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Know the Barriers to Get Started on a Big Project, and You Can Start to Break them Down
So, you’ve had this Big Idea for a while and you still find it brilliant every time you think about it. Or you’ve been assigned a major project and you’re stoked about it cuz it could yield some good results for your career. But it hasn’t gone beyond that. You haven’t started it. Why IS it so hard to get started on a big project or idea?!
Why won’t our engines fire up on that major project, even as the deadline nears?
In a recent Episode of CrusherTV, I introduced what I call the Roadmap for Any Big Thing – whether an idea or a major project.
It consists of 4 Phases…
The Roadmap for Any “Big Thing”: Each Phase has unique barriers to action.
And I talked about the importance of understanding which of the 4 Phases of a Big Thing you’re stuck in. Because each Phase has its own unique barriers and solutions – and once you identify that Phase, you can choose the right mental tools for breaking through to the next level – and onward to completion.
In this post, I’ll illuminate the main barriers to getting started (Phase II), and ways to mitigate those barriers, so you’ll be more likely to finally…start!
(By the way, perhaps you’ve noticed in your struggles with procrastination on big projects/ideas…)
“The bigger the idea, the bigger and hairier the project, the more likely we are to either procrastinate on starting it, or never start it. Even if we know it would be a great thing!” – Alan P. Brown TWEET THIS
Why It’s So Hard to Get Started on a Big Project
Phase II – The Start, is where so many of us get stuck. It’s that place between “OK, this is a clearly defined thing that I can and will do,” …and actually taking that first concrete action of starting it. There are three key barriers here that get in our way:
An obvious barrier is plain old procrastination in the form of Temporal Discounting: “No worries, dude – there’s plenty of time on this!”
Or as is often the case with Big Ideas like our first book or our idea for our side-hustle, there is no firm deadline for completing them. So there’s never any fire lit under your butt!
This is of course classic ADHD behavior, right? We conveniently remain blind to the encroaching deadline — or wait until next year to think about our book/app/start-up again — until either it becomes a massive inconvenience requiring our action, or we just give up on it.
How to Mitigate This Barrier and Get Started on a Big Project: One way to fight back is to have a talk with our Future Self. What do I mean? This quote sets it up nicely:
“Future selves are considered to be strangers, to whom one can pass the buck and impose a heavy and uncompensated burden.” – Christine Tappolet, PhDTWEET THIS
See, procrastination is our Present Self screwing our Future Self, because our Present Self lacks the energy, willpower or incentive, or procrastinates in exchange for some unimportant pleasure or relief or avoidance.
So we must listen to our Future Self when he/she says, “Please don’t burden me by leaving this until the last minute!” — and create an unpleasant deadline for our Present Self to at least get started. One that’s way sooner than the actual deadline (or desired finish, if there’s no formal deadline).
Then populate your calendar with reminders galore that will pop up daily at the very least. The constant reminders will also help mitigate that temporal discounting.
Another barrier, particularly on big, important things, is Fear of Failure: As productivity guru Peter Bregman says, “We procrastinate on that big project precisely because it’s important. So important, in fact, that we’re too scared to work on it. ‘I’m afraid. Afraid that I’ll fail. That I’ll spend a lot of time on it — while other more immediate things don’t get done — and it’ll be terrible, anyway.’”
Got Fear? Call It Out!
How to Mitigate This Barrier: The key first step in de-fanging any fear is to name your fear.
That’s right, all you need do is describe what it is you fear whenever that fear has you stuck. Doing so is scientifically proven to begin shrinking that fear.
Kristy Dalrymple, professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University, says, “The more you try to suppress fear, either by ignoring it or doing something else to displace it, [like escaping into some other, easier activity] the more you will actually experience that fear.”
Naming your fear allows you to accept that you are feeling fearful which lets you examine the causes of your fear – and in doing so, you are shifting your processing away from your lizard brain and into your frontal lobe – where reason and problem-solving begin to shrink it!
The Biggest Reason We Procrastinate on Big Projects
And the third classic (and biggest) barrier is Not Knowing Where to Start. “When I just THINK about starting it, I get frustrated because I can’t figure out where or how to start it.” And this should be no surprise, because a common characteristic of all “Big Things” is that their structure is big, complex and therefore, often unclear before we start.
How to Mitigate This Barrier: I elaborated on this in CrusherTVEpisode 108 (see more on that, below) and in a CrusherTVblog, but in a nutshell the mental trick is to not worry about how or where to start. To quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.”
Huh? Yes, just start. Start before you know where to start, by starting anywhere. Because once you take that first step, you can now see more of the staircase! Then take one more step. Then another.
That’s how you get out of this trap!
Now that you understand these three barriers to get started on a big project or your big idea, you’re in a much better position to fight back and beat them down.
Want 3 Powerful Solutions to Get Started on a Big Project?
In addition to the three above “mitigators” to start breaking down those barriers-to-action, there are also three powerful solutions to totally crush those barriers. One’s a brain hack, one’s a powerful tool you’ve probably heard of, and the other is a no-brainer physical hack.
I’ve served up the powerful brain hack in this CrusherTV Blog, but if you want to dine on all three evidence-based strategies that can help you get energized, and aggressively, intentionally, FINALLY start your big thing, watch the Preview of Episode 108 and consider joining as a Member so you can watch the entire Episode, which also features veteran ADHD coach Lynne Edris.
