Despite my best intentions, I never quite got a grip on Planuary.
At the end of December, I really thought that I would be able to take my time throughout January and slowly build a plan for my year. Alas, life got in the way and I ended up taking January pretty much day by day.
That was ok, especially since it was the only possible way for me to proceed at that point.
Basically, I spent January puttering along in all areas of my life.
On the well-being side of things, I did yoga when it felt right, meditated when it felt right, took walks, did some stretches, and, last week, I did some rowing. Those things were all pretty good and I am happy about trusting myself to do what I needed to do on any given day but it did feel a bit aimless.
I’m not judging myself there, aimless worked for me this month but, of course, being aimless didn’t give me the cumulative-work-toward-a-goal feeling that I was looking for.
I really wanted January to feel like I was solving a puzzle, like I was figuring out what I wanted to do and creating a plan for doing it. Instead, metaphorically, I gathered a bunch of jigsaw puzzle pieces, sorted a few of them and then went on to a logic puzzle before dropping that in favour of a riddle. All of those are good things, all of them are useful and enjoyable, but they didn’t come to any sort of satisfactory conclusion.
So, here I am at the end of January without a plan for the rest of my year.
And I know that I still can’t wrap my brain around ‘things I want to do in 2023.’
I also know that I don’t want to just keep wandering aimlessly.
So, I’m picking a middle ground and looking at February as a self-contained unit in which I can work on things that will add up throughout that month but that may not extend into March and may not even be part of a bigger project.
Sidenote: In my current approach, March doesn’t even exist yet so I can’t possibly plan fitness things to do in a possibly fictional month.
A month is really tangible for my ADHD brain, I can see how things might play out in that period of time and, barring a catastrophe, I usually have a good sense of what is coming up for me in the next month. A year, on the other hand, feels like forever and like no time, all at once and my brain gets lost in the simultaneous limits and possibilities.
So, while I usually have a good sense of things I want to have in my life in ‘the future’, I struggle to scale things and plan them out over a year. I end up either creating a plan that is too rigid or too flexible and I end up spending waaaaaaay too much time recalibrating.
(In retrospect, I guess I have always thought that this issue was one of imprecise planning (hence the Planuary plan) but now I’m wondering how much time-perception factors in.)
So, instead of thinking of something I want from this year and then breaking that down into monthly pieces, I am approaching this year from the opposite direction.
I’m going to choose some appealing activities to work on during February and I’ll keep track of how much I do and how I feel about them.
Once March feels a little less fictional (I mean, assuming it ever does 😉 ), I’ll see if I want to keep going with those activities or if I want to move on to something else.
Right now, my thinking is going a bit like this, “I want to meditate regularly so, for February, I’m going to follow the program in the journal I got for Christmas.” “I want to go on longer walks so, for February, I am going to take a slightly longer route.” “I want more hip flexibility so, for February, I am going to do a hip exercise before bed.”
I’m not trying to work up to a certain level. I’m not trying to accumulate a certain number of steps, a certain number of meditation minutes or days, I’m not trying to be able to measure up to a certain level of hip-flexibility. I am not considering this the groundwork for doing the next stage of anything.
I am taking February as a self-contained, measurable, tangible period of time in which to try some specific things. I don’t have to wonder about the next steps. I don’t have to think about how those things fit into the greater context of my year. I just have to focus on February and trust that what I need in March will become apparent as time goes on.
Again, assuming that March actually becomes real at some point. 😉
Thanks to some combination of ADHD and personality, I often have trouble getting started on things. Whether it is starting a project in the first place or starting my work on it for the day, I find it really challenging to begin – no matter how much I want to do the thing.
This executive function ‘task initiation’ problem gets even more tangly if the thing I am trying to do feels important (to me or to someone else), if it involves many steps, or if the task is not clear.
Starting new habits often involves all of those things and the only way I have found to counter my inertia is by setting a limit – in time, task, or effort.
So, I agree that I am going to do just one task, or to work on the project for 10 minutes, or I am going to go gently.
And that can usually* help me find a way to get started.
If you are having trouble getting started with any habits you want to plan or develop, maybe setting a limit will help you, too.
