Divide and Conquer: ADHD Style

by | Oct 20, 2022 | ADHD Success Skills and Tools | 0 comments

divide and conquer

So…how do you eat an elephant? You do it… one bite at a time. 

What does this terrible joke/saying have to do with ADHD? It’s actually a great way to remember an important tool to help you complete tasks.

Think about it – if you were going to eat an elephant (which you never would but stay with me here), it would feel very overwhelming, right? We’re talking at least two tons. Over nine feet tall. Massive. You’d look at it, not sure where to begin or how long it would take, and would probably just walk away.

When you have ADHD, almost every project is an elephant. 

We get very caught up in the whole thing. The giant task (or tusk…pun intended) standing before us and we put it off, get frustrated, refuse to even consider the how and just go into ‘I don’t wanna.’ That elephant stands there looking at us and we just don’t get it done. 

So what is the solution? It’s all about division.

First, let me reassure you, we are not going to talk about math. 

Instead, we are going to divide the task into simple steps and conquer each and every one of them. We will focus on one part of the project and take it one step or bite at a time.

When you break down the big project task into easier, smaller steps, you can push past procrastination. You can eliminate the resistance that comes with overwhelm. You add clarity so you know what you’re doing next. You give gifts to your future self and increase your confidence.

When you break something into smaller steps, they become easy to do. You feel you can push through when you get stuck. One of my favorite sayings is ‘easy gets done.’ 

So simple and amazing sounding, right? We can use this with so many ADHD challenges. But it’s something we don’t easily do because we forget to use this tool. 

So how can you divide and conquer and make this a natural reflex when facing a big project or challenge?

Here’s how to make it work:

  1. Whenever you look at the project, don’t think about ALL the things you need to do. Instead, think ‘what’s my next small step.’ Keep the next step small, easy, and within reach.
  2. Watch out for those procrastination conversations. How do you talk yourself out of doing the task or focusing on the negative? Our negative self-talk can really interfere with our goals.
  3. Dive into the awareness of when you’re overwhelmed or procrastinating. What time of the day are you more exhausted and unfocused? What do you need to get energized to complete the next small step. Being aware of what helps (and prevents) you stay motivated and focused is key.
  4. Must be ADHD-friendly. Keep it fun and fresh. Put on music or a podcast. Add in movement. Make it short.

Three ways you can divide and conquer in an ADHD-friendly way:

Make the tasks recurring and a habit. If there is something you have to do every day, make it a habit. Getting out the door can feel overwhelming. Develop a habit where you brush your teeth as you locate your shoes. Putting those together can turn two steps into one.

Batch the steps with another activity. If you have to unload the dishwasher, a great time to do it is when you’re waiting for something to cook in the microwave. Instead of standing there and waiting the two minutes, start putting things away. Turn it into a game and race against the clock!

Set a timer and rotate activities – do five minutes doing the dishes, then five putting away laundry, and another five dusting. This can give you little wins every five minutes and keeps you energized and invested. Boredom is dangerous for people with ADHD. 

Remember – easy gets done!

If you want to learn more, check out:

Side note: We promise, no elephants were hurt in the creation of this blog post.

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