What’s CrusherTV? It’s not just an online TV show that teaches ways to have more control in your life. It’s a LIBRARY of over 100 20-minute videos teaching ways to beat procrastination, get prioritized, get organized, manage your time, and more. You might get a lot out of watching the entire Episode 108, How to Finally Start Your Big Idea/Project, where I dig deeper into this topic. (To watch full episodes you can become a member for a buck and cancel any time you like, but either way, you can preview that Episode by clicking the image below.)
Episode Description: We all have at least one big idea or project we want or need to start. But too often, they languish, un-started. I’ll show why you’re stuck and evidence-based ways to get going on your biggest, scariest idea/project. Plus, coach Lynne Edris shares keys to your Unique Operating System.
What if you could get all the benefits of meditation…without learning how to meditate?
You’ve heard about the benefits of learning how to meditate – less stress, more clarity and focus. It’s a proven, powerful alternative ADHD solution.
But there’s no way you could meditate regularly, right?
Well, what if you didn’t have to learn how to meditate? I’ll share three evidence-based ways to meditate – that can de-stress and sharpen your mind – without having to “meditate!”
We, More than Others, Need to Know How to Meditate!
Now, if everybody in the world could do with a little more Zen, then we ADHDers could use a triple scoop, no? Just think about frustrations that drive us bonkers daily:
“I’m in a constant state of overwhelm!”
“I never have enough time…always feel it’s running out!”
“I can’t get motivated to start, let alone finish, projects!”
“My to-do list is a monster…and I can’t prioritize!”
Add to that our emotional impulsiveness, impatience, overreacting, quick temper, etc. Yes, we need more Zen!
And yet all these challenges share one thing in common: they’re driven in part by our mind’s – or inner voice’s – interpretation of things around us. And therefore, can be reduced by managing that voice. (This, by the way, is what mindfulness and meditation are, at their core.)
Mindfulness strategies are among the most powerful ADHD alternative solutions in successfully managing my own brain. And I regularly use a toolbox of what I call “Practical Zen Brain Hacks” — simple, super ADD-friendly mental tricks that can be put to work immediately for more peace of mind – and productivity.
For instance, you can flip from a negative mental stance to a positive one by simply mindfully throwing the correct switch in your brain — and change your inner voice, along with your physiology. (Negative thoughts and emotions create a destructive “physiological cascade” of harmful neurotransmitters. Switching to alternative positive thoughts negates that negativity!)
Hence, instead of buying a book to learn how to meditate, do some Practical Zen Brain Hacks. Here are three of my favorites…
You can “meditate” without having to learn how to meditate!
Witness Your Thoughts
Our inner voice is blabbing all the time: “I have no time right now”; “My to-do’s are ALL so important! Oh my goodness!” — and even, “Yeesh, look at those tacky shoes!”
It’s rare, however, that we actually observe it. Which is too bad. Because when we do, we have the chance to step “outside ourselves” to witness that cacophony for what it is: typically, a lot of ego-based chatter, pointless worry about past and future, negative self-talk, petty judgments, etc.
The very act of witnessing our internal dialogue is a form of higher consciousness. And the more you witness it, the more conscious you are, the more present you are, and the more powerfully you can employ these and other life-improving strategies. Indeed, witnessing your mind’s voice is just Step One in shutting it up…
You really don’t need to know how to meditate to get your mind quiet.
Here’s a simple way to quiet your mind…and power it up. It takes as little as 10 seconds and results in a refreshed mindset with which to push forward into a demanding task.
I use this trick whenever my mind’s fatigued or just before sitting down in front of a tough engagement – a complicated memo, speech writing or business call.
I just relax my mind for a couple minutes. Which means, I just stop listening to the chatter flying around in my head and listen instead to my breathing…or visualize a lake…or just stare out the window.
Seriously, a minute or two of that and it’s almost like I’ve taken a power nap. I’m not talking about transcendental meditation here. Anyone can do this, though you do get better at it with practice. Try it next time you sit down at work, before you begin a tough task.
The third Practical Zen Brain Hack is what I call…
Meditate in Motion
You don’t have to be sitting in the lotus position to quiet your mind and reap the benefits. Many daily routines and activities are opportunities for mental peace and/or creative problem-solving.
For instance, be conscious when walking the dog, commuting to work, working out, hanging out with the kids – even doing the dishes or the laundry — which are all times when you don’t need to be stressing over past or future.
You can just be enjoying these things for what they are. And THAT is a quieting of the mind just as formal meditative silence is!
So, if, while walking the dog, you were being the witness to your thoughts, choosing to listen to your breathing or just the sound of the outdoors — you are meditating in motion! Without having to learn how to meditate sitting on a bed of nails!
I hope this all brings home the powerful message that you don’t have to “meditate” to get the ADD-crushing benefits of meditation. Try one or more of these, won’t you? And leave a comment to let me know what you think.
Are You Making Your ADHD Worse?
We ADDers can be at a disadvantage from the get-go, so we have no business adding more troubles to our plate. But we do. There are many things we do TO ourselves – or don’t do FOR ourselves – that make our ADHD worse, or just seem worse. This eBook details five things we must stop doing, and show how to correct course. Stop making your ADHD worse! Get my free eBook, 5 Things You’re Doing Every Day that Make Your ADHD Worse at www.ADDCrusher.com
We have a guest writer for this article, Trevor McDonald, who has written extensively about the correlation between ADHD and substance abuse, addiction and recovery — issues that, sadly, are disproportionately part of the ADHD world. Here he talks about a very important topic many of us with ADHD can unfortunately relate to…
The thought of putting a young child on ADHD medication, typically a stimulant, can be scary. So when parents are faced with this choice, the guard naturally goes up. But this may also be due in part to some myths and misinformation regarding the correlation between ADHD and substance abuse.
