The ADHD Homestead

Building a good life with ADHD.

Tag: home projects

Applying the ADHD brakes during a huge project

Life at the ADHD Homestead is about to get crazy: we’re renovating our kitchen.

This is our biggest, baddest project since we did in vitro fertilization almost five years ago. Like IVF, the payoffs will be fantastic — we got a kid last time, and this time we’ll get a kitchen larger than a closet — but getting there might be rough.

A major renovation, like purchasing an expensive science baby, requires us to keep a lot of balls in the air. We need to pay attention to multiple angles at once, meet a bunch of deadlines (big and small), and play a massive game of Don’t Mess It Up.

To pull it off, I have to allow some moderate hyperfocus and forget most of my regular projects.

brake pedal image

An uneasy truce with hyperfocus.

I complain about hyperfocus a lot, both because I find it annoying and because my ADHD falls at the other end of the spectrum. However, now’s the time to channel my inner hyperfocuser and say no to everything else.

My ADHD makes it hard to prioritize. When it’s not driving someone crazy, this can be an asset. My many responsibilities to our home and family require comfort with a lot of irons in the fire. I’m the point person for planning an annual reunion of our college friends, I care for our lawn and garden, and I help my dad’s side of the family maintain a house at the beach. I pay our bills and clean our house and RSVP for our social events.

Now, it’s time to shut all that out. It’s going to be hard. The other night, I sat down and told myself, “there are two important things: finishing my novel by August, and renovating this kitchen.” That’s it. There will be no planning of friend reunions, no playgroup outings to the zoo, no impromptu dinner parties. No reconfiguration of our retirement accounts, weekends at the beach, or sewing myself a new dress. No progress on other projects. Just fiction and a kitchen, that’s all.

Saying goodbye to all the things.

Less than two hours after making this decision, it already felt uncomfortable. Every time I notice something that can be done, I want to do it. I want to make sure we’re not overpaying on our car insurance. I want to plan a writing retreat,  research stand up paddleboards, and have lunch with a friend. I want to do all the things.

Of course, if I do all the things, I’ll enter June feeling despondent about my lack of progress on my novel manuscript.

“It’s okay,” friends will tell me. “You were renovating your kitchen!”

Well, sure. A huge project always feels like a fair excuse for stalling on other things. But it’s not a fair excuse for failing to prioritize.

It doesn’t come naturally, but I’m going to try. I just have to remember: Writing and kitchen, writing and kitchen, writing and kitchen.

And when a new project or task crosses my path, I need to force my first reaction to be, “no.”

Has a big project ever redefined your priorities? How did you deal?

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Loosen task paralysis with one small thing

There are many reasons not to start on a task — more, I’d bet, than there are reasons to get started.

Excuses include:

  • I don’t have enough time or energy to do the whole thing.
  • It’s a big project and I don’t know how or where to begin.
  • Conditions aren’t ideal for starting today.
  • I’ll worry about it tomorrow.
  • I’d really like to buy some more supplies first.

The list goes on.

So it’s been with our basement workshop, a well-established hub of clutter and disorganization. Tools cover every horizontal surface. Cabinets overflow with piles of random stuff. Sometimes the floor gets involved and I climb over a saw to access the washing machine.

Sure, we could fix it this weekend, but our new workbench isn’t built yet, and we can’t install a new organizing system until we remove the old bench, and…see above list.

hanging tools

That’s why I was so impressed when I walked downstairs the other day. There, on the wall behind the workbench’s temporary home, hung a neat row of tools.

The next day, I saw a few more. And the next, yet another.

Stop stalling and just do one small thing.

When I asked my husband about this new development, he confessed he’d finally gotten sick of knocking tools off his work area. He stuck a French cleat to the wall and made a hanger for a saw. Then, as he stood back to admire his work, a level clattered to the ground. He made a hanger for that, too.

It’s easy to become paralyzed in the face of real-world conditions: it’s not a perfect time to do it, you don’t have the perfect tool for the job, etc. The problem is, if you wait for the ideal time to get it done, it’s not getting done anytime soon.

Next time you get stuck, ask yourself what one quick, small, seemingly-insignificant thing you can do to make the situation better.

For us, it was hanging up a few tools, even though we’ll have to move them to a new spot in a few months.

Sometimes it’s not about creating the beautiful, gratifying, impressive final product right there and then. It’s about moving forward one tiny step at a time.

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