I need GTD but it's giving me anxiety
February 20, 2019 5:50 AM   Subscribe

I can't do Step 1. HELP ME.

Goal: A fucking routine or plan to live my daily life by which incorporates all of my entire life's worth of things. I know GTD is supposed to be this all-in-one tool, but I can't get past the first step of it (the collect everything in my inbox stage) because I have a severe anxiety response to seeing it all written down like that, I am not joking, I stop being able to breathe when I look at a giant to-do list.

ID: I'm a single mom with ADHD and anxiety who works full time, owns a home, and has several consuming hobbies + friends who are annoyingly sociable.

Situation: Normal, All Fucked Up. House is a mess (overrun with clothes waiting to be sorted, kitchen functional, basement has damp smell, yard thankfully frozen but underneath oh god I don't know... etc). Finances are a mess (got divorced and then it's just all in limbo waiting for me to finish paperwork that I am scared to look at and I'm losing money for not having done it because my ex is making gains on stuff I haven't yet claimed from his 401k). Life goals are a mess (haven't been writing enough, art project has stalled because house is too messy). Social life good. Parenting is passable, but older kid is hitting familiar difficulties with organization and task management and I'm setting a horrible example.

Resources: Can pay for a housekeeper to come by biweekly. Paid lifetime access to NirvanaHQ (a GTD app), still unused. Can recite the core precepts of every organizational system ever set down in book form.
posted by MiraK to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
I stop being able to breathe when I look at a giant to-do list.

Well, any organizing system is going to require looking at and sorting your information and calendar events and such. So it sounds like the most productive thing for you to do might be to address your anxiety, which seems to be the underlying issue. I just picked up this book Little Ways to Keep Calm and Carry On which is a short read, excellent, science-based endorsed by a mental health professional org, and has already made a difference for me. It talks about how there are two parts of anxiety - the first is fear of being overwhelmed by the threat, but the second is your sense of capability to cope. It can be more transformative to work on your coping than to try to deal head on with the sense of fear. check the book out.

I also have ADHD qualities. The thing that saved my bacon was bullet journaling. It's simple, analog, portable and way less strict, overstructured and hectoring than GTD. If you do it, it becomes impossible to actually forget anything, even if you do need to postpone it or put it on a list for next year or 5 years from now. You'll find many threads and resources for it here on Ask. Definitely, though, tackling anxiety is part of the issue so you can face things and tame them. You can do it.
posted by Miko at 6:01 AM on February 20, 2019 [9 favorites]

Best answer: GTD is not for you.

At least, not for you right now. Start with one thing and demonstrate to yourself that you can have an impact. I suggest starting picking one thing you list in 'Situation' and commit to sorting that out. Cleaning up your house seems like a decent start as you mention the disruptive influence of this on a number of occasions.
posted by humuhumu at 6:03 AM on February 20, 2019 [14 favorites]

Yeah. Put one thing on your list. Make it the easiest first step you can think of. Do it. Rinse and repeat.

Brief bc on phone but I know how hard and overwhelming this is. People write books about how they solved problems in a way that works for them. Whether it works for you will depend on whether you are trying to similar problems with a similar brain/lifestyle etc. UFYH works better for me.
posted by bunderful at 6:11 AM on February 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

The first step is intimidating as hell, no doubt. I sometimes stop halfway through my list and do something small (15 min) right now, just so I can see something crossed off! The key thing to focus on is, you are writing this stuff down so that you can stop worrying about it!

If it's on your list, and you're doing a review of that list at regular intervals, you'll lessen that constant nagging feeling that you're forgetting something. You can get that project that's due in 4 weeks out of your head, because you know that it's not what you need to focus on today.

These kinds of systems can also help by forcing you to make choices. When you look at your day, you'll be forced to decide between seeing that friend and working on your art. Ideally, at the end of the day, you won't say "I just don't know why I didn't get to my art project!" and beat yourself up. You'll be able to say "I chose to skip the art today in favor of this other thing that I decided was more important - After all, there are only so many hours in each day!"

