Use This Powerful 3 Step Framework to Get Things Done With ADHD

Here’s what I know about you.

You have an endless supply of new ideas.

Your list of projects is plenty long.

And you completely light up thinking about your goals.

But for one reason or another, you’re not getting as much done as you’d like.

Maybe you feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.

Or perhaps procrastination gets in your way.

Maybe you’re easily distracted by anything and everything.

Or when it comes to sharing your ideas with others, perfectionism and imposter syndrome hold you back.

If any of these situations sound familiar, I have some good news for you. 

Episode 124 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast walks you step by step through these obstacles and provides you with powerful tools to take action and finally complete those items on your list.

So if you’re ready to get started, be sure to check out episode 124 now.

You can listen to the episode above or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here: 

Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.

In This Episode, You Will Discover… 

  • My three-step framework to get things done
  • How to use this framework anywhere you feel stuck
  • Simple steps to get started today

Links From The Podcast

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Episode #: (Transcript)

Hello everybody! Welcome to the podcast. How are you today? I have had such a fun time hanging out with several of you this past week in the How to Get it Done training. I always love it when we can gather together and connect and I get to know what’s going on for you a little bit more.

Now, for those of you who didn’t hear about it or couldn’t make it. Or maybe you signed up and forgot to attend or didn’t get to the replay, first of all, I get it. In fact, I was talking about this with my coach this past week.

I was saying that I am literally the worst when it comes to trainings – especially the ones that I know I can’t make live. I sign up for them anyway, because I genuinely WANT to go and learn the information. And I tell myself that I’ll totally watch the replay. 

But when I was talking to my coach, I said something to the effect of, but who am I kidding? Unless it’s on a podcast and I can listen as I’m out walking Bruno or running around, I probably won’t remember to schedule time to watch the replay. It’s very rare that I do that.

Am I alone here? Just me?

So my coach – in all of her infinite wisdom – shout out to you, Kelly – suggested: then why don’t you share it on the podcast? If you find that most convenient, chances are other busy brains do, too. So why don’t you share it?

And I thought, brilliant.

So that’s what we’re going to do today. We’re going to talk about my 3-step framework to get stuff done. And as you listen, I invite you to consider the questions I ask and think about how you can use this framework that we explore today in any area of life that you’re feeling stuck.

Because this simple framework is also incredibly powerful, and I’m so excited to share it with you today. 

So as we dive in, I’d love for you to first think about the tasks and projects on your mind right now that you’d love to finally check off the list. What is a project or a goal or assignment for work that’s been on your mind for a LONG TIME?

Maybe it’s a home task that never gets checked off the to-do list.  Maybe you’re migrating a work project from one bullet journal spread to the next. Heck, maybe one bullet JOURNAL to the next. Maybe it’s cleaning out your closet, finalizing a report, or decorating for the holidays.

Whatever it is, identify that thing and keep it in your mind throughout the episode. That way, by the end, you’ll have the steps you need to start taking action on it. 

Do you have it in your mind? If so, then I invite you to ask yourself with compassion and curiosity – NOT judgment – why haven’t I completed this yet? What feels hard about getting this thing done? What seems confusing? Where are you getting stuck?

During the training, people identified lots of different obstacles, and many of them fell into the categories of not having enough time, feeling too overwhelmed or confused about where to start, and a general disinterest or dread of doing the thing. 

And here’s the deal. If that sounds familiar, nothing has gone wrong here, You are in good company. AND we can work with it.

The reality is that for ADHDers and those of us who have ADHD tendencies, creating doable plans, navigating procrastination, overwhelm, and confusion, and actually getting started on those plans feels so challenging at times. And when you add in following through and completing all of the details in the equation, the brain usually wants to freak out.

Some of us avoid creating a schedule because we don’t want to look at everything there is to do. Some of you might be timeblind like me and when you do create a schedule you completely overshedule yourself. While some of you may look at the project in your planner and you find yourself procrastinating. You’re procrastiworking on everything else rather than doing the thing that matters.

