I’m pretty sure that neuro-typicals motivate themselves to get things done by just thinking how great it will be to be done.
Yesterday we talked about how dangling a carrot in front of someone with ADHD is not going to make them work better or smarter or even … at all?
We, when presented with a carrot that is just out of reach, will likely just lie down and dream about carrots.
We know that repetition often helps us do the right things at the right times. But why doesn’t the idea of finishing something present a positive motivation for us.
And don’t tell me it’s because we never finish anything and therefore don’t get that reinforcement of the concept.
The truth of it is far more sinister.
What evil lurks …
When we do finish things (and it does happen) we are perfectly aware that we’re done, perfectly aware of the feeling of accomplishment, perfectly happy.
But … it lasts for as long as it takes us to recognize having finished and then it’s gone. Lost in the same myriad of thoughts that slowed us down so much.
If we think at all about our success it will be tempered with the thought that, while everyone around us is celebrating the completion of the job, high-fiving and such, we could have done it so much quicker … if we’d only been able to concentrate on it.
The neuro-typical world thought we did well, got it done, made good time … but we know we spent at least half of the time it took us to do the thing just staring into space and contemplating bike rides and star ships and cold fusion and a new flavor of ice cream and being a pirate and …
So we’re hard on ourselves. Finishing something is great but we don’t feel like celebrating. And not finishing something doesn’t actually feel that much worse.
Ergo, finishing is not a good motivator for us.
What can be done?
I have only one idea, and it isn’t simple.
If you have ADHD, or if you manage someone who has ADHD, consider this, reward therapy.
Remind yourself or the person that you are the manager of that the job is still waiting. Don’t talk about more fun things that could be engaged in once the task is completed, that’s just distraction. Don’t make plans for what comes next, keep the attention window small.
If you have ADHD, ask questions about the job at hand. Make it more complicated, make it more interesting. Immerse yourself in it. Wonder about different aspects of it and try to solve any riddles that this wondering presents.
If you manage someone with ADHD encourage curiosity about the job. Ask those questions about peripheral aspects of the task and encourage interest.
And when it’s done, acknowledge that it is done and as soon as the concept of being finished is fully understood, do something to celebrate. Make finishing something an event worth celebrating by … celebrating.
Wait, that’s …
Yes, a carrot. An undefined carrot. A reward that wasn’t dangled during the tasks execution, but one that was a real and substantial thing in the end.
Instead of dangling the old orange snowman’s nose in front of the person with ADHD, try dangling that other carrot cultivar, the concept of reward in front of them.
And really, not even the concept of reward, just the impression that there will be a feeling of reward.
And then, make that feeling real. You deserve it.
And it will not just pay off now.
Finishing things might well become a habit.