Finally, be kind to yourself here! Kids are hard, divorce is hard, owning a home is hard, work is hard, and despite what the self-help people tell you, no one actually has it all together!
posted by chrisamiller at 6:21 AM on February 20, 2019 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Set GTD aside for a moment.

friends who are annoyingly sociable
Social life good

As a woman with ADHD who is also an introvert, this stood out to me.

You have the one enviable thing that I wish I had more: friends who are readily available to hang out and help you with this.

I can relate to much of the anxiety you describe. Financial anxiety chief among them.

When I couldn’t bring myself to even look or think about my student loan repayment plans without breaking down in tears, I asked a good friend to sit with me while I worked on it. I still set tiny goals for myself: “While you sit next to me, I’m just going to Google different student loan repayment plans and read about them.” And if that’s still all you can manage to do that day with your friend sitting beside you, that’s fine. You just did something you couldn’t bring yourself to do otherwise. But you may find that with your friend sitting there, it becomes easier and easier (read: increasingly less frightening) to take that next tiny step. I did. After researching student loan repayment, I took the scary next step of looking up how much I currently owed and what type of loans I had. And then the even scarier next step of applying for a consolidation loan. Friend sat with me the entire way. I can’t emphasize enough how much it helped to have someone there with me while I did this. I was able to nervously chatter, out loud, about what was scaring me and how much I didn’t want to do this. I was able to acknowledge and then purge those anxious thoughts while receiving a friend’s support and encouragement. It was great!

Talk to the friends you most trust about what you’re going through. Tell them you need their help, even if it’s just sitting with you or going with you somewhere while you address a task that’s been weighing on you. And don’t be afraid to ask them if they’d be willing to help figure out a strategy or do some research on a particular thing that you’re feeling avoidant or anxious about. Sometimes we anxious ADHD folk need people to do that for us, especially when it becomes too overwhelming. It’s okay to ask friends for help. This is what friends do for each other.

Also, as others have stated above, please be kind to yourself. What you’re going through is not easy.
posted by nightrecordings at 6:23 AM on February 20, 2019 [24 favorites]

Best answer: You didn't say if you're actually diagnosed and being treated for ADHD. That is step 1. I don't know if GTD is right for you, but if you have ADHD, you can't get past the first hurdle without treatment.

Source: I'm basically you.
posted by ellenaim at 6:26 AM on February 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

To me, the essence of GTD is (1) to write down to-dos rather than trusting your memory, and (2) to break big ones into several small ones. But just keeping a huge list was anxiety-provoking and overwhelming. So instead of keeping one huge, ever-growing list, I began putting dates to items, and recording them in Google Calendar, which gives me a definite plan and helps me be realistic about doing items. I can always drag-and-drop to reschedule, but this helped me actually do smaller items and at least get started on bigger ones.

I still keep a list also, but it's a "Someday" list of things that come to mind that I'd like to accomplish sometime in the indefinite future, and items I can't schedule just yet..
posted by davcoo at 6:31 AM on February 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It seems like GTD is not the solution to your organizational issues. A couple other people have suggested variations, but the essential thing I think you need to do is start small. You could try to make a list of just the next couple or few things you think you should do. Start with whatever is most appealing, or most stressful, or most urgent, whatever. As soon as the list itself starts to cause anxiety, STOP. Just do that list.

That said... the central flaw in all organizational systems is that it's more stuff to do that isn't actually getting the stuff you need to get done, done. It doesn't sound like you have trouble remembering what you need to do - it's kind of the opposite? It sounds like you're so overwhelmed with how MANY things there are that it gets intimidating.

