Learn 3 Simple Steps to an Effective, Productive Mindset with ADHD

What do you think about managing your time?

How do you feel about navigating procrastination? 

What do you think about following through on your goals?

Notice what your brain offers in response to these questions.

Notice how you feel when you think about each response.

Are you excited to dive in?

Or are you worried about dropping the ball?

Do you feel open to new opportunities?

Or does your body close down to the challenge?

These may seem like strange questions when it comes to getting things done.

But I promise you they’re not.

In fact, they’re everything.

And in episode 134 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast, I explain exactly why that is.

So if you’re ready to start checking those projects off your list, tune into the episode now.

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

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

In This Episode, You Will Discover How To… 

  • The important role beliefs play in our ability to get things done.
  • A powerful, 3 step process to help you uncover and shift your beliefs.
  • A simple exercise you can use to shift your thinking and get into action today.

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Episode #134: Learn 3 Simple Steps to an Effective, Productive Mindset with ADHD (Transcript) 

You’re listening to the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast with Paula Engebretson episode number 134. 

Hey everybody, welcome to the podcast. How are you? I am doing great. I just had a call with everyone in We’re Busy Being Awesome yesterday, which is my small group coaching program. And we took a deep dive into beliefs. At the beginning of the program we set goals for our time together, and now we’re digging into beliefs about the goal, what we think about our ability to reach the goal, our beliefs about following through on things etc.

And one of the reasons why I dedicate this time to uncovering our beliefs about ourselves and our goals and our ability to get things done is that frankly, I think this is the secret to doing anything. What we believe – the thoughts we think over and over in our mind – impacts how we feel, how we show up in our lives, and the results and accomplishments we create for ourselves. It all comes back to what we choose to think. 

And I know this sounds really abstract at the moment, but don’t worry. We’ll dive further into the concepts today so it makes more sense. In fact, the plan for today is to take a deep dive into your beliefs. I’m excited to share with you a simple, three-step process that helps you uncover your current beliefs, shift the ones that aren’t helpful to your goals, and ultimately, start creating more of what you want in your life. Whether it’s getting things done, or managing your time, whether that’s finally sticking with the habits you want to establish. Etc This 3-step process is here to support you in it.

Identify Your Thoughts

So first, the big picture. As I mentioned, one of the key secrets to increasing your productivity, getting organized, managing your time, and getting things done is cleaning up your thinking. It’s raising awareness of your beliefs; your beliefs about yourself and your beliefs about your ability to do those things. 

You see, when you have your beliefs front and center, then you can start challenging and shifting the ones that aren’t helping you get those results you want. Because the reality is most of us humans walking around on the earth have zero idea what we are thinking about. We have no idea what the thoughts are playing on repeat in our minds. Rather than recognizing them as optional thoughts, we instead just hear all of this chatter in our heads and consider it the truth. Everything we think, we think is reality. We don’t have a lot of practice pausing and separating ourselves and what we WANT to believe from those automatic thoughts the brain offers you. 

Now, when I first started this work, this was literally me. When I first started learning more about how to work with my ADHD brain and how to raise my awareness of my thoughts, I had no clue about the difference between what was a thought and what was a fact. I had no idea how to separate my thoughts from the facts in the world because I thought everything my brain offered was the truth. 

You know, my name is Paula. I’m 5’10”. I am terrible with time. And I never stick to anything. All factual, all true. My brain really thought that all of those were non-negotiable facts. But of course, that’s not true. Yes, my name is Paula. Yes, I’m 5’10”. But it’s not true that I’m always terrible with time. It’s not true, that I never stuck to anything. Those are not facts, those are thoughts. But because my brain offered them over and over, I never knew that I could even question. I never knew to slow down and examine each one.

Well, today I’m here to tell you that one of the most important things that we can do on our journey to work with our brain is to question everything your brain tells you. It is to slow down and not accept anything as fact. Don’t believe your toddler brain until you allow time to consider intentionally what you want to think. 

Now. I do want to offer that we have 1000s and 1000s and 1000s of thoughts each day. So I’m not saying we have to literally slow down and examine every single one of them because you would never do anything else. I mean, that’s impossible. Plus, most of the thoughts that we have running on autopilot in the background are just fine. They’re serving us well. But there are a handful of thoughts that are not helpful. And we want to start finding them. 