Let’s get this out of the way right now: ADHD medication has not been shown to be a gateway to other drugs. It is a legitimate treatment that provides relief for up to 80% of those properly diagnosed and treated. Where things get confusing is when we hear about how ADHD medications are often abused. But a question is, who is abusing them?
Who is Abusing ADHD Medications?
Adderall and Ritalin are the most commonly abused ADHD drugs: they’ve become widely known as “study drugs.” Ask anyone on a college campus and they can probably get you some “addys.” College students are likely to abuse these drugs to help with coursework and studying. If you’ve ever taken an ADHD medication, you understand why.
These drugs certainly won’t make you smarter, but they will help you focus and remain energized enough to get work done. A 2014 survey by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids reported that 20 percent of college kids were abusing prescription stimulants. We can only suspect that this number has increased in subsequent years.
ADHD Medications and Substance Abuse
Perhaps surprisingly, studies have shown that when children are prescribed ADHD medications early in life, they are less likely to develop a substance abuse disorder. Still, there is a strong correlation between substance abuse and ADHD. This is often because undiagnosed as well as diagnosed ADHD adults and teens are using drugs and/or alcohol as “self-medication.”
If even suspect you have a problem with substance abuse, reach out to a counselor with ADHD experience. They are most qualified to help you with both recovery and with the symptoms of your ADHD. The correlation between ADHD and substance abuse is a serious and complicated issue, so don’t go it alone — and know that you’re not alone.
Guest Author’s Bio: Trevor is a freelance writer and recovering addict & alcoholic who’s been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying just about any type of fitness activity imaginable.
You can learn more about Trevor and follow his work at his website by clicking here. A big thanks again to him for contributing!
Having ADHD Can Make It Harder to Be Happier. But…
ADHD and happiness are not always best buds. When we live a life of nearly constant overwhelm, daily frustrations, self-doubt, frequent inability to accomplish things we’re “supposed to be able to” accomplish…Well, that’s a tough place from which to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every day.
It’s no wonder we ADHD adults and teens are statistically more likely to suffer from…
Even those of us considered to have an “up” personality are subject to all of the above — and don’t get me started on some of the even uglier statistics about ADHD and quality-of-life.
But here’s the “but.” We have a surprising amount of control over how happy we are, both in the moment (i.e., there are “happiness hacks” you can use to alter your mood on-demand), and for the longer haul (i.e., there are habits and rituals you can cultivate to have what I call a “happier emotional home”).
It all begins with kicking aside a few myths about ADHD and happiness, and accepting some actual truths about happiness…
Adult ADHD can be rough, but you can be a happier camper.
ADHD and Happiness: The Top 3 Myths
Clichés and “inspirational” quotes about happiness, frankly, just make me sad. And there’s too much BS about happiness out there. For example, unhelpful myths like…
People are hardwired to be either generally happy or unhappy, regardless of what happens in their lives. This has been demolished by research. Yes, as noted above, we ADHD adults and teens are more prone to emotional regulation issues — maybe you saw my recent cover story in ADDitude magazine about ADHD emotions — but we are not genetically destined to be happier or sadder than anyone else — provided we vigilantly know ourselves.
Being happy means you never feel sad. Dr. David Spiegel, director of Stanford’s Center for Integrative Medicine says, “Happiness is not the absence of sadness.” In fact, suppressing sadness suppresses other, more positive emotions as well. Feeling down about a mess-up? It’s better to grieve a bit than to pretend everything’s OK. Just be sure you follow that up with some self-compassion.
“If I just get that raise/win that lottery/etc. — THEN, I promise, I’ll be happy!” Money doesn’t affect happiness — for ADHD teens or adults, or anyone else. The research is stunning: Lottery winners are no happier than paraplegics! Big lottery winners are super happy after winning, but fall to baseline levels in about two months. People who become paralyzed from the waist down also return to baseline levels of happiness within a few months after their accident.
And anecdotally, as someone who’s experienced both being unemployed with $100,000 in credit card debt, and a few years later having over $1m in his checking account, I can tell you that everyday happiness has little to do with money.
Nor does it have much of anything to do with any, external factors. Fact is, it’s little things we can do every day – and try to make into habits and rituals – that can make us happier NOW, and for the long haul.
3 Science-Based Truths About Happiness and ADHD
As you hopefully have noticed by now in this blog and all my writing, speaking and videos, I like science. Whether it’s about ADHD emotions or ADHD alternative solutions or ADHD and quality of life. So herewith: three science-based truths about ADHD and happiness:
One. Happiness is not a condition, but (mostly) a choice. Gratitude, self-compassion and self-forgiveness are just three examples simple choices you can make any time you’re feeling the negative ADHD emotions that come with your frustrations and foibles.
Two. Happiness is not about things you have, but about things you DO. We ADHDers are more prone to impulse purchases than neurotypicals — and it’s in part because we’re trying to feed a happiness need. We’d be better off hanging out with friends or family — or just hanging out with ourselves — than buying something we think will make us happy.
And Three. How you feel about your future… is determined by how you feel NOW. Underline this one, cuz this one is KEY!! If you feel so-so right now, your outlook for next week will be so-so. If you’re down or frustrated right now, your brain is forecasting more frustration for the coming month. And from this mental stance, you’re not gonna be motivated to do much, let alone be at your best.
