Do you know those times when you just can’t get started?
When your brain desperately searches for something to do other than the thing on your list. And no matter how hard you try to focus, you can’t seem to take the next step?
Or what about when you really want to start a new habit or a routine, but your brain offers thoughts like, “what’s the point in trying? I never stick with it anyway…”
I thought so.
These are such common obstacles for the ADHD brain, and in episode 150 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast, we’re talking about one powerful strategy to help you release that resistance and get into action.
So if you find yourself struggling to get started.
Or if you don’t see the point in attempting a new habit or routine.
Be sure to tune into episode 150. It has your name on it.
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 Episode 150: How To Get Started with Something, You Will Discover…
- What to do when you’re struggling to start
- What it means to work in containers of time
- Three different ways to put this strategy into practice
Subscribe To I’m Busy Being Awesome & Give Us A Review!
Do you want to be the first to know when a new episode drops? You got it! Click over to iTunes, select “Listen on Apple Podcasts,” and then click the “subscribe” button.
Also, if you love the podcast, would you be a rockstar and leave me a review? Reviews help others find the show and allow me to share my message even further. Thanks, friend!
Episode #150: How To Get Started with Something: Use This Time Management Technique (Transcript)
Today I am feeling super appreciative and wanted to give a shout out to one of our listeners of the busy-awesome community who left a five-star review titled, “I feel understood!” They wrote, “As someone diagnosed with ADHD at 51, I dove into podcasts (I bought books, too, but… they’re sitting here unfinished (thanks, ADHD.)) Paula’s podcast makes me feel so understood.”
I love this so much because one of my main goals is to help all of you listeners better understand how and why your brain works the way it does. And to remember that nothing has gone wrong if you’re having a hard time with procrastination or scheduling or following through on things. Rather, we just need to find the scaffolding for your brain so that you can do the things that you really want to do both on the day to day and the big picture.
So thank you so much for taking the time to write this review and for tuning in, and for being part of this community. I appreciate you so much.
Today I’m talking about a powerful strategy that I love to use for myself anytime I’m feeling resistant to doing something that my brain has labeled as challenging or difficult.
Or when it comes to sticking to some kind of commitment or habit that my brain has labeled as daunting or possibly boring, mind-numbing work.
It’s a strategy that I call “thinking in containers of time.” You can also think of this as working within specific time intervals.
I’ve noticed this concept come up frequently on my client calls over the last few weeks, so I wanted to share this strategy with all of you in the podcast community because I have a feeling that this might be a time of year when this thought process could be useful.
I think late spring often brings with it a lot of transitions, both big and small. Whether we work in the education space or have kids in school, many of us are waiting out the last weeks of the school year. We may be getting ready for summer plans and vacations.
Many companies shift into a summer schedule, so it could be a half-day on Fridays or different iterations of that. Many people have spring cleaning and decluttering on the mind.
So we have a lot of different shifts and transitions happening during this time of year. And I’ve found this concept of containers of time useful for many of these situations. It helps lighten the cognitive load.
what do I mean by thinking in containers of time?
If you’re anything like me, your brain probably likes to think in rather dramatic extremes.
When it’s faced with a task that might be challenging, or dull, or for whatever reason, my brain loves to throw a fit. It offers thoughts like, “this is going to take forever,” or “there is no way I can possibly make this work” or “I’ll never be able to get through all of this.”
When I talk about creating containers of time, what I mean is making it very clear to my brain how long I’m willing to do this “thing.”
And by thing, I mean whatever that situation or circumstance my brain is freaking out about. And it involves getting very clear and establishing a limited time frame – a container – in which you are committed to doing that work.
Now, if this sounds very abstract and confusing, don’t worry. I’m going to give several different examples to put it into context.
It’s actually a very straightforward idea, and I think it makes more sense when we use specific examples. So let’s talk about how this can play out and why I think it is so impactful when we have a toddler brain that’s feeling resistant, procrastinating, or maybe feeling fearful or overwhelmed.
How To Get Started with Something: Using Containers of Time
This approach works for both small and larger-scale tasks.
Small tasks such as starting new habits or routines and tasks that are a longer-term commitment.
We’ll be covering three key ways you can get started with something using the ‘containers of time’ technique…
1. Small blocks of time (see what you can get done in 60 minutes)
Let’s begin with an example:
I was working with a client just yesterday on doing homework for their classes. They are taking a handful of different courses at the moment – and a few are general education requirements – one in math and another in literature.
They are having a difficult time getting their brain on board with doing the homework. There is a whole lot of resistance from thoughts about how long it will take, and how boring it will be, which – not surprisingly – leads to a lack of interest in doing the work.
Solution: We decided to break down the time that they would dedicate to studying into smaller containers of time.
Their brain would absolutely not get on board with spending the entire afternoon finishing studying for the math exam or spending Saturday completing the book for their literature class. Instead of having those larger containers of time like an entire afternoon or an entire day, we broke it down.
