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If You Can’t Do Anything Do SOMETHING

March 5, 2020

Maybe it’s people with ADHD. I know both my son and I do it. Maybe it’s not related to ADHD at all. All I know is that it helps.

If I’m in a crucial conversation, a high tension situation, I have to move. (Yes, I was terrible had hide-and-seek.) My son needs to fidget. If we are discussing something he finds uncomfortable, he has to move around. We’ve discovered that forcing him to sit still and “pay attention” is actually pretty counter-productive.

Like I said, maybe it has ntohing to do with ADHD. All I know is that it’s a thing.

I’ve discovered the same thing happens with projects or TODO items. The beginning of the year is typially a busy time for projects. Often companies will run their projects based on the annual calendar. Projects start in January and they end in December.

Well, that’s not completely accurate. that makes it sound like projects are 11 or 12 months long.

They typically aren’t.

However, projects typically are targetted to wrap up before the end of the year. That would mean that you start the new year with a clean slate. That’s a great feeling right?

Yes. . .for about 3 weeks. By then, your projects are started. And like the start of anything, the beginning can be a little frantic. And if you aren’t careful, it’s possible to get overwhelmed.

I wasn’t careful.

I began to feel like I had so much to do that I couldn’t do anything. Some days it was all about reacting to the crisis of the moment. Other days I took the time to write down my TODO list. When it hit 30 items, I ran out of lines in my notebook. Just looking at the list was disheartening.

Not every line was equally overwhelming. At times, I had a line as simple as “Email Kurt about new router.” In David Allen’s excellent book “Getting Things Done,” he says if a task takes less than 2 minutes, you should just do the task rather than write it on your TODO list.

The problem for me was that every project felt like it took longer than 2 min. I tried to write down everything. Or some days I couldn’t write down anything. It didn’t help that a family member was struggling with health issues. And a close friend’s son was struggling with following the rules. . the rules of society. You might call them laws rather than rules.

Anyway, stuff got busy, and slightly overwhelming. But, life goes on. You have to get up everyday and if your employer is like mine, they pay you to get stuff done. Stuff being another word for your job.

So, what to do? What do you do when you feel overwhelmed like you can’t do anything? I’ve found it helps to do something. I pick an item, any item will do, but one that has a clear “end” point.

Sometimes I have to literally force myself to complete a simple task. I try to pick one of those “two minute tasks” that David Allen said I should have just completed rather than write down.

And a funny thing starts to happen. Have you ever seen water break through a levee? The water starts small. And the small trickle starts to cut away at the levee. The more water that goes through, the bigger the gap becomes. The bigger the gap becomes the more water goes through. Rinse and repeat.

And if I stick to it, that’s what happens to my pile of TODO items. And as the pile starts to flow from “doing” to “done” my mental block, like the levee itself, dissolves.

There’s no way to turn this into a true “teaching” moment. In other wrods, I don’t think that knowing how I get through a mental block will necessarily help you get through a mental block.

I’m just glad that it works for me. Feel free to leave a comment about what works for you.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

  1. I have found that writing things down does help most of the time, but when things get really hectic I will write a few down and then grab a quick to finish item like you suggested. I might even take care of a few more, cross them off and then try to complete the list. I’m not always successful but I think most of us get overwhelmed from time to time.

    Interesting that both you and your son have that need to move. Teachers have told me it’s common with boys, much moreso than girls and explains much of the problems we have with education. The default assumption has been those who do not sit still in class have a behavior problem, but tests show that when in a moving environment (dance, moving while reciting, walking) those ‘behavior problems’ disappear. I do find myself walking around the house while on a long call, sometimes it helps me think, and I always manage to get some minor tidying done. I love cell phones and headsets.

  2. I wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD unti I was an adult. It explains a lot of childhood.

    I absolutely agree on tidying the house. I end up getting all sort of cleaning done while having discussions with my lovely wife. She draws the line at me using the phone to “fidget.” But folding clothes? Absolutely!

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