And for some of you, perhaps you can create your schedule and you get started on the tasks, but for the life of you, you cannot seem to complete them. You’re either distracted by new ideas that you just can’t ignore or you’ve reached the last 10 or 20%, the detail work that’s SO BORING. If any of these situations sound familiar, first of all, good news. Because we’re going to talk about how to handle that today. And second of all, know you’re in good company. 

Because these obstacles are what I work on with my clients each day, AND what I just shared is literally what I struggled with for years. As I talked about back in my podcast on ADHD, for the first thirty-one years of my life, I was undiagnosed with ADHD.

And especially throughout grad school and my years working as a professor, I felt like a constant ball of stress and overwhelm. I was working at least 10 times as hard as all of my colleagues, and that hustle did not get me ahead, it was just enough to keep my head above water most days. Some days, not so much. 

I tried every planner, organizational hack, and productivity tip you can imagine. But no matter what I tried, I couldn’t get myself to make a plan that was realistic and actually stick to it, let alone follow through all the way to completion.

And then I was diagnosed with ADHD at 31, and I learned so much about the challenges of executive functioning that people with ADHD brains have in terms of making plans, navigating time, initiating tasks, staying focused, and following through.

I learned about how hard it can be to not only generate motivation but also maintain staying committed even when things are hard or unfamiliar. And when I learned this information, that’s when I realized there was nothing wrong with me, and that my brain just worked a little bit differently. What’s more, I realized there’s something I could do about it. 

And so I worked with my doctor and my psychiatrist to find the right medication. I started working with my own coach. I started figuring out strategies that helped me identify and prioritize which goals were actually important to me.

And I learned how to get over the stumbling blocks of getting started when the dreaded procrastination sets in and I didn’t want to write the article or grade the papers or finish organizing my kitchen. I learned how to stay committed to my goals even when things got hard, or even when I told myself I was too busy, and even when the impulse came to jump to the next thing because I felt a little bored. 

And perhaps most powerful of all, I learned to stick with it. I learned to stay focused on the end goal, and see it all the way through. Experiencing these shifts for myself is what propelled me to start sharing what I know with others. And that’s what I have the honor of doing each day as a coach and right here on the podcast.

In today’s episode, we’re talking about the CORE framework that I use for myself and with my clients to get stuff done.

So, let’s dive in.

I’m going to start with a big picture overview of this framework to get things done. It involves three separate stages.

It doesn’t matter what you are doing, how big the project is, or how long it’s going to take. Anything that you want to get done fits within this three-step framework that we’re going to outline today.

3 Step Framework

And that three-step framework is plan, act, and complete.

We first need to plan what we’re going to do. Then, we need to take action on that plan. And finally, we need to follow through all the way to completion. Now, if I caught you mid-eye-roll, and you’re thinking to yourself, “Duh. I knew I needed to do those three things already!” Stick with me.

It’s really important to start here to provide structure and support for your brain. Because the reality is this. ADHDers and those of us with distractible brains tend toward overwhelm. As we talked about just a minute ago, it’s so easy for us to spin out in indecision, overwhelm, and analysis paralysis because we have no idea what to do first. We’re lacking clear direction.

So within this big picture of Plan – Act – Complete we have the initial structure of support whenever we notice ourselves slipping into inaction. In fact, if there is only one thing you take away from this episode, I invite you to remember this: whenever you feel stuck. Whenever you don’t know what to do. The most powerful thing you can do is slow down and ask yourself: in which of the three stages am I stuck?

Am I stuck in the planning phase? Have I made my plan yet? Am I stuck in the action phase? Am I procrastinating or spinning in confusion about how to start? Or am I stuck in the completion phase? Do I notice myself wanting to jump to the next idea without finishing up the details?

