Wednesday, February 04, 2009

ToDon't Lists from Hell - When ADHD & Depression Collide

Here's a way to tame your todo lists and help prevent them from triggering Depression when you don't complete them as planned…

Brother Jason, Master of Cycling, embraces victory!Unfortunately for me, I make birthday goals. Each year I race to the next birthday to prove that I am, indeed, not a loser after all, and, in fact, am a person of distinguished greatness. I do this by making a long list of impossible goals that I expect to have completed by the time I'm a year older.

For years I have struggled with these birthday goals. I've detailed my struggles here and here, among others. I'm almost desperate to prove myself, so I push myself extremely hard but accomplish some amazing things considering all I have on my plate. My 36th birthday produced my 140 page coloring book. My 41st birthday produced a picture book manuscript and other accomplishments, but my 42nd birthday goals seemed to only produce Depression — all because I didn't meet all my goals.

I had forgotten the simple, cardinal rule of goal making:
Choose goals you actually have a chance of completing.

To top things off, not only did I fail to give myself credit for what I accomplished, but I also failed to factor in all my duties as a stay-at-home dad. If you look at last year's goals you'll see that the list doesn't include all the things I do on a daily basis. And I never ever factor in downtime from disabilities.

This is a problem. I'm disabled, which means that I cannot accomplish as much as I expect of myself. It's not an excuse; it's a fact. Even if I could discount all the time spent ticking in a mental lump on the couch, I'd still have to reckon with Depression & AD/HD. I forget to pace myself properly to attain a goal (for instance, getting distracted and deciding suddenly that I'm going to master origami), and I base my self worth on whether or not I reach that goal (which has nothing to do with origami), then I end up feeling miserable (but with lots of really pretty paper boxes and cranes).

To prevent myself from repeating the cycle next year I decided to rethink goal making. Obviously, I wasn't breaking the goals down enough into attainable steps. Obviously, I wasn't pacing myself properly throughout the year. Obviously, I was biting off more than I could chew in a flurry of rushed activity two weeks before my birthday.

First I selected goals for the year that I thought were attainable:

☐ Drawing: Fill up Ready, Set, Pose! sketchbook
☐ Drawing: Make art a part of your life again
☐ Writing: 90 minutes of writing a day (includes Blogging)
☐ Writing: Rewrite Secret
☐ Writing: Rewrite BFudge
☐ Writing: Finish Big Fat Hairy
☐ Writing: Finish Meridee
☐ Writing: Sell BFudge
☐ Writing: Sell Secret
☐ Writing: Sell Big Fat Hairy
☐ Music: Memorize 25 tunes on the pennywhistle
☐ Music: Become an advanced pennywhistle player
☐ Music: Get Pixie into iTunes
☐ Music: Advance Pixie's career
☐ Be perfect

Even the goals that might seem like pipe dreams could be worked on in manageable steps. I asked myself, "If I wanted to accomplish these goals, how would I pace them if I broke the year up into four parts?" It took a few hours, but in the end I was very pleased with the results. I stacked the first two quarters with the bulk of the things to do, allowing for the fact I probably wouldn't get them all done.

Lastly, I looked over the first quarter and selected a month's worth of things to do. Then I got busy.

Am I still biting off more than I can chew? Perhaps, but if you take a look at my first month, you'll see that not only did I do well, but I can tell you there was no breathing in paper bags, no crawling under desks in crushing misery, and no urges to donate my body to science while still alive.

The trick was in cutting myself some slack. So when I spent a week and a half ticking in January, I didn't get down on myself for "failing". This is a colossal change from years past. I'll keep you posted over the year with my progress. Wish me luck.

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