Lynne is a trained Life Coach specializing in helping individuals and families with ADHD / ADD maximize their potential and reach their life goals. I'm an ADD Coach specializing in working with professionals struggling to reach their potential due to challenges with disorganization, poor time-management, procrastination and weak follow-through.
Your perspective on yourself and the world around you can make all the difference in whether you reach your potential, or stay just where you are. It is crucial to living a life of fulfillment! Your perspective can determine what choices you have in life: you are less likely to see all the choices that may be available to you when your focus is not on possibilities.
Many of us spend our lives focused on overcoming our challenges and trying to improve our weaknesses. We become focused on what we cannot do well and on our perceived failures, trying to hide them in shame and valiantly trying to change. From this perspective, you are not building upon or taking advantage of your innate strengths and talents. You are likely letting them languish.
This is not to say that we should not all be trying to improve ourselves and become better human beings, better spouses, better parents, and better friends. Quite the contrary! There’s always room for improvement. But there’s a better way to get there! When you focus on improving your strengths and using your natural talents to be a better person, your challenges tend to be minimized. They start to take a back seat—which is where they should stay!
So how do we change our focus? The answer is simple, but isn’t always easy! It starts with education.
Knowledge is power, but self-knowledge is the most powerful kind of knowledge. If you’re struggling with the challenges and symptoms of ADHD / ADD,
First, educate yourself from reputable sources about ADHD in general.When you have a solid foundation of understanding about why your brain works the way it works, it’s a lot easier to let go of some of that negative self-talk and thinking.
Next, educate yourself about how your ADHD is showing up in you, as an individual.I always say that you ADHD is as unique as your thumb print! How it shows up in you is unique to you, and how it shows up in me is unique to me. It can expedite this process to work with a well-trained ADHD Coach, because those of us with ADHD are notoriously bad self-observers.
Finally, start paying attention to and shifting your focus toward your strengths.Most of us with ADHD lose sight of our strengths and our dreams over years of frustration and perceived failure. Start paying attention to what you do well, and you’ll be able to do more of it!
When you understand your challenges, and move your focus to your strengths, you can build and grow those strengths that are hard-wired in your brain. That’s the point at which your confidence and competence takes over, and you can start to approach your challenges as simply problems in need of solutions, and not moral failings. That’s when you end the “blame and shame” cycle and start having a proactive or creative perspective toward your challenges. Using the great problem-solving skills and out-of-the box thinking we ADHDers are famous for, you learn to live well with your challenges and become fulfilled!
We all have them: at work, at home, and in every aspect of our lives, from time clocks to taxes and bills to birthdays.
For some of us, the pressure of a deadline can be a good motivator. We’ve all heard someone say, “I work best under pressure!” This can feel especially true for many of us who rely on the pressure and adrenaline rush of the deadline to stimulate our sluggish brains and help us to focus and get moving.
The pattern of delaying action until the deadline nears (or passes), and then frantically working to get things done is one I see in a many of my coaching clients. And when we’re younger, it can actually be sort of effective. But over time, especially as we get older and life becomes more complex, this approach can really take its toll! And the time it takes our bodies and minds to recover from these frantic flurries starts to get longer and more difficult.
We put our minds and bodies through an excessive amount of stress when we live in this Procrastinate/Rush/Crash cycle. And when we’re in the crash, recovery aftermath, we can be pretty much fried, and even more things that need to be taken care of are left unattended, and the cycle (or “procrastination cyclone”, perpetuates itself, and the vortex of stress and anxiety it creates expands.
As a woman with ADD myself, I get it. I’ve been there! But I’ve developed some unique approaches to harness the power of the deadline, without making life unmanageable or insane in the process!
You may or may not have noticed that my blog post & newsletter usually come out toward the end of the month. Often, it comes out AT the end of the month–sometimes even later in the evening on the last day of the month! But I do make sure that I get one out each month.
Looking at my last-minute routine, it may look like procrastination to the “untrained eye.” The truth is, however, I actually do it on purpose. (No, seriously! I actually do.)
It has taken me many years, but I have learned very well how my brain functions best, and I am very comfortable working from my own personal set of strengths. This kind of self-knowledge and self-acceptance has come from many, many years of struggle and suffering by trying to work against my quirks, as well as many years of very hard work in educating myself about me.
Most of my life, I felt like a hamster on a wheel trying to keep up with the rest of the world in terms of organization, clutter control, time management, productivity, etc. As a kid, I didn’t understand why I couldn’t keep my backpack organized, be on time, keep my room tidy, and get to school with everything I needed (or come home from school with everything I needed). I felt like the kids around me did it all so effortlessly, and I couldn’t quite “get it together.” I knew I was smart enough, but felt like everyone else knew some sort of secret that I wasn’t in on.
As an adult, as hard as I tried, for instance, my house never seemed organized enough, and I was constantly battling deadlines, piles and time clocks at work, always a few minutes behind to drop off my kids at school, and chronically a few days late with their tuition payments. I marveled at the others around me who made it look so easy.