And an organizational system, any organizational system, might just make that worse. So what I'd really advise is just giving yourself permission to not get ALL the things done. Just get ONE thing done. Just one. Or even just started! Pick a motivational phrase, or just make one up: Any progress is better than no progress. Better not perfect. Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly, as long as it is *done*.
posted by contrarian at 6:42 AM on February 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: So as someone prone to anxiety and overwhelm, I find that GTD is not the best tool for me. Some of the concepts in it are worthwhile, but the overall system leads me to concentrate too much on tiny tasks that don't actually have a meaningful impact.

I know you said that you can read the core precepts of every organizational system out there, but in terms of mindset, I found The Now Habit by Neil Fiore to be the most helpful. The principles he talks about there - the importance of starting, not finishing; the importance of scheduling fun; the unschedule - have been super helpful when I fall into similar ruts.
posted by peacheater at 6:45 AM on February 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

The great thing about systems is that in theory, they ensure nothing gets lost. The bad thing is that they require time and attention to manage, and can create even more of a sense of shame and become yet another "should" that you can't keep up with.

I'm not sure that GTD is the right solution to your situation. I agree with some of the others that a more piecemeal approach might work best for you. Don't worry about the yard right now - it's frozen anyway. If I were you, I'd choose between the financial stuff and the house disorder - which is giving you the most stress right now? Which can slide for a few months longer while you work on other things?

Then, tackle just that one thing. Forgive yourself for not working on everything simultaneously. If it's the house, consider FlyLady or Marie Kondo or Unfck Your Habitat or whichever method sounds the most calming and achievable to you. The idea to enlist your friends is a good one. If I had a friend who just got divorced, I would be happy to come over and help her organize her stuff! I hate folding my own laundry but the idea of helping a friend who is struggling fold hers would give me so much pleasure.

If other to do items pop up in your brain and give you anxiety while you're working on something else, just write it down. Don't worry about trying to capture everything, but write down what does pop up in your head.

Most importantly, forgive yourself! Shame will just amp up your anxiety.
posted by misskaz at 6:46 AM on February 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

Absolutely, if you have executive function issues, other people are one of your best weapons. Friends who will be non-judgey and help keep you on task as you work through tasks that feel hard are great. If you don't feel that you have relationships you can draw on in that way, consider paying someone to help you sort things out. That could be a therapist (I did a lot of planning and organizing in college in student health), a professional organizer, maybe a life coach? Depending on resources.

Anxiety is so good at convincing you of your own helplessness. The points above about working on your anxiety are all very good, but especially while you're learning how to make organizing work for you, having other people in your corner can be huge.
posted by HtotheH at 6:54 AM on February 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Ditch GTD. It's not a panacea. If you can pay a house keeper then DO IT! Do it right now. I am a huge fan of outsourcing to the pros. I love cleaning but if I didn't then I would prioritise that above all else because I cannot function when there is visible clutter in the way. If it's less about general cleaning and more to do with organisation of stuff could you hire a declutterer/clothes sorter/organiser first? Let them hold your hand through getting the physical space in order and once that's done get a weekly clean to keep it topped up.

You can also ask the organiser to help you prioritise. If papers are the most time-dependent issue get your organiser to help you carve out space for this work first. They can then either sit with you to go through the paperwork or set up some tasks that you can ask a friend for help with (calling people, signing things, mailing things etc). Everything else can wait til you've cleared that hurdle if need be.

WRT kid, get them involved! An organiser can include them in the conversation, help set them tasks etc. You and kid can then bond together over learning how to do this stuff.

Also, BREATHE! I too get overwhelmed by a big to do list, but if you can get a baseline of some order going (eg the cleaner) you'll free up at least a bit of mental space to address other things.
posted by freya_lamb at 7:12 AM on February 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: 1. I love you all.

2. Anxiety is not diagnosed or medicated, but I am officially diagnosed with ADHD and am KIND OF medicated for it ..... oh god I feel so stupid typing this right now, but just two months ago I stopped taking my Ritalin because I wanted to see what I'm like without it, and completely forgot that I'm doing this experiment until this minute. Clearly I "failed" that experiment and need to get back on my meds stat.