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Choosing Beliefs That Serve You

Now, how do we know this? How can we identify our thoughts and know which ones are helpful? How can we tell which beliefs we want to keep and which ones we want to question and release?

Today, as I mentioned, I’m sharing a three-step process to do just that. And for those of you who might feel a little bit leery of the mindset component. For those of you who just want strategies for time blocking and ways to maximize your effectiveness and efficiency. I’m telling you, this is the groundwork. This is the most important thing. We want to have powerful thoughts as the foundation upon which we build strategies, systems, and structures, to support us and our goals. 

So let’s talk about these three steps to help you uncover your beliefs and start choosing them intentionally to get you where you want to go. Now, as I said, I have been working with my clients in were busy being awesome on choosing their goals recently. And I’ve found that for most ADHDers and people with ADHD tendencies, we have thoughts about this process. We often worry about choosing the wrong goal or they pressure themselves, going to worst-case scenario worrying that they’ll drop the ball like they have in the past. And all of these thoughts lead to quite a bit of tension and stress. 

And if you can relate to this, you probably know what happens next. We start spinning. We spin and spin and spin around that spin cycle, trying to make a decision – whether that’s committing to a project for work, choosing a vacation spot for your family, or picking a new hobby to try- and we can’t make up our mind. So rather than picking something and driving in, we stay stuck. 

Now, your brain is probably telling you something like, I just don’t know what to choose. I need more information. I need to do more research first. And I don’t want to regret it. And the problem here is that we believe our brain. We give in to those thoughts. And we find ourselves caught in that loop.

Here’s what we don’t see. Most of the time, what’s happening when your brain offers these thoughts is that it’s trying to protect you from making ANY decision at all. Because when you make a decision then you have to commit to it. You have to take the next step and expend energy.  So the brain would much rather get stuck in indecision and confusion. It would much rather keep looking at all the pros and cons and worst-case scenarios without ever moving forward because it feels much safer. 

And one of the reasons why the brain wants to do this is because – and this is where the belief work comes back – you most likely have some belief about your ability to follow through, or plan a vacation, or stick to a hobby, or reach a goal. There are probably some beliefs hiding in the back of your mind keeping you in the spin cycle. So in response, your brain keeps trying to protect you from making a decision and moving forward.

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3 Step Process

So what are those beliefs? What are those thoughts that are keeping us stuck in spinning? Well if you know my work, you know that the first step I recommend is doing a thought download. It’s grabbing a pen and piece of paper and writing down everything in your mind.

What are you thinking about? What do you think about your goal? What’s on your mind when you consider planning your vacation? When you think about beginning a new workout program or finishing your book and sending it off to that editor?

Put whatever’s on your mind at the top of the page and let your thoughts run wild. Let your toddler brain say everything it needs to say and write it all down. And if you start experiencing some sort of uncomfortable emotion while doing this, or before doing this, whether that’s resistance or sadness or stress or frustration or doubt, or annoyance, whatever it is. Pause and ask yourself: why am I feeling this way? 

Stay open. Stay curious. Check-in. Why do I feel doubt? Why do I feel sadness? And why do I feel overwhelmed? Write everything else down. What else comes up? What does your brain say why you feel so irritated or why you’re feeling anxious? So this is step one, write everything down. 

Then we get to step two, which is to look over those thoughts that you wrote down and notice which ones feel the most uncomfortable for you. Remember, when we take this top-down cognitive approach to create awareness, our thoughts create our feelings. The thought you’re thinking literally creates a chemical vibration in your body that feels comfortable or uncomfortable.

For example, let’s say that you’re doing a writing project. A lot of people in the January group of We’re Busy Being Awesome had considered a writing goal, so maybe you’re about to write a book or an article or do some research.

Now, when I went through the process of writing my book, my thoughts were all over the place. AND I had zero idea what they were. When I first began the process, I didn’t know that my thoughts created my feelings. But when I look back upon reflection, I know that my brain sounded a lot like this: I can’t do this. I’m not smart enough. I don’t know enough. I’m going to do it wrong. I can’t write enough to fill a book. People are going to think I don’t know enough. It’s going to take too long. I’ve never done anything so big. 

It was a whole list of doubtful fearful thoughts that played on loop in my mind. And when I think about that list I just shared, and I zoom in on the thought that feels the most uncomfortable or disarming, it was: I’m not smart enough. That was the thought that made me feel super inadequate, which had me hiding and not writing my book. 