Note: I’m NOT suggesting that having trouble getting started automatically means that you have ADHD/executive function issues. But, hey, you might as well borrow a technique from someone who has a lot of practice with the problem.
If you are having trouble getting started with your habit-related task for today – try setting a time limit or choosing a version of the task that feels accessible to you today.
If you are having trouble making a plan at all, try choosing a time limit and low-key task for this aspect of the plan. For example, you could say something like ‘I can’t set a plan for the whole month, that’s too big. I’m going to do 1 minute of meditation each day for the next 3 days and then reevaluate.‘
If you have repeatedly had trouble getting started, with your plan or with your habit tasks, the problem is not you – it’s a mismatch between your plan and your capacity. I’ll get into that in tomorrow’s post but in the meantime, please be kind to yourself about the whole thing.
And, of course, I have a gold star to offer you for your efforts today – no matter what they are.
Good luck out there!
*Not always, unfortunately, sometimes ADHD wins. I just have to be kind to myself about that and try again another time.
I’m trying to figure out what to include in a fitness journal.
I love the idea of recording my plans and ideas and then writing my reflections on my practices but I know better than to try to put all of that onto a blank page.
If I have an open-ended journal, I will feel like I have to write AllOfTheThings AllOfTheTime and I will start avoiding journaling.
I looked for a fitness journal I could buy – thinking that a structured set of questions would be like ‘containers’ for my thoughts – but mostly I found fitness trackers.
Keeping track of the details may be part of my journaling but what I am really interested in is recording and reflecting on my physical and emotional experiences.
So, I am taking a DIY approach – choosing a set of 3-5 fitness-related questions to put on an index card that I will use as a bookmark in a regular journal.
I figure that if I have a set of questions ready it will not only help to structure my thoughts but I can also just number the answers in my journal and not create any obstacles for myself by having to rewrite the questions each time I journal.
I’ve found lots of suggested questions online (see links below) and I am mulling those over – not looking for perfect questions, just seeing what feels interesting to me.
But, speaking of interesting, I’d be interested to know what *you* think would make a good reflective question for a fitness journal.
What do find useful to consider about your fitness practices?
What do you wish you had made note of when you started something new?
What kinds of feelings or experiences do you think I should reflect on?
If you’re interested, here are some of the articles I found online. (I think Sam suggested the first one in a previous Facebook post.)
TL/DR: Resting when you are sick is a good thing but it is very complicated when many of your roles are responsive rather clearly defined. It would be helpful if people acknowledged how complicated it can be instead of just telling a sick person to rest.
Truth be told, I had a pretty good run of luck but, alas, all good things must end and last week, despite my various precautions, I came down with Covid.
(And, subsequently, despite our in-house precautions, so did my whole family. Thankfully, none of us took any scary turns for the worse and we are all improving slowly but it was overwhelming and difficult and worrisome.)
So, I guess that means that my resistance to (and reluctance about) going out last Monday was probably part and parcel of having a virus attacking my system, not just a case of garden-variety I-don’t-wanna.
Now, I know that the key to recovery from any illness is rest and that that goes quadruple for Covid. The internet is full of advice about just how much and how long you should rest during and immediately after a bout with the virus.
But, frankly, it feels a bit like when I was a new mother and I was told to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps.’
Just like back then, the advice is good and so are the intentions, but…
HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO PULL THAT OFF?
Who is coming to step into my (metaphorical) shoes?
I‘m pretty good at the physical aspect of resting. I can take to my bed like a Victorian lady, surrounded by tea, snacks, books, and tissues.
However, even in the midst of all kinds of practical and moral support, it is damn hard to step back from the mental work of the things I do day-to-day. So my bedside accoutrements also include my phone and a notebook and some lists so I can deal with the things that are too complicated to hand off to someone else.
I am definitely not trying to claim that I am indispensable or any other nonsense like that but I am *used* to the things I have to do on a regular basis. I have practice. I am well-trained for my roles.
I’d need to be able to download the entire contextual net of my thoughts to be able to hand this off easily.
Now, to be clear, my paid work as a writer/coach/storyteller can largely be rescheduled. However, my family and volunteer roles, those can’t be handled the same way.
