My bullet journal. Flowers and cute fonts sold separately.

“Can Do” List

Last week a friend pointed me to an article called 3 Defining Features of ADHD That Everyone Overlooks… and my world was rocked. Because I have all three of these — and more.

So I began researching it, and talking to my counselor who agrees, that there is an extremely high probability that I have previously-undiagnosed ADHD. I don’t mind telling you… it has been a revelation. So many things that I have for my whole life regarded as anything from “just a weird quirk” to “a major personality flaw,” I have started to understand instead as merely symptoms of a genetic variation in my brain structure.

If you have a cold, you may get annoyed that you keep sneezing, but you don’t see sneezing as some kind of personal failing. Sneezing is a symptom. The shift in personal acceptance and self-forgiveness was sudden, and profound.

And it has also opened up all kinds of new avenues of thought for me. For instance, I have for a long time been in an ongoing battle with my to-do list. Those who’ve followed my personal blogs over the years may recall that I always referred to it as my “Too Much To Do List.” And every day, at the end of the day, those three things that didn’t get finished (out of the eighteen things on the list) were always what I saw.

Because the list wasn’t completed, I felt like I had failed. One of the checked off complete items could have been “Cure Cancer” and I’d still be like “But dammit, I didn’t do the dishes.”

First, I now know this is absolutely a normal thing for people with ADHD to go through. So that makes me feel a little better.

Second, looking at this through the lens of ADHD and how to cope with it, I was wondering how I could re-frame the list to be a positive instead of a negative. Finally I realized, the true power of the list is not that these are things that must be done, but instead, it’s a menu of things I can choose from when deciding what to do next.

In short, it’s not “To Do,” it’s “Can Do.” “I have an hour before my next coaching call, what can I get done? I can post to my writing group, I can work on commissions, I can write a blog entry. Think I’ll do that one!”

And the flip side of “Can Do” something? You can also “Not Do” something! Short of a hard deadline (an appointment, a bill due, that kind of thing), everything on the list is an option I can say “yes” or “no” to. Just like Sonic the Hedgehog is not supposed to collect all the rings, the goal isn’t to clear everything off the list. The goal is to use the list as a tool for staying on track and avoid analysis paralysis. In fact, if I reach the end of the day and have everything checked off, that probably means that I didn’t have enough things on the list! Inbox Zero = Playing Small.

This line of thinking is a radical departure for me… but I’m digging it.

What about you? Is this an approach that could help you? Is there another method that you like better? I’d love to hear about it!

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John Robey

Success and creativity coach; creator of fantasy, humor, RPGs, & The Suburban Jungle. I'm all about Bringing the Awesome!

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