Productivity

Productive ADDers Manage Expectations to Be More Successful

manage expectations

Synopsis: Getting things done and finding more success when you have ADHD comes down to how you manage expectations. 

Are you exhausted by the myriad of things you do each day, but go to bed feeling disappointed that you didn’t accomplish quite enough?

ADDers have a hard time feeling satisfied with their achievements. We have a lot of interests and ideas we want to put into action, and we want to get them ALL DONE (even when it’s not realistic). And sometimes, we get so distracted by our voracious goal-appetites, we end up “grazing” all day – on this and that – but we don’t really do anything substantial.

Right now, I’m working on a few different projects. I am co-editing an online magazine for ADDers. I am developing on an online course for Adult ADHD, to be published on Udemy in February (fingers crossed). I am also halfway through writing a book, though I’m not sure I should even mention it in this lineup, as I’ve been “half-finished” since January of last year. Oh yeah, and then I’ve been writing for this blog, too.

Some days, I’m on fire – I get in a few uber-productive hours of work and make real headway on these projects. Other days (in fact, more days than not) – I get little to none done. It might even be weeks between bursts of super-powered productivity. It used to depress me. The term “long on will, short on skill” comes to mind. I do everything the productivity gurus prescribe – get up early, remove all distractions, work hard for defined periods of time.. How is it that I can be so motivated, yet still so inefficient at times?    

I’ve come to realize that it all boils down to how we manage expectations.

I wish I could be more productive on my goals each day. It’s kind of disappointing that I can’t work as fast as my head imagines things getting done. But when I EXPECT myself to be more productive – to write 5 blog posts in a day, to publish an e-course within a month, or to write, edit and publish a book within 6 months of its conception – well, it’s downright devastating.

When it comes to being satisfied with your daily output, it’s crucial to distinguish between wishes and expectations.

Take these two examples from everyday living. Example A – When my Internet connection is poor and my search leads me to the dreaded “Internet Connection Timed Out”, I nearly explode in frustration at the sheer incompetence of my Internet service provider. I expect it to work after the first click. Fifteen years ago, I didn’t care that a webpage took 5 minutes to load while the modem dialed up – the Internet was such a marvelous novelty then.

Now take example B – I really wish that I could be a millionaire (who doesn’t?). I would spend half my time engaged in charitable occupations and the other half doing wonderful and exciting things with my family. But I get over it pretty quickly when the lotto fails to come up with my numbers.

Although I dream of winning the lottery, I don’t expect it. Yet taken at face value, surely the loss of millions of dollars (even if only just the potential) is far more devastating than the inconvenience of a timed-out Internet search! The difference lies in my personal appraisal of these two events: one is an expectation and the other a wish. I hate to imagine how I’d react if I expected to win the lottery.

Yet, for so many ADDers, what we expect from our daily accomplishments is about as realistic and likely as winning the lottery. We need to better manage expectations.

 

Here’s What Happens if You Don’t Manage Your Expectations:

  • You’ll never be satisfied by what you do get done
  • This feeling of disappointment lends to a “what’s-the-point” sense of futility
  • Feelings of futility make it less likely you’ll keep working at something (after all, what’s the point?)
  • Your work rate suffers – you’ll either give up easier or give up all together

Before, you weren’t getting as much done as you wanted to get done. Now, you’re getting nothing done at all. A lifetime of Facebook and Game of Thrones it is for you then!

Success breeds success. Dwelling on positives inspires more positive action in your life; the more satisfied, fulfilled and successful you feel in your efforts, the more likely you will be to continue applying more effort. Be warned, though – the opposite is also true.

 

Manage Your Expectations to BE and FEEL More Successful

1. Play a Game of Semantics

This tactic is the verbal equivalent of diazepam. Instead of saying “Ugh, I didn’t get anything done today!” say:

“I wish I would have got more done, but I guess it just didn’t happen. I’ll try again tomorrow.”

When that ping of frustration bubbles at the surface, check in with yourself, decode expectations and translate them to wishes. Unfulfilled wishes are disappointing but manageable, while unfulfilled expectations are devastating.

 

2. Set the Bar Lower and Surprise Yourself

We know ADDers have a lot of desire to bring ALL our diverse ideas to fruition. Often, it’s not physically possible to get everything done.

In a world that offers so freely a plethora of stresses, frustrations and even tragedies, why add coal to the fire by heaping on unrealistic and incalculable personal expectations? If you scrutinize and exam your expectations closely, you will likely find that many of them are not only unreasonable, but also unachievable.

Plan, intentionally, to do less than you think you are capable of doing. If you exceed expectations, you’ll feel all the better for it. If you simply meet those lowered targets, you’ll still feel satisfied because that’s what you set out to do.

 

3. Under-Promise, Over-Deliver

In the same spirit as #2, many ADHD Coaches (myself included) work with their clients to develop this principle. Commit to less than you are capable of. If you give more than what was expected, other people will be delighted. Over-committing and not following through – because you set the bar too high – disappoints everyone – including yourself.

 

4. Work towards a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

In the start-up industry, the MVP is a pivotal starting point in accelerating growth. In brief, an MVP is a “product with just enough features to gather validated learning about the product and its continued development.” (Wikipedia) In the ADD world, we refer to this as “good enoughness”. ADDers are prone to perfectionism, and we see things in black-and-white terms. Either something is done or it’s not. We see no in-between.

