CONNECT WITH DAN

Productivity with ADHD: Hacks for Discipline

In writing this, I’m assuming you know what Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is. Either you’ve been officially diagnosed, or – like me – you’ve researched it methodically and realized that you relate to the condition strongly.

Many of my coaching clients are on the ADHD spectrum, it’s a common co-morbid disorder for Nice Guy Syndrome and People Pleasing Syndrome. I relate to them, because this is me as well. I’ve been able to help many of them become more disciplined and productive, through experiments that worked for me.

This post is mostly about what works for me. I’m not an ADHD expert, or some sort of productivity guru. But if some of what works for me is helpful for you, it’s best I share it.

The ADHD “problem”

One of the reasons that ADHD is probably over-diagnosed and medication over-prescribed to schoolchildren is because it’s primarily seen as a disorder around getting “important” tasks done. Students who struggle to pay attention in class and get assignments in on time pose a convenience issue to teachers and parents alike, so they are seen as “disordered” and forced to get “fixed”.

I don’t want to perpetuate the idea of ADHD as a “problem”. Rather, I see it as a different way of thinking that requires a different approach to life if you want to be creative, successful, and living meaningfully.

I don’t give a fuck if your ADHD is inconvenient to others, and I don’t think you should either. That’s their problem. 

However, I know that you’ll have your own goals and projects and value-based dreams that you wish you could be more consistent in achieving. So I want to help you do what’s right for you, not for others.

What is Discipline?

What I’m really talking about today is discipline.

Discipline is the ability to routinely get important daily tasks completed, regardless of how you feel. Or, one way to look at it is:

Doing what you need to do especially when you don’t feel like it.

One disadvantage of ADHD is that we’re prone to obey our impulses and random feelings as if they’re commands. What we call “distraction” is the process of listening to your impulses and doing what they tell you, rather than bringing your attention back to the task at hand.

People with ADHD struggle to accept feelings of boredom, frustration, overwhelm, stress, confusion, and disinterest. We treat these feelings as threats that we must escape from.

Discipline is understanding that you don’t have to act on impulses, and you don’t have to run away from unpleasant feelings. You must learn, as I did, to let go of the deep-seated belief that we should enjoy everything we do.

A better goal is to behave in a way that would make you proud of who you are, and to create a great life for yourself in the long term.

Discipline is about accepting there’s a cost for feeling proud of yourself and creating a meaningful life: you must pay up front with boredom, reluctance, and the constant domination over distractions.

Everyone, including those without ADHD, have emotions they don’t enjoy and distractions that steal their attention. Everyone, including those with ADHD, also has the ability to resist the urge to become undisciplined.

Stop seeing discipline as a miserable way of living. You wouldn’t be here unless being undisciplined was the actual cause of your suffering.

Discipline might not always be fun in the short term, but the overall quality of life it creates is more than worth the cost.

A new way to look at “productivity”

In school, and later in most workplaces, you were taught that “productivity” was about quantity and people-pleasing. It was about getting a lot done to someone else’s satisfaction. This is why workplaces mostly pay by the hour, regardless of how well the person actually worked during that time.

The best way to work with ADHD is to understand that you need to be about quality rather than quantity, and that other people’s standards are none of your concern.

It’s not about getting a lot of stuff done, or working for long periods of time without losing focus. It’s about ensuring whatever effort you put in has a high leverage factor – it creates high quality outcomes and experiences in your life.

Even if you’re working for someone else, take a moment to think about what you do that’s actually valuable for the company. Learn (eventually) to be able to defend quality over quantity. If you made target before anyone else, you can assert to your boss that you get paid to make money rather than serve hours.

I think it’s far more productive to spend 15 mins playing with your child than to work for 2 hours inputting data into a spreadsheet; to get started on your first book with a few sentences than to write six pages of a business report that no one will read; to speak your mind at a work meeting than attend that same meeting for 3 hours just nodding and smiling.

