Prioritizing with AD/HD: Part 1

Let’s face it – sometimes you just don’t feel like doing certain things that need to get done. Other times you may feel motivated to do things, “but where do I start?!” For many people there’s an internal tug-of-war that happens: do I do what’s fun or interesting OR should I do what’s important? For people with AD/HD the fun and interesting side of the rope offers a strong pull that oftentimes gets in the way of doing things that are important. In fact, some people with AD/HD impulsively do things that are more attractive and stimulating. Learning the difference between what you feel is urgent, but really isn’t and what is important is key.

Many years ago, my sister-in-law asked my nephew, “Is this a big deal or a little deal?” whenever he came running to her with a seemingly life-or-death matter. In a similar way, you can get into the habit of asking yourself, “Is this REALLY urgent OR do I just SEE IT that way because it somehow excites or interests me and is a more attractive alternative to what I’m doing right now?” In other words, “Is it a need or is it a want?”

How to tell the difference between what’s urgent and what’s important

Many years ago Dwight Eisenhower (a famous general and former president of the United States) created something called a “a four-quadrant priority matrix” to help people prioritize things based on two things: their level of urgency and importance. Here’s what it looks like:

Notice how quadrants 1 and 2 are the ones to pay most attention to given their high levels of importance. In some cases, events require an urgent response while in other cases not. In terms of prioritizing, type 1 & 2 events should be dealt with first. As people with AD/HD know all too well, however, it is easy to give type 3 & 4 events equal status.

So how do you make sure that things that are urgent and important OR important, but not urgent get done? Well, are you up for a homework assignment? The key to this assignment is to be intentional about things you are doing for the next few days. Give this a try:

1. When something comes up that either needs to get done – like a task, chore, assignment OR is something you would like to do – like a fun or interesting activity – decide which quadrant/box it should go in (an easier way of doing this is to ask yourself if it’s a need or a want).

2. If you placed an activity in quadrant 4 (i.e., urgent, but not important) – or concluded that it was more of a want than a need – then it’s not something that needs to be done at that moment (i.e., is not a high-priority activity) even though you might feel a strong pull or urge to do the activity. So how does being intentional figure in to all of this? Challenge yourself to NOT engage in the activity for at least five minutes. If you still feel the urge after five minutes then see if you can wait an additional five minutes. Each minute you wait starves the “non-priority beast” that lives in you and tries to get you to do less pressing/important things. So make it a goal to starve the beast!

More to come…

Christopher Quarto, Ph.D., PLLC is a licensed psychologist in Tennessee & Michigan.  Do you suspect that you have Attention Deficit Disorder?  Dr. Quarto provides quick & convenient in-person and online/”Skype-like” psychological evaluations.  Click here for details.

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