Motivation is a big issue for me. There are so many things I have to do that just not seem interesting enough for my ADHD devil and without his interest it is impossible for me to do anything. It seems like he is hiding my start-buttons, making sure I wont do anything he doesn’t like. The only way to do things, is to make him interested, and over the years I have developed a lot of tools to trick him into being interested, making it possible for me to do what I want.
My stubborn little ADHD devil has a big weakness for rewards, or actually it is measuring the amount of interest something gets by the reward it results in. My grandpa always knew this, clean the table and you’ll get some candy, water the plants and we will build a tent, help me with the groceries and we will play a game. My grandpa was the master at making my ADHD devil interested, even before we knew he existed.
Unfortunately many things in life come without a reward, or at least without a direct and explicit one, and this makes things difficult, this makes my ADHD devil decide it is not worth out time, which makes me unable to do it. But fortunately I can give myself a reward, I can make the reward more concrete by focussing on it, or I can create a reward, come up with something I can get myself after completing the task.
I had years I wasn’t able to go to the gym, I just did not see the point of it. I was fit, I was skinny, the only reason left was that it would be good for me, a reward too vague to make me go. But at this point in my life I was interested in clothes and shoes, those where very important to me. I decided I could only spend money on this if I would go to the gym, to be even more concrete : the calories I would burn at the gym, divided by 20 would be the amount of money I could spend whenever I would go shopping. What happened? My ADHD devil started getting very interested at the gym, I would try to go as often as possible so I would be able to buy whatever I wanted to have. My reward system had worked, for about 3 months I worked out 6 days a week, until I lost interest in shopping.
For a lot of things I need to do I found a way to reward myself and thereby making myself able to do it. If I don’t feel like cooking, I will make the most complicated, tasty recipe I can come up with, because nice food is always a good reward. If it seems impossible for me to get on my bike and cycle 30 minutes to get the only rabbit food my bunny will eat (he is very particular when it comes to food), I tell myself I can also choose a new plant and buy it. If I have to do a boring task at work, I’ll finish with a nice render of it, or a booklet that explains what I have done, because a beautiful result is very rewarding for me.
I have developed so many ways to reward myself, I don’t even recognize them anymore, the rewards are added automatically. How I always come back from my groceries with a nice snack, how I light all my candles and cover myself with a fresh smelling blanket after a day of housewife duties, how I play a game on my phone for 10 minutes every time I complete a task at work, how I always change my bedsheets late at night, after I spend more than 1 hour in the dirty ones, so I’ll real notice the difference. Everything is about making the reward big enough, big enough to make my ADHD devil forget the effort of the task.
Sometimes it’s just really not possible to add a reward to a task, or a task is too big, too long, to reward myself for every step in the process. Often these tasks can be completed with a challenge. The little ADHD devil loves challenges. If I walk on stairs, next to a complete stranger, he will make sure we will reach the landing first. If there is a curb on the street there is no way he will not make me walk on this, to challenge our balance. And when I’m cycling, he always makes sure we will be faster than everyone else.
My ADHD devil is always up for a challenge, being the fastest, the smartest or the best. Being able to “win” something, even if there is not actual reward, makes him do anything, and this is where a timer comes in handy. Whenever I need to do something that does not have a reward, I get my timer, set a deadline for myself, and ask myself to show how far I can get whit the task within a certain time. I even use this trick if I have to go somewhere, I look up how much time it should take me to walk or cycle to the place I want to go, and whenever I leave I start my timer and try to be much faster than this time, or the previous time.
The ADHD devil also gets really interested in things that seem difficult. In my office I have one colleague I have been working with for over 3 years and he is too familiar with this concept. Often he approaches me with a question, a thing that needs to be done but he doesn’t have the time for, or he lacks the interest to figure out himself how to do it. He uses words like difficult, impossible, undoable and finishes with : maybe you can take a look at it, because if anyone is able to do it, it’s you. And every time he uses these words my ADHD devil sees a challenge and won’t rest until the thing nobody else could do, is done. My colleague uses the exact same trick as me when he wants me to do his work for him.
I use challenges all the time, try to fix the bike without getting your hands dirty, try to do a double workout because nobody else is able to, try to vacuum the house without touching the floor. Whenever there is no reward, I create a challenge and succeed, at least at starting.
Add some fun stuff
A few things in life are simply too boring to do, even when reward and challenges are added. I’m talking about things like taking a shower or reading an over 30 page long document at work. These things just can not get me interested by themselves and rewards and challenges won’t do the job, they need some fun stuff.
I never go for a shower without music, candle lights and an orgasm, even if it’s a quick morning shower before work. I know it’s weird but personal hygiene has been one of my biggest ADHD struggles throughout my whole life. I forget to brush my teeth, cut my nail, comb my hair, put on make-up or body lotion and even going for a shower just doesn’t make sense most of my days. My mom always used to force me, get angry and just put me in the shower with my clothes one, once or twice a week. When I moved out, the struggle continued and sometimes there was more than one week in between my showers. For me, a shower is just extremely boring, there is not reward and it is definitely not challenging, it just not interests my ADHD devil. But what can be fun about a shower? Singing always sounds best when you do it in the shower, so I started adding music, to sing and dance, to make it more fun. I hate the light in all bathrooms, or, I hate all lights and I never owned a bathroom with windows, so I started putting candles and light them every time I go for a shower. To make it even more fun, I figured the shower could be the perfect place for a daily orgasm, a daily dose of dopamine, to pleasure my ADHD devil, not only helping me to shower, but also making my life a little more easy afterwards.
By adding some fun, to this otherwise boring but very normal task, I found myself able to shower daily, after years of struggling. When it comes to reading documents at work I made it fun by making myself do it outside in a park, and transform the information I read into a drawing. For brushing my teeth I have a variety of brushes and paste I can choose from and I always combine it with picking out shoes or watching tv. If I have to water my plants, I put music, take some time to rearrange them and take out the dead leaves. If I have to sit down and listen, in a meeting for example, I allow myself to draw, to have a nice thing to drink or eat, I take something my hands can play with and I allow myself to walk around the room. And if I know I have to do an extremely boring, non rewarding, non challenging job at work I take my rabbit to the office and play with him while I do it.
How it makes me feel
In a way I feel like I’m always cheating on myself, like a kid that doesn’t want to go to the doctor, I have to promise myself ice cream afterwards, or the game I can play in the waiting room. Sometimes I even have to trick myself, like saying I’ll go to the playground but actually take myself to the doctor. It is tiring, it is unfair, it is even a bit embarrassing that I have to treat myself as a little kid or otherwise I won’t be able to do things. But as long as I only need to use these techniques for the little things in life, it is ok, it makes things a little easier.