Every few months I would try the latest time management system (a new day timer, desk blotter calendar, stickers, whatever), clutter busting technique, or time-saving gadget—and always with the same result. I could set them up beautifully, but it all fell apart after not much time. I knew I was intelligent enough, but blamed myself for being lazy, scattered, and undisciplined. As it turns out, I’m none of these! And neither are my clients.
So here’s my deep, dark, newsletter secret: the Power of “Purposeful Procrastination”! I’ve learned that my brain wiring thrives on the stimulation of a looming deadline, and nearly shuts down when I am overwhelmed. It’s not that I crave the pressure, but it can be a positively motivating force when harnessed properly. I’ve learned just how much is the right amount of pressure I need to give myself to be most effective, and I’ve also learned where the shut-down, tipping point of too much pressure will likely occur before I get there. I have developed systems and tools that work with my brain in a way that takes advantage of my strengths, and minimizes my personal weaknesses. I know that if I start my newsletter too long before I actually plan to send it out, it will either not get finished or not be my best quality work. But I know that I need to take a few concrete, specific steps in advance (like picking the topic and creating a document the first week of the month, jotting down some bullet-point ideas the second week of the month, and so on). I know how much time I really need to get it done (which is likely just a tiny bit more than I think it will take!), and how much time is too much.
That’s just one simple example of how I work with my own strengths and natural tendencies (what I call my U.O.S., or “Unique Operating System”). I try to approach every aspect of my life this way, and have helped thousands of professionals do the same for themselves of the last 12 years or so. I help them uncover their areas of strengths and learn how to work from them, rather than against them. Many of us have a hard time seeing where our strengths and “gifts” are, because we’re so used to focusing on trying to make our weaknesses stronger, rather than build upon existing areas of strength.
Most of us will never succeed with the one-size-fits-all approaches to life we read about in self-help books and magazines. Believe me, I’ve tried MANY!!! But with the right systems for your unique personality that take advantage of what you already do well, you can build your life on your own, firm foundation. And get off that hamster wheel!
How do you work WITH your strengths?
I’ll bet there are many ways you’re already working with your own strengths and traits that you may not even be aware of. Start paying attention to the things you’re already doing well to find areas of strength on which to build.
I would love to help you learn to work with your own, unique strengths and start functioning at that optimal level—where you know, deep down, you can be.
Have you ever felt confused by conflicting advice from productivity experts?
I read one article that talks about how Richard Branson recommends getting up at 5:00 AM to exercise and organize the day. Tesla CEO and billionaire Elon Musk reportedly pulls all-nighters and sleeps on the floor in front of his desk to maximize productivity. Apple’s Tim Cook proudly claims that he gets up at 3:45 AM to get on top of his email, while the world’s wealthiest man, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, advocates a good night’s sleep and a leisurely start to the morning doing what he calls, “puttering” until he’s fully up to speed around 10:00 AM.
Overwhelmed by the growing volume of unfinished projects and incomplete to-dos.
So, you search YouTube for productivity help and stumble upon a great video that explains how to use a bullet journal. It’s creative, it’s flexible, and it looks like the answer to your prayers! But a month later, and that perfect bullet journal your created is MIA and you’re not back at square one, but even further behind than you were to start! (Is there such a thing as negative square one? I say that there is, because I know I’ve been there!)
At first, that new system is exciting and interesting and you’re all in! You’re committed to making this one work. You really, truly believe that things are going to be different his time! Your commitment and your enthusiasm and your intentions are unwavering. This is it! This is “THE ONE”! You’re finally getting “it” together once and for all. You’re finally going to take control of your calendar, manage your time effectively, and make your to-do list your servant like you know you can.
But I know how this movie ends. I’ve seen it before, and it’s a tear-jerker at the end. Heart-breaking, really!
For more than a decade, I’ve helped professionals who struggle with procrastination, disorganization and poor time-management learn to accomplish what they intend and take control of their time so that they can consistently perform at the level of the abilities and have even more time, energy and money for what’s most important to them.
They don’t get there by plugging themselves into someone else’s system. They don’t get there by watching YouTube videos or reading productivity articles by experts. Yes, some people make it look easy. Some people find that “boxed” system, plug themselves into it, and they’re good to go indefinitely. Some people get lucky and stumble into something that works for them. (You know that expression, “Even a blind squirrel gets a nut once in a while”?)
But so far, you feel like a nutless, blind squirrel!
The truth is that very few of us are consistently successful by simply plugging ourselves into someone else’s system or way of doing things. Yes, we may find something that works for a little while, but not for the long haul.
So what do we do?
We blame ourselves. We call ourselves undisciplined. We believe we lack the willpower and determination it takes to be consistent, and we feel ashamed.
But here’s the cold, hard truth…
It’s not you. It’s the system!
If your productivity and performance at work or at home isn’t at the level of your abilities, it’s because you haven’t created YOUR system. You haven’t created a system that works with your natural strengths, your natural tendencies, your natural rhythms of focus and energy, how you process and organize information and the things around you naturally. You haven’t created a system that falls in your “sweet spot” of structure—enough structure to support you, but not so much that it stifles your or makes you feel resentful. These are the things I call your Unique Operating System, your “UOS”.
