Never trust your memory


“Most people do not accumulate a body of experience. Most people go through life undergoing a series of happenings, which pass through their systems undigested. Happenings become experiences when they are digested, when they are related to general patterns, and synthesized.”– Saul Alinsky, “Rules for Radicals”

One of the most beautiful aspects of the ADHD mind is how free ranging our brains are. That’s why many adults with ADHD are great idea people, but may struggle with execution. Talking about creating to do lists is one thing, but actually implementing them is another. As ADHD coach Pete Quily points out, what people with ADHD think of as to do lists are actually delusional to do lists–brain dumps rather than manageable lists. As a result, to do lists can actually become more frustrating and defeating than helpful. Some of the approaches recommended here help make sure you take the next step of filtering those lists.

Why list making is important

long to do listThink about it. As in, think about it right now. How many thoughts are swirling in your head? How many of them are about BIG ideas, HUGE projects, that you want to get done today, or maybe more realistically, tomorrow. While those big ideas are great, they can get in the way of your day-to-day work towards accomplishing them. Getting into the habit of writing down everything starts the process of de-swirling your brain. Once you get in the habit of capturing your ideas, similar to the process of organizing your brain, you’ll free up brain power to start breaking down those big ideas into doable chunks.

How to work with lists

There isn’t a one size fits all approach to using lists. If you like the process of writing on paper, for example, use a paper planner. If you are an app person, find the app that is right for you. Perhaps the most important unifying factor is that you keep your reference lists in one place. You may, for example, do some note taking on paper, but if you are tracking tasks in Trello or Evernote or something similar, make sure you spend some time each day moving written actionable notes over into that tool. If you are a paper person, good news – there is a planner designed just for you.

It’s also critical to make sure you regularly distinguish big ideas and project ideas from day-to-day tasks. Working with a framework like Getting Things Done can be a valuable way to start giving yourself a clearer path to a productive day without sacrificing your dreaming moments. Write down both. And never trust your memory. Always carry something with you to record your thoughts. It will declutter your brain, help you capture your creativity, and work towards more realistic and attainable goals.

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