When you make this check-in a regular practice, you calm your mind and give yourself that initial direction. Because once you know where you are stuck, you then know the next step. You either need to make a plan, create the momentum to get started, or generate the commitment and determination to follow through. And that’s what we’re going to talk about next.

But before we do. I invite you to check in with that task or project that’s been following you on your to-do list that you identified earlier

Are you stuck in planning? Task initiation? Or completion?

Have you made a plan to get it done yet? If so, have you gotten started on the plan? Or have you planned and gotten started, but you’re dragging to finish up the last pieces?

Let’s dive in with a closer look at our three steps beginning with planning.

As ADHDers and people with ADHD tendencies, I find we tend to have a love-hate relationship with planning… Many of us love the IDEA of planning. We love the idea and some of us even love the process of mapping things out. We might find that doing this creates clarity because your brain has some structure on what you need to do.

But when it comes time to actually follow the schedule… that’s another story altogether. Because often we’ve overscheduled ourselves so badly that the brain wants to quit before it starts.

On the other hand, you may completely resist the idea of planning altogether. You don’t want to be so controlled by a calendar. You prefer to have the freedom to do work on your projects when it feels right. Or maybe planning seems like a complete waste of time. Why would you waste time planning when you could be doing the thing?

Now – with both of these scenarios. Whether you over-plan or resist planning. We often end up getting stuck in overwhelm feeling unsure of where to start. If you scheduled entirely too much, and you tell yourself you don’t have enough time, you feel defeated. If you didn’t plan, your brain freezes up in analysis paralysis unsure of where to start.

3 Steps To Planning

So how can we plan in a way that works for us? In my group program, We’re Busy Being Awesome, I talk about the three key components of the planning process to set yourself up for success. 

Step one is prioritization → how do we know what’s actually most important when everything seems like a fire?

We have deadlines. Long term goals. Things we can delegate. And all the distractions that seem like emergencies in the moment. 

Step one is prioritizing these demands so you know where to put your focus.

Step two is budgeting your time

Just as we have a budget for our finances so we know we’re spending our money in a way we want. I think it’s equally – if not more – important to intentionally budget your time. And the reason why I think this is so key is that time is finite.  Each of us has 168 hours per week. How do we want to spend them?

And then step three is to plan out your schedule. Today I want to explore this area more in depth today.

Now, there are many ways that a person can plan their schedule. There are tons of planning approaches and strategies available. And it’s important that we find the approach that works best for you. I also believe there are three key essentials for any planning process.

#1: begin your planning session with a to-do list download for.

Write down all of the different projects and tasks and things you want to complete. Get it all out of your head and then down onto paper. We spend so much time trying to store this important information in our head.

We have all of these open loops of unfinished tasks spinning around in our mind creating that sense of chaos and overwhelm, and it’s SO IMPORTANT to get it out of your head and onto paper. Why? Because it allows you to look at it intentionally and see what you’re working with.

So again. Step 1 is to do a to-do list download.

#2: identify the top one to three things you commit to completing by the end of that day.

As a side note, I like to leave some wiggle room between one and three things, because sometimes our projects are quite large. And when you break down those projects into smaller steps, they become rather time intensive. So, if you have a big project on your plate, you might just have one priority on your list.

Alternatively, maybe you have three things that break down into one personal focus, one work focus, and one project around the house. However you want to think about your 1-3 non-negotiable tasks it is up to you.

But start with the thought download of all the things you want to complete. Then from that list, identify your top one to three priorities. Once you have your list of all the tasks, and you’ve identified your most important items, then you are going to block out time on your calendar. 

#3: and the key reminder here is to begin by scheduling your top priority items.

Let’s say for me it was writing a newsletter, preparing my webinar flipchart, and teaching a class. What I would do in this scenario, is block out those times on my calendar first. I know it generally takes me about 30 minutes to write my newsletter and schedule it.