You were born with what you need to be successful. Deep down, you know it. You know your potential far exceeds the way you show up every day, and what you do (and don’t do). When you’re in tune with your natural strengths and tendencies, when you’re in tune with how you work best and not focused on how you or other people think you should work best, it all gets easier.
You really can become the master of your time, accomplish what you intend, perform according to your abilities AND have a life with the time and energy for you value most. Your family. Your friends. Your community. Your faith. Your interests. Yourself.
It really doesn’t have to be so hard!
So, look around and take an objective look at what’s working and what’s not. What’s working is the key to overcoming what’s not.
Food for thought…
Share your favorite productivity tools, systems and strategies below!
Sometimes, one of the hardest things for an individual with ADHD to do is just to get started! Other times, we have great energy and enthusiasm and get started with a “bang,” only to lose momentum and struggle to follow through and finish. I know many of you have left a wake of unfinished projects behind you! I hear about them all the time from my clients, and I’ve been there myself.
I’ve given you many tools to help you get started in these articles, but once we get started, it’s important to create momentum that lasts!
When we build momentum, what we need to do becomes less of struggle, and the momentum continues with much less effort—and that’s how you get to the finish line! That’s how you finish what you start, and follow through on your intentions–by letting physics do the work—by building momentum, and letting that momentum carry you, rather than by pushing through on your own.
Getting in touch with the “Who” of what you’re doing, why it matters in the deeper sense related to your values, is one way to maintain that momentum. Creating visual reminders, such as vision board and other reminders, can help keep that motivator in the front of your mind.
Noticing and keeping track of your progress (no matter how small) and truly celebrating and taking pride in that progress is another important tool for building momentum, but it’s very hard for some of us to do without a serious shift in our thinking.
How are you focusing on your progress, and rewarding your effort? Are you appreciating the smaller steps it takes to get to your destination, or only giving yourself credit for crossing the finish line? Does your “less-than-perfect” effort or outcome deserve acknowledgement and recognition? If not, your biggest obstacle may just well be the one between your ears!
What can you pay attention to that will help you build momentum?
This is an extremely busy time of year for my business, and my personal life is no less full right now. Some days, I feel like my calendar is bursting at the seams! Everybody can relate to that feeling. Each of us has more to do than can realistically be done some days. That’s how life is, right? But if we don’t stay on top of the things we need to do consistently, these periods where life throws extra busy-ness at us can be a nightmare!
Honestly, if things didn’t run pretty smoothly around here the rest of the time, I’d be pretty close to losing my mind right now. If my house were a mess, my laundry out of control, my refrigerator empty, and my counter covered in paper, I’d feel like I was stuck in the bottom of a pretty big hole right now. If my office were a shambles, my business bookkeeping behind, and my email inbox overflowing, I’d be feeling pretty discouraged with myself and about my life right now.
And I know this first hand! I have ADHD, and I spent a lot of years with a messy house, a mountain of laundry, an empty refrigerator and counter tops covered in bills and mail and other papers. And there was no way in those days that I really could have dreamed of running my own business, let alone everything else I do, and maintained any degree of sanity!
I’m not tooting my own horn! I know, without a shadow of a doubt that I’m not any smarter than you. I’m not a harder worker than you are. And I know I don’t have any more self-discipline than you have! (I hate that phrase—self-discipline! It’s so judgy and laced with shame and judgement.)
I don’t do anything you can’t learn to do yourself.
For me, the cornerstone of how I keep it together (most of the time, cause I’m sure not perfect!) is my routine, really my routineS–plural! For me, it’s all about rhythm and habit—it’s about putting my life on auto-pilot in every way I can!
One of the most effective ways to start to improve your ability to get stuff done is by using “The Power of Auto-Pilot.” It’s a rather simple concept, and sort of intuitive once you get the hang of it, but it can be HUGE in payback—both from a productivity perspective and an energy perspective. Think of it like putting your life on cruise control, and the benefit can be immeasurable!
First, we know that things that happen repeatedly as a matter of habit are processed in a different part of the brain—the part that is used for instinct and reflex—and it is much less evolved than the parts of the brain that handle our Executive Functions. Also, we know that sort of “lower” part of the brain uses much less energy, much less glucose, than those higher-order mental processes. And mental energy equals physical energy, so we really want to take advantage of that when we can to free up energy for the more important things in our lives, right?! Your interests, your hobbies, the people and things you care about most, and even yourself!
Simply creating a sort of natural rhythm to your life so enables you to use less energy to get done what you need to do! When you harness the power of routines and put these things on auto-pilot, you completely take your own mind and its struggles with activation, procrastination, prioritization, and overwhelm OUT OF THE EQUATION! When you can get your head out of the equation, life can be a lot easier!
So, give it a try! Start to pay attention to what happens repeatedly—daily, weekly, or monthly—and take a look at how you can create a rhythm or routine that you can put on autopilot for yourself.