“Happiness is not about things you have, but about things you DO.” – Alan P. Brown
So, what might you choose to DO today — maybe even right now, to switch from a so-so mood or even an ugly funk? Remember: based on all the above, you can choose to flip a switch to be happier right NOW (e.g., a gratitude prayer, acknowledge a small victory you had today — and explore more examples at the links below), so that you can begin your work with a stronger feeling about the future: “Hey, this is gonna work out pretty well!”
I always say, “We ADHDers don’t have to accept chronic procrastination, disorganization and overwhelm as a ‘lifestyle.'” And neither do we have to resign ourselves to disappointment, regret and pessimism as a ‘lifestyle.’
Want to Learn Some Simple, Evidence-Based Happiness Hacks?
What’s CrusherTV? It’s a LIBRARY of over 100 20-minute videos teaching ways to beat procrastination, get prioritized, get organized, manage your time, and more. You might get a lot out of watching the entire Episode 106: 5 Scientifically-Proven Ways to Be Happier NOW. (To watch full episodes you can become a member for a buck and cancel any time you like, but either way, you can preview that episode by clicking the image below.
Episode Description: Feeling happy right now? Or, if as is more likely, are you working hard, waiting until some happiness arrives? We’re mostly doing the latter. That’s what we humans do. But I’ll share 5 simple ways to be (genuinely) happy right here & now and any time. (Not including the four happiness mini-hacks I share just in the Episode Preview.) And I’m joined by guest expert Dan Fowler, The Imagination Engineer, who has a cool 6-step process for manifesting what you want.
When it comes to your time and your priorities…you’re letting people walk all over you. You just might not realize it. I’ll show you the basics of setting personal boundaries so you can get more of your stuff done.
You deserve to work on your terms, stay on your priorities and protect your precious time from both the demands of others — and your own self-sabotage.
What is meant by personal boundaries? Let’s take a look at an extreme situation that may not be so extreme for you and me as ADHD adults…
Personal Boundaries in Codependent Relationships
Do you know anyone who exhibits any of the following characteristics of being in a codependent relationship?
They’re unable to put their own needs and feelings first;
They don’t feel they have any rights;
They fear that saying “no” will jeopardize their relationships and they’ll end up unloved or alone; and
As a result, they have unhealthy — or nonexistent — personal boundaries.
No? Nobody you know? Allow me to introduce you to … you!
Now, this is not to make light of what can be very serious codependency issues in unhealthy or abusive relationships, or for those struggling with various kinds of addictions (as I once did).
But you don’t have to be psychotherapist-approved to have a few codependent tendencies, or to be living with unhealthy personal boundaries when it comes to your time, your priorities and your privacy — all of which are fundamental to your productivity.
You deserve to work on YOUR priorities, not just everyone else’s!
In this post I want to show you where your lines of defense are most porous so you can better guard your personal boundaries. Let’s begin with some…
Distinctions About Personal Boundaries
Unhealthy, one-sided relationships are underpinned and reinforced by a lack of healthy personal boundaries — the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated or taken advantage of by others.
Now this sounds like pretty serious stuff, and it is in the world of dysfunctional personal relationships and mental health. But we can also look at these through the lens of productivity in day-to-day work or home life. Let’s revisit the key characteristics of codependents, put into the context of the workplace:
They put other people’s needs and feelings before their own. In a relationship, this might manifest as a failure to attend to one’s own feelings and emotional well-being. In the context of work and productivity it’s putting other people’s priorities first, and you don’t get your work done.
Codependents don’t feel they have rights — like the right to say no — to insensitivity or even worse. Day-to-day at work, you may not feel you have the right to say no to a bunch of things — a new project, another meeting, an arbitrary deadline.
They believe setting or enforcing boundaries jeopardizes the relationship; they fear being dumped or not loved. In the workplace, you may fear not being liked or fear being laid off or somehow excluded (e.g., not getting a promotion or raise).
Where Do Our Personal Boundaries Come From?
To understand the reason you may be experiencing any of the aforementioned, it is instructive to understand where these boundaries come from.
For the codependent, boundaries were learned.
From childhood: If you were constantly told to shut up, you learned that you don’t deserve to be heard.
From adolescence: If your personal space was constantly violated, you may have learned that your body is not worth treating with respect. And so on.
But here’s the thing about your boundaries and your productivity: Something that’s learned, is also taught. And every day, as ADHD adults in the workplace and the home, we are teaching others what our boundaries are.
One quick example: I was recently interviewed on a podcast called Dudes to Dads. One of the co-hosts, a very successful e-commerce consultant, noted that he is so responsive to his clients that recently when he didn’t reply to a phone message within 30 minutes, the client got worried and called, emailed and texted, “Dude, are you OK?” That is what he taught his clients.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with great customer service, but training your clients or your co-workers or your boss that a response can be expected in minutes is going to be pulling you away from whatever your priorities are on a constant basis.
Click image to Tweet this quote!
So, boundaries are a critical part of productivity and time management, especially for the ADHD adult. And there are countless areas where we can train others to respect boundaries of our choosing, from emails, phone calls and texts, to requests from the boss or your team to your kids or your spouse.
But we also can and must train ourselves to respect our own boundaries, too — around social media, negative thoughts, gossip and other BS.