I don’t know the exact time it takes to make my flipchart, but I do know that I need to both plan the layout AND create it, so I want to give myself more time than I think. My immediate thought is 1 hour, so I am going to double that and make it 2. (YES, really) In fact, I often will triple it if it’s something I’ve NEVER done before.

As someone who is time blind, this is key as you learn how long you take to complete tasks. And then the class that I need to teach is an hour plus I want to give myself 15-30 minutes to review the notes beforehand and I need about 15-30 minutes after to decompress.   So that’s 2 hours for the chart, and about two and a half hours for the newsletter and the class. That’s 4.5 hours already.

Then from there, I can fill in the rest of the spaces ensuring that I give myself time for breaks, time for lunch, and time to do my shutdown routine at the end of the day. And by time blocking things out, I know that I create a realistic schedule that allows me to get things done without slipping into overwhelm.

Because if I don’t take time to map things out, my brain wants to tell me that I can do so much more. It thinks: I should be able to get more done. I should be able to complete everything on my list.  But when I make math out of the situation. When I assign time to the tasks, it really helps my brain see what I can do realistically in the amount of time I have.

So again, with our three essential steps to planning, it’s doing your to-do list download, identifying your top tasks, and scheduling those tasks FRIST with ample time to ensure you have time to complete them.

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Act

Alright. So we’ve made our plan, now it’s time to act on it. And let’s be real, this is when procrastination often enters the conversation and tries to slow us down. I mean honestly, how often have you thought to yourself, I know what to do… I’m just not doing it. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve said that myself and that I’ve heard clients share as well.

And assuming you can relate, I thought I’d a couple of my favorite strategies to help you with getting into action and creating that momentum forward for yourself, too.

Eliminate Distractions

The first thing to do to set yourself up for success is by eliminating your distractions. Now, as I said to the people at the training, I’m pretty sure I just heard a collective sigh from everyone listening. But there’s a reason why I am reminding you right now to eliminate the distractions.

And the reason is that even though we know we should do this, we’re still not doing it. At least not all the time. Turn off your notifications. Go full screen with your project. 

If you find yourself tempted to pop over to social media or check email when you’re doing work online, perhaps use two different browsers. When I do research I use one browser, which isn’t logged in to any of my distracting websites. When I’m not working, then I use another.

Also, I like to use something called Freedom, which is an app that blocks both websites and different programs on your computer and phone to help remind you to stay on track. I’ll link to it in the shownotes if you want to check it out.

And of course, silence your phone or better yet remove it from your physical space. The truth is, as ADHDers and those of us with distractible brains, we don’t need any other distractions in our way. Set yourself up for success. Eliminate as many distractions as possible.

Thought Download

Alright, so we have prepared our physical space to remove the distractions, and now it’s time to clear your mental space. And to do that, I recommend doing a quick thought download about the specific project you’re going to start.

And a thought download – or what some people call a brain dump – is exactly that. It’s simply writing down the different thoughts in your head onto paper. You’re getting everything out.

Because let’s be real, if you’re anything like me, at least 50% of the time, you probably don’t want to do the thing on your list.  Even if part of you wants to, the toddler brain will be throwing a fit saying, I don’t want to start. This will be hard. It will take too long, etc. So let your toddler brain have its say.

And to do this, write down all of your thoughts about that project.  Why you don’t want to do it, why you think it’s too hard, why it’s going to take too long, why you don’t know where to start, write down all the drama.  Get it out of your brain.

Then look at all that stuff. Notice what your brain offers you. And start to question it.

Question your thoughts

Are these thoughts actually true? Do I really not want to do it AT ALL? Surely there must be PART of me that wants to do it, otherwise it wouldn’t be on the list in the first place. And then remind yourself of all the reasons why you do want to do it.

And to put this into context, I’ll give you one of my own examples, which is about writing my newsletter each week. So, if I’m feeling resistant to writing my newsletter on a particular day, I want to give my brain space to have its say.

And that familiar rant probably sounds something like this: this is going to take too long, and I don’t know what to say. Plus, no one wants to hear from me, and no one will read it anyway. I’ll probably sound stupid. All the drama.