And start slowly! Research has shown that focusing on changing fewer behaviors one time makes it easier to solidify those behaviors. So, for starters, pick 1-3 things that happen each day and focus on finding ways to turn them into a routine. Add one or two more when those things become no-brainers and are on full autopilot for you.
Please share your thoughts, successes and challenges. I’m here to help!
It’s a story I hear every single day, and it’s a story I could have written! The story I used to live myself, day in and day out.
My clients come to me looking to improve their performance and their productivity. They say that they are. . .
They tell themselves that they just need to try harder. But, that’s a lie!
The truth is quite the opposite. The truth is that my clients, like me, are some of the hardest working people you could ever know! Many of them do more in a given day than others could dream of. It’s often just not the right stuff that they’re doing!
The problem isn’t that they don’t work hard enough or try hard enough. The problem is that they are being driven by their Attention rather than by their Intention.
The key to being able to follow-through on the right things and do what we mean to do, when we mean to do it, is working from Intention rather than working from Attention. Here’s what I mean…
When our lives are driven by our Attention, we’re just keeping up at best. We’re busy, we’re working hard, but we’re not taking care of the things we really need and intend to do. We’re not doing the things that will move our lives forward (personally and professionally).
We Put out Fires.
When our actions are being driven by our Attention, rather than our Intention, we’re taking care of what we notice. We’re taking care of what we see in the moment. We’re taking care of what’s right in front of us, right now. We’re putting out fires and dealing with crisis after crisis in the moment.
And we’re exhausted!
But we’re still not getting done what we want, need and Intend to do. We’re not planning ahead. We’re not being proactive. We’re not preventing those fires and crises that consume our days.
We’re Not Moving Ahead.
I know what it’s like to be driven by Attention rather than Intention. As a woman with ADD, I spent many years and an untold amount of energy with my actions being driven by my attention, rather than my intention. I often say it felt like. . .
I spent my days Spinning around with One Shoe Nailed to the Floor!
Every day ended in Exhaustion and Frustration. Every day ended with me knowing that, somehow, I could have done more. And I could have done it better.
I was always hard-working and incredibly busy, but had very little to show for it!
What is driving your behavior today?
What is determining how you spend your time?
Are you busy reacting and putting out fires, or are you busy preventing fires and being proactive?
Are YOU busy moving forward, or are you spinning in place?
Humor me for a second. . .
Imagine that your life is a bus. (I know. It sounds crazy, but hang in there with me!) On that bus is all that you are and all that you’re capable of being. On that bus is your Potential. That bus, filled with who you are and what you’re truly capable of achieving, is headed toward this very real place that is called Fulfillment. Or at least, it should be.
That place called Fulfillment is where you do more than just what you need to do to get through the days. It’s where you do what brings you joy, satisfaction and contentment. That place called Fulfillment is where you go to bed feeling gratified and actualized. It’s where you wake up excited at the possibilities of what the day can bring, rather than waking up feeling dread and weary before the day even begins.
Here’s the good news! Fulfillment actually exists! It’s not an illusion or a tease. And I know it exists, because I found it. I already live there, today! Alongside many people just like me and just like you.
Now, please don’t get me wrong! I’m not going to pretend for one second that every day of my life is nothing but sunshine and roses, because it’s not! I’m human, I’m far from perfect, and I live in a world that’s far from perfect full of other people who are far from perfect, too. Stuff happens but, more often than not, my days end with a sense of satisfaction and feelings of accomplishment, and they begin knowing that I’m moving in the right direction.
Most days, I’m behind the wheel of that bus, and I’m driving it in the right direction. Sure. There are speed-bumps and detours and life makes my proverbial GPS have to “recalculate” from time to time but, overall, I’m really good with where I’m going. And if you knew me at all you’d know that I’m not telling you any of that because I want you to think that I’m perfect (because I’m not even close), or to make you feel worse about yourself! That’s not it at all.
I want you to know that there is a better way to live. An easier way to live. I want you to know that there is hope! Because…
If a messy, disorganized, underachievingscattered woman with ADD like me can feel Satisfaction and Fulfillment, I know that you can, too!
When was the last time you felt it
Think about it.
Are you behind the wheel, Driving the proverbial bus that is your life’s Potential, or are you running along behind it?
I promise that if you don’t change what you’re doing now, the distance between you and that bus will only grow wider.
Today’s the day you can start to close the gap between your actions and your intentions, and start moving toward your own potential! Just like I have, and just like my clients do every day.
What do you need to change for that to happen?
How can you Clarify your Intentions and keep them in front of you so that they guide your actions and direction throughout your days?
I hope you’ll give it some thought!
Stay tuned! I’ll give you some practical, actionable tips in the coming weeks.
I read a post in an on-line forum for individuals with ADHD / ADD in which someone asked what others see as advantages to having ADHD. As I read the responses, I came across one from an individual who was clearly struggling (like so many of us do) and bemoaning the condition as a malady and a malfunction with no “up-side”. And, while I completely get where the individual was coming from and know the pain that the challenges of this ADHD brain wiring can bring, I knew I just had to chime in with my perspective– as an ADHD Coach and a woman with ADHD myself.
