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Motivation? What's That?

Getting Things Done with ADHD

Do you have trouble getting started? What about finishing undone things? As an ADHD coach, the four words I hear routinely are: “I HAVE NO MOTIVATION!”

Here are a few definitions of motivation:

  • The desire or enthusiasm to accomplish a task or achieve something.

  • The act or process of giving someone a reason to do something.

  • The mental processes that arouse, sustain, and direct human behavior.

Low motivation is often connected with tasks that we find boring and unstimulating. Some of the most challenging tasks are ones we do sitting down.

This might include schoolwork, work for our job, or anything we need to plan and organize. In the past year, adults and young people have been doing work remotely from home. This adds another layer of challenge, since home often has the connotation of letting down or kicking back. We are not moving our bodies or socializing in the same way we did before the pandemic. All the lines are blurred, and we flounder in a sea of sameness!

Individuals with ADHD can struggle with motivation due to a shortage of a brain chemical, a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Psychologist Russell Barkley states that we have lower dopamine levels than the average population. Dopamine has been called the chemical of motivation or the “feel-good chemical.” We experience higher dopamine levels when we are doing something we love, engaging in areas of strength, rewarding ourselves, or exercising. ADHD medication provides dopamine, which affects the part of the brain responsible for planning and organizing.

ADHD medicine isn’t a cure-all, however. Even when taking medication, we can have problems mustering the motivation necessary to complete tasks of low interest to us. Why? Certain tasks have strong emotional tags attached to them, says Tamara Rosier, a psychologist and ADHD coach. We may dislike doing laundry or paying the bills, for instance, because we have left wet clothes in the washer before or forgotten to make a payment.

The truth is sometimes we do have more motivation than others. We may wait around to feel motivated in order to start a task.

What could we accomplish if we had a foolproof plan in place – one that could help us launch into action, motivated or not? The sky would be the limit, right?

Here are a few ideas!

  • Make sure to take your medication, including a bumper dose if needed.

  • Always do your most difficult task at your best time of day.

  • Break tasks down into small segments, working no more than 25 minutes at a time (unless, of course, you are hyper focusing).

  • Know (exactly) what you are going to work on at a certain time.

  • Think ahead, so that you will have whatever you need for the task.

  • Create your own ADHD-friendly working environment.

  • Use a standing desk and move while you work.

  • Interest equals focus, so add interest to your task.

  • Have something to look forward to, every day.

  • Exercise.

  • Get out in the fresh air.

  • Do some tasks off-site, such as at a library or in your car.

  • Simulate the rhythm and characteristics of your school or workday as much as possible.

  • Alternate the boring with the stimulating.

  • Reward yourself with open-ended tasks when you are done.

​One of the most helpful things you can do is to work with an ADHD coach. You can set up your day in a way that is brain friendly. This will boost productivity! Discovering how you work best is empowering and gives you a sense of control.

Does motivation help? Of course! And with a plan in place, you can move forward, no matter what! This puts you in the driver’s seat!

Ready to create your own motivation plan? Talk to an ADHD coach, and take the first step toward getting things done.

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