So give some thought to where you might have some weak personal boundaries — both at work and at home; both with others and with yourself — and see if there are some opportunities to strengthen them.
When I think about personal boundaries, I’m always reminded of this great quote:
“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you: Not much.” Jim Rohn TWEET THIS
As I mentioned at the outset, you deserve to work on your terms, stay on your priorities and protect your precious time from both the demands of others — and your own self-sabotage.
Remember, whatever’s in your way is yours to crush!
P.S. Have you joined the CrusherTV Facebook Community yet? A great source of videos, articles and conversations about unleashing the power of your brain! CLICK to join us!
“Garbage in. Garbage out.” True for computers, for your brain — and for your ADHD brain fog.
They say, “You are what you eat.” To the extent that’s true, you’d want to eat lots of “brain foods” and steer clear of “stupid foods,” right? Right. So if you want to beat the frustrating ADHD brain fog so many of us ADHD adults (and teens and kids) experience, we need to sort out the brainy from the stupid.
Because there’s a lot of stupid on the food shopping list of the average American — and Canadian, and Brit and everybody else.
In this blog, I’ll dive into the importance of feeding your brain for maximum focus and productivity, and to fight your “ADHD brain fog.”
ADHD brain fog is in part a function of…your diet!
I don’t know about you, but growing up, most of my food came out of a cardboard box. Ah, the ’70s. Breakfast was toaster pizzas. Or, if I was lucky, a Carnation Instant Breakfast (artificial eggnog flavor was my favorite).
And lunch? Peanut butter and mayonnaise on white Wonder Bread. Yum!
And it’s not that my family was poor. We just had very poor knowledge about how simple carbs and processed foods can sabotage academic success. My diet meant I had little fuel for my brain. And sadly, the idea that a donut or a croissant (again, all simple carbs) was a meal, lingered until well into my 30s, where I struggled as an ad executive with undiagnosed adult ADHD.
Then I learned the difference between brain foods and stupid foods, and that you can hack your brain with your diet choices to beat the ADHD brain fog and increase your productivity.
To do so effectively, it’s important to…
Stop Eating the Foods of the Past
Two food categories, in particular, are fast losing traction in the marketplace — and for good reason.
First is refined sugar, or sugars that have been stripped of their fiber. Our brains and bodies are not set up to deal with refined sugar, including and especially high fructose corn syrup. Refined sugar is a toxin. The liver cannot deal with it. Yet, the average American consumes 130 pounds of sugar a year. That’s why one-third of Americans have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. (Most who do don’t realize it.)
Indications that refined sugar is on its way to becoming a food of the past: per capita soda sales are down 25% since 1998. Orange juice, once “part of a healthy breakfast!” but now seen as the unhealthy carrier of fiber-less sugar that it is, is down 45% in the same period. Sales of packaged cereals, just boxes of sugar and carbs, are down more than 25% since 2000.
And here’s why your brain should be happy to say bye-bye to sugary foods: Fructose targets the reward center in the brain, so you jones for more junk food like, well, a junkie. And you get no sustained mental stamina from it.
The second group likely to be relegated to the dustbin of dietary history is those foods in the center of the supermarket. The biggest food marketers, from Kraft to Nestle to General Mills, who make boxed, canned and jarred food products, are getting their butts kicked by the store perimeter. The marketers have profited for generations on cheap, shelf-stable foods that make up most the typical supermarket’s square footage, but the consumer is now avoiding these fake food aisles and sticking to the refrigerated perimeter where the real food is.
Here’s why your brain should be happy to say bye-bye to the store’s center: Most shelf-stable foods are loaded with simple carbs, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives and a fraction of fresh foods’ nutrient quality. Here’s a good rule of thumb from a top researcher in this field: “If you see a food advertised on TV, don’t eat it. If you wanted it or needed it, they wouldn’t have to advertise it.”
“If it’s advertised on TV, don’t eat it. If you wanted it or needed it, they wouldn’t have to advertise it.” – Dr. Robert Lustig, UCSF
Some Simple Diet Solutions to Beat ADHD Brain Fog
In my award-winning Crusher virtual-coach videos, I teach 10 strategies for busy-brained people to escape the overwhelm. And the very first strategy I teach I call “Feed Your Brain.”
Why is this taught first? Because so many of us are eating poop that turns our brains into poop, and we can’t learn new productivity strategies with poop-for-brains. You can’t learn new productivity strategies when your brain is bogged down with stupid food.
And it doesn’t take a lot of effort to get the crap out of your diet and let the good stuff in. Here are four, easy-to-remember diet principles essential to the brain.
● SUGAR SUCKS
● CARBS KILL
● PROTEIN IS POWER
● OMEGAS ARE MEGA
FACT: Sugar and junk foods create a quick blast of energy but then metabolize away, leaving you with an energy crash. And guess what happens after that crash? You look for another energy blast, and grab another piece of sugary crap, never getting any sustained mental energy. So, if you’re eating a glazed donut for breakfast, you are kicking your own ass down the street.
FACT: Simple carbs are much like sugar in that they create a burst of energy that’s short-lived and then leave you in the mental gutter. Now, carbs don’t really kill — in fact, you can’t live without them. But stay away from simple carbs, easily remembered as “white foods:” white bread and pasta, white rice, white potatoes. Hunt down complex carbs instead: whole-grain breads and cereals, brown rice, yams.