So that belief – I’m not smart enough – could have stopped me from writing my book at all. Luckily I found coaching and mindset work that allowed me to clean up my thinking and challenge those thoughts. But if left unchecked, I doubt that would have happened. I probably wouldn’t have published the book. So that’s one example of how we can identify the beliefs that are keeping us stuck. 

Another example comes from someone in our busy-awesome community. I sent out an email to everyone who’s signed up for my emails a few weeks ago to check in on what’s front and center for you. I’m planning out podcast episodes for the coming months, and I love to know what’s most important to you at the moment to help ensure I’m creating what’s helpful for you. And this person replied letting me know she has exams and studying on her mind. She mentioned she has 10 final exams coming up in the next two weeks.

First of all. 10 final exams is the circumstance, right? 10 final exams are the facts. We could look at her syllabi and see that over the next two weeks there are 10 exams scheduled. The beliefs come in when we consider what she’s thinking about those 10 exams. And this person offered a handful of different thoughts in her email, but the thought “I have tons of material to cover in practically no time left.” stood out to me. 

Now, I don’t know if this was the most uncomfortable thought for her. But when I read the message, it’s one that made me feel the most tense. So again, in step two, after we’ve done a thought download and got all of our thoughts on paper, we choose the one that feels the most uncomfortable. If you have lots of them, no problem. Just choose one. 

And then we get to step three. Step three is to ask yourself two powerful questions. Now, you know how much I love questions. I think they are game-changers in helping us stretch our minds and start seeing things in new ways. So in step three, as we shift our beliefs, I encourage you to ask yourself two powerful questions. 

Now, I got these questions from The Work of Byron Katie. Byron Katie’s work is absolutely remarkable. I highly recommend checking out her stuff. I will link to her book Loving What Is in the show notes. But you can also check out her website where she talks about what she calls literally “the work.” And doing the work includes asking yourself several powerful questions, and I love playing with two of them. And I especially love these two when I am working on shifting some sticky beliefs. 

So the first question that I love to ask myself is: who would you be without this thought? So if we consider my thoughts about writing the book, the strongest thought, which was: “I’m not smart enough.” Who would I be without that thought? Who would I be without the thought “I’m not smart enough?”

Well, if I didn’t have that thought, I’m not smart enough. If I wasn’t entertaining that thought, I’d have so much less doubt because I’d believe I could do it. I’d believe I was smart enough. I’d have so much more confidence in sharing what I knew and what I had to offer. Again, it feels so much lighter, so much more open if I didn’t have that thought.

Similarly, if this student reconsidered her upcoming tests and asked herself: who would I be without the thought: I have tons of material to cover and practically no time left. My guess is much freer. So much less worried, so much less anxious. And probably quite a bit more focused on what’s most important to study.

And the reason why I really love this first question, “Who would you be without that thought,” is that it really opens our minds to other possibilities. It gives us that pre glimpse into believing something different. It helps us see the possibility of believing something different from what we currently believe. And it really helps show your brain this new perspective without saying you have to believe it right away. 

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Because the reality is that you don’t have to believe it; but who would you be without it? Right? It helps the brain start practicing a bit more cognitive flexibility. And this is especially helpful for the ADHD brain. Of course, it’s so important for ANY brain to practice flexible thinking and challenge their black and white, all or nothing thoughts. But it’s especially helpful for the ADHD brain. It helps us exercise that cognitive flexibility muscle and it allows us to start seeing the gray. It helps us see that possibility between the black and white, yes or no, right or wrong, can or can’t. 

So again, in this first question of step three, after you’ve done your thought download and you’ve identified that uncomfortable thought, I encourage you to ask yourself: “Who would I be without this thought?” How would I be showing up? What would be different? 

And then we move to the second question, which is “how might the opposite be true?” Now you have likely heard me use this question before. In fact, I may have even used it in one of my most recent episodes. And that’s because it’s a favorite question of mine. I really love how it helps you stretch your brain and open it up to new possibilities even further. I mean it really goes to the extreme by having you consider the exact opposite of the belief you currently have. 

