Productivity: Paying Attention on Purpose


Keeping our Attention on Intention
Accountability check-ins for purposeful follow-through

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

The Link between Attention and Intention

Many qualities and skills combine to produce successful follow-through. Today, we are going to focus on the importance of attention.

If you ever hope to stop scratching your head or beating yourself up over your struggles with staying on track and getting things done, understanding the implications of the concept of attention is foundational.

Every single technique I have developed, coached and taught over the last 25+ years has been structured with the underlying goal of strengthening  the attentional muscles – or compensating for them when they are weak.

No matter what your most frustrating problem is: clutter-management or up-front organization, making yourself start or procrastinating at the back end, time or mood management  — and a whole host of other challengesunderneath them all is a problem with attention allocation and management.

If you don’t understand how to work with yourself to focus your attention on what you want, when you want and for as long as you must, you’re going to have problems in some or all of those arenas.

So let’s get to it!

As I said in Brain Waves, Scans and ATTENTION —  One of the goals of comprehensive brain-based ADD Coaching is to identify areas where our clients can improve on the intentional direction of attentive awareness.  Nobody gets much done if they can’t focus very well on what they’re attempting to DO.

HOWEVER, without supportive follow-through structures in place, whether professional, partner or peer, the self-discipline to stay focused and in action for as long as it takes, is rare.

As our attention meanders from distraction to competing priority our willpower seems to drain away, leaving us wanting nothing so much as a vacation or a nap!

And then we turn on ourselves, beating ourselves up with negative thoughts and comments we’d never say to another living soul.

Related Posts: How to STOP Chasing your Tail
Productivity, Focus & Follow-through

How Come?

In case you missed it in Why Accountability Leads to Follow Through, it’s not that we’re lazy or lack sufficient motivation, even though many of us have been accused of exactly that, far too many times.

It’s that few of us realize that, no matter how strong our initial commitment, will-power requires cognitive bandwidth that is limited in supply. Just like a a muscle, it can only be exercised for so long – and handle so much – before it gives out.

We see the negative effects most dramatically in the citizens of Alphabet City, whose attentional “muscles” aren’t as strong to begin with. However, we can ALL use a little wind beneath our wings to help us keep on keepin’ on.

Related Post: From Impulsivity to Self-Control

Unfortunately, it becomes difficult to impossible to reach that happy state of managing our attention with intentionality until we understand what it is, exactly, that we are attempting to manage.

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Why Accountability Leads to Follow-through


Keepin’ on Keepin’ ON
Accountability check-ins for follow-through

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

Structures for Accountability

Have you ever gone on a weight loss diet?  Even if you are one of the few people in America who have no personal experience with that particular follow-though struggle, I’ll bet you are familiar with somebody else’s on again/off again attempts at “losing a few pounds and getting into shape.”

Psychologist Dan Ariely, author, professor and Duke University’s founder of The Center for Advanced Hindsight has made a comprehensive study of self-regulation abilities.

He’s noted that people can promise themselves they will stick to a plan (as with a weight-loss diet), and have all the motivation in the world (like a serious health concern, for example) but, without external controls, most people are unlikely to follow through on their commitments to themselves.

Why else do you think so many people trying to lose weight turn to Weight Watchers and other organizations that use an accountability/motivational check-in format?

Related Post: Productivity, Focus & Follow-through

Without support and check-in structures in place, having the self-discipline to follow through for as long as it takes is rare.

  • Haven’t you noticed that you have a better shot at staying on task when someone is watching?
  • Didn’t you study more diligently when you knew a test was coming up?
  • When your follow-through energy begins to flag and you start to get discouraged, doesn’t having somebody in your corner who reminds you of how well you’ve been doing make a difference?
  • When your will-power wilts, doesn’t it help to have a champion in your corner?

It’s not that we’re lazy or lack motivation — it’s that we don’t realize that no matter how strong our initial commitment, will-power requires cognitive bandwidth that is limited in supply.

Just like a a muscle, it can only be exercised for so long – and handle so much – before it gives out.  We need a little wind beneath our wings to help us keep on keepin’ on.

Related Post: Can This ADDer be Saved?

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Getting along when only ONE of you has ADD/EFD


When you love someone who seems to respond in non-loving ways
Adjusting expectations of HOW to get to WHAT

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

She is so selfish;
He never listens;
It’s like s/he disobeys deliberately!
At this point s/he’s just making excuses.

The blind leading the blind?

Whether you are a parent, a partner or a teacher of someone with Executive Functioning challenges, unless you truly understand the parameters of the problem you are, essentially, “blind” about how to interact with them to get what you want from the relationship.

And they are, essentially, “blind” to your expectations and why you are so frustrated when they don’t measure up to your standards.

Related Post: Executive Functioning Disorders – NOT just kid stuff

The hallmark symptoms of Executive Functioning Disorders (of which ADD/HD is only one) negatively impact what I refer to as attentional mechanisms. That can show up a number of ways in day-to-day behavior, but the symptoms that seem to be the most frustrating — the ones I hear about most often — include inattentiveness or forgetfulness, difficulty completing tasks, and impulsivity.

Related Posts: Symptoms of Attentional Struggles
Types of Attentional Deficits

How ADD/EFD Affects Relationships

Alone or in combination, each of the hallmark symptoms can have a devastating impact on relationships. When responsibility for children are part of the puzzle, these issues become all the more complex.

Without the appropriate diagnosis and treatment, ANY of the implications of Executive Functioning struggles can destroy marriages and other relationships — needlessly.

Below are only some of the problems that have been reported to me most often when partners, children or students have Executive Functioning issues, interfering with their ability to direct attention at will.

  • Seeming inability to handle responsibilities
    Forgetting to turn in completed assignments, pay bills or put a toxic substance away from the reach of children, neglecting to clear debris or mend a hole in the fence that keeps the family dog from running into the street are only a few of the many complaints I have heard over the years.
  • Difficulty listening and paying attention
    Many tend to “zone out,” interrupt and talk out of turn, making communication a struggle for both of you. It can also cause the “vanilla” partner to feel as though what s/he has to say isn’t valued or important to the “EFD flavored” partner.
  • Trouble remembering promises & completing tasks
    Thanks to glitches in the short-term to long-term memory circuit, problems with Executive Functioning regulation frequently lead to forgetfulness, which usually shows up as poor organizational skills like: missing important events like birthdays and anniversaries, or repeatedly forgetting to stop at the store on the way home to purchase the ingredients for that very night’s dinner. What may look like a lack of willingness to do what they say they would do (or to finish what they start) may translate into an apparent lack of commitment when it comes to jobs as well as relationships.
  • Impulsive behavior
    Attempts to wake up a sluggish brain often leads to a craving for stimulation. With little attention to thinking through the consequences of their actions, this can result in irresponsible, even reckless behaviors (from experimenting with drugs to speeding and jumping from lane to lane despite the fact that there are children in the car).
  • Emotional volatility
    They may seem to simmer with chronic low-grade irritability, or temper tantrums may flair over things that seem inconsequential to you, leading to harsh words and major misunderstandings. Arguments can quickly spiral out of control because the person with “the problem” seems unable to talk through issues calmly.  The truth is that conversational hot buttons are being pushed on both sides, inadvertently instigated by a frustrated “vanilla” partner.

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