If you or someone you care about is struggling to see their own “ADDvantages,” I hope you find something in my rant (below) that inspires you to try to take a look at things a bit differently–whether you do that alone, or with the help of a coach…
One Coach’s Perspective:
I have to say that I respectfully disagree with the assertion that ADHD is no more than a malady and a malfunction with no “up-side” and, as an ADHD Coach, I wonder how much of that perspective is just the very thing that is holding that person back. Don’t get me wrong: ADHD is definitely not all “sunshine and roses”! I work with people every day who are really, really struggling, in large part due to their ADHD-related characteristics. And, as a woman with ADHD myself, I’ve been there and will always continue to struggle with certain things. But so much of what makes a client shift from struggling to what I call, “Learning to live Well with ADHD,” is a change in their thinking and perspective about themselves and their ADHD. It’s this “between-the-ears” piece that is the biggest holdback for so many of my clients.
When we are stuck in that negative mindset about our ADHD—focused on our challenges and what we don’t do well—we are functioning from a perspective of failure and fear. We become stuck in a cycle of self-blame and shame that keeps us from moving forward, and enhances our “imperfections.” When we can shift our focus to our strengths and an appreciation for our own individual talents and “gifts”, it’s so much easier to see past all the angst and embrace solutions. My clients with ADHD will really struggle with finding solutions to their challenges that work for them and stick until they can make that mindset shift. It’s not easy, but it’s about taking a strength-based approach to managing your challenges. And while meds can sometimes make it easier for us to focus to learn to do things differently, we still have to do the work to learn those things, and to be open to them.
Yes, it stinks to have the attention span of a gnat one minute, and then become so hyper-focused on something that we lose track of everything else the next! But there are solutions for that. And it stinks to have to work so hard to manage the paper in my life when people like my husband seem to do it so effortlessly. But there are solutions for that, too. And it stinks to have trouble regulating motivation. But there are solutions for that as well. I help my clients create those solutions every day–and they’re always based on the strengths and natural tendencies of the individual. And we can’t create those solutions with a negative, “I have a curse” mindset!
When we’re focused on the “curse” side of our traits, what is challenging for us or what we’re not good at, we’re aren’t focused on our strengths and what might already be working for us. We become mired in blame and shame and negative judgement. We can’t focus on finding solutions to our challenges, or be open to seeing those solutions and the progress we’re making when we’re in a negative mindset and focused only on what’s NOT working. When we’re only focused on the “curse” that is our ADHD brain wiring.
There are two sides to every proverbial coin–you get to choose on which side you concentrate your focus. Obviously, you can’t ignore the negative side, but if it hasn’t helped you to focus on your challenges so far, you might want to try a different approach!
Here’s what I mean. Here are a few typical characteristics of individuals with ADHD / ADD, and the negative AND more positive side of each of them:
We have difficulty regulating focus on one thing, but we tend to interest in and aptitude for many different things.
We may tend to procrastinate, but we often have very high standards for ourselves.
Our mental restlessness (cognitive hyperactivity) makes us great brainstormers and out-of-the-box idea generators.
Impulsivity can make us willing risk-takers.
We may have acute sensitivities, but that often makes us highly intuitive, empathetic and caring.
We may have horrible time blindness, but we can work much harder, longer, and more intensely when I get into flow.
Plus, for every single negative trait or characteristic each of us has, personally, we easily have as many or more positive characteristics or traits! And for every challenge we have, I guarantee you that we have found ways to mitigate those challenges in at least a few circumstances. And THAT is where the keys to your personal success lie: in what already works for you. And you can’t be open to uncovering and learning from what works so that you can apply it to your challenges if you’re always stuck in that “curse” perspective!
I think of my ADHD characteristics as pieces and parts of what make up who I am. I have blonde hair, blue eyes, unpredictable attention, a poor sense of time, an affinity for “shiny” things, and size 9 feet! (I can’t believe I just put that on the internet!) But that’s who I am. And that difficulty regulating my attention that comes from my ADHD brain also makes me interested in lots and lots of different things, which has made me good (maybe not great) at lots of different things. More things than most people I know who don’t have ADHD. I can frame a structure, hang drywall, do plumbing repairs, and decorate beautifully. I am intuitive, and funny and kind and sensitive and a great listener (as long as the person talking doesn’t talk to slow or repeat themselves too much!), and I am as loyal to the people I love (and who love me back) as any dog. I have been a professional writer, a professional singer, and I own and manage several rental properties in addition to having a very full-time coaching practice. Who else but someone with ADHD could or would do all that? I also happen to suck at paperwork, procrastinate horribly at things like filing, have a wonky working memory, and have to work damned hard to keep on top of simple things like book keeping and housework.
But who would you rather have for a friend? A really good filer, or a really good listener?
Unlock your Potential with your Unique Operating System!
