June 14, 2022

Task Initiation and ADHD:
Take Baby Steps and Just Do It

Our executive skills are brain-based skills that develop between birth and age 25 and are critical to success. They can be divided up into various components and this month we talk about the skill of Task Initiation.

For those of us with ADHD, task initiation can be one of our biggest struggles. This often shows up in the form of negative self-talk like, “Why can’t I just….” or “I just need to…” A client of mine, a Junior in college, once told me he “just needed to go to the library” to start working on a paper he had been avoiding. When I asked him how long he had “just needed to go to the library” to start a paper, he realized he’d been telling himself that same line for two and a half years! 

Task initiation is hard for those of us with ADHD, but there are ways to help make it easier for yourself.

Task initiation refers to our ability to take on new tasks, and persevere with those tasks until completion, even when we encounter challenges. Here are a few reasons why task initiation is so hard for us with ADHD, and some places to explore to help you get started:

Feeling Overwhelmed — When we feel overwhelmed our response is typically to go into overdrive and experience a fight, flight, freeze, or disassociate response. We need to identify what about this task or project is overwhelming, and how to make the task more manageable.  

When we feel overwhelmed, we need to down-regulate before we can really begin the task. You might start that process by breaking the project down into smaller steps, limiting how many of those steps you can see at one time, or writing out each step with the physical distance between the prior and next step to help your brain separate those steps into individual steps.

Procrastination: A Lack of Clarity — With ADHD you almost certainly have been called lazy because of a struggle to start a task that is not interesting or fun. We appear to be procrastinating due to a lack of interest in the topic. And, while we are delaying doing a particular task, we aren’t procrastinating in the traditional sense. 

Approximately 8 out of 10 times, the root of procrastination can be found in a lack of clarity on how to complete a task. To help yourself get started on a project that you have been procrastinating, ask yourself if something is unclear about how or what you are supposed to do to complete it. Walk yourself through each individual step and explain to yourself how you are going to complete that step. Once you can find the pain point, consider how you might figure out the next steps. Finding someone to ask for help is a great place to start.

Going It Alone and the Benefits of Body Doubling — Clients routinely come to me with a common pattern: when they are completing a task alone it’s difficult, but with someone else, it suddenly becomes easy. With ADHD, it is a valuable resource to have someone next to us to ask questions, talk out loud to, get feedback from, or complain to. This is called body doubling, and it is remarkably effective at helping us get unstuck when trying to start a new project or task.  Body doubling is one of the most effective ways to jump-start yourself on a task when you are feeling stuck because it provides a source of both a verbal processing opportunity and accountability.

Griffin Rouse
ADHD Coach | Center For Living Well with ADHD, LLC

More about Griffin


Cool Resource

Good nutrition is important and critical to our health and that includes our cognitive health. Having said that many of us have all sorts of food allergies and sensitivities whether they be dairy sensitivities or gluten intolerances. Those food allergies can run the gamut from just daily disruptions to actual life-threatening as can be the case for peanut allergies.

Most of us are proficient at reading food labels but can still find we miss something in our skimming process. And that miss can be the difference between an easy day or one full of discomfort and pain.

This Android app is an intelligent food scanner called Fig. You program the app with what sorts of dietary needs you or your family have and can even tell it ingredients you would like to avoid which might include salt, sugar, or any other food elements.

Then just tap Fig’s scan button, hold it up to any barcode on any edible item, and watch the magic happen. Fig has been tested with all sorts of food products, even the ones that are not brand items or commonly used. Every time it has instantly identified the product and highlighted the ingredients which are relevant to the settings the user has created. The app also has a useful search function to look for stuff in all categories to match your needs.

Fig is a powerful new resource to have and will make your life easier – winner-winner chicken dinner!

Upcoming Events

Parent Workshop on College Transition

Is Your Teen College Bound? 

How to Use the Summer to Prepare

Tuesday, June 14th, 2022

6:30 pm Eastern | 5:30 pm Central | 4:30 pm Mountain | 3:30 pm Pacific

Is your teen transitioning to college next fall… or returning to college after a rocky start?

Would you like guidance on how to set them up for success?  

If so, then this workshop is exactly what you’re looking for. While the college years can be a very exciting time in life, they can also increase the challenges your ADHD teen may have managed in high school. The daily structure, routines, and support in high school give way in college to large blocks of unstructured time, numerous long-term assignments, and countless choices and social distractions. Get all the details here

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