Sherlocking Task Anxiety
Wednesday, March 14, 2012 2 Comments
By Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T., MCC, SCAC
Another in a series of articles from my upcoming book,
TaskMaster™ - see article list below
Task Anxiety 101 - part 2
Watson, we need to review
The three most recent segments introduced a unique connection between bribery and intentionality, linking it to reward and acknowledgment. I introduced the connection between inner three-year-olds and the cookie concept, a real-world application of the importance of reward and acknowledgment to ongoing accomplishment.
IF you’ve been playing along . . .
One is a List of Ten — activities you find yourself doing INSTEAD whenever you attempt to complete a task, or in response to an attempt to initiate a task.
- This is a list of any ten of the things that YOU do that leaves you chronically behind and befuddled.
- Many of you had self-identified with that not-very-helpful “chronic procrastinator” label as a result.
- I encouraged you to reframe those tasks as “avoidance” activities: avoiding task anxiety.
You also have a List of Five Feelings.
I asked you to think of a specific example in your life where you tried to listen to “logical” advice from those who did not take the time to understand the parameters of your problem before stepping in to suggest their “simple solutions.”
- I asked you to recall how you felt when you attempted to take that “logical” advice (or even thought about taking it), especially when accompanied by a failure to reach a goal or complete a task.
- I suggested you write down at least five descriptive feeling words, then walked you through four paired-awareness exercises, shuffling the paired words around a bit to see if any new insights bubbled up from your unconscious.
Now, dear Watson, let’s connect some dots!
The Cause and Effect of Growth and Change
It is important to understand a fundamental, psychological truth about all human beings, ADD or not: we are conflicted about growth and change. At bottom, most of us crave safety as strongly as we crave adventure, although not in equal measure at all times and about all things.
The process of developmental transformation is one we must all undergo. It consists of making peace with our conflicts, at least to the extent that we are able to change and grow — to continue to evolve into the human beings we were uniquely created to become.
Unconsciously, we yearn to “fulfill our potential” as if potential were a single destination, instead of a moving target, forever out of reach.
When we live under the roofs of our first caretakers we yearn for autonomy – to do life in our own unique manner and in our own sweet time.
We are also, on some level, afraid of displeasing our caretakers for not doing life their way.
- We are eager to “grow up,” to prove ourselves competent souls who don’t need help from anyone, even as we hope that we can count on our caretakers to step in and pick up the pieces if we make a mess of things.
- For those with EFD/ADD/ADHD and other neurodevelopmental disorders, our caretakers usually find it incumbent upon them to “step in and pick up the pieces” more often than anyone would like.
On a level just below conscious awareness, we all buy into the mythology that there is a “right” way to do life that will, if we do it right, lay all of life’s goodies at our feet in a nice, neat row. And if we do it REALLY right, getting the goodies will require no input or assistance from those other humans who, after all, we’re not entirely sure we can count on to come through for us.
- If we are missing a few of those goodies – and that is a list that grows logarithmically with human evolution as well as our own – of course, we’re fearful that we didn’t do it RIGHT.
- We are also surrounded by others who are desperate to prove what they do is “right,” who are more than willing to tell us what we did wrong.
- Feeling like we might have “blown it” is highly stressful for anyone, and especially so for those of us who seem to step into holes more often than our contemporaries.
- And THAT causes anxiety!
The Wikipedia entry on Anxiety reminds us that,
[Only when] anxiety becomes excessive, [does it] fall under the classification of an anxiety disorder.
Don’t confuse the two
Handling task anxiety will certainly have a positive effect on anxiety disorder. Please understand, however, that the difference between “feeling anxiety” (of any sort) and suffering from the debilitating effects of anxiety disorder is as great as the difference between a transitory depressed mood and major depressive disorder.
NEITHER disorder is “all in your head” – at least not in the fashion meant by those who sling those words dismissively. Both can be helped tremendously by professionals trained to work with them, often with at least a short course of medication along with cognitive restructuring. (There are lots of studies demonstrating that both in tandem are a highly effective combination — and there is no shame in needing medication longer term.)
PLEASE don’t let anything or anybody dissuade you from seeking help — or from taking appropriately prescribed medication as a result of a diagnosis of any disorder.
THEY don’t get it, and YOU don’t have to suffer because they don’t — so if you suspect your “task anxiety” is more extreme than what you are reading about in this series, go check it out, and ask for help.
YOUR LIFE is waiting for you to feel better, so do it soon, ok?
Poor Organization & Task Completion
That makes it harder to figure out which cards to pull when it comes time to play the game — making it difficult to respond appropriately, or to correctly evaluate consequences and outcomes.
As a result, projects tend to be abandoned unfinished in our dissatisfaction with our lack of ability to play at a level that makes the game interesting rather than an exercise in frustration.
Naming the Game
“Naming the Game” is a concept and a way of working that I came up with twenty years ago. With the help of many of my graduates, various parts of the idea have worked their way into the ADD Coaching culture.
Here’s what’s important about it for this article:
- How you name the game determines the rules.
