Do The Thing

signs read who? what? when? where? why? how?

Some people just naturally do the thing, whatever it is. I call them, “doers.”

My husband is a doer.

He wanted to build a murphy bed so he showed me a kit he found online. Within a day he’d ordered the kit, and within another day a bunch of lumber and boxes appeared in my driveway.

That Saturday he got up at the a$$ crack of dawn, pulled the cars out of the garage, and set up his tools. He spent the entire weekend building in my garage and on Sunday night he made me help him carry it upstairs where he proceeded to install it.

I was mildly jealous as he demonstrated how to open and unfold the bed.

Natural doers are mysterious creatures to me, but I married one, so I’ve had years to observe and analyze their behavior. I also have a few friends that are natural doers.

Doers in their natural habitat

People with good executive function, “just do it.”

Doers prioritize more easily and don’t seem as overwhelmed by life’s array of options. They don’t do things impulsively because it’s easier for them to narrow the field, research, plan, start, persist, and finish, even in the face of roadblocks.

When I asked my husband about this, he explained that he’s more uncomfortable with things not getting done, than he is with how difficult the project is. He can’t even conceive of not executing once the idea is in place.

This distinction is what sets doers apart from we with ADHD. Our brains get preoccupied with hard it might be, the details, or the potential for negative outcomes.

You and I don’t just DO anything. Except maybe watch others while they do the thing.

As a side note, doers don’t have more motivation than you do. They simply tolerate** the doing more. Frustration doesn’t throw them off track as easily. And they get the same high from completion that you and I might get from a sugary delicious mocha at Starbucks.

When you live with a doer, it can feel like they’re judging you with all their moving around doing things all the time, it’s easy to get defensive.

Me: “You’re always doing things, it’s so annoying.”

Hubs: what do you mean?

In Defense of Doers

I can understand the pleasure of getting something done.

Doing the thing you WANT to do, because you decided to do it,  is the ADHD holy grail.

If I created some kind of sustainable, “system,” that unlocked the secret to doing the things you want to do, even when your brain is fighting you, you’d definitely buy it and I’d be a multimillionaire.

I’ve always loved a good system, and I’ve created them on this website. Sometimes I’ve stuck to my own systems for a few months. Inevitably I’d forget that Monday was bathroom day and soon there’d be an orange ring around my tub.

I do the same thing with books.

I own Deep Work, Atomic Habits, The Power of Habit, and Tiny Habits. And I have thoroughly marked them up and tabbed them. We discussed Atomic Habits for a month in the Enclave.

The hard truth is that productivity isn’t a natural state for me.

No matter how much I enjoy the learning, I’m not very self-directed. Even if I understand it conceptually, I have trouble mapping out the steps and implementing them.

I can’t get angry at the doers, but I can figure out my own way to get things done.

My System

I recently wrote an article called The Good Kind of Lazy. In this article I describe my way of prioritizing and getting work done.

Getting three things done each day is a reasonable amount of doneness for me.

Three Is Enough  leaves room for getting started and transitioning throughout the day. There’s flexibility in the number three, and it feels doable. When I get stuck somewhere and don’t complete all three, I can try again the next day.

I’m constantly tweaking my system. And if I’m not able to do it for a week, I don’t sweat it because it doesn’t mean anything about me or my worthiness as a human.

If you’ve tried lots of systems and strategies and they didn’t work, it doesn’t mean anything about you, either.  You have to become what I like to call an ADHD doer.

ADHD doers

In my humble opinion there are two specific reasons why the traditional productivity advice doesn’t work for us. I’m sure there are other reasons, but these are the two that come up the most in my community.

First, we need to stop imitating those that are natural self-starters. The way we do things won’t look the same no matter how hard we try.

Doers aren’t attuned to, and don’t share, our brain-based differences. They focus on things like scheduling and consistency because linear processes come more easily to them.

James Clear sought out and got a book deal, so he has a high level of self-regulation. You cannot imitate him. 

Next, none of the existing systems address task initiation.

I’m sure you’ve heard of The Pomodoro Technique. Personally, I like the idea of short, uninterrupted bursts of work. You can get a lot done in 25 minutes…if you start.

For most of us to initiate a task, we need some things in place:

  • our mood to be right
  • the lighting
  • the temp in the room
  • the background noise (or silence)
  • a full belly
  • a full water bottle, and;
  • we probably need to lock up our phone and close out our inbox.

It takes me 25 minutes to get started on a project. Probably more.

Task initiation and navigating complex processes are the biggest barriers to doing things. If these two issues aren’t addressed in the, “system,” ADHDers are doomed to failure.

Final thoughts on doing the thing

For those who want to scroll:

  • Natural doers are inherently different from us
  • Doers aren’t more motivated, but they care about different things
  • ADHD brains have unique challenges to getting things done
  • Traditional productivity advice doesn’t work for us
  • You have to figure out what is sustainable for you, and be willing to tweak as necessary

You cannot apply the same systems and strategies as a more natural doer, and then beat yourself up when you can’t do the thing.

Getting things done is about figuring out what works for you, and then staying open to tweaking your system as you go. The context will change, your priorities will change, and so you have to practice your flexible thinking. 

Your brain is different, so your approach to doing things has to be different as well.

Is there anything you think I missed in this article re: doing the thing? If so email me!

This article was inspired by David at Raptitude. So give him all the credit!

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