You are hard-wired for success! Each of us is born with what we need to achieve, your own natural Success System I call your “Unique Operating System”, or (UOS). It’s your key to success!
Your UOS is what comes natural to you. It’s what comes easiest to you. Your UOS comprises your unique talents, strengths and ways of doing things. It includes how you process information naturally, and how you organize things naturally, and more. It’s unique. It’s yours alone.
Simplistically, these are some of the basic components of your Unique Operating System:
Processing Style: How you learn and process information naturally. (Visual, Verbal/Aural, Kinesthetic, etc.)
Organizational Style: How you organize information and physical objects and space naturally. (Are you a pile-maker? Are you a clusterer? Do you like to spread out?)
Interests: What stimulates you. What gets your motor running.
Habits: What you already do regularly. What is consistent for you. What already works.
Energy Flow: The times of day you are most clear, focused and productive, and the times when you’re most sluggish (cognitively and physically).
Beliefs & Values. How you see yourself, the world, right and wrong.
Many of us (people like you and me who have busy, creative brains) struggle to stay organized, focused and productive are less than effective because we’re working against our strengths, rather than with our strengths. We try hard every day, but feel like we’re coming up short of our potential because we can’t seem to stay in front of our to-dos, calendars and responsibilities consistently.
And it’s not a coincidence that most of us who feel like we are under-performing are trying to plug ourselves into someone else’s way of doing things—someone else’s systems and tools. Once in a while, we might get lucky and find something that sticks for a while. But most of the time, those changes are short-lived. You might do well in the beginning when you’re full of excitement and hope, but you can’t sustain the required effort for the long haul. Most of the time, those changes don’t last in any meaningful way that you can rely on.
So you try another system. Another gadget. Another gizmo. Another app. And you start from scratch over and over and over again. Hoping to find “The One”! Like a hopeless romantic waiting for Prince (or Princess) Charming to save the day and, with that magical glass slipper in hand, find your fits-like-a-glove productivity system.
Eventually, hope and promise evaporate, and you feel like a failure, yet again. Sound familiar? If you’re still reading, I’ll bet it does. But…
Why? Because the solutions that work best for you are not in an app or a book or a planner.
The Solutions that Work Best for You are in your Unique Operating System!
What comes naturally is what’s easiest for you. What is easiest for you requires less effort for positive payback. And when we find the right balance between effort and payback, motivation becomes a non-issue.
When you’re using your natural strengths, talents and inclinations, it’s easier to be consistent and stick with what you’re doing which, in turns, makes it more likely that you’ll follow through. And consistency and follow-through are fundamental to making lasting change!
Here are 6 Simple Steps you can take Today to start to Tap Into Your own Unique Operating System:
Uncover your Processing Style. How do you remember things most easily? Do you repeat them to yourself, picture them in your mind, touch them, or something else? There are lots of exercises you can do to help you uncover how you naturally process information. Most of us have a combination of processing styles that are most natural to us. When we work with our natural style, life is easier!
Identify your organizational style. Are you a pile-maker? Do you tend to cluster like things together? Do you need certain areas clear and uncluttered to function well, while other areas can be a mess without impacting you much? Creating systems and tools that work with your natural rather than against it can make it easier to be consistent, and improve performance.
Take Note of your Energy Flow. Each of us has a natural rhythm to our energy throughout the day. There are peaks and valleys in clarity, focus and processing power that ebb and flow throughout each day. Pay attention to your “high spots” and your low spots and plan your activities correspondingly. For those “low spots”, play with what might help them be a little less low (eating a snack, moving your body, doing a high-interest activity at the beginning to give yourself a boost of dopamine, etc.)
Find What Already Works. What are you already doing that works? For example, what are the things that you never (or very rarely) misplace? (And don’t tell me there aren’t any, because I guarantee you that I could help you find them!) For a hint, look at your favorite activities, hobbies, pastimes, etc. Very few avid golfers misplace their favorite shoes and very few devoted fisherman misplace their favorite rods. I promise you there’s something if you look! Ask yourself: what are you doing with those things or how are you thinking about those things that is different from the things you frequently search for? Building on what works rather than trying re-invent the wheel all the time is a faster path to success!
Identify your Most Solid Habits. What habits do you have that are almost as sure at the rising and setting sun? What are the common threads among those habits? What about those habits is easy for you? What’s the payback for those habits? Those habits are the cornerstone of your natural foundation of structure.
Get clear on your Strengths! What are your good at? What do you do so easily that you’ve forgotten that others may struggle with it? What do people often come to you for help with? What is second nature for you that the people around you often lean on? This one is hard for most of my clients, but an important one to look at for uncovering natural strengths! When you can learn your strengths (and appreciate them) you can apply them to your areas of struggle and compensate more easily for the things you’re not great at!
You have the keys to your own success inside of you! Uncovering your Unique Operating System is essential to making the most of your time, energy and abilities. Working with your natural strengths tendencies and talents (your UOS) is the Key to Unlocking Your Potential!
