I get questions like this in my email every day and can't possibly respond to all of them individually, so I thought I'd share this post with you and my response in hopes that it might help you figure out where to start too.
Reading your articles is like reading about myself, except that I work in a classroom instead of the corporate world, and I have been a single parent since my daughter was born 17 years ago. I've gone through all the same thoughts about being disorganized, have sought help in several ways, but I have yet to find anything that truly works with me.
"crap, I'm only going to get 3 hours of sleep."
I will look at a mountain of mess on my kitchen table and think
"I only have 15 minutes, it's pointless trying to clean this right now."
I walk down the halls at work after the kids leave and most of the other teachers have left thinking
"how do they get their grading done so fast?"
I know that I have a hard time finding motivation, getting started, and not being such a perfectionist. But I don't know how to work with these and ask for help in ways that I'm wiling to tolerate. And my perfectionism makes me too embarrassed about the state of my house to ask for help in cleaning it.
I used to sit down with my daughter (also ADHD) and write a to-do list of chores, making each item as small as possible - mop kitchen, dirty dishes hunt, fold socks, etc. We would cut up the list and divide it (2 chores for me for every 1 for her), then we would race to see who could get the most done before the timer went off. It was super fun for both of us, and whoever won got a treat from the other person, a shoulder rub, toenails painted, a story, etc.
But now that my daughter's time is filled with marching band and color guard and choir, we aren't home together enough to play this game. When we are home, we're too tired to do anything other than share a movie together.
I don't know how to transition to make things work again. I'm so overwhelmed that all I want to do are hide in a good book, or find someplace to escape to and play task avoidance, usually a walk or a visit to my sister's house.
Where do I start?
How many of you reading this can relate? I sure can.
Here's my response.
Although from what you wrote, your situation is very similar to mine and to many of my clients, I cannot in good conscience advise on you on specifically where to start. That would be like a doctor giving a prescription without doing an assessment first. I can, however, speak in generalities and hope that may help in your situation. My guess is that underlying your resistance to getting started is the emotional conflict about your daughter growing up and not needing you as much any more, but that is only a guess..not a considered opinion.
All I can do, ethically, is share that in my experience, and FOR ME, I have found that "where I start doesn't really matter." What matters is starting. As long as I ask effective questions and look in the right places for answers, I will ultimately gets me to the real root of the issue. Starting itself is what helps you find the "real place to start.
Since the MOST important thing is to get started, if I can't quickly pick a place to start, I sometimes even write down my options and then just pick one out of a bowl. Sometimes I have trouble thinking of options for starting. In that case, I ask the question "What ARE my options for starting? Have I thought of enough possibilities? Have I thought of TOO MANY possibilities?" More than 5 options is too overwhelming, less than 3 may be too "limiting" and get me stuck in a vicious cycle.
When I use this agile approach, I find that my inner wisdom kicks in and starts speaking to me. I have trained myself to listen though. This may not work for you if you aren't used to listening to your inner wisdom. If you are used to trying to boss yourself around...it won't work. And so maybe that is the place to start. Practicing more effective listening to yourself.
Sometimes I find I don't like what I pick. So I keep going till I find or design an option that I can get myself motivated to start on.
Sometimes its the easiest place to start, sometimes the fastest, sometimes the "smallest" or sometimes the most frustrating thing is what captivates my interest and gets me into action.
Bottom Line: The "best" place to start is ALWAYS relative to everything else going in your life at that moment. And your inner wisdom is the part of you that is able to holistically process what your logical mind can't and it usually knows best where you to start if you listen to it. It is far better at prioritizing in the moment and understanding what you really need right now than your verbal mind is.
So, let go of the ideal of finding the "best" place to start and listen your inner guidance system. Keep proposing options to yourself until you get a "hell yes, I can do that" feeling. The idea that there is a "best" starting point is our logical mind's idealism and perfectionism kicking in.
Try redefining the question from "where is the best place to start?" to "what are my options for starting?" What would naturally motivate me right now to make a decision and start? How could I make this task super small? How could I take some of the pressure of and just do it because it needs doing? What if I just do what I can do in 15 minutes instead of feeling like it ALL has to get done in 15 minutes?
For example, in my garden if there are weeds and I only have 5 minutes...I jsut pull as many as I can in 5 minutes Instead of just doing one small area for 5 minutes and having it end up looking I started and didn't finish, I review the whole garden pick the BIGGEST weeds to get the most impact for my 5 minutes of labor. Perhaps look at all the things you DO get started on with ease? What helps you do that? What can you apply from your successes to this situation?
Hope this helps you find your own way to get started : )
With much love and best wishes that you find your answers.
p.s. the photo is one I took in Atlanta 2011 while hiking by a stream. If you use it for something, I would appreciate you giving me a credit and linking back to me at www.arianebenefit.com