But after I get it all out of my head, then I go to the other side. I flip the negative thought on its head, and I think about how the opposite is also true. It’s not going to take that long, and it’ll definitely go faster if I start it. I do want to do this work, because when I do, I get to connect with everyone on my email list, which, in reality, I love doing.

And while it’s true that someone might not want to hear from me, there are also people who do. And if I can reach one person, it’s worth it. By reminding myself of why I do want to do the thing and reminding myself of why I am willing to get uncomfortable to do it, I have a much easier time shifting into action.

Now because of time and this podcast will already be a little longer than most, I won’t go into all the different reasons why we struggle with procrastination. But there are so many obstacles that love to pop up for us.

We get stuck in analysis paralysis trying to make the right decision. We’re convinced there must be a right decision, or we don’t want to make the wrong decision. We procrastinate because we’re overwhelmed thinking we don’t know where to begin. Often perfectionism and impostor syndrome also sneak in right around now, too. We tell ourselves we can’t get started until we have our entire office is perfectly clean. Sometimes a fear of failure, and sometimes a fear of success can keep us from getting started.

And this is just a partial list. There are so many reasons why our brains resist starting. And we dive into all of these different reasons and learn strategies for each within We’re Busy Being Awesome.

But for today, two of the most powerful and effective strategies that you can use regardless of the other reasons that are contributing to the procrastination, is #1: eliminate those distractions, go into full screen mode on your one focused task.

And #2, create some mental clarity and intentional thought focus so that you clear out all the reasons why you don’t want to do the work, and remind yourself of all of the reasons you do. I’m telling you, it’s a game-changer.

Complete

And then we get to Step 3. We’ve made the plan. We’ve initiated that plan. And now we need to finish the thing. So one of the other big obstacles that we often face is following through and completing the task. How do we finish up those last details? How do we check off the final 20%? Again, there are a lot of reasons why we struggle with the follow-through component.

First, we are idea people; we often have new ideas popping in our minds all the time. And once the shiny new excitement of your current idea wears off, the newer idea that pops into your mind is often so much more appealing than sticking with the current project you have. This is especially true if that current project reached the part where it’s really hard, or it’s the boring tedious part. The brain is constantly scanning for something that is much more exciting.

Similarly, once we finish the work, that means we have to actually put it out there. We have to let other people see it. And this is when the perfectionist brain wants to freak out. So perfectionism comes in full force in the completion phase, as does impostor syndrome.

And if imposter syndrome is a new concept to you, it generally means that your brain thinks things like, who am I to put this out there? I’m not good enough to share this. People are going to judge me. They’re going to see that I don’t really know what I’m doing. They’ll find me out.

And I know from myself and from the thousands of coaching hours I have under my belt, that these thoughts are so familiar to us ADHDers, goal-getters, and high achievers. So, what can we do? How can we get ourselves to follow through even when it’s hard? How can we stick with it and finally check those projects and goals and tasks off the list and call them done?

Consider Future You

Well, the strategy I want to offer you today is to think about future you. Think about future you after that project is complete or you’ve reached the goal. And then, think about how you’ll feel when you’ve reached it.

So, let’s pause here for a minute. I’d love for you to think about one of the things you want to complete. And imagine how you’ll feel once it’s done.  Maybe it’s accomplished. Perhaps it’s proud. Maybe it’s relief! Excited! Joy! Happy! Energized!

So the first step is to think about that emotion – that sense of pride and accomplishment and relief you will experience once you are done. Then, begin generating that feeling ahead of time. Practice feeling that sense of accomplishment frequently. And as you think about future you who feels SO accomplished and excited and proud, ask your future self: what advice do you have for me today?

Where is my energy best spent? What words of wisdom do you have for me to follow through even though it feels so hard right now? And then get quiet and listen. Listen for that guidance. 