Protein is Power
FACT: The brain makes a variety of chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters, to regulate, among other things, alertness. Protein triggers alertness-inducing neurotransmitters that help you focus. You get quality proteins from fish, lean meat, beans, eggs, dairy and protein drinks or powders. And if you use protein drinks or powders, make sure they’re not loaded with sugar, because sugar sucks.
Omegas are Mega
FACT: Certain fatty acids, like the omega-3s and omega-6s found in cold-water fish, can improve brain function and memory. So, get more essential omega fatty acids. To get these and protein, snack on walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts and sardines. Then chow down on salmon, tuna, avocados.
And here’s a bonus: ZIMBY-6. (Z, I, M, B6) Zinc, iron, magnesium and vitamin B6. These are all shown to enhance brain function. Their food sources are many, but keep it simple and just buy some high-quality supplements.
So, all you need to know about diet for right now is: Sugar sucks. Carbs kill. Protein is power. Omegas are mega. And ZIMBY-6.
Take This Action Step to Start Beating ADHD Brain Fog
I feel strongly about this, and so should you — strongly enough to take some action on behalf of your starving, food-abused brain.
On a clean sheet of paper, write across the top, headings for the following five columns:
Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner – Snacks – Indulgences
List under each one the foods you most often eat. Then take a step back, scan the whole sheet and circle those foods that violate our principles of Sugar Sucks, Carbs Kill, Protein is Power and Omegas are Mega.
Now, picture each one you’ve circled in your mind with a big red X through it. Then, stab it, run it over with your car, get out of the car and stab it again. Repeat this exercise with all poisons.
Now that you know the basics of how to keep your brain properly fed for optimal function and overall wellness, perhaps this old adage will have new meaning: Garbage in, garbage out.
Keep that brain fed right, and whatever’s in your way will be yours to crush.
Think self-compassion is a lot of new-age hooey? Think again. I’ve seen the research, and it is powerful stuff. Self-compassion can mean a world of difference for your well-being and productivity. In this post I’ll show you a few quick ways to leverage it.
Indeed, an effective practice of self-compassion is not just feel-good pop-psychology; it’s a recipe to unleash productivity and happiness. A few quick facts:
The simplest of self-compassion interventions have been shown to decrease the odds of depression and increase general happiness.
Self-compassion training has been shown to help smokers quit, and to triple the success rate of obese dieters.
It’s proven to do your productivity good, too. (More about that in a moment.)
So, behold the power of self-compassion. Hmmm…Why do we not know more about this simple concept — especially as a potential ADHD alternative solution? Two reasons…
Show yourself some love. Self-compassion has proven benefits for you and your ADHD brain!
First, few of us know what “self compassion” really means. Dr. Kristin Neff defines it as “extending compassion to the self for one’s failings, inadequacies and experiences of suffering.” And let’s be clear on what self-compassion is not…
It is NOT: Self-indulgence or letting yourself off the hook.
It is NOT: Self-pity. It is definitely not narcissism. Nor is it defending your point of view.
Second, we tend to be wary of self-compassion because we fear we’ll lose our edge; we equate self-compassion with weakness. Particularly in Western cultures, we’re raised to be a toughie, not a fluffy.
Psychologist Kelly McGonigal, one of the top authorities in this area, reminds us that being compassionate toward others is part of human nature — you see a friend or child mess up, and you give an encouraging word. And yet, she says, most of us find it difficult to turn this compassion toward ourselves!
“Compassion toward others is part of human nature — see a friend mess up…you give an encouraging word. Yet we find it difficult to turn this compassion toward ourselves.” – Kelly McGonigal
So you should be more fluffy — at least toward yourself.
To build on some of the benefits noted above, according to McGonigal, those with more self-compassion are less likely to experience anxiety, self-criticism and unhealthy perfectionism. Those with more of it are more optimistic, more socially connected. They’re more open-minded and less prone to anger.
Not practical enough for you? Don’t get huffy, Fluffy: on the productivity front, self-compassion correlates with:
The ability to re-engage after setbacks
More proactivity and personal accountability.
Reduced cortisol and increased release of oxytocin and opiates — putting us “in an optimal mind-state to do our best.”
…as McGonigal sums it up: “[These are] all things that help you achieve your goals.” How’s THAT for an ADHD alternative solution?!
Self-Compassion: How Can I Use It?
So how does one practice self-compassion to garner its veritable cornucopia of benefits? Here are three adjustments you can make to your thinking that’ll help set you on the path to more self-lovin’…
Score your successes. As I wrote in a previous blog, we ADHDers tend to remember every single mess-up, and none of our successes. Take a minute right now and tally a few successes you had this past week. (Here’s mine: I buckled down and wrote this blog after putting it off for over a week; I went online and hired a freelance marketing consultant for a project — i.e., I DELEGATED! Woohoo!; I did my cardio yesterday even though I didn’t feel like it.)
When you do screw up, be kind to yourself. It’s like the golden rule with a twist: treat yourself as you would treat others. Talk to yourself as if you were consoling a good friend — “Hey buddy, don’t sweat it. Let’s try again tomorrow.”
Mindfulness. Bring awareness to the bad feelings and emotions arising from whatever you’re judging yourself about. Let yourself experience those feelings — don’t ignore them.
The more you can make these into habitual mindsets, the less you’ll burn time, energy and spirit on self-defeating BS. And the more you’ll be proactive and powerfully ready to crush whatever’s in your way.
So…Self-compassion has some impressive benefits, and there you have three great ways to start showing yourself some love.
Want to Learn 3 Simple Self-Compassion Interventions?