3. See (1)
posted by MiraK at 7:22 AM on February 20, 2019 [29 favorites]

Best answer: I also get anxiety when faced with a giant to do list. I also have been diagnosed with ADHD and am a single mom who needs to get shit done.

What works for me is using Siri to add no more than three reminders to my phone per day. I add them while driving and set them for a specific time when I know I will be in the right place or time to execute them, and then the only time I see he whole list is when I’m crossing something off. I see no more than one or two reminders at a time on my lock screen when it’s relevant and for me it reduces the background anxiety I rely on to accomplish things because I know I’ve added the important thing to my external memory bank (to do list) in a way that makes it possible to accomplish it.

I also pick the top three most important things that must be done THAT day. No more than three unless it’s a series of steps for a task like getting my property taxes paid and I need to remember to go to different offices in a certain order. Voice assistants have been amazing for this because writing down a to do list was a huge anxiety trigger for me.
posted by annathea at 7:28 AM on February 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

You may wish to consider Bullet Journalling. It's paper-based, not digital, but I have found that actually helps me to focus - digital systems (which I used to use religiously) have a tendency to get clogged with a million things you're never actually going to do. There's immense convenience in being able to pull out your phone and capture things, but that convenience can lead to its own anxiety as you just catalogue everything instead of actually doing it.

When I was researching Bullet Journalling and considering switching to it, I came across How To ADHD, which has a really good overview of Bullet Journalling for those with ADHD, including why it may be the best task management system for said folks. The creator has ADHD and designed the system specifically to help him deal with shortcomings in other systems that he encountered. Here's an interview with him about that.

Personally, I don't have ADHD, but I can be forgetful and I do really benefit from getting things out of my head in some fashion and routinising my life. I use a digital calendar along with a Bullet Journal, but I also take most recurring tasks out of the journal and put them in a very, very simple but immensely powerful app called Due.

I did this after reading this great Tumblr post (which is about Due 2, Due 3 is out now) about how much you can do with it. I have my morning and evening routines programmed in to repeat and my notifications and snoozes set up so it will just gently buzz me to remind me to stop farting about on my laptop and go out for a run/wash the dishes/take the bins out.

This combination of Bullet Journalling for capturing and organising the changing, complex things in my life and Due for the unvaried routine stuff that I'd otherwise forget or stress about has worked incredibly well for me. Mostly I just don't think about my todo list anymore, which is the ideal state I think.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:49 AM on February 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

Untreated ADHD has caused severe anxiety for me, my mother, and everyone else I've known who has ADHD. My mother has panic disorder. I went in a slightly different direction with my overwhelming anxiety and developed agoraphobia and an anxiety-based personality disorder (avoidant).

No matter how hard you try, you can't deal with anything comprehensively, much less find and implement a system, until you get back on the meds. I know. Before I was appropriately medicated, I tried so many times to get organized and do things and be like normal people. I beat myself up over it for years.

Now I'm been medicated for both ADHD and anxiety, and I am still terrible at executive function stuff. But I can at least deal with what absolutely needs to be done, and often make pretty good decisions. I'm still working on everyday normal people stuff. Like maintainance cleaning. ADHD makes it hard to develop habits.

You don't have to let it get as bad as I did, you don't have to end up like me. Start by getting back on ritalin. Get your ADHD meds sorted and talk to your psych about anxiety. Get back to stable. Be gentle with yourself. Get help from friends. Later, if you're still interested, see if this digital structured GTD will work for you. Though like others above, I found original GTD to be helpful as a way to think about and break down tasks, mostly by writing things down, not a major system of organization. I know that I'd have trouble using an app for it. Paper based things always work better for me.

I believe in you. I think you're going to be ok.
posted by monopas at 10:20 AM on February 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hello, friend. I am ADHD too. I was diagnosed in my late 30s and spent a lot of time working on ways to tackle different issues. Before my diagnosis I discovered (during an unrelated, leak-driven bookshelf purge) that I owned three copies of GTD... and it was still on my Amazon wishlist.

