Updated: Apr 16
When passion powers up a neurodivergent person's motivation, nothing can stop them! But when that motivation is MIA (mission in action), they may struggle a lot to finish a project. Even the smallest of tasks can become the biggest ordeals if one’s motivation is out of office.
(Don't worry Kelly, we got you on this.)
AuDHDers, or people who are both Autistic and have ADHD, are well aware of this fact. Luckily, our natural tendency to be inventive means we keep coming up with ways to deal. Here are 3 game-changing strategies that anyone can use, AuDHD or not, to get motivated and get sh*t done!
1. Do the easy tasks first
Many people grow up in a world of "first-then." First, you do the boring homework, then you get the cookie. But what if starting the homework is just too difficult and it feels like the cookie is forever out of reach? Well as it turns out, you can totally have your cookie and do your homework at the same time!
(The only thing better than a reward is a pre-ward!)
This is the idea behind doing the easy tasks first. Before I sit down to an hours-long session editing Autism Stories, I make myself tea or hot chocolate. Then, when I sit down to edit, I've already crossed the first thing off my list of tasks. Ta-da! Now I'm not trying to get myself started anymore, I'm already one step in!
By crossing something off my mental to do list, I gain momentum to tackle the bigger responsibilities. Mentally, it's a pretty steep climb to go from "doing nothing" to "editing a podcast for hours." By adding in a fun and easy task in between, I decrease mental effort and get a handy boost of dopamine.
2. Use visual reminders
The night before an exam in college, I would leave my notes to review right next to my bed. If I stepped on them first thing in the morning, how could I forget to bring them?
This is an example of a visual reminder--kind of like a next-level sticky note. For AuDHDers, typical reminders like notes and alarms just fade into the background. Instead, an object stuck somewhere it doesn't belong is the ultimate attention-getter. Leaving items where you're likely to see them prevents the "out of sight, out of mind" conundrum.
(You did, Squidward! To remind yourself to take it home later!)
This technique works in a wide variety of situations. Whether it's a bill you need to pay or a plate of brownies you want to bring to your friend, try putting the thing in the way of your normal routine. (APC does not recommend the "next to your bed so you step on it" method for the plate of brownies.)
3. Make micro-commitments
If I try to tackle a task that's a big commitment (like writing a whole blog post), it can stress me out so much that I can't get started. For and AuDHDer dealing with low spoons or Autistic burnout, a big commitment can even be something an innocuous as taking a shower.
This isn't procrastination, which is caused by anxiety (but often blamed on "time management"). It's task paralysis--a unique beast that's more about not knowing where to start because the task is just so immense! Telling me how important the task is will not help in any way, and will usually stress me out even more.
In times like these, I rely on micro-commitments to get me started. Maybe I cannot commit to writing a whole blog post, but I can probably write one paragraph. If that still feels too big, how about a short outline of what I want to say? Or how about setting a timer for ten minutes, and if I'm not in the groove yet when it ends, I'm allowed to stop?
(Alright, I can commit to ten minutes!)
I usually find that once I've completed the micro-commitment, my task paralysis has disappeared. On the occasions that it doesn't, I feel reassured that I've done my best. This usually re-affirms my abilities enough that I'm not so paralyzed the next time I give it a try. Micro-commitments mean macro changes to my ability to reach my goals!
Learn more strategies with an autism life coach
By learning about how different brains work best, we AuDHDers can find more strategies that work for us. We can get done with the boring tasks and have more time and energy to dedicate to our interests! Contact us to start working with an autism life coach and learn to build motivation when you need it most.