In my last post, I talked about the ADHD slippery slope, the idea that behaviors associated with ADHD like procrastination and disorganization have a way of spiraling out of control. They start off with putting something off just until tomorrow or with letting just a little flexibility creep into your system of organization – and before you know what happened, you’re pulling an all nighter trying to meet a your deadline and any “system of organization” you once had is a faint memory.
Today, I’m going to follow up with a few strategies for avoiding the ADHD slippery slope. These are ways of stopping the spiral in the “spiraling out of control” aspect of ADHD. As always, if you can think of more, add them in the comments!
1. Recognize the beginning of the ADHD slippery slope
It’s easy to recognize the slippery slope when you find yourself unceremoniously deposited at the bottom of it. Seeing the slippery slope before it’s too late is more of a challenge.
I’ve accepted that with many tasks, I have to do them immediately or not at all. There’s no putting them off until a more convenient time because a more convenient time never comes.
Look for these tasks in your own life so you can do them immediately when they arise. This is especially true of shorter tasks – if something takes, say, less than five minutes to do, far easier to do it immediately and have it done with.
The mantra I like to use is right now or bust. For many tasks I know that if I don’t do them right now, they’ll get pushed off ad infinitum down the ADHD slippery slope.
2. Figure out what slopes you’re most prone to
I’ve talked a lot about the slippery slope of procrastination, but there are other kinds of ADHD slippery slopes.
Clutter is one of them. What starts with a little pile here or there can end with the total collapse of your ability to find anything or even cross your room without tripping over your own disorder.
Overcommitment is another. People with ADHD often have trouble estimating how much time a given task will take or what the consequences tomorrow will be of accepting more items into their to-do list today. What starts with taking on a little extra with here or there can end with realizing you have more commitments than there are hours in the day.
Figuring out the specific slippery slopes you’re prone to makes it easier to recognize when you’re teetering on the beginning of them. Keep an eye out for any repeating pattern in your life where a series of small failures to plan ahead ultimately adds up to a big, stressful, messy problem.
3. Make routine your friend (or at least your cautious ally)
People with ADHD can have a love-hate relationship with routine. Often, we’re at our best in environments that are stimulating, novel and engaging. But routine has a place in our repertoire of coping strategies too.
In particular, routine can help us avoid ADHD slippery slopes. If you have a certain time every day you devote to knocking items off your to-do list, less chance procrastination will kick in and cause your to-do list to fall victim to the slippery slope effect. If you clean your desk off the first day of every month, you’ll reliably cut down on the slippery slope of clutter in your life.
Routines aren’t the answer to everything, but they might be a big part of the answer to the ADHD slippery slope problem. Think of it not as a routine, but as a regularly scheduled safety check to make sure your life isn’t spiraling out of control.
The executive functioning deficits that come with ADHD can interfere with planning ahead, putting people with ADHD at risk for the slippery slope. But knowing about the slippery slope can give you the upper hand and help you recognize slippery slopes when they appear on the horizon, know what slopes you’re most likely to slide down, and use routine as a support for long-term planning. Taking these active steps in turn means avoiding the worst slippery slope of all: the slippery slope of stress, frustration and chaos.
Image: Flickr/Richard Deakins