I've made a lot of (hard-won) progress since my diagnosis so I have a lot of ideas to share... here are some of the things that have worked for me; I offer them as options to maybe try. Please also feel free to MeMail me if you'd like to chat further (though do know I don't check it every day so if I don't reply right away I'm not ignoring you.)

1) Take your meds take your meds TAKE YOUR MEDS. Have you ever played video games? Taking your meds turns the difficulty level of life down from "Nightmare" to closer to "Normal." Maybe not all the way to Normal, but close enough to really help.

2) Do you have a therapist or ADHD coach? If you can, seeing one regularly can be very helpful. They can help you set goals and work on them and also help you stop being so hard on yourself. I know sometimes it makes all the difference in the world to have a trained professional affirm that I am, indeed, working really hard on this, or to remind me when I'm frustrated that I lost some ground in one area that I've come a long way and not to downplay what I have done.

3) ADHD brains are different from neurotypical brains and the same tools won't always work, or work the same way. Resources specifically for ADHD can be really helpful. For household stuff, I have gotten a ton of use out of Susan Pinsky's Organizing Solutions for People With ADHD.

4) No one system works completely for me. I pick bits and pieces from all the systems and cobble together something that works. But I always need to be able to change it up if I need to.

5) Bullet journaling works well for me. Don't fall into the "must make it look like Instagram" trap, just use it to keep lists and stuff. For budget apps, I live and die by You Need A Budget (YNAB.)

6) Do you have a trusted friend who could help you out with some tasks? Not even necessarily to DO the tasks, but to do things like "sit with me and read while I work on this form" or "when I start to flutter around, can you please remind me that right now my job is to sort the mail pile?"

7) For money stuff: This is a really common issue for ADHD people because it combines a lot of things we have trouble with - impulsivity (spending), difficulty planning (budgets), putting off tasks (bills).... plus, it's really stressful. Here is the way I would tackle it:

--make a designated "Money Time" in your week. Don't make it massive. Maybe half an hour to start, or an hour if you need a bit more time. When you start, start a timer. When the timer dings, you get to stop. Success is defined as having done some work on the thing. Schedule Money Time for a time of day/week that is not stressful. For instance, my Money Time was on Sunday afternoon, while I was medicated, and then after Money Time I would do something relaxing. When I tried to do Money Time on a weeknight, when my meds had run out and I had to get ready to work in the morning, it didn't work well for me.

--one of the first tasks for Money Time is making a list - not of every single to-do - but of the three biggest issues you have. For example, they might be "pay late bills," "finish divorce papers," and "update credit card info for the cable company." There are other issues probably, but those are for another Money Time. Making that list is a success. Once you've done it, say out loud, "I did a good job making my list" (or some other similar statement.) Possibly also eat a little piece of chocolate, or rub a silky piece of cloth, or listen to a song you love - some kind of pleasant sensory reward. You'll feel kind of silly but oddly enough, it does help. ADHD brains are most motivated by interventions at the point of performance and by frequent positive feedback.

--Next (either next in that Money Time, or in your next Money Time) pick one of your top three things and analyze it. I got paper and a pen I enjoyed using and wrote down all kinds of things about my thing, like how it made me feel to think about it, what I was afraid of, what the problems were, etc. I like to use the kinds of tools that professional process improvement people use - things like fishbone diagrams - because I'm a nerd like that and also putting it in "professional" tools helps me pull some of the emotion out. But use whatever method you like. Mainly, you need to figure out: what do you need to do? what are the things that get in your way? what tools or information would you need to do it?

More on this: for the "what you need to do," break this down to a super granular level. Like, don't just say "send payment" - you want "get bill, find stamp, get pen, get checkbook, look up address, confirm amount, write check, address check, put envelope in mailbox." The idea is that each step on this list requires no decision-making to do - you just have to do exactly what it says. Pretend you are writing instructions for a robot! This is the concept that GTD talks about as identifying the "next action" and is the most useful thing I took away from that system (together with having a universal capture mechanism of some kind.)