Rather than thinking you need to do more, think: you need to do better. In fact, use your ADHD as motivation to find more efficient ways of doing things.

Whatever the task in front of you, before starting, first ask yourself, “What’s the quickest, laziest way to do this to get a good enough outcome?” and/or “What’s a more meaningful way of doing this?”

Attachment to ADHD identity

Since ADHD became “mainstream”, I’ve seen an odd wave of pride ripple through the neurodivergent community. There are people who wear their ADHD like a badge of honour.

And there are plenty who use it as an excuse.

While ADHD is certainly a distinct mindset style, and definitely makes certain situations difficult, the idea that it’s some sort of immovable barrier to discipline and productivity is a self-deception. Beware of becoming one of those people who are so proud of having ADHD that they’d rather cling to the label than improve their lives.

If I put a gun to your head, you will be able to pay attention. If I made that task you’ve been procrastinating on into a life or death situation, you would get it done. The ability is there, you just need to learn how to hack into it.

ADHD is something you work with to find unusual solutions. It is not a deal-breaker.


 

For personalised support to tame your ADHD and convert into into confidence, get in touch:

dan@brojo.org

 


The schizophrenic ADHD people-pleaser

Before I figured out how to work with this issue, I was a massive over-achiever. I was one of the “lucky” ones when it comes to ADHD, because with my high IQ and endurance I could get everything done… at least, I sort of could.

This was actually more of a problem than an advantage.

I wasn’t able to see that I needed to do things differently because I regularly outperformed everyone around me. This blinded me to the fact that I was not achieving to the best of my ability, and that I was wasting a lot of time focusing on quantity instead of quality.

I’d do exceedingly well at a job I hated. I’d win competitions in a sport that didn’t matter to me. I’d smash through admin tasks that had no impact on anything worth caring about. I got straight-A’s when I only needed C’s.

In the first 8 years of my coaching business, I did everything.

I wrote blog posts. I had a podcast; a YouTube channel; online courses. I’ve published 4 books. I’ve tried a million different marketing strategies. I did guest appearances on people’s shows, started up innumerable collaborations, ran seminars and workshops and in-person meetups, and randomly went live on social media. I published on every platform you’ve ever heard of, and many you haven’t. I responded to all comments and emails, even from the haters. 

All of this was crammed on top of my 1:1 coaching, which is my actual calling.

At the same time, I was constantly trying new hobbies, traveling, getting into trends like ice-baths and crazy diets. I just couldn’t say No to any “great” idea that popped into my head. I couldn’t say No to opportunities, invitations, impulses, and even suggestions from people I’m not trying to serve. At one point I was even running a dance studio for some reason.

And of course, like any good little ADHD boy, I was simultaneously neglecting important tasks that caused me big problems down the line. Procrastinating on my tax returns; ignoring the “check engine” light in my car; skipping the gym yet again; forgetting to respond to my friends; messages.

Every year or two I’d go through a massive burn out. I could never figure out why…

The problems this caused

I’ve been coaching for 10 years. I could be doing a lot better in business than I am doing. But because I was always start/stopping new ideas and never building momentum on just one thing, nothing really ever got off the ground. For most of those years, I’ve been grinding hard and constantly feeling like I’m starting from the beginning. I was spread out like a sawn-off shotgun blast rather than concentrating my power like a sniper rifle.

I could have a black belt in martial arts by now. But I always start to lose interest once I get to intermediate level and wonder what another style would be like. The end result is I’m not much better at fighting than any average person walking down the street.

I could have abs by now. But whenever a new diet and exercise program gets to about the 3 month mark, I cave in to my impulses to eat sugar and try new ideas.

I could have been a successful musician. But practicing an instrument just felt too boring. I only liked the thrill of playing live.

The ADHD problem for me personally is lots of input with a inexplicably low output. It seems I’ve had a lot of “I should be better by now” moments in my life, where my results simply don’t make sense compared to my efforts.