- The rules determine your level of comfort with your level of activity.
In typical black and white fashion we tend to lump long range tasks, daily tasks, weekly tasks & someday tasks all together as we levy an indictment against ourselves: I can never seem to get anything done!
- First, we need to begin by distinguishing all those collapsed tasks.
- Next we need to spend time looking at the reality of what we DO accomplish.
- Then, we need to develop some systems that will enable us to accomplish the things we choose to do.
We also need to take a look at how we conceptualize tasks that may be making them harder to do. FINALLY, we’ll rename the game in some manner that’s something we can actually DO.
Stop Prioritizing, Start Sequencing
This is a different kind of ranking than most of us are used to — which is a darn good thing because many of us despise the process of prioritization. So we avoid it. Since we’re not doing it anyway, let’s just dump the whole idea in the garbage.
When most of us hear the word “prioritize” we’re already one foot over the Boggle line.
It’s ALL “important!” we cry. Attempting to split importance hairs leads us further INTO the woods, where it’s easy to remain, hopelessly lost for hours.
Instead of “prioritizing” or ranking by “import,” we are going to sequence, which gives us a whole lot more wiggle room.
Step by Step
Building a house, does it really matter whether you install the front door or the back door first? On the other hand, it’s pretty much impossible to install ANY doors until the walls are built. They aren’t more important, they are merely necessary first.
That, as a broad overview, is sequencing: getting a handle on a logical progression of tasks so that we can plan how we move through them. But before we can do even THAT, we need to make some sense of the lay of the land. So haul out that notebook, we need to make a few more lists.
List of Accomplishments — things we ARE getting done.
You are probably not sitting around eating bonbons, so what HAVE you been doing with your time? Be sure to phrase those items as completions.
If your goal is to install your kitchen cabinets, which part of the project is behind you? Even if you haven’t picked up the first power tool, have you located the power tools? Do you have a list of measurements so that you can decide on the arrangement of the cabinets?
Maybe ALL you can point to on that project is research. Good for you! That counts, but YOU have to count it.
- For most of us, that will mean splitting tasks into manageable subtasks and giving ourselves points for every tiny thing we accomplish: exchanging black and white for gray.
- It stops being fun to continue to play a game the very second we realize there is no way for us to win it. Our brain goes, “N-E-X-T! ” Set it up so that you get to WIN.
- Life isn’t high school. There’s no such thing as “partial credit.” EVERY thing you get done COUNTS!
List Incompletions – things we’re not getting done
Paint this list in broad strokes. This is a tracking exercise, not documentation for your personal wall of shame. You don’t have to explain, defend, grovel or promise to do a darned thing on it– track it like a weather report.
What we are doing instead, by category:
- Human being tasks
- Procrastination tasks
- Interruption tasks
- Distraction tasks
Divide each into categories
- Long range
If You’ve Played Along
Read back through your lists. If you’re like most of my clients, your level of task anxiety is now much lower. What once seemed impossible “suddenly” seems like something you can step yourself through. GREAT!
While you are waiting for the next installment of TaskMaster™, DO THAT. Take a few of those steps. Cross out a couple of items and subdivide some of the bigger chunks on your “not getting done” list. Take a few more steps. Refine your lists every time you get stuck.
Take advantage of the relief that comes from lowering Task Anxiety to take a few more steps. Don’t forget to cross them out, and whatever you do, don’t forget about the cookie!
The next few articles will introduce ten task-training tips that will help you get things DONE, and the importance of taking your functional temperature – so don’t miss it.
IN ANY CASE, stay tuned. There’s a lot to know, and a lot more to come.
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Related articles right here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com
Articles in the TaskMaster™ Series
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Other Related Articles on ADDandSoMuchMore.com
Related articles around the ‘net
- ADHD And Cognitive Anxiety – Now 3 Types (corepsychblog.com)
- ADD Overlooked Cognitive Anxiety (corepsychblog.com)
- PRWeb article and GREAT video on cognitive anxiety (Dr. Charles Parker)
- What Is Anticipatory Anxiety? (everydayhealth.com)
- What Do You Do When Everything Seems Equally Important? (simplybusinesscoaching.com)
- Lessons Learned on the Path of Overcoming an Obstacle (ariannasrandomthoughts.com)
- Different Types Of Procrastination (awakeninspiration.wordpress.com)
- Just Another Cup of Tea Before I Start… (gatehouse13.com)
- Avoiding the Inevitable (living4bliss.wordpress.com)
- 10 tips to simplify your work day to avoid burnout (agbeat.com)
- When things are not what they seem (bleustarchild.wordpress.com)
- When all else fails (fiercelinguist.wordpress.com)
- The Pull of Procrastination (freelanceswitch.com)
- How To Manage The Stresses of Working In Public Relations By Stan Popovich (ronntorossian.com)
- Avoidance of Anxiety as Self-Sabotage (liftingtheclouds.wordpress.com)
- Anxiety Tip #7: Stress (motherwifestudentworker.wordpress.com)
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