I promise you, if you frequently check in with this version of you who has reached this goal, finished the project, given the presentation, gotten the new job, you will help generate that drive and determination to stick with it even when it’s hard.

Even when it’s tedious or boring. And even when you have tons of new ideas that you want to jump on. I’m telling you, if your future self is anything like mine, they are so much wiser than our current selves.

By checking in with them often, you gain that wisdom, you live in that sense of accomplishment, and you show up as that future version of you.

One of my favorite sayings is: if you want a different output you need to change the input. In other words, if you want a different result, you have to try something different.

And if you want to create that goal of yours. If you want to finish the project on your list. If you want to be a person who sticks with their schedule regularly, then you want to start thinking like that version of yourself who does these things.

We want to start thinking in their mindset. We want to feel that drive and commitment that they feel when they get things done. By practicing it now – by changing the input – I promise you, we create a different output. We start showing up as a future version of ourselves now.

Recap!

So with my three-step framework to get things done, we plan, act, and complete.

If you’re ever spinning out, and you can’t figure out how to move forward, zoom out and create clarity on where you’re struck. Ask yourself, am I stuck in the planning phase? Am I stuck in the action phase? Or am I stuck in the completion phase?

Once you have that information, you now have direction. You have the next step to move you forward, which is using the tools we used today in that respective toolkit. Today we talked about a couple of tools to go within your toolkit, and in We’re Busy Being Awesome, we fill your toolboxes for planning, taking action, and following through to the brim with the exact tools you need to work with your brain.

So We’re Busy Being Awesome is a small group coaching program for ADHDers and people with ADHD tendencies. You don’t need have a diagnosis to join us. If these tools and concepts that we explore on the podcast support you and work for you, you are absolutely welcome.

We meet weekly for 16 weeks and take a deep dive into the plan – act – complete framework so that you not only learn the tools to create a plan and follow through on things, but you also learn how to coach your brain when obstacles come up and to trust yourself that you can stick with this approach for the long run.

What you will learn in this program is not just the newest shiny productivity strategy that distracts you for a bit. It becomes the core scaffolding that you use in your life going forward. Each month has a different focus, and each week we learn different approaches, practice putting them into action, and get coaching on anything that’s getting in the way of our momentum. As a throwback to last week’s episode, we are learning AND doing. We learn, implement, reflect on and grow from both the wins and the setbacks, and then adjust to keep moving forward. 

And because you’re in a close community of other busy-awesome friends, you can learn and grow from one another in a safe and supportive space while knowing that you’re not the only one who deals with these obstacles. You have others there to share – I get it! I was there, too. Here’s what I’ve tried. This was my experience. We get to grow and learn together.

We’ll all be on the same zoom call for an hour each week – seeing one another, sharing ideas, getting coached, and going through this journey to make things happen together, which is so powerful and fun.

And outside of the calls, you’ll be part of a private Facebook community where you can ask questions, post accountability, and support one another as we grow and learn together. I’m telling you, being in a group with like-minded people is really a powerful experience. Not only are you able to get coaching on your own questions, but you also get to learn from other people’s coaching. In fact, in my experience with group coaching, it’s often when other people in the group ask a question I didn’t even know I had that can create some really big shafts because it helps you think in an entirely new way and it really expands your mind.

The program begins the week of January 17th and the application to join the group is open now.

And if you’re not listening in real time, but you know you’re interested in joining the next round, be sure to head to imbusybeingawesome.com/group and add your name to the interest list.

But if you’re hearing this at the end of 2021 and you’re interested in applying for the January cohort, be sure to head to imbusybeingawesom.com/group. You can read more about the details and submit your application there. 

What better way to kick off 2022 than going all-in on YOU, having the support of a coach to help you create clarity and work WITH your brain, and surrounding yourself with a supportive community of like-minded, incredible humans who are busy being awesome as they work toward their big goals.

Seriously, it’s going to be fun.

And I can’t wait to see you in there.

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