Cooped-Up with COVID: S.M.A.R.T. Goals
What is the purpose of a goal? Goals give us a sense of direction and helps us to focus on what is really important. They can motivate us and lead to personal satisfaction. You may have heard of SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measure-able, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. The idea is that if you follow these guidelines to reach your goals, you will be smart!
Let’s take a look at each part:
SPECIFIC means you have a narrow focus and are well defined. You are clear about the what, the when and the how of your task.
MEASURE-ABLE means that you have a way to track progress. What will be the evidence that you are making progress?
ACHIEVABLE means that the task is do-able and not too ambitious. Do you have the tools and resources to accomplish this task in a reasonable time frame?
REALISTIC means that your goal is relevant to you, in keeping with your values and where you want to go.
TIMELY means that you can pace yourself in order to meet the deadline.
Why is setting and reaching goals so difficult when you have ADHD?
People with ADHD struggle with impairments in several areas of executive functioning or brain management system areas. This has an impact on how well we can accomplish certain tasks, such as planning prioritizing, organizing, paying attention, remembering details as well as controlling emotional reactions.
For some, goals can create a sense of stress and pressure. Not succeeding in the past can reinforce a sense of failure.
Let’s look at S.M.A.R.T goals again to see the challenges for Individuals with ADHD:
Specific: It is very difficult to narrow down focus as we have trouble “selecting.” Each task that we see has equal importance, making it difficult to prioritize. Too broad of a focus leads to overwhelm.
Measurable: This speaks to the difficulty many have in being able to break down a task incrementally, estimate a time frame, decide the order you will do it in (sequence) and to pace. The timing circuitry of the brain plays a role here, according to researcher Russell Barkley.
Achievable: We may not know how to approach a task in a way that builds in success. We struggle with planning, not being able to look ahead enough to consider the resources and materials we may need. Because of this we may not reach the goal in time
Realistic: We are not always clear on what task to do or why we want to do it. Make sure the goal is important to you and in keeping with what you value. Sometimes we get pulled into other people’s goals and priorities
Timely: Struggles with time management can cause us to miss the deadline. We have a hard time sustaining focus and being distracted pulls us away from the task at hand. We are not always aware where we lose time so we don’t always meet the deadline, or cross the finish line.
SMART Goals the ADHD way!
Can people with ADHD reach goals? The answer is a resounding YES! What will help? The single tool that supports achieving goals is partnership.
The Power of Partnership: Because we struggle with executive skills, having a person who can act as a buddy double can make a huge difference. That person can help you to break-down the steps to a task so that you actually get started. It is almost as if you have a second brain! A buddy can also help you do a task and help you to pace. Sometimes a person sitting at a table or in a room with you, will actually help you to stay on track. This person can be a family member, a friend, a teacher, or an ADHD coach. Make sure the person you choose is positive and supportive of you.
Partnership works because we have to be intentional in scheduling a time to meet, it sidesteps meltdowns because we understand instead of wonder what we have to do, it helps to motivate, it adds interest to what we have to focus on, it helps us sustain attention and pace, supports us in completing the goal on time, gives gentle accountability and provides social interaction. We know that executive skills are enhanced by positive emotion.
Write it down: Write down what time you will do the task in your daily planner.
Time it: Set a timer when you do the task so that it has a beginning and an end. You will gain a sense of time awareness.
Get it Ready: Have tools and resources in place before you start a task.
Try Mind-mapping: Mind-mapping is a creative way to brainstorm a task, all on one piece of paper. You have a central topic and brainstorm your tasks with what looks like spokes coming out of a wheel. From there you estimate each spoke. Then you go around the map to help you to see what order you want to do the steps. Once the steps are numbered you can create a list of the tasks in order with their time estimates alongside of each. Knowing how long each step takes will help you in scheduling when you will do it. The final step is writing it down in a daily plan.
Approach goals the smart way. With the right supports in place, people with ADHD can be among the most successful!
For partnership in reaching your goals, Contact Cheryl today!
What is Executive Function? 7 Deficits Tied to ADHD- Russell Barkley, Ph.D, ADDitudemag.com