This might be more than enough for a whole Money Time! When Money Time is over, remember to tell yourself you did a good job and give yourself a reward.

For "what gets in your way," it can be something big like "I need my ex to sign and he'll only do it if it's sent certified mail" or something small like "I never remember to do it when I'm near the checkbook and can" or "thinking of opening the envelope makes me cry."

Again, this might be a whole Money Time or even several Money Times. Remember to reward yourself.

The next step is to take the "what gets in your way" things one at a time and think of a few things you could do to help make that barrier be easier to overcome. Some strategies could be putting all the tools you need (checkbook, stamps, pen, envelopes) together near where you need to do the task, or getting a friend to sit with you while you do it, or giving yourself a reward after you do it, or even getting someone else to do part of it for you!

Basically, with ADHD it is really easy to get overwhelmed. What you're doing in Money Time (and you can use this same process to make, like, Chore Time, or Art Time, or whatever) is, first, breaking down big, overwhelming, don't-know-where-to-begin tasks into tiny, "no-brainer" tasks. Second, you are making decisions ahead of time, so you don't have to think things through in a stressful moment. Third, by having a designated time to work on something and counting "I worked on my money during Money Time" as a success, it helps to get you out of the cycle of feeling like you were busy all day but got nothing done.

This is probably already too long but I hope at least some of it was helpful!!
posted by oblique red at 10:38 AM on February 20, 2019 [13 favorites]

a single mom with ADHD and anxiety who works full time, owns a home, and has several consuming hobbies + friends who are annoyingly sociable.

Are you on meds for the ADHD? If not, see your GP or diagnostician.

Regardless, hire a human to come and help you. For me this was at one point someone opening my mail while I hid on the couch with my head under a cushion, probably rocking backing and forth. If it's a human to help you get going with GTD while you rock back and forth, that too is okay.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:07 AM on February 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Single mom, recently divorced, with a full-time job and good social life, with ADHD and sometimes anxiety, with some financial stress, over here. Hi!

I didn't stick with GTD. I did find a few things from it profoundly useful: I write everything down. My stress is so much less when I'm not anxious that I've forgotten something. I often do remember things now anyway, but that's not the point. That point is that I don't have to.

My "capture" (one for work now, and one for life, but I'm going to focus on the life one) is a small black moleskin notebook. It needs to be small enough that I carry it with my everywhere, so choose something based on a size that will fit in whatever you carry on a daily basis. I typically have a few sections:
To-do (this is the biggest and first section, not organized, but just a list of stuff I need to remember)
Buy (for grocery or gift items or whatever)
Someday (Books to read, places to travel, whatever)
Work (sometimes - my life capture notebook has a small section for work so I have someplace to jot down work ideas when I'm not at work, without worrying that I'll forget them before I get to work)

I never get past this step, and I stopped trying ages ago. I've tried to do digital versions, but paper works best for me. I found writing things down in one place actually helped with the feeling of being overwhelmed because I was spending so much energy trying to remember ALL THE THINGS and having a nagging feeling of anxiety that I was forgetting something.

The housekeeper sounds great. Do you have resources for a therapist or coach who specializes in ADHD, especially in working with women with ADHD?

I also want to echo what someone else said, about asking for help from a friend. Surely you have a friend who is organized? One of my big struggles, and I think a struggle for many of us with ADHD, is estimating how long things will take. So we think, well, if I'm just focused, I can get through this financial stuff, transfer the 401K, work on my art project, clean the house, make dinner, and exercise all in the three hours left in the day! Then we blame ourselves for not being focused when we're overwhelmed and end up cleaning one drawer and ordering pizza in those same three hours.