In reality, there are multiple steps between coming up with an idea and bringing it to life. Work towards achieving a minimum viable product or good-enough effort each day, knowing that continued application of these principles will lead to eventual completions.

 

I don’t propose that learning to manage expectations is the only way to be more successful with ADHD.  There is no one-sure-path to success – it’s more like a system of interconnected highways, byways and even a few grid roads. But by becoming aware that expectations do not have to be fulfilled in order to be successful, and in fact can be limiting, takes you a small chunk of the journey closer to that destination.

 

If you want more strategies for productivity, success and bringing your ideas to life, make sure to sign up for free tools and updates in the box below, or contact me to find out how ADHD coaching can help you.

P.S. If you’d like a free year’s subscription to the online mag I co-edit, email “editor at everydayADDvice dot com” and mention that Andrea sent you!

Focus

Opportunity Knocks: Catch Up on the Life You’ve Missed Out On

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could get back all the time you’ve wasted in your life? Imagine what you’d do with the days, months, even years!

It feels like time speeds up as you get older. Having lived more life, you become acutely aware of how each moment of life can be (has been) savored or squandered.

The older you get, the less time you have ahead of you. This creates an urgency to use it devoutly. While you can afford to waste time in your youth, doing so only causes a delayed side-effect of mid-life regret.

That kind of time-grief isn’t limited to middle age.  In fact, existential crises can happen at any time in your life.

 

Who am I?

What do I stand for?

What do I want to do with my life?

 

These are the “crises” of youth. At some point, though, we get a pretty firm grip on the answers to those questions. We know who we are and what we believe in. We know what we want to do with our lives, except for one thing…

It hasn’t worked out the way we thought it would.

And that’s frustrating as hell. Not to mention depressing. And frightening!

What if your ledgers are full of wasted, frittered-away time?

What if opportunity seems to have vanished from your life, and “potential” is nothing more than a holy grail you’ve given up on?

So many of us have major gaps in our timelines. Youth gives us a liberty we don’t recognize until age takes it away – the chance to do so much more than we did. Instead, we have holes in our resume of life experience, a gaping parity between what we’ve accomplished and what could have been. If only we’d known how to motivate ourselves and take time more seriously…

There is no rewind button. You can’t get that time back. But before you strain your neck in the head-hang-of-sorrow, consider this:

Who’s to say all that time was really wasted?

You’re here now, aren’t you?

Don’t assume that all the opportunities you missed out on were necessarily ones you should have seized. Opportunity may knock, but it may also be an axe murderer. It’s a damn good thing you didn’t answer the door.

Okay, let’s say it wasn’t an axe murderer. Let’s say it was the guy from Publishers Clearing House. It came to your door with a giant check, inked with more figures behind the dollar sign than you can count fingers.

And you didn’t answer the door.

Yeah, that was a dumb-ass move. But what are you going to do about it? Never answer the door again?

Would you ostracize every other opportunity in retaliation for the one that got away?

Of course not.

Opportunity knocks more than once in a lifetime. It knocks every day, in fact, but it may look different each time.

You can’t get all the wasted years back. You can do more with the years you have left. This moment – right here and now – is your opportunity.

This moment is your opportunity…

To worry less about what other people think. Nothing wastes time like the sanctions we impose on ourselves when we live life to appease the scrutiny of others.

To try out that thing you’re afraid you’ll fail at. Successful people have failed more times than the average person. If you’re discontented, maybe it’s because you haven’t failed enough to succeed yet.

To let go of regret. The one that got away may not have been the right one for you after all. Even if it was, it’s gone. Stop rueing that. Open the door to something else.

To get clear on your values. Figure out what’s really important to you. Maybe some of your wasted time was attributable to uncertainty. If you don’t know what’s really important to you, how can you begin to know where to invest your time?

To redefine success. Maybe you haven’t lived out your dreams or achieved success in your lifelong goals. Unless you’ve been in a coma, you have achieved something. Maybe you raised kids or did some charity work. Perhaps you traveled a bit or were a good friend to someone. Whatever you have done, you must realize that those things are just as important as the goals you haven’t achieved.

To let go of expectations. Sometimes we don’t answer opportunity’s knock because we’re certain it won’t work out. But how do you know for sure? Life isn’t one long journey, it’s a series of paths. Sometimes you have to travel the arduous ones to get where you need to go.

To cut out the crap. Nothing that is important and worthwhile is a waste of time, even if it doesn’t get you where you want to go. The lessons we learn along the way are as invaluable as the destination itself. BUT a lot of the things we do routinely are disguised as important, when all they really are is busy-work. Get clear on why you are doing whatever you are doing, and stop doing it if it’s not all that important to the bigger picture

To open yourself up to possibilities. Every day is a chance to start again. Live, laugh, love more. Make time for something you usually pass by. Take a new route to work. Do something silly. Relax. Let go. See every day, every moment, as the right time to make things better – for yourself, for the people in your life, for the world. It doesn’t have to be grand. Sometimes, the most meaningful opportunity is the one you take to be in the present moment and accept it as it is.

Do these things, and you can quickly make up for the life you’ve missed out on. Though it’s not formulaic, all of these things will help you waste less of your precious time. Once you take out the worry and the fear of failure, and you cut out the crap and let go of your expectations; you redefine what you see as an opportunity because you know your values and you see the endless possibilities for a life well-spent, you only have one thing left to do:

Open the damn door!

(And now over to you – what would you like to “catch up on” in your life? Tell us about it in the comments!)