Part 2 of the “ADHD Friendly Goal Setting Series”
Don’t worry if you’ve never done Goal Setting before, or if you don’t like the idea, because I promise that in this article I will show you how to master ADHD friendly Goal Setting in the easiest way possible.
If you haven’t read it already, please refer to “New Year’s Resolutions versus Goal Setting: Why Goal Setting Exercises the ADHD Brain” for background information on why Goal Setting is so good for the ADHD Brain.
Here is a summary if you prefer not to read too much:
- To avoid being daunted by Goal Setting and setting yourself up for unnecessary disappointment and failures, you need to make sure your goals are realistic and achievable.
- If necessary, chunk them down into smaller targets or daily tasks. “Less is more.”
- When you have ADHD it tends to be a case of “out of sight out of mind.” So make your goals visible. Put them somewhere, like the side of your mirror or inside of your wardrobe, where you will see them daily.
- Do not think of your goals in terms of “success or failure”, but in terms of a “work in progress” strategy that helps you create a sense of structure and focus in your life. The practise of creating goals themselves, whether you achieve X or not, will still activate the part of your brain to do with Organisation and Time.
- Write your goals for each area of your life (career, money, relationships, health, spiritual etc.) down on one A4 sheet of paper, what Dr. Amen calls “The One Page Miracle.” Put this somewhere where you or your child will see it daily, and read it before you start your day.
Less is More: Why Chunking Your Goals Down into Baby Steps is Key to ADHD
So now that we know that setting Goals is a really good thing for ADHD, the question becomes “how can we master ADHD friendly Goal setting?”
Well first of all, a word of warning: the goals that you set should be juicy enough to get you motivated to work toward them, but also not too big or unreasonable that you set yourself up for failure.
You may like to work with a trusted friend, mentor, coach or your health practitioner to create suitable goals for yourself.
You may also need to chunk down any goals you have into manageable steps. You may want to chunk them down as small as you need to. For example, I’ve had clients whose first goal was to get out of bed on time. That might not seem like much, but for them it is miraculous.
So How do you chunk down any goal to make it more manageable, and less daunting?
Here’s a clue: “Less is More.”
Well, my advice to parents who ask how to get their kids to bed earlier, or a client who wants to wake up earlier, is: Take baby steps. If you’re teenager with ADHD has been going to bed an hour late for the last few years, don’t expect them to change over night and fail them with an impossible goal of “going to bed one hour earlier.” Instead, aim for 10 minutes earlier the first few nights, because that’s believable, then move up to 20 minutes when they appear more confident.
Heck, when I was younger and I struggled to get out of bed, my goal was simply to get my feet on the floor. But guess what happens when your goal is that small? There’s little resistance. You aim to get your feet on the floor, and when you can do that, which is easy – well, by then you’re more than halfway there!
Or maybe the goal is to get more organised this year, but the idea of tackling your home seems daunting. A more reasonable goal might be to tackle just one small pile in the home per day.
That one small pile is more reasonable to tackle and once you do tackle it you feel a sense of progress, “slowly but surely.” Then you can tackle another pile on day two, and before you know it within a week you may have cleared up a whole room! This is the philosophy of what I call “Less is more.”
Out of Sight out of Mind: Why Visibility is the Key to ADHD Friendly Goal Setting
Probably the single biggest key to ADHD friendly Goal Setting is to make your Goals visible. This is because people with ADHD, if they can’t see something, tend to act and think as if it doesn’t exist! It’s what we call “out of sight, out of mind.”
So to make goal setting successful for you or your child with ADHD, you need to find a way to make sure you see your goals on a regular basis.
If you’re a parent you can put your child’s goals in a place where they will see them every morning (maybe next to their mirror or inside of their wardrobe as they get dressed) and/or remind your child to look at their goals every morning before school.
What this does is help begin their day with more focus.. It also gives them a sense of focus which is self-directed because they choose their own goals.
Of course, having goals (especially goals you really want to work toward) helps activate the Boss Brain and give us a squirt of that much-needed brain chemical, dopamine.
If you’re an adult you may need to find a way to make sure you remember, without no-one there to remind you. Of course, if you have a partner or someone that can remind you, that’s a possibility, but better still is developing your own strategy.
So maybe you, too, can put your goals where you will definitely remember them, such as next to your mirror or inside of your wardrobe.
Why Flexibility is the Key to Feeling Good About Goal Setting
Finally, let’s remember that your Goals are not set in stone. They are more like a work in progress. They help you get focused and move in the right direction.
But don’t feel disheartened if you don’t always achieve your goals by the exact date or in exactly the way planned. You may even find that some goals are not so important or need revising.
See them more as a guide and a practise tool for activating your Boss brain, organisational abilities, and sense of Time, rather than seeing it in “all or nothing” terms, i.e in terms of “success versus failure.”
If you struggle in this area, then I suggest working with a coach, therapist, or your health professional, and also checking out my following posts about overcoming fear of failure, procrastination, and how to focus on progress versus perfection.
Your One Page Miracle
Okay, so now it’s time to actually start writing up some goals for yourself, or helping your child to do the same.
I want to introduce you to ADHD expert Dr. Amen’s ADHD friendly Goal Setting method which he calls “The One Page Miracle.”
The One Page Miracle (or OPM) is about getting all your goals for each area of your life (career, work, relationships, health etc.) down on to one A4 sheet of paper. Here are the areas he suggests:
To paraphrase Dr. Amen, write down what you want, not what you don’t want. Use positive language, such as “I want to be healthier.” That’s your Big goal. Then think about what you can do to move in that direction.
Keep it simple. Don’t say “I want to lose 30 pounds and get a six pack by the summer.” Think more like, “I want to become healthier. To move in that direction, I will drink a glass of water every day, and walk to work rather than drive.”
The Key to ADHD friendly Goal Setting is to make small changes that you can consistently stick to over time. It’s consistency which leads to results, not going “all out” with lots of motivation at the beginning, then things not going as planned and feeling like a failure. Avoid burnout by seeking Consistency!
Whilst you can benefit from writing about each area of your life in more depth in a journal, your OPM is like a synopsis which you can quickly refer to “all in one go.” It’s a brief summary all visible on one page, as visibility as we learned earlier is so important for ADHD.
You can find Dr. Amen’s instructions for the One Page Miracle here: https://www.brainmdhealth.com/blog/dr-amens-best-advice-for-setting-your-goals/
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed that and found it helpful. Remember to come back next time as we explore the SMART Model for Goal Setting, which (before you write up your final OPM) you can use to make sure that each of the goals in each area of your life are as specific, compelling, and achievable as possible.