So let me give you some examples here as well. Let’s think first about the book example. My original thought was I’m not smart enough, right? Well, how is the opposite true? How is it possible that I am smart enough? Well, I wrote a dissertation on a smaller section of the topic, so it’s possible that I also know enough to write the book and expand on the concepts. Also, I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know or where there are gaps in my knowledge. And I’m smart enough to know how to research and learn what I need to know. 

Plus – if we go in another direction – how do we even know what smart enough means, anyway? Frankly, I get to decide what “enough” is. Everyone’s “enough” is different, right? There is no standard measure of “smart enough” for book writing. I get to choose that. And by asking, how is the opposite true, I helped bring that to the foreground. 

Similarly, let’s look at the example for the 10 exams. The person mentioned, “I have tons of material to cover and practically no time left.” Okay, but how might the opposite be true? What does tons of material even mean? What if that’s not true? In fact, what if it’s just enough? How could we find evidence for that?

And practically no time left? Well, what if there’s plenty of time left? How could you divide the studying according to the test dates? How could we break down the material into bite-sized sections that you review in 30 or 45-minute increments? What if it was the exact time you needed to learn everything you need to know for each exam? Is it possible that’s true? 

So again, “Who would you be without that thought” and “how is the opposite true?” I’m telling you, these two questions will stretch your mind and challenge your beliefs and help you start seeing new possibilities to create what you really want. 

Now, as I mentioned at the beginning of this episode. For my listeners who really love the productivity tips and the actionable strategies, and perhaps you find yourself questioning “really? What is with all this mindset stuff? Why do we even need to think about this?” 

If your brain ever offers these thoughts, I do encourage you to give this 3 step process a try. In fact, you could be super meta and ask these questions about your beliefs on mindset work. Who would you be without this thought? How might the opposite be true? 

But seriously, test it out for yourself. Think of something that you’re really amazing at. Think of something that you love doing, and then write down why you love it. What do you think about it? Get it all down on paper. Next, think of something that you don’t particularly love doing. Or think of something you wish you were better at or farther along. What do you think about that? How do you feel about it? And notice the difference between these two lists.

Notice how you think about the thing you love versus the thing you don’t. Notice that those are all optional thoughts that you have chosen to think. Chances are, the thoughts about the thing you love are the thoughts that serve you. They’re the ones that create the results you want. 

On the other hand, the thoughts that feel uncomfortable. The thoughts that close you down, they’re probably not creating those results. You’re probably feeling a bit stuck or frustrated. Give it a try. 

I think you’ll find confirmation that the first and most important step in getting things done – in increasing your productivity and your effectiveness your efficiency is to identify those uncomfortable beliefs. The first step is to uncover and challenge the thoughts that are not creating the results you want and replace them with the ones that do. What if that truly is the missing puzzle piece? 

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Put It Into Practice

In fact, I invite you to give this a try this week. I invite you to take up the challenge. Choose one area in your life to do a thought download. Think about one area where you might be feeling stuck or overwhelmed or frustrated or afraid. Choose just one small area. Next, write it at the top of a piece of paper and do a thought download. Get down all of your thoughts about that thing. Then identify one uncomfortable thought. Just one. And answer our two questions. 

First, who would I be without this thought? Write that down. Who would you be? How would you be showing up if you didn’t have that thought? And then “how is the opposite true?” How is the opposite of that thought true?

Then the next day, return to that same situation and do a new thought download. Choose another thought that feels uncomfortable and examine it. Run it through our two questions again. Who would you be without that thought? And how is the opposite true? I promise you, if you do this for one full week while focusing on this one topic, you will notice a powerful shift in how you think about it. So if you’re willing, stay open. Stay curious. And give it a shot. 

And if you want to take this work even further so you can really rewire your neural pathways and create that sturdy foundation to support all of the productivity tools and strategies we talk about on the podcast. If you find yourself thinking, I know what to do but I’m just not doing it. Head over to imbusybeingawesome.com/group and add your name to the waitlist. They are the first to know when the doors for the next round of We’re Busy Being Awesome opens up, so you don’t want to miss it.

Alright, my friends, that’s going to do it for us this week. And if you’re ready to take the concepts you’ve learned on the podcast and apply them to your life. If you’re ready to learn how to support your ADHD and work with your unique brain to take things to the next level, head over to imbusybeingawesome.com/group where you can learn more about how we can work together to make that happen

Also, if you know someone who would love to learn more about shifting their mindset and strengthening their beliefs, 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.

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