It’s really fundamental to the work I do with my clients in developing the systems, tools and solutions they need to bring their performance up to the level of their abilities. It’s how I help them get their Performance in Sync with their Potentials so that they can go from Stuck to Unstoppable!
I hope I gave you some ideas or at least got you thinking! Questions? Comments?
You start each day with a blank slate. You start each day with good intentions to move those important projects forward, take care of what really needs to be done, and make some headway.
Every day, you aim to make progress and gain some traction on your to-dos. Every day, you hope to take control of your time and your tasks, but every day, stuff just gets in the way.
You put out fires.
You handle what comes at you.
You take care of others’ demands.
You race to resolve the latest crisis.
All the while… the demands and the to-dos and emails just keep coming!
It feels like to you’ve spent the day with one shoe nailed to the floor—spinning around in circles, taking care of what you can within arms’ reach, but not really moving forward on much. It’s exhausting: physically, mentally, and emotionally! It drains your energy and your time, so you have little left at the end of the day for what matters most: your family, your relationships, your health, your dreams, Your Life!
Somehow, people around you (who you know are no smarter or more talented than you) seem to be able to stay on top of things and manage all the chaos. And they make it look so stinking easy!
But it all feels out of your control.
What do they know that you don’t? What do they have that you’re missing? The answer…
They have a “Productivity Compass“ for their day!
A Productivity Compass is their plan, like a GPS, for their day. They have clear direction. They know specifically what they intend to do, and when they’re going to do it. They resist taking care of what isn’t on their “route”, and they take care what they intend to take care of. And they do it naturally, with ease.
We’ve all met those people in real life (I even married one)! They make it all look so easy. They’re like time-management ninjas: tackling their to-dos and knocking out projects left and right while you struggle to keep your head above water.
It’s not wizardry or some mystical mind power (although it can feel like that much of a fantasy, I know). But I promise, it’s something you really can learn to do, and something you can learn to do in ways that are much easier than you may be able to imagine! If I can do it, anyone can!
That kind of time management and productivity mastery is complex, but it’s also simple.
Here’s why… Productivity is complex because it requires a variety of behaviors, systems, tools and habits to work together. Productivity is complex because it requires us to prioritize and plan appropriately, use our calendars well, track and handle our to-dos effectively, control our focus, and manage our time efficiently. There are a lot of pieces that need to come together for us to be productive in meaningful ways. And then, of course, we need to sustain all those pieces and keep up with them so that they can support us. I call these the “Pillars of Productivity” (but more on that later). Like I said, productivity is complex!
But even the most complex things are made up of smaller, simpler parts! And when we focus on making improvement to those smaller parts, we can make significant improvement overall. A great place to start is with what I call your “Productivity Compass.”
One of the things that makes the biggest difference for my clients in their productivity is to start each day with a clear, well mapped-out plan. I call this “setting yourself up” for the day and, really, it’s the simplest way you can set yourself up for success each day. (Hence the name!) Exactly what that plan looks like will be a little different for each person based on what comes naturally and works best for them, including: how much structure they like and find supportive; how their energy ebbs and flows throughout the day; how they naturally organize and process information, etc. I tease those things out with my clients, but those are not the most important parts of an effective plan.
What’s important is that the plan is specific, clear and task-focused rather than project focused, and that it’s done in advance. The “in advance” part takes some getting used to, but can make a world of difference in your ability to accomplish the important stuff. It’s a habit to create, and a behavior to learn. It might feel awkward and cumbersome in the beginning but, I promise, the more you do it, the more natural it becomes, the less time and energy it takes, and the more clear the value is!
Here’s why, in a nutshell: Planning, or “Deciding” what to do and when to do it, takes a lot of mental processing and requires a lot of Executive Function energy. Getting started on something, what I call “Doing”, happens in the same areas of the brain and uses the same Executive Function energy. Basically, both planning and getting started are draining the same pool of mental energy. Any time you can Separate the Deciding from the Doing, it’s going to feel easier and you’re going to be more effective.
You have less stress, and less fatigue at the beginning and at the end of the day. When your head hits the pillow, you can feel satisfied, and gratified by your day.
So here’s your challenge: For the next month, focus on creating the habit of “Setting yourself Up” for the next day. Grab your calendar and your to-do list, and pull out the tasks you absolutely intend to take care of the following day, while taking into consideration the available time on your calendar and the timeliness of your to-dos. Pick those 3-5 absolutely, non-negotiable intentions and set them apart from the rest somehow (I call them my “Tier 1” tasks), and block time for them in the open space on your calendar.
Next, pick another 2 or 3 “hope-to-do” or “ought to do” tasks and set them apart from the rest (I call them my “Tier 2” tasks). The Tier 2 tasks that don’t get done today usually become my Tier 1 tasks the following day, and the flow continues. (Of course, I’m delegating what I can, saying “no” when I need to, and quickly re-evaluating my intentions each day as new stuff arises and pushes Tier 1 tasks back to Tier 2, and vice versa.)