I dedicated an episode of CrusherTV to The Power of Self-Compassion, and below is the preview of that episode, where I take those three mindset tweaks and build them out into “intervention exercises” that make them more powerful and help with habit-formation. Plus, I share how you can access a self-assessment to see just how self-compassionate you are (or aren’t).
What’s CrusherTV? It’s not just a weekly online TV show that teaches ways to have more control in your life. It’s a LIBRARY of over 95 20-minute videos teaching ways to beat procrastination, get prioritized, get organized, manage your time, and more. You might get a lot out of watching the entire Episode 57, The Power of Self-Compassion, where I dig deeper into this topic. (To watch full episodes you can become a member for a buck and cancel any time you like, but either way, you can preview that episode by clicking the image below.
Episode Description: You think self-compassion is a bunch of “woo-woo” silliness? I’ve seen the research. It’s more like, “Holy cannoli, that’s POWERFUL STUFF!” It is – in terms of your well-being and your productivity. I’ll show you 3 Simple Self-Compassion “Interventions” you can leverage to improve your mood, energy and productivity. Also, my Guest Expert, ADHD coach DeShawn Wert, shares some great self-compassion hacks of her own.
Do you know how to say no? Saying no is a super power that can change your life. Fortunately for us, its not the kind of power you get from a radioactive spider bite or gamma rays. All you have to do is just say — No.
There are 1,440 minutes in every day. But only a small percentage of those are available for intense focus on the core of your job. And the more stuff you say “yes” to, the smaller that percentage will be.
Congratulations, you have 1,440 minutes available to you tomorrow. But you’ll want to use them carefully. Because when you take out minutes for sleep, eating, taking care of yourself, taking care of others, miscellaneous non-productive stuff at work, you’ll have less than 180 minutes of truly focused time to do your job’s core work.
If you read my previous blog post on Energy Vampires, you know how dangerous they can be. Well, one of those energy vampires is you. And one of the reasons you are an energy vampire is that you are saying “yes” to too many people. Every time you do, you give away a bunch of your precious time and energy. This is why you must learn how to say no.
There is a famous quote by Warren Buffett that says, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.”
So stop giving away so many of your precious 1,440 — I’m sorry, your less than 180 minutes — by saying “yes!” to the Power of No.
Saying no can be difficult at first, but the power of the word can be life changing.
WHY IT’S SO HARD TO JUST SAY “NO”
Well, we are programmed for “yes” pretty much from the get-go, starting in childhood. Your job, from toddler to preschool, was to say “yes” to instructions. Saying “no” was bad, even grounds for punishment. Then, you got to school and that yes-is-good/no-is-bad thing was reinforced by your teachers and even your prospective friends. Then there was adolescence, where intense peer pressure had you yessing everything right up to petty crimes, depending on who your peers were. (Grand larceny in my case.)
Then you got your first job, and it was: “Yes, I can do that! Yes, that too!” Indeed, in our jobs and in society generally, we live in a Culture of Yes.
We want to be seen as “can do!” We want to help. We want to be a good employee, neighbor, charity committee member and so on.
Saying “no” is selfish.
Saying “no” risks you not being liked or chosen for something.
Saying “no” is disrespectful. At times even confrontational.
Life coach Susan Lasky says, women may have particular difficulty saying “no” because: “We think we can, and should, be able to do everything — the strong, passionate Wonder Woman. We think we need to be everything to everyone in our lives.”
But whether you’re an aspiring Wonder Woman or a someday Superman, saying “yes” is easy. Because, as “Zen Habits” author Leo Babauta says, “Current self thinks that future self can handle it, no problem. But then future self becomes current self and suddenly has to pay up for all the obligations placed upon him by all the optimistic past selves.”
And so, all our yeses make it more difficult to do our job well and to get caught up, get promoted, get raises. Yet even a few simple nos across the course of the day can yield huge gains in your available time’s bottom line.
Tim Ferriss once said, “What you don’t do determines what you can do.” And he has a list he calls his not-to-do list, in other words, a say-no-to list.
Using a few of his not-to-dos and a few of my own mixed in, let’s see what one day of exercising even a tad of the Power of No might yield:
Say “no” to e-mailing first thing in the morning.
Say “no” to answering calls from people you don’t know.
Say “no” to letting talkative people babble on.
Say “no” to checking your email again.
Say “no” to that unhealthy snack.
Say “no” to a political argument.
Say “no” to checking the headlines or sports scores again.
Say “no” to notifications on your smartphone.
Say “no” to responding immediately to emails.
Say “no” to a negative chatter session.
Those were some relatively easy nos. And they added multiple minutes to my available productive time! You may have noticed though, that most of these didn’t involve saying “no” to other people. With those nos, things get a little trickier.
Consider making your own not-to-do list. Take a minute to write down, say, five things you’re going to say “no” to tomorrow.
“I CAN’T GET NO”
If you practice on some easy nos and start getting comfortable with the tougher, people-related nos, then you’ll be in better shape to take on the even tougher nos that may come your way in life.
Like saying “no” to the job or career that’s not ringing your bell anymore. Saying “no” to a convenient but crappy relationship. Or saying “no” to a potential client who isn’t a good fit with with your temperament or your values.
I’ll use a quote from serial entrepreneur James Altucher that I’ve used before: “If something is not a ‘hell, yeah!’ then it’s a ‘no!’”
And always say yes to the firm belief that whatever’s in your way is yours to crush!