And a lot of that work can’t wait. I can’t, for example, put off groceries until I feel better. Normally, I would just go once a week or so and pick up the usual stuff and while I cook most of the time, any of us are capable of cooking.
But, I can’t just drop that task. We have to eat, even if we’re sick.
And since our existing system hinges on how my brain works, I have to be involved in the process of reassigning those tasks. Even if I am not going to be the one going to the grocery store, even if I am not going to be the one generating the list, I’m going to be consulted on the details. And since the default system (me going to the supermarket) won’t be happening, we need to figure out who is going to go and when they can go, and so on. Instead of an automatic system, it has become a series of plans and decisions.
That’s just one small part the various details I generally handle for my family.
For my volunteer work, often a lot of things can wait, but my work last week was related to upcoming public events that cannot be rescheduled. Yes, I have a team but I’ve been the person putting all the pieces together to make the big picture and it’s a bit late in the process to plop someone else into that role.
And I know some people reading are probably thinking things like: “Well, if you delegated the work in the first place…If you didn’t gatekeep…If you didn’t try doing everything yourself…If you trusted other people to do their work…If you insisted that other people take responsibility for things at home…”
I get why you might think all of those things. It’s a natural response to wonder if I have had a hand in creating this problem.
However, this isn’t about me trying to be a martyr and it’s definitely not about me gatekeeping or not holding other people responsible to do their part. It’s way more complex than that.
It’s about the roles I have ended up taking on in my life – by choice, by default, by societal expectation. It’s about a series of things going slightly awry and things coming to a time crunch. And it’s about someone with ADHD just doing the best she can most of the time and then not necessarily being able to ‘show her work’ so someone can take things to the next step.
Because of my ADHD, I struggle with creating systems. I have trouble seeing the bits and pieces of a project. I appreciate when I can delegate things but I’m not always conscious of the steps involved in my work until I am in the middle of them so it’s a bit hard to help someone else know what to do.
In fact, I often say that it is only when I am working on step one of a project that step two will float up out of the fog and reveal itself. It’s like one of those adventure movies or video games where the heroine has to be brave enough to step toward the chasm in order for the first part of the floating platform to appear.
So, as a result, way too much of any project I am involved in is in my head. I am working on documenting more of my routine activities but since that is exactly the kind of work my brain hates the most and since I don’t have someone willing to follow me around and take notes, it will take a while to make that happen.
So, while I am not a Type A person and I am not obsessed with work, when I am resting I have extra trouble giving away the tasks I usually take on.
Don’t get me wrong, I would happily hand them off. I don’t even need them to be done ‘my’ way. I’m just not sure what tasks I usually do nor am I necessarily sure what needs to be done next.
And even when I do know what to do next, I find that the coordinating tasks that usually fall to me take a lot of work to pass along to someone else. In fact, it is less stressful to do the thing than it is to to figure out how to share the information that I am waiting on a call from person A and if they say yes then tasks 1, 2, 3 need to happen but if they say now, then task 1 can happen but we need to call person B for task 2, and skip task 3, and do 3B instead.
(Meanwhile, if I do continue with a few tasks, I give the impression that I’m not all that sick or that it is business as usual, and then more work comes my way but that’s a whole other thing.)
Even if I were to try to explain that collection of tasks and what-ifs to someone who has offered to help, it’s likely that they would get completely overwhelmed because it is too much all at once. And since they couldn’t possibly pick up a month’s worth of details in a single conversation, I would end up with umpteen texts and emails to confirm bits and pieces of information.
So, instead of having one set of tasks to do in bits and pieces as I felt able, planning for the kind of complete complete rest that we’re advised to do would actually involve multiple levels of new tasks.
I would essentially be choosing between 1) doing the tasks as they showed up for me or 2) a) struggling to identify the tasks I unconsciously do for a given project b) connecting them to their relevant information in my head and typing that out somewhere c) putting both of that in some sort of timeline d) figuring out who the best person is to take the next steps e) hoping it isn’t too much to ask f) responding to the person’s (completely justified) questions at random intervals.
Which sounds more like rest to you?
In the end, I’ve been doing a hybrid sort of thing.
I typed out as many things as I could think of that needed to be done and added any context that occurred to me.