Rather than writing in their schedule “complete all 25 math problems between 6-8 pm,” we instead determined how much time they were willing to work regardless of what they completed.
So rather than saying, complete 25 math problems, they instead wrote down “work on math review for 20 minutes.”
They gave themselves permission that it doesn’t matter how many questions they get through, it doesn’t matter how quickly they move through them. Instead, we’re putting that work into a clear container of time, which often makes it easier for the brain to get on board.
Rather than thinking, there’s no way I can get all 25 problems completed, it’s easier to think “OK, I can do 20 minutes. There’s no pressure on what I get done, but I can get started and do this for 20 minutes.”
When I use this method:
I personally like to do this when I feel a little bit stuck or unclear when creating content.
So if I’m designing a class, for example, and I’m not entirely sure what I want to explore, I’ll tell myself: “alright, let’s do a brainstorm for just 10 minutes.
You don’t have to keep going, but let’s just do a brainstorm of different possibilities for 10 minutes.” And because I don’t put the pressure on myself that I have to have an entire outline or I have to have the entire course planned, it’s much easier for me to get my brain on board for 10 minutes of brainstorming.
This strategy can be really useful when you are in a lot of resistance to the work, and you know the reasons why you’re feeling resistant are from the familiar thoughts like, “I don’t want to. This is too hard. It will take too long. This is boring. etc.”
This approach of a focused container of time to work rather than deciding specifically what you WILL complete is when you’re doing something new, and you have no idea how long you need. Maybe it’s the first time you’ve ever learned some marketing strategy in your business, and so you’re not sure how long it will take to implement all of the steps.
Rather than telling yourself, you have to get through all of the steps in 60 minutes, you might instead tell yourself, let’s work on this for an hour and gather data of how much I do complete, so I have that information for next time.
Let’s see what I can do in this container of 60 minutes.
When Using Time Intervals for Small Tasks, Ask Yourself…
Once you’ve established a container of time that your brain thinks is doable, and we know it’s time to get started, we can check in with ourselves. We can ask ourselves…
- Am I willing to give this a try for 10 minutes?
- Am I willing to see what I can complete (enter task here) in the next 60 minutes?
By reducing the pressure you put on yourself by thinking I have to get all of this completed or I need to do all of this now, you instead give yourself permission to give it a try. We introduce some lightness to the situation so you can see what’s possible to complete.
As an added bonus, here’s what I’ve found to be true…
- For many of us, getting started is the hardest part.
- Once we get into a flow, it’s easy to stay there – especially if it’s something that you genuinely enjoy doing but you’re struggling to get started. (This is often the case for me when it comes to brainstorming content).
- If you don’t get into a flow that’s not a problem. Because you set a goal of working for 10 minutes or 15 minutes, you honored that container of time, and then you’re done. Box checked.
By taking work that we’re thinking we might not do right, or we don’t know where to start, or we just don’t want to do it because it’s so mind-numbingly boring… we can use these smaller containers of time to help get the brain on board.
When doing this we can ask ourselves:
- Am I willing to do it for 10 minutes?
- Am I willing to give it a try for 15 minutes?
Most often, the brain will agree and get on board. If not, you can shorten that time period. Use these containers of time in a way that’s supportive for you.
2. Habits and routines (stick with It for 7 days. Then reevaluate)
Using containers of time to get started on something is also very helpful when establishing a new habit or stepping into a routine that you would like to adopt.
Many of us – especially those of us with ADHD or ADHD tendencies tend to experience a lot of resistance to habits or routines. We have so many beliefs like “I don’t stick with anything for longer than three days…if I’m lucky.”
So rather than giving it a shot, many of us don’t even try any longer. Instead, we think things like, what’s the point? I never stick with it anyway.
If this sounds like you, this is where I love bringing in time intervals (containers of time) to create a challenge.
I was working on establishing a bedtime routine with one of my clients last week, which you all know if you’ve been listening to this podcast for a minute, I’ve had my own drama about.
We were working on getting to bed a little bit earlier each night.
When we talked about this abstractly, her brain wanted to resist the idea. It was really hard to get the brain on board thinking that she’d be able to stick with this earlier bedtime.
When we looked closer at it, the brain was really uncomfortable with the restriction of this indefinite time frame. Her brain was thinking, there’s no way I can stick with this earlier bedtime forever. I never stick to anything.
Our brains love to do this, don’t they?
We think to ourselves:
- I’ve never been able to stick with things longer than three days, how on earth can I commit to this long-term habit?
- I have no idea whether I can do this or not. I probably shouldn’t even try.
So we don’t and we continue not getting enough sleep, not journaling in the morning, or going for walks, or whatever habit or routine it is you’re trying to follow. We keep looking to the past for evidence of what we can and can’t do.
To get the brain on board, I again love to play with smaller containers of time.