If you can, attach that planning activity to something else that is already happening each day, and set alarms, reminders, leave notes or other prompts for yourself until it becomes easier to remember. But make sure you block that time for yourself. Don’t worry if you need to tweak when and how it happens. That’s all part of creating systems that work for you. It doesn’t mean the system doesn’t work or that you’re a hopeless case, it just means that you have to make small adjustments until you find out what works for you.
The payback is HUGE for an investment of just a few minutes each day!
I hope that gives you some ideas on how you can set up a Productivity Compass for yourself!
Let me know what works for you, and leave questions or insights in the comments. And, as always, don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it!
I know… it sounds simple, but simple doesn’t always mean easy!
Lynne Edris, ACG
Productivity & ADHD Coach
P.S. Want to learn how I can help you accomplish what you need AND get More Time and More Energy? Click the image below to find out how I can help you start “Firing on All Cylinders,” too!
I know you work hard. I know you give your all each day. I know you’re exhausted at the end of the day. I know you’re overwhelmed. I don’t doubt any of that! But, that is not the question I’m asking.
Are you Busy or Productive?
Busy is doing stuff–lots of stuff. Busy is working hard. Busy is running around and taking care of stuff moment-to-moment. Busy is taking care of what needs to be taken care of right now. But, make no mistake…
Busy Does NOT Mean Productive!
Busy exhausting, it’s overwhelming, and it’s frustrating! Busy is moving, but not moving forward—like someone who is treading water or who is spinning around with one shoe nailed to the floor.
Productive is Intentional.
Productive is meaningful. Productive has purpose and direction. Productive makes a contribution toward an objective or toward a greater goal. Productive moves you forward at consistently.
Busy is often how we measure our days, but it’s not a meaningful measure. Productivity can (and should) be quantified, but maybe not in the way you may think! Productivity cannot be measured by simply counting how many things got ticked off your to-do list. You can only measure productivity by measuring Progress Toward an Outcome.
Think about it, and look objectively at the last month of your life. Now, ask yourself again, what percentage of your days…
Are you Busy or Productive?
Most of my clients work their asses off all day long at work, and at home, but rarely feel like they’re making the kind of progress they want to. And it shows. Their businesses are not growing or their careers are not advancing in the way they know they can.
Most people will say they’re busy, and they’re 100% right! We’re all busy. We all have more to do than we can finish in any given day. It’s true!
We all have the same 24 hours in each day. Why is it that some people seem to make the most of their 24 hours to achieve great things in their businesses and their lives, while you struggle to keep your head above water? How can those same high-achieving, highly successful people also have great relationships and full personal lives while you inch forward on your best days and barely have time to squeeze out a few minutes for your significant other, closest friends or yourself?
They’re probably not smarter than you. They’re probably not working harder than you.
What’s their secret to success?
First, They Know Their Why! They know the real purpose of what they’re doing. When you know your Why, you have purpose. You know the reason for what you’re doing. (I know you’re asking yourself, how do I know what my Why is? I can’t answer that for you—it’s different for each of us.) Why did you start your business? Why do you do your job? It’s the deep-down reason you put one foot in front of the other. Knowing your Why and keeping it in front of you makes the hard work you have to do a lot easier and more meaningful!
Next, They Know Their What! They have clarity in their desired outcome. What are the most important outcomes for your job? What’s most important to your business now? You need to know what you’re moving toward to know which way to go. Your “What” is like the destination you enter in your GPS.
Next, They Have Daily Direction! They start their day knowing what they intend to do, and focused on what gives them meaningful movement toward their outcome, their clear What. That daily direction is like the route on your GPS that moves you toward your destination. I call these my Daily Intentions—I start every day with a clear, concise list of what I truly intend to take care of that day. If you don’t clearly set your daily intentions, you’re more likely to be busy than productive. I tell my clients that if they don’t set clear intentions, they’ll spend too much of their day taking care of what pops up than what is meaningful.
They Know Their Limits! They delegate what others can do more cost-effectively. They say No (or “Not Now”) to activities, opportunities and ideas that will not move them toward their current What. They have processes and systems in place for making sure those ideas and activities are not forgotten or lost forever.
Finally, They Have Reviews. They take time near the end of each day to see what’s left and objectively look at their day. They review, course-correct when needed, assess their progress toward their outcomes, and set their intentions for the next day
And they lather, rinse, and repeat.
Doesn’t this Sound Easy?
Of course it’s not! But, it can be when it’s done right. And if you’d figured that out, you’d already be doing it (and not reading this)! I’m sure you’ve done some form of this before (probably somebody else’s system you tried to plug yourself into), but it wasn’t sustainable for you. Doing it in a way that comes naturally to you is what it’s all about.
What’s Natural is Easy.
What’s Easy is Sustainable.
And what’s Sustainable makes managing your whole life and achieving your desired outcome Easier!
Stop struggling and trying to figure it out for yourself! That’s my job, and it’s what I do best! Let me help you make the most of your 24 hours to create the business and the life you want most, no matter what that is for you. I can help you put your performance in sync with your potential once and for all, and give you control of your time.