I farmed out any urgent things to people who had capacity to handle them (and, to be clear, I had lots of offers of help and support and I took people up on them as often as was feasible.)
I did (and continue to do) any things that I could manage, whenever I felt up to doing them.
And, annoyingly, I’ve dealt with some of the same sort of pushback I had when I was a new mom who couldn’t rest when the baby rested because it was my only chance to get something to eat, to put in a load of laundry, or to pick up the things that were cluttering the room and making me feel overwhelmed.
I’m not ignoring good advice.
I’m not pretending that the world can’t get along without me.
I’m not refusing to let other people help.
I’m trying to recover from an illness while I balance my needs against my responsibilities.
And while I could, in the long run, develop systems to make the delegate process easier, for right now, I am doing the best I can with the resources I have and getting grief for that just makes things harder.
So, can I ask you a favour?
If you are advising someone to rest, could you be respectful about it?
Maybe say things like ‘Are you getting enough rest?’ or ‘Is there anything I can take on that would help you to rest?’ instead of ‘The world can get by without you for a few days.’ or ‘You’ll never get better if you don’t rest.’
It’s all well and good to tell people to rest so they can recover but the process way more complicated than them just switching off their lives and heading to bed.
Let’s not pretend otherwise.
PS – I am deeply grateful for all the help and all the offers of help we have received this week. My friends and family have made things a lot easier and I have been well taken care of.
Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador, November 21, 2022.
The weather is chilly (1 degree Celsius, 33.8 degrees Fahrenheit), there’s a wind warning in effect (80kmh with gusts to 95, 49.71mph with gusts to 59mph)
My house is noisy from the wind but it’s warm and cozy.
I’m a bit off track because several of my usual Monday things got changed and because I spent a good part of the day in waiting mode.
Why waiting mode? Tomorrow is my youngest son’s birthday and his present was due to arrive sometime today. Our address is often mixed up with a similar address nearby so I was on alert in case it was delivered to the wrong place.
Waiting mode is one of those situations where a neurotypical person (at least one who wasn’t anxious) would probably be able to put thoughts of the possible mix-up aside and carry on with their plans for the day. And if I had a strict schedule today, my neurodivergent brain *might* be able to do the same.
Alas, my schedule today was flexible. So between that flexibility, the loss of my usual Monday anchors, waiting mode, and the windy weather, I spent my day puttering from task to task.
And then, once the package arrived (yay!), I wanted to settle into my work.
That’s when this process started:
Khalee would need to go for a walk later so my brain was telling me that I probably wouldn’t want to dive too deeply into whatever I was doing right now.
So, maybe we should walk now. After all, the weather isn’t going to improve until tomorrow – and at least it is still light out.
But if I walk now, I might not be able to switch into work mode when I return.
So maybe I should skip the walk, right? After all, the wind warning clearly states that outdoor objects should be tied down. It could be *dangerous* out there, couldn’t it? Stuff could be flying around.
Hell, Khalee and I could blow away, couldn’t we?
Yeah, it’s often like this inside my head – it’s not all that fun.
But then, luckily, I saw a post on Instagram from someone local who was out for a walk, wearing their mask because it was the only way to keep warm – and probably the only way to catch their breath.
That’s when I remembered that I have fleece lined pants to wear over my jeans. And I have a warm coat and my hatphones. And a scarf my sister made. And I could wear my favourite mask.
So, I bundled up, got Khalee into her harness (today was apparently NOT a day for a dog to wear a sweater – I have to give the pup some autonomy, don’t I?) and headed out.
And, like most things – it was far worse to think about than it was to do.
It was stupid windy out. It was quite cold.
But it was manageable. And it wasn’t totally awful.
And Khalee and I were both so very good for dragging ourselves outside even though 50% of us were not keen on it.
I mean Khalee is automatically good, obviously, what with being a dog and all, but she bravely forged ahead into the wind until I called out to her so I could take a photo.
So yeah, she’s super-good but I’m pretty damn good too – overcoming so much resistance even though it would have been much easier (and quite understandable) if I had decided to stay home.
(And, I’m sorry to report, that I did indeed feel better after being outside and zipping through my walk. It was worth getting out for Khalee’s sake but, damn it, it was apparently also worth it for my own sake, too.)
