Project Planning: The ADHD Way [Part 2]

In part 1 we talked about getting those crazy times under control, gaining discipline, and turning the curse of ADHD into a superpower. Part two is about the master list. On days like this when I’m cracking from energy overload and excitement for a big presentation I have coming up, I can’t focus. The master list and pre-work is a life saver in the sea of chaos.

And, no, I’m not being dramatastic about that — everyone I’ve worked with on their unmedicated ADHD has benefited from the concept of pre-work, keeping a master list, and listing their mission daily. This is a trick I pulled from my sensei, but it has been backed up by many productivity fanatics that I’ve run into over the years.

Mission Turned Mantras

While most people in business will state their mission as something broad and encompassing, I find that doesn’t work for me or the others with ADHD so well. Reason? It’s often a broad, sweeping statement that loses a laser focus with a defined period of activity. For example, I might say:

My mission is to help independent researchers and inventors make the dream of doing the research they love from where ever they put up a lab. 

OK…. but… how is that supposed to help me on a month to month basis, let alone on a week to week or day-to-day basis when I need to focus? It’s a broad, sweeping business statement that is an umbrella for all the other “missions” that go on in the background. So, instead of using just the umbrella to define your work, use the tines of the umbrella to provide the structure you need.

Lumpers: People that generally lump similar tasks together, like marketing and sales, into one. Splitters, people that feel more comfortable breaking everything up into smaller classifications. Non-conformists: people that generally like to add a little fit and flare in anything they do. It's pretty and complicated, but it works for them.

Lumpers: People that generally lump similar tasks together, like marketing and sales, into one. Splitters: People that feel more comfortable breaking everything up into smaller classifications. Non-conformists: People that generally like to add a little fit and flare in anything they do. It’s complicated, but it works for them.Colour your umbrella to whatever mood strikes you.

If the umbrella is your “life mission”, then the tines are what you break it down with. One tine might be “life”, another might be “marketing”, another might be “products”. From there, you would define the mission. So, I’m going to take product, for example.

My mission is to create high quality, easy to understand, fun PDFs that enable students to teach themselves — no matter what socioeconomic class they come from.

That is the mission statement behind our Flash Math series of PDFs available for Pay What You Want pricing, including just downloading for free.

What every mission you choose, make it your mission for the month. No, not two months, not a quarter. The month. Your ADHD can focus for a monthly mission with other things interspersed in there without getting overwhelmed. Unless you have a lighter form of ADHD or you’re super disciplined, you might get overwhelmed by a whole year or quarter defined by the mission. When you give yourself permission to be flexible every month, you don’t feel so anxious writing down notes to do later since you know later will come soon enough.

This concept will give you structure for the “what should I do now” times. Just go back to your mission and do the pre-work.

Yeah, OK, so what’s pre-work? Pre-work are all those daydreams. You know those times when you’re reading a book or doing something else and you think, “Oh! I totally need to remember/do/integrate that”? Those thoughts are pre-work. Write them down and come back to them later. I like Evernote for my brain dump. If I’m reading a book, I can take a picture with my phone and put it on Evernote. If I’m out walking around, I’m using keeping track of my steps with my phone… which has Evernote. And, if I somehow don’t have my phone with me or am near a computer, I can just scratch the note on a piece of paper, then put it in Evernote later. I have a full notebook full of ideas to work on “someday”, and each one of those are tagged with an umbrella tine so when I need an idea to work on, I can do it.

Look after todayAfter you write it down, try to quell the excitement for the shiny object by saying your mission like a mantra. “I will…<mission statement>”. When you’re done with the project at hand, you go back to your list, and see what will get you closer to your ultimate umbrella goals.

So, say you just finished making a product. We’ll say a book, because who doesn’t want to be a writer these days, eh? Now you’ll need to market it and sell it. This is where you would shift your focus from the product tine to the marketing tine and look for ways that align with your goals and personality to get it done. (Ideally, you’d be able to juggle a few different things and you’d be “building a list” while “writing the draft”.) Start where you are, look for ideas in your master list to help you get to where you want to be. It doesn’t have to make the full leap, but get you one step closer. So, we’ll say, you have a list, and your next step would be making the offer. You could then go to all your notes tagged with “sales” to see what would be a fun approach to meet your goal.

Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to try new things. 

You’ll see a lot of things out there about how you should or shouldn’t do something. Some people will say you “must” do something or things you “just have to do”. No. No, you don’t. If you want to create an online course to go with your new book because you think it adds value, then do it. Don’t just do it because “it’s the thing everyone else is doing”. Don’t do guest posts in hopes that you’ll get some foot traffic to your site or shop just because some marketer told you it’s the thing to do.

And whatever you do, don’t waste money on a coach until you’ve had time to figure out what style you want to present yourself as — otherwise you’ll end up being their clone.

Part 3 will be all about the day-to-day business of working with ADHD, but until then, what about your ideas?

Are you a lumper, splitter, non-conformist, or something else? Let’s work together in the comments to help each other figure out which umbrella might work for each other. From there, let’s fill in the tines!