Goal-Setting for ADHDers, Part 2

Last week I wrote about neurotypical goal-setting strategies and SMART goals. This week, I’m going to delve into the concept of “objectives” and whether or not they’re really all that different from goals.

I am a strange person in that I really like breaking things down to make them easier to manage and to make it easier to know what to do. Granted, wanting it to be easier is probably normal, but I’m pretty sure that most ADHDers aren’t very interested in breaking projects or tasks down into their individual components or steps.

When I was working in early intervention, we had goals for the children that were quite broad. Within those goals were objectives: smaller goals that would support the child’s growth and development so they would ultimately achieve the big goal.

As I said last week, I don’t really like SMART goals. I prefer to keep my goals broad and to get more specific with my objectives, not long-term and short-term. Maybe that’s just semantics, but sometimes the words you use matter a lot.

Here’s how I do it.

  1. I divide my life into 5 or 6 areas that I want to keep in mind, and I assign each area a colour. The colours match up with some highlighters I have, and this makes it easy to mark things in my planner. My areas are:
    • Home (light blue)
    • Personal (green)
    • Work (pink)
    • Writing (orange)
    • School (purple)
  2. For each area, I think about what I really want things to be like. Some of them get broken down into sub-categories, like Personal (Physical Health, Spirituality, Emotional/Mental Health, Family, Friends) and Work (I have this and I’m a copy editor, among other things).
  3. I create my broad goals, which are really a picture of my ideal life if you put them all together.
  4. I break down each broad goal into its different components.
    • For example, if my broad goal is to have a clean, comfortable home where we can have people visit, the components will be cleaning the house, decorating the house, and having people over.
  5. Each component now gets its own goal, which is what I call a Long-Term Objective (LTO).
    • Sometimes different components for one area can be worked on at the same time, but usually there has to be some delay.
    • For example, I need to clean the house before I can decorate it or invite people over, but I probably don’t need to decorate before having a party.
    • I don’t give myself any deadlines.
  6. Now I break down the LTO’s into their component parts.
    • In the example of cleaning the house, each room will be a component.
  7. And now I write my Short-Term Objectives (STO’s), which are the smaller goals that I want to accomplish and that will help me achieve my ultimate goal.
    • I still don’t give myself any deadlines. Don’t worry, I’ll explain why next week.

Yes, that’s a lot of work. But doing it this way is actually less intensive if you do it every year, because those ultimate goals don’t tend to change in huge ways, and the steps you need to take also don’t change much. You’ll always need to study physics to be an engineer, and you’ll always need to exercise if you want to build muscle.

What do you think of this so far? Does it make sense to you? Do you think I’m being completely ridiculous here, or do you find yourself liking the idea?

Next week I’ll tell you why I don’t give myself deadlines. Hint: it’s related to a book that was really popular last year.

Goal-Setting for ADHDers, Part 1

If you’re like me, you have spent years trying to figure out this “setting goals and achieving them” thing other people seem to be capable of.

The reasons we struggle with this are varied:

  • we forget about our goals.
  • breaking down big goals into smaller steps is hard.
  • maintaining systems and structure is hard.
  • organization is hard.
  • probably other things I can’t think of right now.

I have a couple of videos up on YouTube about ADHD and life goals, and I’ll be adding to that series soon. Today, I want to talk about what I’ll be covering in this month’s blog posts.

It being January, month of new beginnings, I thought goals would be an appropriate theme.

Pinnable image for this post.

Now, I have vast experience with goals. When I worked in early intervention, we had goals to work on with the children. They were usually written up as in an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and divided into different domains with 1-5 goals each.

And yes, I have written such plans for myself.

What I have found is that I end up with too many goals and I over-complicate everything. So I don’t really do that anymore except for fun (because yes, I think this kind of thing is fun).

If you look up “goal setting” online, you’ll find lots of similar advice. Basically, you’re supposed to “think big” and write SMART goals.

SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound.

Here’s the problem with that when it comes to ADHD:

Let’s say that want to clean. up my house this year. My SMART goal is “I will get my entire house cleaned up and organized by December 31, 2022.” That’s a huge goal, and overwhelming. I can absolutely break it down by room (breaking down big tasks is something I’m good at), and I can even assign the steps to different days in my planner, etc.—I can do all of the things all of these experts say to do—but there’s no flexibility built into the goal, so if life happens or I have a a Bad Brain Day or whatever, my schedule will be thrown off and I won’t be able to complete the goal.

I don’t think that we are completely out of luck when it comes to goals, though. We just have to be prepared to re-jig things in a way that will work better with our brains and symptoms, and that accounts for inconsistency.

How do we do that?

I’ll start explaining next week.