INTERESTED IN THREE EVEN MORE POWERFUL WAYS TO SAY NO? DON’T WORRY, YOU CAN SAY YES TO THIS ONE
I dedicated an episode of CrusherTV to The Power of “No”, and below is the preview of that episode. Click the image below to check out the preview for more advice on how to say no.
There are more than 90+ topics I cover in CrusherTV that can boost your brain and increase your productivity! You might get a lot out of watching that entire episode of CrusherTV where I dig deeper into this topic among many others. (You can become a member for a buck and cancel any time ya like.) It’s Episode 45, and you can preview that episode above.
Imagine if there were a handy tool that helped you stay focused on a given task; improved your ADHD time management; and generally boosted your productivity.
There is such a tool, and its many benefits are the reason it is one of the hot buzzwords in personal productivity: “Theming” your time and tasks. I’ll show why it works to help with ADHD time management challenges, and provide a couple of easy applications…
Theming offers real benefits for ADHD time management challenges.
How Theming Helps with ADHD Time Management
Theming – conceptual ways to organize your time and tasks — creates significant efficiencies, reduces your stress level and frees up more time.
Yes, all these benefits accrue to those who theme. Whether you theme your days of the week, your months – or just theme a chunk of your daily schedule, you can really boost your output and preserve your sanity with this indispensable tool.
Our Brains Need External Structures for ADHD Time Management
We ADHDers, more than anyone, need external structure to compensate for the absence of structure in our brains. We typically create external structures with tangible tools like to-do lists, calendars, notes and apps.
But we can also use conceptual tools that interface with these tangible tools.
And that’s what theming is. A structuring of your calendar and workflows around concepts – or themes – that help you better manage your time, tasks, priorities and goals – throughout your day, across your week, for the month or even the coming year.
Let’s see, for instance, how theming your days could help with a couple of…
Classic Productivity and ADHD Time Management Situations
For many of us, it’s hard to stay on task. You’re working on an important task and you remember – Oh! I really should renew my auto insurance before the end of the month. And if you’re the least bit self-aware, you’ll worry that if you don’t do that right now, now that you’ve remembered it, you’ll forget about it. So you might interrupt that important task to go do that. Not efficient!
But what if one of the days of your week, say, every Tuesday, were themed as your administrative day? For stuff like expenses, paying bills, renewing things. All those somewhat important things that rarely have to get done RIGHT NOW, but that can turn into real headaches if NOT done at some point soon.
You could just put that in your calendar for next Tuesday, and for now, just forget about it! And stay on the important task you were working on. You shouldn’t have to have a mental wrestling match every time you remember something or something new pops up! Theme the days of your week, and these things will now have a home – a storage bin — in your workweek.
Another classic productivity problem: As you begin your workweek on Monday, you have so many to-do’s, it’s hard to sort through them all to identify what your priorities should be for today. Then you have the same problem on Tuesday. And on Wednesday. And just trying to get prioritized becomes a very taxing thing!
But what if, in addition to your Tuesdays being themed for all your administrative stuff, your Mondays were themed for another kind of work, Wednesdays for another, and so on?
This would simplify your prioritization on any given day. You’d spend less time analyzing tasks and stressing over which to work on today.
As productivity strategist Mike Vardy says, “Knowing what the day ‘means,’ allows me to get to the things I need and want to accomplish. And as a result, I have less decision fatigue and even more energy when I spend time with my kids.”
[Importantly, we’re not saying that you can ONLY do those things on THAT day of the week — you’re just making sure there’s that “storage bin” for those tasks in your week, and that you’re tackling some of them on that day.]
If these examples have piqued your interest in the potential power of theming, here’s one more way to theme…
The Power of Monthly Theming
Monthly themes provide an overarching focus for a given month. This is great for major, mid- to long-term initiatives — those important tasks and projects that we ADHDers most often struggle to keep moving forward and finish.
Think about classic examples like, “Ya, I’m gonna finish writing that book/paper/presentation!” or, “I’m gonna finish painting the dining room/cleaning the garage/doing my taxes (on time)!”
Well, yours truly, a champion ADHDer, has been using monthly theming with great success. For example, this year January was my Finish Writing the Book month (Done!). February was Market the Book (Done! #1 Best Seller! Yay!). March was Revamp the Crusher™TV Website (Victory!). All big projects. All helped along with monthly theming.
And how exactly did monthly theming aid my ADHD time management along the path to these multiple victories? With these themes kept top-of-mind every day throughout each month (by way of sticky notes, automatic alerts popping up in my iPhone calendar, etc.), I gave myself a prioritization compass each time I sat down to plan my day. Add to that a strong, nagging desire to succeed and some other fundamental adult ADHD-crushing strategies I use and teach, and voilà! Very powerful.
I LOVE theming, and you will, too, if you give it a chance.
Which Way to Theme Is Best for You?
There are a bunch more ways to use theming to remedy your ADHD time management challenges. I devoted a full episode of Crusher™TV to this topic, and I shared details of how I use daily theming, and how the co-founder of Twitter uses it. I also share how to use Yearly Theming and a powerful tool called Horizontal Theming. You can preview Crusher™TV Episode 84 to 5 Ways to Theme Your Time and Tasks by clicking the image below.
P.S. You can watch that entire episode of Crusher™TV along with over 80 others on topics like procrastination, getting prioritized, quieting your mind, and more. Become a trial member for a buck and cancel any time you like. Again, it’s Episode 84 , and you can preview that episode here: