Sherlocking for Task Completion

Looking at the details
of any problem with follow-through

How do YOU need to proceed?

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Reflections post from the Time & Task Management Series
Part TWO (Part I HERE)

Follow my process as you Sherlock your own

As I continue to remind you: ONLY when we take the time to Sherlock the details of how and why we get stuck are we able to figure out what might work to help us get UNstuck!

And I promise you that it is RARELY as simple or straightforward as the self-help books might lead you to believe, neurotypical or otherwise.  Everything depends on how any particular task intersects with your particular Challenges Profile™.

As you examine some of the details of my own particular problem example below, think about some of the areas in your life that might look like one type of problem but are actually the result of something else entirely. 

The Leaning Tower of Crockery

Creative Commons, Wikipedia

Creative Commons, Wikipedia

There is no room for a dishwasher in my current apartment. I’m stuck with the task of washing everything by hand.  As much as I hate it, it’s nothing compared with the struggles I faced in my last apartment.

During a hateful period of several weeks there was a faucet drip, compounded by a sink-drainage problem for at least two.

During this particular period, it could take hours for the sink to drain completely. Increasingly powerful drain cleaners did little to clear the clog effectively. Water backed up in my kitchen sink and my dishes piled up unwashed while I waited for my landlady’s follow-through skills to kick in.

Since water in that particular first-floor dwelling always took several minutes of running before it approached a temperature anyone might consider warmish, the sink filled with cold water before I had a shot at getting water delivery hot enough to clean anything.

It made me increasingly furious to have to boil water like a pioneer before I could wash my dishes, so I stopped.  Cold.

Calming myself down

Getting my shorts in a knot about the drainage problem wasn’t going to make it go away. Emotional upset would only increase the difficulty of getting anything ELSE accomplished.  It made sense to stay busy elsewhere so I wasn’t constantly aware of the problem building in the kitchen.  Some distractions are actually helpful!

Except for nightly applications of drain cleaner and cleaning out the goop in the sink – a process that seemed to be undone by morning – I tried to avoid using the kitchen sink at all. I waited for my landlady to find and fix the problem, calling her every day or so with a reminder message. Day turned into day after day.

Even though the resulting mess was beyond hateful in many ways, and even though I could not FORCE myself to handle it “in real time,” waiting was more of a choice than a problem with procrastination.

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But you could have . . .

In case you are one of my neurotypical readers wondering why I didn’t turn to disposable dishes or eat out for the duration — really think about it for a minute!

  1. First, I didn’t expect the problem to take long to resolve.  I expected a day or two, at most.
  2. Second, my decision-process was complicated by trash-management and recycling concerns, economic concerns, time concerns — and ruminating about what the neurotypical world might be likely to have to say about THAT.

I do my best to avoid rumination and Boggle Bait whenever possible. The rest of you reading can understand and relate, right?

After the Fall

Once the drain problem was FINALLY fixed, however, I was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the task at that point.  So I “procrastinated” tackling it for a day (okay, maybe more than one).

Given the nature and importance of the remainder of the items on my schedule, I didn’t feel comfortable justifying the time I was fairly certain it would take to handle the entire task, nor did I want to attempt to manage the stress and anxiety I felt every time I walked into that kitchen.  So I didn’t.

In that instance, and for that particular task, FINALLY getting it done became “simply” a matter of following some of the more conventional advice:

  • Chunking it down to categories (work on the silverware, now the glasses – then plates, etc.)
  • Working in small segments of time after setting a timer (in this case, the one minute it took to rewarm the ever-present cup of cold coffee by my side at my computer – beep!)
  • Making sure I didn’t make the problem any worse until I had cleared the dish backlog and put everything away

My new rule for the duration: I had to wash whatever I wanted to use, rather than grabbing one of the few items that were already clean, and I wasn’t allowed to add any new dishes to the dirty pile – I had to wash and put away anything I used immediately after I was through with it, even if I didn’t make much of a dent in the rest of the problem.

It was a pretty hateful period of follow-through during which time I did more than my share of bitchin’-and-moanin’ (which only made things harder), but I did manage to clear the backlog without upsetting the rest of my apple cart or heaving the rest of my schedule into the black pit of chaos.

And it “only” took me a few days less than a week, too!

Time and Timing

If it had happened at a time when I felt I had to drop everything else to clean up the mess as quickly as possible – if I were expecting a house guest or throwing a party – I’m not sure how many other domino problems might have resulted, or what I might have had to do to clear up those problems as well.

But I’ll bet you a month’s free coaching that whatever I ended up doing would not have responded to exactly the same intervention approach that allowed me to – eventually – clean and put away the backlog of more than a week’s worth of dirty dishes.

I would have known that the resultant stress of having to remain at a totally odious project until it was completed – coupled with the fear that everything else was falling apart for lack of time and attention – would have had a negative impact on my follow-through time.

Even the thought would have doubled the activation energy needed to initiate the task in the first place. That would have negatively affected the motivation necessary to do much of anything about it but complain.

So I would have to have taken EACH of those factors into consideration to be able to come up with a way to accomplish the task effectively.  If I didn’t believe that what I was going to try was likely to work, I would have had NO motivation to attempt anything at all!

The impact of others

I’ll bet you a month of coaching where I pay you that if my landlady had insisted on entering my apartment during the time before I had completed the task, she would have had a FIT. That’s kind of how she rolled.

My defensive (and angry) reaction to her inappropriate and over-the-top lecture would have doubled the difficulty I would have had staying on task, probably doubling the time it would have taken me to get it done as well.

  • Those of you who live with Beloveds who tend to react like my ex-landlady won’t be able to do much about it, most likely.  I never had much success getting my ex-landlady to stop that nonsense, and she wasn’t even primarily affected by the mess (obviously, or she would have fixed it immediately).
  • But you simply must let yourselves off the hook and adjust your timing estimates when you find it all the more difficult to keep from “procrastinating” after one of Beloved’s tirades.  Joining in on the flagellation will only exacerbate the problem.

So what WILL help?

Again, if I could give clients and readers a list of tried and true steps that worked for everyone I’d have a great deal more time to sit around “eating bon bons.” Unfortunately, no list of tried and true’s exists.

Even many neurotypical folks must tweak the standard advice to make it work better for their individual circumstances.  More of the standard advice is likely to work for them, but nothing really works out of the box for anyone.

Most of my clients, most readers of this blog and I, myself, need to look beyond the standard advice, however – we don’t have standard-issue brains.

We need to think Modular

As I said in Part I of this article, TIME and Task Prediction:

  • We must take many more factors into account than our “vanilla brained” friends and loved-ones as we develop our life success systems — which means a higher probability that no two of us will respond well to the exactly the same advice.
  • If you’ll think of building our life systems as a modular process (one from Column A, two from Column B and so on), our list of choices becomes more straight-forward and less complex.
  • Think of this article – and all of the articles on this blog – as a no cost outline and explanation of the modules that work best for US.

As you read, think module application As with any modular process, only choose the modules that make sense with what you are trying to develop. But you can’t choose much of anything if you haven’t taken the time to look at what’s available.  Building from scratch OR grabbing the first items you see are not the best approaches either.

Although most of us shudder when we think about the time it takes to research the ways-and-means that will allow us to develop effective work-arounds, it really is a much more effective use of your time than charging full-steam-ahead.  When we take the just-DO-it approach, we can’t really be being surprised when, despite the sincere application of time and energy, things don’t work out as expected.

Do your best to be patient with yourselves as you take the time it takes to read about the potential pitfalls and research possible solutions.  Try NOT to take vanilla comments to heart when they admonish you for procrastinating or avoiding while you take the time to figure out your own best way to proceed.

How in the world can you expect yourselves to PLAN much of anything at all if your projections are made from someone else’s functional abilities?

Related Post: Predict it to Police It, Police it to PLAN it

Don’t forget that, even if you know yourself and your functioning well already, there is value in the written affirmation that you are not the ONLY person who struggles with tasks others seem to do easily and quickly.  It helps to avoid the shut-down that happens with stress and task-anxiety, which, in turn, reduces rumination and shortens completion time considerably.

Stay tuned for more of this Series – and do take the time to read the Related Content I almost always include at the bottom of my posts – or one of the internal links within each of my articles themselves.

Life really CAN be easier to manage when you are clear about the sum total of what needs to be managed – and why!

Group Coaching enrollment opportunity – coming soon

If you want to speed up the process, think about signing up for Group Coaching, which I will be announcing shortly. We will work out way through each of The Challenges in a format that will be a mix of content delivery, work-shopping and accountability, and Q&A. Don’t miss it!

Related Post: Nine Challenges to Effective Functioning – what ARE they?

No TIME to read all this stuff?

man-on-phoneWatch for the announcement of an upcoming Group Coaching opportunity based on the 12-week TeleClass on Modular Success Systems. As always, class size will be limited to allow for personal attention, so don’t miss the announcement if you want to make sure you sign up before the first group fills.

I can help you sort through the available success modules to design an action plan guaranteed to be more effective than how most of you are currently doing things – a much cheaper alternative to hiring my personal coaching services (the FIRST time I announce a new class or group is always your least expensive option).

If you already know that this is something you are going to want to be part of, leave me a comment below and I’ll save you a seat (fill in your name and email on the comment form or I won’t be able to contact you).

Meanwhile, keep reading as often as you can!  To double the benefit, whenever I post a new article, make it a habit to pick at least one of the Related Content links to read during the same visit.  If you’ll “like” or comment after the pages you’ve read, it will help you keep track and will point others to posts you find especially helpful (as well as helping ME to know what you want me to write about).

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IN ANY CASE, do stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this Series (one-on-one couples or group), click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end (or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page). Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

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Related Articles ’round the ‘net – with tips that may or may not work for YOU
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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

20 Responses to Sherlocking for Task Completion

  1. Pingback: Time management tips for better Executive Functioning | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. Pingback: Executive Functioning Systems | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  3. That sink episode sounds mentally exhausting!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. reocochran says:

    I like how you broke this down and made the situation humorous and relatable, Madelyn. I think time management as well as task organization are really important skills. I like how you used Sherlock by turning it into a verb: “Sherlocking.” So clever! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. noelleg44 says:

    I remember the days of washing dishes by hand (we still do all the pots and pans). And plugged sinks. Boy do I empathize! I like the term Sherlocking!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Noelle – I have almost always had room for at least a small dishwasher — washing by hand seems a never ending, time-consuming task. No matter how hard I try, I can muster little sympathy for those who have dishwashers and STILL are over-run with with dirty dishes because they haven’t systematized filling and emptying the darned thing!


  6. Ah, now I get your problem. Have you considered a bench top dishwasher? The space you sacrifice is totally worth it. I put my dirty dishes on top and when I struggle for room I know it’s time to pack it and put it on. Large pots and frypans, and plastics get done by hand but I put it on every day and twice on Sundays and Bob’s your uncle.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I thought of that, and thanks for the suggestion, but no go.

      My kitchen in this apartment has ONE small base cabinet with counter space on top – 30″ wide and not especially deep. Period. My pots hang on a double rack I built across the window, utensils hang on a wall grid next to the stove – and I built wall shelving for food storage, etc.

      I purchased a rolling taboret for much-needed drawers, which pushes only part way under the sink before it hits the bizarre plumbing, so that gives me a bit more temporary “counter space” when it is needed.

      I moved my hoosier in front of the radiator, sticking out into the room, which works only because the “counter” part slides under the upper part when not in use.

      In any case, after the results of last night’s election, I will be saving every dollar I don’t absolutely NEED to spend, hoping to expatriate while it is still possible to do so. Seriously, I am now AFRAID to live in this country – and I have a new appreciation for those who suffer from anxiety disorders.

      God help us all.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Where are you planning to go? I have told one of my other Blogger buddies ‘Come on down!’ Just saying…….

        Liked by 1 person

        • The internet stat collectors have said that American visitors to travel sites about Canada and New Zealand increased *dramatically* as the election results started to stack up. Either works for me! If I could afford to expatriate NOW I would already be packing.

          Did you read T’s most recent idiot comment about his intention to re-re-re-investigate the supposed “dangers” of vaccines?

          OMG – he plans to decimate the country by bringing back diseases that have been absent for decades by scaring parents about vaccinating their kids, putting us ALL at risk. (I mean, as much as he “plans” anything at all – since the term implies an ability for cause-and-effect *reasoning* that seems, by behavior to date, to be missing entirely.)

          It would seem that T’s panel of advisors double as columnists for The National Inquirer, or one of the other sensationalist rags. Just what this country needs – a science-illiterate with huge megaphone.

          Of ALL the places he could swear to dedicate research funds that could be used to make a positive difference, he chooses THIS battle? But of course! The man-child lives to stir up controversy that divides the nation.

          We are in DEEP DO-DO, as the little kids used to say. And it seems that I’m out of wine, too. 😦


  7. Lucy Brazier says:

    Fabulous post. I know someone who reacts to even the slightest hiccup as if the world is about to end. It is exhausting for his friends and family, particularly as he continues his tantrum until someone else steps in to resolve the issue (goodness knows what will happen when something really serious unfolds). I have tried for many years to help him approach challenges in a more appropriate manner, but at 47 I don’t think he is about to change any time soon. Apart from the impact it has on those around him (everyone gets sucked into the drama) it can’t be good for him and prevents him from doing anything constructive. I shall be sending this article to him!

    Liked by 1 person

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