I remember one day, sitting down my ex-husband (when we were still married), and saying, "I have a list of things to do today and I don't know how to get through them all or in what order. Can you help me?" And he could, and did. It was so completely obvious to him how to tackle what was a pretty achievable list. We talked about a few of the things for a few minutes and came up with a plan and I did it. None of these were big deal things, but just life chores that were piling up. It was incredibly helpful for me that he was able to look at the list and make sense of it when I just could not.

So maybe it would be helpful to get the ADHD coach or ask for help from a friend who is organized. Just don't try to mimic what they do because it might not be natural to you. Good luck!
posted by bluedaisy at 11:49 AM on February 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm pretty much doing GTD now but it took me literally 5 years to get to the point where I am doing most of the things. You kind of have to chip away at your mountain till it is manageable enough to do full GTD. I found the Flylady system actually super effective, even though she is a bit dorky and happy-housewifey. The general principles however are good - set a timer for 15 minutes and concentrate on just one thing. Keep your kitchen sink clean and shiny. Don't get trapped in perfectionism, just do a little bit. She is basically awesome for people with ADHD.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:14 PM on February 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Each of your answers have helped immensely. My takeaways from this Ask:

1. I have permission to not do GTD, it may not be for me. Or, it may be a goal to work up to over a very long time - to develop the skills and baseline level of functioning in order to do GTD.

2. I need to take my fucking meds and stop feeling like a failure for needing them.

3. It's okay to make triage my actual official regular strategy for doing things; it's not cheating or failing or shameful.

4. My expectations for what I should be able to do given my limitations (and also the limitations of the space-time continuum honestly) are wildly out of whack. When I read some suggestions, I was taken aback at how little you all were telling me to do in my first step or in the first hour. I never give myself so little to do. IDK how I'd manage to feel successful if I did do it. TBH this is still freaking me out.

5. I might need an ADHD coach or at least friends who stay with me while I do difficult things, which means I don't get to hide my issues anymore... *cringe*

I'm somehow way more depressed now but also more able/willing to look at work I was avoiding? Thank you/fuck you for destroying my delusions of omnipotence with this reality check.


posted by MiraK at 8:57 AM on February 22, 2019 [7 favorites]

4. My expectations for what I should be able to do given my limitations (and also the limitations of the space-time continuum honestly) are wildly out of whack. When I read some suggestions, I was taken aback at how little you all were telling me to do in my first step or in the first hour. I never give myself so little to do. IDK how I'd manage to feel successful if I did do it. TBH this is still freaking me out.

A few weeks ago I learned about this stress inventory. I knew that some of what I've dealt with in the past year or so were stressful for anyone, but in a way, it was really helpful for me to add up my stressors with this tool. I can so incredibly productive in those beautiful, focused moments, but I felt like I haven't had that for a while. When I added up the stressors and realized that I've pretty much managed to feed my kids and keep my house from total chaos in the past year, I decided that was more than good enough, and I needed to cut myself some slack.

I cut everyone else slack, and I had a couple of friends say I was being too hard on myself. I'm not totally sure that's true, but I decided to believe them.

Also, if you're anything like me, that good social life and your consuming hobbies are how you are dealing with all the stressors. They are self-care, to use a popular term.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:21 PM on February 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have two people with ADHD in my family, and I suffer from anxiety. One of the things that people with ADHD can get stuck on is that the work of analyzing and prioritizing the tasks on the to-do list can overwhelm their executive functioning because it requires sustained effort at things that ADHD makes difficult - short-term memory, attention, mentally switching between tasks, and decision-making.

So when my husband is getting stuck, I always recommend skipping making a list or prioritizing the list, and just doing.

Spend 15-20 minutes just doing whatever task is in front of you. It will help you get a little positive momentum going. Don't worry about all the other tasks. You can give yourself encouragement by saying, "I am making progress on this laundry," or "I am doing great at cleaning this bathroom floor." If you start to worry about all the other tasks, repeat the encouraging words.

This method won't magically lead to "all the things" getting done but it can help lessen the anxiety.
posted by mai at 9:04 AM on February 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

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