Anyway, long story short (too late!), Khalee and I both get gold stars for our windy walk.
How about you?
How have you triumphed over resistance lately?
Was it worth it?
Would you like a gold star? Khalee and I will share!
PS: Happy Birthday to my youngest son, J, who is my baby but is not, apparently, actually a baby at all any more. In fact, he’s a newly-minted adult.
This post is a group of loosely connected thoughts in a blogpost-shaped trench coat but let’s just roll with it.
As I write this, I’m sitting in a lawn chair on my front lawn awaiting trick or treaters – Khalee is too much of a chaos agent for me to easily answer the door over and over so I take the treats outside and drink tea while waiting for the kids.
Tomorrow, or today by the time you read this, is November 1, just a little over a week away from my 50th birthday.
A few months ago, I thought I would have a good fitness routine by now. I thought I had a solid, low key plan.
Turns out, I was still trying to do too much at once and I have basically been kind of ambling along trying to figure out my how and when, exercising more some times and less other times.
At the beginning of October, I thought I would have a straightforward month with two challenges to work on, but I was plagued with migraines and frustration and never really found my groove.
One tiny part of my brain is telling me ‘You should be more disappointed in yourself, don’t you think?’
But another part is reminding me that the word should is at least 90% evil and that, at almost 50 years old, I don’t have to put up with people being mean to me – especially if that person is me.
So, instead, I’m thinking that I must not have found the easy thing. I must have had too many steps or too many decisions, I must not have smoothed the path, I must not have included enough fun. Oh well! Too late to worry about those past plans now.
I’m not trying to revamp them, though, I’m just focused on what’s ahead of me.
I’m looking forward to my birthday month with the goal(s) of finding more ease, seeking more fun, and looking for ways to move more often on any given day.
There’s no overarching plan, there’s no big idea, there’s just me experimenting with trusting myself in the moment. Let’s just hope my brain will cooperate.
It took me a couple of Halloweens of trying different things before I figured out that I could circumvent the stress of the dog-related chaos by taking the treats out to the kids but I was making little changes in my approach the whole time.
I’m hoping the same is true for this whole figuring-out-routines thing, that I *am* making adjustments and learning as I go, even if it’s hard to see while I’m still in the middle of it.
PS – In case you have a tendency to worry: I am completely ok, by the way. I’m mostly just interested in how and why I feel so at ease with not having done what I had set out to do. And why I don’t feel the need to poke into what went “wrong.” I like the fact that instead of my brain leaning into the meanness, I veered off into the ‘try this’ of taking things moment by moment. I’m observational and reflective, perhaps a little melancholy, but I’m not sad, not upset, and there’s nothing wrong.
I wanted to add a little extra to my daily routine in October so I’ve taken up two challenges for the month – the Action for Happiness Optimism challenge and the Darebee Daily Kicks challenge.
I like following short term challenges because 1) they set out a plan in advance so my brain doesn’t get stuck buffering about decisions 2) they aren’t making me commit to something in a future that is too far ahead for my ADHD brain to grasp.
These specific challenges should be straightforward additions to my day because any day’s actions are big enough to matter to me but small enough to fit into nooks and crannies in my still-developing schedule.
And it helps that I am naturally inclined to optimism (this may be a good feature of my ADHD – I’m usually convinced that things are about to get better) and that kicks are not only good exercise but practicing them will have added benefits for Taekwon-do.
Will I get to both of these every day? I’m planning on it and I hope those plans work out.
But even my optimistic self knows that sometimes things go awry so I have a backup plan as well:
If I miss a day, I can do two the next day…if that feels doable. If doing two items feels like too much, or if I have missed several days, I’ll skip to the item for the current day.
The key here is to follow the practices for as many days as possible this month – aiming for more days on than off.
The only thing I *don’t* want is to follow the challenge for a few days, miss a couple, and then scrap the whole thing because I didn’t do it perfectly.
As long as the end of October still finds me working away at these, in any form or fashion, I’ll be successful.
As I write this (on Monday night) I am at Day 22 and I feel really good, really at ease.
Not every minute of every day but, at any given point, it’s a little easier to find that space, that breathing room, when I need it.
