move onto the next thing. A whole day can pass like this and you feel like you have done nothing, because while you have started many things, you haven’t finished anything. If this sounds like you, watch this video!
2. You have gone into hibernation mode. Something stressful happened and you withdrew from the world to recover.
3. You spent the day thinking about your ‘to–do’s’. You have mentally jumped from one task to the next, felt worried and anxious. By the end of the day, even though you haven’t taken physical action, you are completely exhausted.
4. You are stalled. You are experiencing internal resistance for a task or project and can’t seem to get moving. When you are blocked on multiple projects, at home and at work, it can take a toll on your confidence and self-esteem.
3) and 4) often go together and we are going to look at how to move from that stuck, inactive place to moving forward and taking action. But it’s not just any action; action that will get results.
Identify what exactly you have to do.
It is really easy to do nothing if you are vague about what your tasks are. Instead, write out exactly what you have to do. It could be: clean every room in the house, or a project for work, etc. Or, make a list of 20 errands. Writing everything down forces you to be precise and it helps clear your mind too.
What is it about this task that is blocking you?
Identify what it is about this task that is causing the resistance. Here are some common reasons:
- It feels overwhelming. I don’t know where to start.
- I don’t know how to do it.
- It involves talking to someone (making a phone call, talking to someone in authority, etc.)
- I have zero motivation.
- It makes me feel anxious.
Now you know what you need to do and what is holding you back, it is easier to move forward.
Use the following suggestions to help.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, grab a pen and paper and brainstorm a list of actions to take. You might not know ALL the actions to complete the task. Nevertheless, you will know enough to get you started. If one of the actions still looks overwhelming, break it down further into even smaller steps.
If you don’t know how to do something, do a quick Google or YouTube search. Many people with ADHD feel silly for not knowing how to do the basics like how to vacuum or clean a bathroom. Yet, they know how to do very complicated things in their areas of expertise. Learn enough so you can take action, without over–researching.
Many people with ADHD have social anxiety. If speaking to someone is hard for you, know that you aren’t alone. Sometimes an email is fine, but there are times when picking up the phone or physically meeting a person is required. Be brave. You can do it. Create a word document called ‘People I was dreading talking to’. Write their name, the date and briefly what happened. Almost every time, there will be a positive outcome. Having written evidence (rather than your worst–case–scenarios imagination) helps to make future conversations easier to initiate.
If you have no motivation for a task itself (and this often happens for mundane tasks), work out a reward system. Use a timer and work in 10 minute intervals. Have a mini reward every 10 minutes, and then a bigger reward when the task is finished. ADHDer s love immediate gratification. Your rewards will vary on what motivates you.
If something makes you anxious, dig a little deeper and work out why. Anxiety often accompanies overwhelm, etc. By taking action, the anxiety starts to disperse. Every time you cross something off your list, you get a shot of dopamine and that makes you feel good and take another action. Check out: ‘From Panic to Power’ by Lucinda Bassett.
What do you do when you find yourself doing nothing?