It’s only recently that I’ve realised that discipline is the problem. The ability and effort were there, but they were unfocused.

Had I been able to endure sensations like boredom, temptation, doubt and distraction without acting on them, I’d have much more satisfying long-term results.

Oh well, better late than never!

Essentialism

While a lot of things helped me, one book in particular changed my mind about everything: Essentialism, by Greg Mckeown.

This idea that I should just focus on just one thing at a time. That there is no such thing as priorities. There is only one priority at any given time.

I quickly realised that my problem was about prioritizing. I would act on any whim that came into my head rather than sticking with the limited, repetitive, and sometimes boring tasks that actually created a good life.

I’m always bursting with ideas. They always seem like awesome ideas. But very few of them are actually helpful when I try to implement, mostly because I just get started and then move on to something else without sticking around to do the longer term application that turns an idea into results.

ADHD might stop you from getting lots of tasks done, but the hyperfixation element of ADHD can actually be an asset. Once you know that the task in front of you is THE task for today, and that nothing else matters, you can give yourself over to it and zoom in on it like a psycho. Even if it’s “boring”.

The key for me is in being convinced that the task I prioritise is the right one to focus on. Once I’m sold on it being the best use of my time, I have almost no resistance to sticking with it. Especially since I know that once it’s done, I can have guilt-free impulsive/spontaneous time.

I prioritise in a few ways.

Firstly, I’m very clear on my goals. If, for example, I want to grow my business, then I can review my business statistics to identify the most helpful thing for me to do (i.e. create YouTube videos). The stats confirm this is the thing to prioritise. That means no more book writing, or online course creation, or anything that doesn’t directly contribute the most to growing the business. 

Side note: the only reason I’m writing this post is because I’ve done my essential tasks for the week, and this random impulsive post is a little gift to myself for being disciplined.

Secondly, I have a strict to-do list. I constantly hone it over time, always seeking to make sure that I’m doing what matters first and what just feels good last. I use my best energy in the morning to do what has the highest leverage impact on my quality of life. I try to cut the list in half every few months or so, keeping it streamlined.

My list won’t look like a normal neurotypical’s list. It starts with preparing the next day’s practical activities (e.g. setting alarms for my appointments) to relax me about focusing only on today. Then it tells me to take care of my clients and customers. Then comes Jiu Jistu, exercise, and meal prep. Then comes marketing. Then it’s time with my daughter and wife. Then there’s practicing Czech language and other development activities.

After that, I can do whatever I want.

You’ll notice that part of the formula is mixing up what type of activities I’m doing. This helps counteract boredom and burn-out. If I’ve just done something cerebral, I switch to something physical. If I’ve just done something technical, then I switch to something social.

This satisfies my ADHD need for variation, and because I know that change is always coming up, I don’t panic. It also allows me to rest without feeling guilty.

I also don’t allow myself to stay in one domain too long. An ironic ADHD trait is to get locked into a type of task for many hours, long past the point of efficiency and effectiveness, and to the detriment of a balanced lifestyle. I aim to quit a task when it’s going well rather than waiting to burn out on it.

Thirdly, I often review my daily task list and compare it to my core values. I make sure that my tasks are ordered according to a hierarchy of meaningfulness.

Sure, spending time with my daughter might not feel “productive” in the classic sense, but I know that I’m going to regret not spending more time with her when I’m older. So that gets prioritised over some business tasks.

I’m constantly focused on trying to do less while having a greater impact. I allow things to get left behind and I deliberately procrastinate on things that simply do not matter. I’m very clear about the difference between what must happen, and what’s just nice to have or enjoyable to experience.

Becoming my own master… and slave!

The problem with ADHD is in the present-moment decision making. We’re impulsive, whimsical, easily tempted, and struggle with figuring out what should be done right now.

And yet, when we’re looking forward into the future, such as tomorrow, we’re much more clear-headed about the best things to do.