This helps relieve the pressure we’re putting on ourselves from thinking different versions of “I have to do this habit perfectly for the rest of my life,” which, when we say it out loud, sounds a little ridiculous. But our brains love to go there and spin in this all-or-nothing thinking.
We can therefore help our brain step out of this all or nothing, black and white thinking by putting a container of time around it.
Solution: She decided to use a time period of 3 days.
She decided she could get her brain on board for three days and then would reassess what she thinks about it based on her results.
If you’re starting a habit of going for a walk in the morning before you start your day, meditating for 5-10 minutes at lunchtime, or limiting social media on your phone after a certain period of time in the evening. You can use any habit or routine where you’ve been playing around with it in your brain, but there’s a bit of resistance to starting, and you can’t quite seem to get on board.
In these situations, you can ask yourself:
- What if we try this for just a week?
- What if I commit to doing this for one week and see what happens? There’s no pressure if I don’t like it.
- What happens if I just give it a try?”
Then, from there you can re-examine.
This gives the brain some flexibility. It realizes that you’re not stuck in this routine or habit for eternity. It’s not that you can never look at social media after 8:00 PM again or whatever.
It also allows you to give the habit a try and to allow enough time to gather data for whether or not it’s a practice that could potentially serve you.
As you do this, you start gathering evidence for your brain to show yourself, “hey, this does seem pretty helpful. I do feel better when I meditate for five minutes during my lunch hour. Or I am sleeping better when I’m not scrolling social media past 8:00.” (Insert whatever habit or routine you’ve been thinking about for yourself).
By putting a finite time period around the task, it’s often easier to get the brain on board with giving it a try.
This shorter time period helps relieve the pressure because we’re shifting away from the often unspoken thought – “now I have to do this for the rest of my life perfectly, and that’s never going to happen.”
We’ve calmed the brain down by instead offering, “What if we just try it for five days? We can reassess after that.”
3. Long term periods (You can do anything for a year, a season, a month)
The last way that I love to use this concept of containers of time is from a lesson I learned from my dad several years ago.
When I first decided to make a move, both literally and figuratively, to pursue grad school, I started with a master’s program. And I moved from Minnesota to Massachusetts. I remember being really scared and worried about this big change.
Transitions are not my strong suit, and this one seemed really big at the time. Not only was I leaving what was familiar to me – all my friends and family – and moving halfway across the country to a place where I didn’t know anybody. But I was also diving into this new field and didn’t know what to expect.
And I remember my dad saying to me, “you can do anything for a year.” That statement created a shift for me.
Now, this was before I knew about coaching and thought work, but upon reflection, it was definitely a thought that I adopted. Because it was believable. I knew he was right.
I could do anything for a year.
Even if it was hard. Even if it was scary. Even if I didn’t enjoy it. I knew I could do anything for a year.
This helped me open up to the experience and to go all in. It allowed me to make the most of what turned out to be many many many years through my PhD work and my time in academia.
Even now, anytime things get hard, I come back to that concept. I can do anything for a year.
You can also use this concept for a shorter period of time
I might play with it if it’s a shorter timeframe.
I can do anything for three months. I can do anything for a quarter.
This helps my brain get on board and open up to the experience and allow it to happen while knowing that I can handle anything that comes my way.
Does this mean it will be easy all the time? No.
Does it mean that I will feel amazing and positive, and confident every step of the way? Certainly not.
However, I know that I can do anything for a year. I know that I have it in me.
And I hope you know this about you, too.
If you are working through an obstacle right now that seems bigger or heavier than the everyday challenges. If this thought brings relief or empowerment to you as it does for me, I invite you to use it, too.
Focus on using this larger container of time, reminding yourself – you can do anything…
- For a year
- For a month
- For the summer
Then lean into what you need to support yourself through that time – how you’ll take care of yourself through it. Because I know you have it in you.
Alright, my friends, that’s going to do it for us this week.
If you’re ready to take the concepts you’ve learned and apply them to your life… If you’re ready to learn how to support your ADHD and work with your unique brain within a small, supportive community of busy awesome humans just like you, I invite you to learn more about how we can do that together in We’re Busy Being Awesome.
Want To Join Our Group Coaching Program?!
I will be opening the doors for the next cohort of We’re Busy Being Awesome in a couple of weeks!
Add your name to the waitlist so you’ll be the first to know about program dates and times, plus how you can sign up if it’s a great fit for you.
Also, if you know someone who would love to learn more about working in containers of time, would you be a rockstar and share this episode with them? Each time you do, you help me get these tools to even more people, and I really appreciate it.
Until next time, keep being awesome. I’ll talk with you soon.
Links From The Podcast
- Learn more about We’re Busy Being Awesome here
- Get the top 10 tips to work with your ADHD brain (free ebook!)
- Discover my favorite ADHD resources here
- Get the I’m Busy Being Awesome Planning System here