And, to be clear, I’m not saying that I am meditating here and there in search of that ease. I mean that, because of my short daily meditation sessions, there’s a little bit of extra room in between my thoughts – I just have to choose to look for it.
Given my galloping ADHD brain, sometimes it is a bit tricky to remember to make that choice but I am definitely making it more often than I ever have before.
I know that I have tried to develop a meditation practice several times before and my results were mixed, to say the least.
This time, though, doing the easy thing, not making a plan, just taking it a day at a time has worked out marvellously for me.
It has become easy and straightforward to include meditation at the end of my day – sometimes for 10 minutes, sometimes for 2 minutes – and I feel great about it.
In case you were wondering, Khalee is also a fan of my quiet practice…
Over the past few years, in an attempt to counter the natural ‘but what if…’ tendencies of my ADHD brain I have been reminding myself to ‘do the easy thing’ whenever I can.
This isn’t the same as ‘taking the easy way out.’
Instead, it’s about 1) figuring out the easiest/most straightforward way to get something done 2) making sure that approach will cover the key details/meet the needs of the people involved 3) only adding more complexity if needed.
So, instead of letting my brain branch out into every possibility, I try to find what feels easiest and check if that will work before letting things get more complicated.
When it comes to exercise and writing and, well, everything else, I am trying not to let thinking get in the way of doing but it is a real struggle.
I know that everyone struggles with this from time to time but for those of us with ADHD it is very much a default mode in our brains.
Our busy minds can cough up all kinds of reasons why now is not the right time to do the thing we have planned and those reasons are VERY convincing.
If I am trying to get something done, I have to work hard to recognize/remember that there won’t actually be a time when I will be more motivated/find it easier/magically have more skills or time. And there probably won’t be an ideally logical time to do it. And I probably don’t need more information before getting started. And if my challenges right now are internal, they will probably be there later, too.
So, it’s not just about me deciding to when to do something and then jumping up to do it when that time comes – it’s also about fending off all kinds of reasonable-sounding objections, over and over.
On Friday past, at the end of a very frustrating week of trying to make my brain go (some weeks are far worse than others), I started reading Your Brain Is Not Broken by Tamara Rosier and I immediately thought ‘Oh, once I am finished this, I’ll be able to make a good plan to get things done.’
That thought was followed by, ‘You have thought this before.’
In fact, that train of thought is of the most stereotypical ADHD things I could have done at that moment. But instead of being hard on myself about a recurring thought pattern, I decided that recognizing the pattern was an important step. And the fact that I could 1) create a space between the first thought and the second and 2) decide not to judge myself for it means that my meds are working well AND the efforts I have put in to help myself deal with my ADHD are paying off.
So, after that victory, I decided that I would keep reading the book (it is SO HELPFUL) and I would take immediate action on something.
I was feeling a bit bleh after a week of ADHD battles* so I chose to get my body moving instead of trying to push my brain around.
First, I just put on some music and flailed around a bit – some dancing, some bodyweight exercises, bits and pieces of TKD patterns. My brain protested that it was probably a waste of time to do so much movement without a plan because it wouldn’t add up to anything and I would have moved around for nothing (See what I have to put up with? I know it is nonsense but my brain persists.) but I kept doing it anything.
Then, I felt the need for something a bit slower and more focused so I searched YouTube for ADHD yoga and found this video from Yoga with Zelinda.
The video moved more slowly than the usual Yoga videos I practice with but I really liked her instructions and her choice of movements. If you had asked me beforehand, I would have said that a slower practice would be annoying for my brain but that wasn’t the case at all.
I enjoyed the practice and I felt really good afterwards.
And now, I am on a mission to experiment with ADHD-specific exercises.
I know that martial arts are good for ADHD – TKD can keep my brain and my body busy at once – but I am intrigued to figure out if it is easier for me to convince myself to exercise with videos designed for brains like mine.
If you have ADHD, do you do ADHD-specific exercise videos? Which ones?
If you don’t have ADHD, do you do videos specifically designed for how your brain or body works? Which ones? How did you find them?
*I usually describe it as feeling like my brain is a drawer that is off its runner. It still works ok but even simple actions are waaaaaaay harder than they have to be.