The lesson I’ve learned from this is that I cannot trust myself to decide what to do in the moment as much as I can trust my future planning. With ADHD, I cannot just “wing it”. So I don’t… at least, not until I’ve earned it.

To master myself, I must be my own slave!

By this I mean I’ve made a commitment to follow my own commands from my past self to my present self. The plan I made yesterday must be blindly obeyed!

If there’s a problem with it, I’ll learn from my mistakes and adjust tomorrow’s plan, but I will not adjust it today (unless there’s a genuine emergency). I’ll die with this plan.

No matter what temptations or ideas or opportunities present themselves, I have to say No or at least “Not today”, because I’m a slave who has no choice but to complete the mission.

When I get new ideas and so on, as I always do, I placate my urges by making a note of them for later. I even have a task on my to-do list to review new ideas… and it’s after all the important shit is done. So I don’t need to panic about missing out, I just need to get comfortable with delaying my reaction.

Most of the time, I dismiss the ideas later because I realise that they weren’t aligned with my values or the most effective ways to achieve my goals. They were just brief, flash in the pan temptations that aren’t based on evidence and reason.

After a couple of years split-testing what works and sticking with things long term, I rarely have a new idea that’s better than staying on track with what is already proven.

Start with anything

Rather than trying to come up with the perfect to-do list, start with a rough draft.

Write up a list of all the things you want to see yourself doing tomorrow (forget long-term future for now). Then, with your core values and goals in mind, try to arrange them in a hierarchy from most to least helpful (think quality, not quantity). 

If you struggle with two competing ideas, flip a coin and make one the winner. The key to remember is that you only have one priority at a time, and that everything else must wait in the queue behind it.

At some point on the list as you go down the hierarchy, the tasks will downgrade from must do to optional.

Literally draw a line on the list separating these two categories. This line marks the point at which obedience to the list becomes optional. Everything above the line is non-negotiable. Your reward for reaching the line without wavering is to freestyle and let your ADHD do what it does.

Then, tomorrow, you’ll just obey your list like a mindless slave. No matter how it feels!

And at the end of the day, you review how helpful the list hierarchy actually was. Look at how realistic the number of tasks were (if you couldn’t reach the line by the end of the day, you need to reduce the list). Look at what got done vs what you didn’t get round to.

Are you on track with what matters?

But how do I deal with not wanting to???

This is a longer-term deeper piece of work. Be patient, it will take a while to build the inner discipline. 

Start with trying your very best to stick with the plan until you reach the line, the outer discipline. 

One way to avoid the distracting urgent desire to ESCAPE!!! the dreaded boredom and overwhelming feeling is to relieve the pressure in terms of quantity.

Let’s say you’ve got some big hassle of a task, like filling out your tax return. The idea of sitting down and crunching numbers despite being bad at maths while dealing with government bureaucracy bullshit fills you with dread. You just can’t make yourself get started.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Make the only rule: “I must show up and start a little bit, then I’m allowed to quit!”

So perhaps the first part of getting your taxes done is logging into the online portal. So for today, the only thing you must do is retrieve your login information.

If you want to go further after that, great! But if not, then you can come back to taxes tomorrow and do the next tiny step.

“Too tired” for a workout? Just put your shoes on and arrive at the gym. Do a 1 minute warm up, and then decide if that’s enough for today or you want to do more.

This counters the “Everest Effect”. Stop making everything into a huge mountain to climb. Just take one step. Then another the next day, and so on. This is discipline. Get started early enough and you’ll never run late.

If you can only pay attention for a short while, then match the size of your tasks to the bandwidth of your attention span. Break everything into micro-tasks. Release obligation to do more than you can handle, provided that you at least do something.

But, to be frank, you are just going to have to learn to endure discomfort.

When you feel agitated, or get lost in thought, or are overcome by the urge to go on a Facebook scrolling binge, just stop it!

Stop believing that you’re powerless to these distractions. Sure, they might sneak past you at first, but you can course-correct if you want to.

Sometimes I’ll notice I’m scrolling social media, so I literally give myself a gentle slap on the face and say “Stop it!” I then mentally drag my attention back to what I’m supposed to be doing. 

I recognise that my emotions are not puppet masters. I don’t have to give up on something just because I don’t enjoy the sensation of doing it, or because I keep losing focus.

Every time I lose focus, I bring it back. If I have to do it 100 times in a single session, so be it!

The more I practice doing what’s right rather than what feels good, the easier it is to control myself. The more I retrieve my attention, the less it wanders.

Postnote: Thoughts on medication

For some of you, your ADHD will be severe enough that you simply require medical intervention. I’m not against it, but I would say try other ways first.

The reason I say this is twofold.

Firstly, there are downsides and side-effects to the medication, including a loss of passion and an uncertainty that you’re actually being productive in the way that’s best for you. Not to mention potential depression and anxiety etc.

Secondly, a lot of what people think of as “ADHD symptoms” are actually something else. From something as simple as bad habits, through to more complex things like Avoidant Attachment Styles and Nice Guy Syndrome.

Sometimes, what seems to be ADHD is really just misalignment. If you’re in a shit job, hanging out with bad-fit people, doing tasks you don’t find meaningful, failing to get enough sleep, bingeing on porn etc., then it makes sense that you struggle to focus and stay committed.

So before you take meds, check first:

  • Do you know your core values and have you aligned your job, hobbies, health practices, and social life with those?
  • Have you tried using disciplined structured lists and following those to the best of your ability, focusing on quality over quantity?
  • Have you eliminated other potential causes such as sleep deprivation, poor diet, lack of exercise, social media addiction, and substance abuse?

If you’re doing your best to live with integrity and be healthy and discipline yourself with structure and still you can’t get things done, then consult your doctor.

How you can make massive progress in just a few months!

You can do all this on your own.

Through trial and error, books, courses and online content, you can figure it out slowly piece by piece over time if you dedicate yourself to it and are willing to fail often and get uncomfortable in order to achieve social mastery and build strong self confidence.

Or…

You can work directly with me in your corner for a short period of time and achieve the same results in months that would take you YEARS on your own (or your money back!).

That’s what my confidence coaching is really all about. I accelerate your progress significantly by ensuring you:

  • Create loving, honest and intimate relationships
  • Overcome your fear of rejection
  • Stop seeing yourself as not good enough
  • Develop easy practical social communication skills while still being honest
  • Unleash your masculinity to make you more assertive and attractive
  • Increase your self-confidence and self-respect
  • Get advanced practical tips to eliminate self-sabotage and give you the best possible chances at career advancement, dating opportunities, and deep connections with quality friends
  • Help you see your blind spots and errors and develop a measurement system that you can use on your own to ensure ongoing improvement for life

It took me about 7-10 years to figure this stuff out on my own. It takes my average coaching client only about 3-6 months to achieve a level of mastery that leaves them able to continue coaching themselves to further success while feeling absolutely certain that they’re on the right path (proven by the results they get).

I’ve turned virgins into fathers.

I’ve created assertive leaders out of meek people pleasers.

I’ve released overthinkers so they become powerfully decisive.

I’ve transformed shy introverts into social connectors.

I’ve moved highly anxious and depressed guys into a world of permanent self-confidence and optimism.

You don’t need to take my word for it. You can test it out for yourself. Fill out the application form below for a FREE trial coaching session with no obligation to continue, and no sales pitch!

My coaching will either blow you away and convince you that it’s worth it, or you’ll simply spend an hour talking to me without losing anything.

>> Click here to apply for a complimentary trial coaching session

Thanks for reading

Hope to speak to you soon

Dan Munro

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

JOIN BROJO TODAY

Confidence | Clarity | Connection

No more people-pleasing, Nice Guy Syndrome, or confidence issues.

The BROJO community will make sure you achieve your goals and build your self-worth with the support of members and coaches from all over the world.